Monday, January 25, 2016

Utah State University may institute a ban on hoverboards on campus

By Braden Clark
Utah State University could be the next institution to ban hoverboards, following a meeting involving campus safety, risk management, police, student services and housing officials about the popular two-wheeled device.
“We want to insure student safety, and the safety concerns from the hoverboards are high,” said Tim Vitale, the executive director of public relations and marketing at Utah State University.
Among other concerns, the batteries on some hoverboards have been known to catch fire due to the poor quality of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in some of the vehicles.
As of yet, a new policy for the vehicles has not been officially agreed upon, and there hasn’t been a date set to when exactly the decision will be made, but some Aggie hoverboard owners are worried their money will be wasted.
“I think it’s stupid, because the more expensive ones don’t explode,” said Braxton Moon, a Utah State student and hoverboard owner. “Are they going to put sanctions on the cheaper ones?”
Moon defended his choice of on-campus transportation as “different from a longboard or a bike, because it’s slower and a better form of commuting.”
Hoverboards were one of the most sought after items this last holiday break, and the recent boom of Facebook videos, Tweets and Vines show the popularity of the device is increasing. But the fire concerns have prompted several Utah universities to issue bans.
A similar meeting to the one recently conducted at Utah State was held at Southern Utah University, which then restricted the use of hoverboards from all main campus buildings on Dec. 28.
Southern Utah University’s policy banned hoverboards from campus “until safety standards for them can be developed and implemented.”
Students have taken to Twitter to argue for the right to ride with trending hashtags like #LetMeBoard and #HoverboardBan.
But Ellen Treanor, the director of marketing and communication at Southern Utah, noted the policy might be temporary.
“It’s important for students to realize this isn’t a permanent ban, and frankly it isn’t a ban at all, but a restriction,” Treanor said. “We are doing this because we are looking out for the safety of our students, and because the hoverboard has been known to catch fire and cause injuries we had to put some restrictions on the device.”
Dixie State University has banned the use of the hoverboard from all campus buildings, and will include student housing in the future.
“The temporary ban will be in place until safety standards improve, specifically when manufacturers of various brands of hoverboards receive approval from national certification boards and the National Fire Protection Association makes recommendations and sets standards,” said Jyll Hall, the director of public relations and marketing at Dixie State.

Dixie State has continued to allow the vehicles to be ridden on campus as a mode of transportation, Hall said, but she noted recreational use was forbidden.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New evidence suggests a hidden planet on the edge of the solar system

By Braden Clark
On Twitter, people in the Salt Lake City area on Wednesday found the discovery of #Planet9 was more interesting than that of #Sundance2016, #NationalCheeseLoversDay and #PenguinAwarenessDay.
“For most people I would say that Planet Nine is more interesting than important,” said James Coburn, a Utah State University physics professor. “Finding a planet that orbits the Sun once every 15,000 years won't have any impact on our day to day lives.”
Mike Brown, an astronomer who is known for his work with Pluto a decade ago, said in a Q&A that the scientists from Cal Tech know the orbit of the planet, but don’t know exactly where the planet is on its orbit.
“We haven't seen it yet,” Brown said. “This paper we published is like handing everyone a treasure map.”
The paper, entitled Evidence for a Distant Giant Planet in the Solar System, was published in the Astronomical Journal, and co-written with another astronomer, Konstantin Batygin. Brown said in the journal that Planet Nine is supposedly 5,000 times the mass of Pluto, and possibly two to four times the diameter of the Earth.
“They found it by other dwarf planets being disturbed by something, but they don’t actually know what is disturbing them,” said Amy Oliver, a NASA solar system ambassador for Clark Planetarium. “However, we can tell by the way other dwarf planets react that there is something really large out there.”
According to Oliver, finding the new planet is a huge feat for this generation because Planet Nine will be the first planetary body found in the solar system since Neptune in 1846.
“Hey, we don’t know everything,” Oliver said. “This is incredibly exciting for scientists and space engineers, and it’s really exciting for our generation to find something grand like this ninth planet.”
Coburn said the astronomers who made the announcement think if enough people look they should be able to find the planet within five years.

“It is very far away and very dim, but if enough astronomers look for it, and if it is really there, we should find it in the next few years,” Coburn said.