In a breakthrough that's being touted as a potentially crushing blow to the noise-canceling headphone industry, researchers at MIT and Cambridge University have designed a unique passenger jet that reportedly sounds no louder than a washing machine from outside the confines of an airport. The so-called Silent Aircraft Initiative -- which began in November 2003 -- culminates today with the unveiling of a concept plane which is roughly the size of a Boeing 767, but takes its design cues from stealth military jets like the B-2 bomber, in that its fuselage has been "squished" to create an all-lifting body. Besides re-imagining the shape of traditional jumbo jets, the 40-person team also moved the engines from under the wings into the body of the plane itself, allowing them to take in air from the top of the wing and minimize the noise heard by people on the ground. The quieter design could result in airports being constructed much closer to residential areas, meaning that passengers would be able to start their two-hour wait at the security checkpoint that much more quickly. While specific noise-dampening elements of the airplane will probably be implemented into passenger jets in the near future, the SAI researchers believe we won't see the concept itself in flight until sometime around 2030 -- a little too late, in our opinion, as we're pretty sure that teleportation will completely obviate the need for air travel long before then.

[Via Reuters, illustration courtesy of CNET]

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