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Solar Impulse 2: Around The World On Sunshine And Guts

With its gaunt skeletal frame and awkward, lanky proportions, the Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) is a far cry from the supersonic image one normally gets when discussing revolutionary, record-setting aircraft. Where is the pointy nose? What about the fire-belching rocket engines?

Despite its dragonfly-like appearance, SI2 is indeed a radical and ground-breaking machine. Swiss Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre' Borschberg recently completed a 23,000 mile journey around the globe in SI2 using only solar power. The words don't quite capture the enormity of this accomplishment. So let me say it again: This airplane flew completely around the world without using one single ounce of fossil fuel!

Solar Impulse 2 may look a little strange, but it is a high-tech machine that holds numerous world records. It recently completed an around-the-world journey using only solar energy.

If the feat accomplished by SI2 and her pilots does not leave you slack-jawed and perhaps drooling ever so slightly on your keyboard, you still don't get it. This is an enormous milestone for both aviation and solar power technology.

Most aeronautical achievements are as dependent on technological breakthroughs as they are piloting feats of derring-do. SI2's around-the-world success was no different. It required not only a cutting edge machine, but also pilots who were willing to risk everything to see what it could do.

Stop and Go

SI2's circumnavigation was not accomplished in a single flight. The team's original plan divided the route into 12 eastbound legs spanning a period of about 4 months. These things take time when your average flying speed is only 41 miles per hour. As it turned out, SI2 landed in 17 cities and required more than 16 months to complete the trip.

Solar Impulse 2 has only one seat. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard (left) and Andre' Borschberg alternated flying duties during the globetrotting trip.

The airplane is built to carry just one person, so Piccard and Borschberg traded off flying duties…each flying solo for specific legs of the flight. Throughout the journey, a support team travelled to each of the waypoints to receive and send off SI2. There was also a mission control center located in Monaco where, among other things, specialists kept an eye on the weather, and monitored SI2's myriad systems via satellite.

The shortest leg of the flight was an outlier lasting less than 5 hours between Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania and New York City. The next shortest flight was just over 13 hours, with several other legs lasting less than 20 hours.

Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that's not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

In Brief: CX5 Sculptable 3D Printer Filament Launches on Kickstarter!

Artist Adam Beane, who we met up with at this year's Monsterpalooza convention, just launched his CX5 sculptable filament Kickstarter. As we learned in our interview, this is his CX5 sculpting material (not clay) redesigned in 1.75mm filament form to go through standard FDM printers with adjustable heat settings. The material prints at a relatively low 70-80 degrees C, and prints can be smoothed out or worked on with a non-toxic solvent and standard sculpting tools. Check it out!

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The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (August 2016)

If there has ever been a time to be wary of buying a new Android phone, this is it. We're mere days or weeks away from the release of Android 7.0 Nougat and some new Nexus phones, and you definitely want to give those a look before you make any firm decisions. There are also plenty of questions about which devices will get speed updates, which will ship with Nougat, and what will be left behind. Let's dig in and take a look at the lay of the land so you can make the right call.

Carrier phones

If you're dead set on picking up a phone from your carrier, you might still be safe to buy a device right now. The new Nexus phones will most likely be sold unlocked, and there's nothing on the carriers that's going to be getting an update particularly soon. The top pick as far as carrier devices is still the Galaxy S7.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 feels like a solid device when you pick it up. It has a solid metal and glass design with IP68 water resistance. The glass back will, however, collect fingerprints and you could damage the body of the phone if you drop it.

Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker than the GS6, but it had a good reason. There's more room inside for a bigger battery now. The glass panel on the back also has curved edges to make it more comfortable in your hand.The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. With the aid of Android 6.0's Doze Mode, both these devices have great battery life.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have new Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. The Edge, of course, has a screen that curves down on the left and right edge. The Edge phone looks undeniably cool, but it's not as comfortable to hold thanks to the narrower metal band around the rim due to the Edge screen. None of the software features that are supposed to take advantage of the Edge display really do anything special. Most of them would work on the regular phone too. It's just an arbitrary attempt to justify the design. Both displays have very accurate, rich colors and the brightness gets very high outdoors for good visibility.

Photo Gallery: Adam Savage PhotoShop Battle

I Tweeted a couple of photos Norman Chan had taken of me for a Tested project, and what populated my Twitter feed after that was too awesome not to share. Here's just a few of your PhotoShop creations. You guys ROCK.

Google Play App Roundup: Dropbox Paper, Riptide GP: Renegade, and FIE Swordplay

Well, your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

Dropbox Paper

At present, Google Docs is the go-to platform for team-based document creation and editing. It's not that it's perfect, but it's the most feature complete and it plugs into a platform that almost everyone uses. Dropbox is trying its hand at making documents work with its popular cloud storage platform. It's called Dropbox Paper, and you can give it a shot right now.

Dropbox Paper is still in beta on Android, but so has Google Maps navigation for the last seven years. There's not a ton to screw up in a document editor, and indeed, Dropbox Paper gets most things right out of the gate. It's existed on the web for about a year, but it was in closed beta and lacking some important features. With the Mobile release, Paper is getting more useful. For example, tables are more handy with adjustable width and you can create image galleries. The app is a bit more focused, though.

Paper is more basic than something like Microsoft's Office suite, but right now it doesn't come with an added fee. You can log into Paper using Dropbox, but you'll need to actually sign up for Paper first—the signup flow isn't great. Once you get in, you'll be presented with a series of sample documents to play with and see how the app works.

When you create a new document, it's a blank canvas to drop your thoughts into. There are no templates or special tools. So we're mainly talking about text-based documents here. If you need to create complicated spreadsheets or presentations, you should stick with Google or Microsoft. There's a toolbar that floats just above your keyboard that lets you access text indent, photos, and text modes. If you want to add bullets, headings, and so on, that's where you need to go.

I think the most confusing thing in this initial release is the use of rich media like photos and videos. Paper will expand YouTube video, for example, but it doesn't seem to work in the app right now. I can add photos, but removing them is either not possible or just bugged at the moment.

As with similar products, adding other people to your documents as collaborators is a big part of the appeal. You can invite people via email, allowing them to set up a Paper account and add things to your documents. Each addition is marked with the username so you can keep track of who's doing what. You can also add comments to the document. You can @mention people to send a push notification to them as well. This works in text and in comments.

Dropbox Paper is interesting, and it has a lot of good features for the first mobile release. It seems more focused on planning and team-focused activities right now, as opposed to generating content. I'd never use it in place of Google Docs to get things done, for example. That could change one day, though.