Week in Geek: NASA’s super-quiet supersonic jet and Zillow battles McMansion Hell architecture blog

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An artist’s concept of a possible Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) X-plane design. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

You don’t hear many sonic booms these days, for good reason — commercial supersonic planes, which can travel incredibly fast while producing deafening sonic booms, have been banned in the United States for over 40 years.

But thanks to a new NASA project, supersonic travel could be within reach for the public again, without those signature loud noises. The organization approved a plan for a low-boom supersonic passenger plane this week, setting off a buzz among aerospace enthusiasts.

Get all the details on the project and what it could mean for passengers on this episode of the Week In Geek, with special guest and GeekWire Space and Science Editor Alan Boyle.

The good news is that the jet is the best opportunity for supersonic passenger travel in decades. But on the downside, it will probably be limited to business users or other passengers with a lot of money in their pockets, Boyle said.

In other news this week, Seattle-based real estate site Zillow got an unexpected response when it sent a cease-and-desist letter to the author of viral architecture blog McMansion Hell.

Kate Wagner used credited photos from Zillow in her critiques and commentaries on “McMansions,” a spendy yet architecturally unsound housing style that popped up in the decades before the housing bubble burst. Zillow demanded that she take down the photos and said she had violated its terms of service and photo copyrights.

Zillow backed down after Wagner, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and what felt like the whole internet behind her, said she would defend her blog’s use of the photos. We take a look at the factors at play in the incident and what it says about online media.

Plus, we take a trip inside a factory near Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal, where Vicis is developing and manufacturing cutting-edge helmets that are packed advanced engineering. We discuss how it all works and what this kind of safety could bring to a game plagued by horrific head-related injuries.

On the Random Channel this week: We debate the value of the SNES classic edition; how the NFL goofed up specialized license plates; the Coolest Cooler saga stretches on; and a correction that’s a matter of life and death.

Listen to the show above or download it as an MP3. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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