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Watch: French Daredevil Successfully Crosses English Channel on Hoverboard

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After an unsuccessful attempt last month, French inventor and former jet ski racing champion Franky Zapata succeeded Sunday in flying across the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard he designed.

Zapata, dubbed by some as “Green Goblin” due to his hoverboard’s similarity to the Spider-Man villain, zoomed over the Strait of Dover in just over 20 minutes, Reuters reported.

Zapata took off from Sangatte, just outside Calais in France on a little platform powered by five small jet engines and carrying kerosene in a backpack. After a stop on a boat halfway through the roughly 21-mile crossing, Zapata reached Britain and landed safely in Saint Margaret’s Bay, close to Dover on Britain’s southern coast.

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“For the last five to six kilometers I just really enjoyed it,” Zapata told reporters on arrival, according to Reuters. “Whether this is a historic event or not, I’m not the one to decide that, time will tell.”

Zapata said the hoverboard reached speeds of 160 to 170 km per hour (99 to 105 miles per hour) during the crossing.

On his previous attempt in July, Zapata fell into the sea while trying to refuel halfway across the water.

A member of the Frenchman’s team said the movement of the waves required perfect timing, and the landing platform apparently shifted slightly as Zapata descended.

Zapata received a $1.4 million grant from the French government to help finance the development of the hoverboard.

French hoverboard star Franky Zapata cries during a press conference after he successfully crossed the Channel from France to England using a hoverboard on August 4th, 2019 in Calais, France. (Photo Credit: Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images)

“We made a machine three years ago…and now we’ve crossed the Channel, it’s crazy,” he said, visibly emotional.

Zapata’s attempt was part of the 110th anniversary of the very first cross-channel flight. French aviator Louis Bleriot made the first airplane flight across the channel on July 25, 1909.

The French daredevil said it not yet clear what the hoverboard might be used for, adding that it was a complex invention that the average person would unlikely to be able to navigate.

“It’s not a machine for trip down to the bakery on a Sunday morning,” Zapata told France’s BFM TV in an interview.

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General

Google Maps Out Thanksgiving

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The most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us.

To kick off the holiday season, Google Maps is offering tips, tricks, and trends to help save time (and your sanity) while navigating the festivities.

Whether you’re prepping the turkey at home, traveling to see family and friends, or gearing up for the sales, keep an eye on Google Maps.

To avoid getting caught in the gridlock, the team analyzed 2018 traffic data to pinpoint the best and worst times to leave for your Turkey Day road trip.

Unsurprisingly, the afternoon before Thanksgiving—specifically, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.—is the worst time to hit the road. Traffic, however, clears up “significantly” by 6 a.m. on Thursday, according to Google Maps’ Chief Thanksgiving Officer Genevieve Park.

So you can weigh the pros and cons of waking up early just to dodge congestion.

Ditch the Thanksgiving traffic with Google Maps. (Photo Credit: Google Maps)

In an effort to avoid “fowl” moods once the tryptophan kicks in, Park suggests escaping the Friday or Sunday afternoon rush by leaving once again in the morning, when there are “significantly” fewer cars out.

It’s not just the streets that get crowded over the long Thanksgiving weekend, though.

Whether you’re shopping for last-minute ingredients or early Christmas presents, holiday crowds can easily transform a quick stop into an hours-long undertaking.

Based on its Popular Times data set, Google Maps plotted the best and worst times to visit key holiday destinations like the bakery, liquor store, movie theater, and shopping center.

Avoid the Thanksgiving crowds with Google Maps. (Photo Credit: Google Maps)

“Pro tip: If you hate lines, avoid the grocery store at all costs on Wednesday evening,” Park added.

For more nuggets of wisdom, visit the Mapping Thanksgiving website—brought to you by Google Maps and Google News Initiative.

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Pick: Disney+’s Streaming Content Is King

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I have some relatively small issues with Disney+, which I’ll talk about later, but my biggest problem with the newest high-profile contender in the streaming TV services wars is more ethical and philosophical. Amazon, Netflix, HBO, NBC. None of these massive corporations are your friends. They all just want money. But there’s just something about Disney’s expanding entertainment monopoly, and their skill at making it seem so friendly, that feels uniquely menacing.

With Disney+, the strength of that monopoly is on full display. So in a sense, I find the very existence of this service viscerally disturbing. And yet if you’re looking for an affordable treasure trove of great, recognizable, and sometimes legendary movies and TV shows you won’t find anywhere else, especially if you have a family and want to keep your kids from YouTube online right-wing grifters, I can’t help but recommend Disney+.

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After a week-long free trial, you can subscribe to Disney+ for $7 per month or $70 per year. Disney also offers a bundle with the other streaming services they own, Hulu and ESPN, for a discounted price of $13 per month. So Disney+ on its own compares favorably to niche streaming services. And the bundle is at that Netflix sweet spot (for now) while filling in some of the biggest gaps in the Disney+ library itself: sports and R-rated material.

As expected, the huge influx of ten million users meant Disney+ didn’t have an entirely smooth technical launch. But it didn’t take long for me to eventually easily access the service on my computer or through my iPhone. The interface is straightforward with rows of boxes and highlights for special collections like “Marvel” or “Pixar.” You can create your own watchlist and pick out a cute little Disney avatar for each profile. Sadly, there was no Emperor Sheev Palpatine icon.

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The video quality itself obviously depends on the source material. You’ll be looking at some grainy 4:3 goodness if you queue up some forgotten early 2000s Disney Channel sitcom like Phil of the Future. On the flipside the original Star Wars films (now with Maclunkey) are lavishly presented in 4K HDR. But the presentation quality isn’t consistent. Some episodes aren’t listed in order. And one of the more egregious examples going around is the awkward widescreen crop of The Simpsons cutting out certain visual jokes.

But this is still the streaming platform with all of The Simpsons! Even though it’s been infuriating garbage for twenty years, I absolutely adore the first ten years of that perfect show with all of my comedy-loving self. It’s a part of my identity. I think it’s criminal that Disney can just buy Fox and pretend that Homer Simpson is and has always been one of their beloved mascots. But the appeal of streaming Simpsons is too powerful to resist.

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And leveraging, even exploiting, that fundamental connection with the material is how it is for almost everything on Disney+. For nearly a century Disney entertainment has colonized you so completely that you can’t help but see something here you’ve loved since you can remember being alive. It could be a classic cartoon like Aladdin or Steamboat Willie. It could be a bizarre live-action movie like The Shaggy Dog or Halloweentown. Every Pixar movie is here. Every Star Wars movie is here. The service is chock full of Marvel cartoons. Gargoyles!

It’s not 100 percent comprehensive. There are MCU gaps left to fill. I was surprised by the lack of ABC programming. And the Fox acquisitions aside from The Simpsons and Avatar feels incredibly spotty. If Disney wants to freeze out classic Fox movies from indie theaters the least they can do if offer them here. But overall the sheer nostalgic gravitational pull of a fully opened Disney vault is positively frightening.

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Even the original content, which is pretty limited at the moment, is playing this same iconic game. Disney’s power is just so well-suited to shows and movies that feel grown in a lab for mass mainstream appeal. Imagineering meets the algorithm. Anyone who saw Thor: Ragnarok is going to be down for a Jeff Goldblum National Geographic show. I don’t care about Anna Kendrick as Santa Claus’s daughter but surely someone does. And you can read our full review of The Mandalorian, which does successfully bring Star Wars to live-action TV at last.

If you’re a childless adult who truly doesn’t care about any of these properties, not only do I recommend you not buy Disney+, I envy you. For the rest of us poor saps though, subscribing to Disney+ feels like an enjoyable, if existentially entropic, inevitability.

1.

Netflix / Hulu / HBO Go Accounts

So many streaming TV services to choose from. Where do you start?

2.

Netflix is still arguably the biggest name in streaming TV.

3.

Hulu trial screen

Although it no longer has a free option, Hulu is a great streaming TV service that is worth paying for.

4.

From buying to renting to subscribing to individual channels, Amazon offers a bevy of streaming TV options.

5.

YouTube Red subscribers can watch original shows from streaming stars, but YouTube TV lets you watch actual live TV.

6.

Hook up a Slingbox and watch the cable and live TV you’re already paying for anywhere.

7.

You have to buy channels in bulk and still deal with commercials, but with DirecTV Now you get the real live TV experience delivered through streaming.

8.

Crunchyroll is the best anime streaming service if you’re all about subtitles.

9.

If dubs are more your thing, Funimation Now is the anime streaming service for you.

10.

If you want to stream shows and documentaries that actually teach you something, go with CuriosityStream.

11.

AMC Premiere just focuses on current AMC shows, but for Walking Dead super fans that might be enough.

12.

With Boomerang, tons of retro cartoons, from Looney Tunes to Scooby-Doo, can all come back to you

13.

FuboTV may be the escape from cable that sports fans are looking for. It’s pricey, but being able to easily stream live sports and more from dozens of channels with only one subscription might very well be worth it.

14.

Brown Sugar has all of the classic Blaxploitation movies you could want and then some. It’s niche, but it’s one of the most impressive niche libraries we’ve seen.

15.

For the true cinephile, FilmStruck has a large collection of classic films from all eras and countries, including movies from the Criterion Collection.

16.

CollegeHumor’s Dropout provides premium streaming online laughs.

17.

DC Universe offers live-action adaptations of less familiar superheroes, like Doom Patrol.

18.

Shudder Is the Horror Streaming Service Fans Were Waiting For

19.

Along with presenting streaming services like Netflix and Sling through one box, Dish AirTV also lets you watch local over-the-air channels with an additional installation.

20.

Get a streaming media device to enjoy these services on your TV. Our favorite is the Amazon Fire Stick.

21.

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Stingray-Inspired Spacecraft Could Explore ‘Dark Side’ of Venus

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Venus lies within Earth’s orbit, but little is known about our neighboring planet—especially its “dark side.”

University at Buffalo researchers want to change that, though, with their unique spacecraft.

The Bio-inspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Explorations (BREEZE)* project is one of 12 concepts selected by NASA for its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

Proposed by the university’s Crashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids (CRASH)* Laboratory, researchers envision a stingray-esque morphing spacecraft, with wings that flap like pectoral fins.

“By taking our cues from nature, specifically sea rays, we’re looking to maximize flight efficiency,” according to project lead Javid Bayandor, associate professor in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The design, he explained, could make use of high winds in the planet’s upper atmosphere, while still allowing scientists control over the vehicle—which would circumnavigate Venus every four to six days.

Add to that solar-powered instruments (charged every few days when the planet is illuminated by the sun) that take atmospheric samples, track weather patterns, monitor volcanic activity, and gather other data.

Perhaps most importantly, though, BREEZE’s “distinct versatility” could help scientists study the mysterious dark side of Venus.

Did you know that it takes Venus longer to rotate on its axis (243 days) than it does to orbit the sun (225 days), making a day on the planet longer than a year?

Because of these irregular cycles, large portions of the planet are shrouded in darkness for sustained periods of time, leaving them considerably different from the sunny side.

The technology behind BREEZE—including its morphing wings—could potentially be used to explore other parts of the solar system, as well as underwater environments on Earth, Bayandor said.

* They really love an acronym in upstate New York

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