Precision work: Defect-free coatings for silicon spheres

The prototype kilogram – to which all scales are calibrated to – is losing weight. International efforts are striving to redefine the base unit for measuring mass and, in future, redefine the kilogram on natural constants. For this purpose, the Avogadro experiment determines the number of atoms in almost perfect silicon spheres. Researchers have recently succeeded in homogeneously coating the spherical surfaces – the measurement uncertainty can be limited to a range below 10 micrograms.

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United Airlines is testing a novel way of bumping passengers

IT IS a classic traveller’s dilemma: you are waiting in the boarding area for your flight, and an airline employee asks over the loudspeaker if anyone is willing to be bumped in exchange for a voucher. You like the idea of sacrificing the unimportant meeting you were scheduled to attend in return for a few hundred dollars of travel credit. Then again you do not fancy explaining this to your colleagues, or sitting about in an airport for three hours waiting for the next flight.

Now imagine that instead of having to make this decision just before you board, you could do it do it several days in advance, in the comfort of your home. Changes the equation a bit, does it not?

United Airlines is contemplating a new scheme along these lines, called the Flex-Schedule Program. If a flight is overbooked, or looking like it might be, United will contact passengers who have signed up to the scheme up to five days ahead of departure. They will be given the option of switching to a less popular flight on the same day between the same…Continue reading

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