MySci Round-Up, August 2: Escalator to Heaven

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On this day in 1892, George A. Wheeler patented a mechanized moving stairway, equipped with shifting flat steps interlocked with comb-like teeth and a moving hand rail, designed to transport people from one floor or level to another. Unlike an elevator, the device could run continuously, and thus move a higher volume of passengers. Arguably, it was a superior design to the tilted-step people-mover patented a few months earlier by another inventor, Jesse Reno. But Reno apparently was a more sophisticated marketer, because he thought of setting up his “inclined elevator” at Coney Island in 1895, and it quickly became such a sensation that department stores and train stations in New York, London and other cities soon installed them. The unfortunate Wheeler ultimately sold his patent to another inventor, Charles Seeberger, who combined it with his own ideas and developed a more advanced version for the Otis Elevator Co. in 1899. It was Seeberger who coined the name “escalator,” from the Latin word for steps, scala. Eventually, Otis bought Reno’s design as well, and in the 1920s merged them into a single product. And while your curiosity is rising, here are the other science stories of the day.

Martian rocks may provide evidence of ancient life there. Hydrothermal activity would have provided sufficient energy for biological activity on early Mars, scientists say.

Like Leo DiCaprio in Inception, you can learn to control your dreams. Dream manipulation/suggestion techniques actually exist, it turns out, though scientists haven’t yet figured out a way for you to see and influence other people’s dreams. 

Quantum electron ‘submarines’ help push atoms around. British scientists have demonstrated an indirect but efficient way of manipulating atoms that may hasten the day when nanotechnology can assemble a new atom from scratch.

Talking on the phone is becoming a thing of the past.   The number and duration of calls made on mobile phones is rapidly decreasing, as texting, updating and reading profiles on social networks and mobile internet use is on the rise.

Plugless power soon to arrive for plug-in hybrid electric cars. Simply park over the electrical induction device and it will charge the car, just like that.

Kangaroos’ ancestors came from South America, study reveals.  So did other Australian marsupials. The Australian and South American marsupials diverged 80 million years ago, when South America and Australia, which had been one giant land mass, split into two separate continents.