What seems more futuristic: flying cars or self-driving cars? They both sound a bit like science fiction, but they're both getting closer to becoming a reality. In the latest chapter of Google's efforts to develop a car that uses video cameras, radar sensors and lasers to navigate through traffic, the state of Nevada just granted Google the world's first license for a computer-controlled, driverless Toyota Prius. Meanwhile, this week we also checked in on the PAL-V (which stands for "Personal Air and Land Vehicle"), a two-seat hybrid car and gyroplane that runs on gas, biodiesel or bio-ethanol. In other transportation news, the Texas Central Railroad floated a plan to build a $10-billion bullet train that would run between Houston and Fort Worth, and Toyota officially unveiled its second-generation 2012 RAV4 EV, which features a Tesla powertrain.
We also saw green technology cropping up in unexpected places this week, like the $1-billion ghost town that will be built on virgin desert land in Lea County, New Mexico to test emerging green technologies. Construction on the ghost town is set to begin in late June. Milwaukee native Bryan Cera invented Glove One, a 3D-printed glove that doubles as a cell phone. And in Tokyo, participants heaved 100,000 LED lights into the Sumida River as part of the 2012 Tokyo Hotaru Festival. Although it certainly looked cool, that's a lot of LED bulbs to literally dump in the river, and it raises some questions about e-waste. GE found a more practical use for LEDs, unveiling a new LED light bulb to replace the 100-watt incandescent.
It was a big week for big-name architects, beginning with Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which won yet another design competition, this one for a sports complex and park on the Ratinanniemi Peninsula in Tampere, Finland that will feature a large, wood-clad serpentine structure and a series of mixed-use buildings. We also interviewed the designers of New York City's underground low-line park, and in South Korea Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill unveiled plans for Dancing Dragons -- a pair of angular skyscrapers that will feature a breathable scale-like skin (like a dragon's skin -- get it?) through which air can actually circulate. Meanwhile a topsy-turvy upside-down house popped up in Austria and Cornell University announced that it has chosen Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects to design the first of three net-zero energy CornellNYC Tech academic building on Roosevelt Island.
This week we also took a look at these attractive solar parasols from Ombrellone Solare, which harness the power of the sun to charge your mobile devices while shading you from its rays. We also considered the prospect of Japan replacing its nuclear power industry with geothermal, and we checked in on Mark Pearson, a British car mechanic who inexplicably spent 14 months constructing an Iron Man costume from 400 sheets of fiberglass-coated cardboard. "I don't know why I did it, I guess it was just a moment of madness," he said. Try 14 months of madness. And in one of our favorite green tech stories of the week, we looked at a team from the University of Leeds that used a type of bacterium which 'eats' iron to create a surface of magnets, possibly paving the way for the development of bio computers. Sound like science fiction? The future may be closer than you think.