NOT LONG AFTER I FOUND OUT I WAS GOING TO WORK AT this magazine, an editor at my old place said, "You know, one of the editors at POPULAR SCIENCE is the nephew of Richard Feynman." I was amazed. Feynman won the Nobel Prize. Feynman worked on the atomic bomb.
While I'm flattered to have been mentioned in your pages [“Let's Do the Time Warp Again," March], I don't, in fact, write romance novels, and I'm sure I would have noticed had I written anything that is describable as a “bodice-ripper." My novels are sold under every heading from science fiction to historical nonfiction.
The most radical design departure since the clamshell flip-phone, Motorola's new V70 phone introduces the rotating cover, which swivels 180 degrees to almost double the size of the phone and serves as an earpiece. A blue electroluminescent translucent keypad adds the finishing high-tech touch. But the V70 doesn't just look pretty: The dualband GSM/GPRS phone has a built-in infrared modem that connects at speeds of up to 56Kbps, a 1,000-contact phonebook, and support for instant messaging. Price: $450. www.cingular.com
Renew your driver's license, replace a lost or stolen license, or change your address without ever seeing a department of motor vehicles agent. If it sounds too good to be true, it is—but maybe not for long. The e-DMV concept, designed by Steiner Design Associates for VisionRx, scans your retina to verify your identity, gives an eye exam, and takes your photo before dispensing a new license. Not only does this save time, but it also frees agents to catch the bad guys using fake Social Security numbers and birth certificates. A scaled-down version that administers eye exams will be tested in New Mexico starting next month and could arrive at your DMV by late this YEAR.
What's the point of having a cellphone for emergencies if 911 dispatchers can't figure out where to send the paramedics? By 2005, all cellphones will be required by law to track their location. The first are here, including Samsung's GPSenabled SPH-N300 and SPH-A460. Meanwhile, the Magnavox MobilePAL+GPS (top, $299) is a true emergency phone, with one red button that connects you to emergency services. www.samsung.com and www.magnavox.com
Your PDA is a great multitasker, so why not its carrying case? Logitech's flexible fabric KeyCase ($99) unfolds into a full QWERTY keyboard. The case, which has been in the works for over a year, weighs 5 ounces and works with newer Palm Pilots, including the m130, m515, and i705. www.logitech.com
More than 1 million women are scarred every year enduring biopsies that test for breast cancer, and the majority turn out negative. Now Computerized Thermal Imaging Inc. hopes to eliminate unnecessary procedures by providing a noninvasive second opinion following a mammogram. Its thermal imaging system shows malignant tumors (red circle above)—which are 1 to 2 degrees warmer than benign ones—as hot spots. The FDA could approve the system this year. www.cti-net.com
Straight out of the box, the Rawlings Vise softball glove closes like a well-oiled favorite. The key is an inner strap that keeps your middle, ring, and pinkie fingers together. The design means three times more closing strength and protection from stinging fastballs. Also comes as a baseball glove. Price: $69 to $89. www. rawlings.com
SUPERLIGHT SOCCER SHOE
With a body 3mm thinner than most and weighing a mere 6.5 ounces, Nike's Mercurial Vapor cleats are the lightest soccer shoes you can buy. The secret is something called Nike Skin, an extremely thin synthetic fiber that feels like leather but is far tougher. Price: $185. www.niketown.com
Bushnell Speedster radar gun
The 13-ounce Bushnell Speedster radar gun is powerful enough to capture a 110-mph fastball at 60 feet or a 200-mph racecar at 600 feet. And, unlike other consumer guns, it keeps stats for recent and average speeds. It worked like a charm from our ninthfloor offices, clocking cabs at 35 mph. Price: $264. www.bushnell.com
WILSON GST FOOTBALL
WILSON GST FOOTBALL $90 Thick, pebbled leather laces provide a better grip. AVERAGE PASS SPEED, PRO QB: 65 mph at 600 rpm
RAWLINGS MLB BASEBALL
RAWLINGS MLB BASEBALL $15 FASTEST RECORDED PITCH: 100.9 mph, Nolan Ryan, Aug. 20, 1974
WILSON TRUE GOLF BALL
WILSON TRUE GOLF BALL $54/12; Heavy cover means a balanced ball, straight shots. FASTEST GOLF SWING: Sean Fister, 171 mph
PENN TENNIS BALL
PENN TENNIS BALL $2/3 FASTEST TENNIS SERVE: 149 mph, Greg Rusedski, March 15, 1998
A first of its kind, this lamp uses six white LEDs to create an even, full-spectrum beam to minimize shadows. Even with this much power, it lasts far longer than other headlamps, using batteries down to 0.8 volts (effectively dead). You can wear it or carry it as a flashlight. Price: $82. www.photonlight.com
CRAMER STAY COOL TOWEL
It sucks up 12 times its dry weight in water and absorbs sweat six times faster than cotton towels. Nylon reinforcement inside the towel draws water and sweat in instead of just soaking it up. Bonus: It doesn't drip. Price: $10. www.cramersportsmed.com
For the best nighttime visibility, lllumiNite fabric is covered with microscopic dishes (below), which act like millions of mirrors to reflect light back to its source. In tests, participants identified wearers from 1,000 feet away. Price: $65 (wind pants), $85 (jacket), www.illuminite.com
These three-in-one utility shoes fit clipless bike pedals, offer adequate hiking support, and have enough style to fit in at the office. Price: $100. www.shimano.com
Seven Cycles Sola Ti
$4,000 to $5,000
Go ahead, bring your full-size mountain bike. These frame-mounted couplings allow you to disassemble any bike in 3 minutes. The bike then fits into an optional backpack ($235). Price: $300 to $750. Shown at left on the Seven Cycles Sola Ti ($4,000 to $5,000). www.sandsmachine.com
JEEP TV LANTERN
Flashlight, compass, electronic insect repellent, emergency flasher, TV; this combo creates a new category—the sport-utility accessory. Price: $100. www.jeepunpaved.com
Under Water Kinetics' Light Cannon 100 penetrates water twice as far as other dive lights, with an intensity that rivals daylight. The secret: Its gas-filled bulb burns hotter than wire to produce white-blue light rather than yellow. Price: $199. www.uwkine tics.com
Under Water Kinetics' Light
Sticky Fingers waterskiing gloves
The palms and fingertips of Connelly's Sticky Fingers waterskiing gloves are covered with thousands of tiny nubs that produce superhuman grip. The material works in wet or dry conditions. Price: $34. www.connellyskis.com
Under Water Kinetics' Light
Hollow Carbon Stealth surfboard
Thanks to engineer Karl Pope, surfboards now fit in the overhead bin. Pope's 9-foot 6-inch, 15-pound Bisect Hollow Carbon Stealth surfboard can be taken apart and snapped back together in minutes. Better yet, since it's made of carbon fiber, it's 25 percent lighter and 10 times stronger than glass boards. Available in June. Price: $1,795. www.bisect.com
Processor: 1.7GHz Coolest Feature: Extra 2.5-hour battery and USB 2.0 support Price: $2,599
Processor: 1.7GHz Coolest Feature: Touchpad doubles as calculator and signature device Price: $2,499
Your laptop's obsolete again, this time thanks to a new crop of Pentium 4-powered machines that are scheduled to hit the market this year. All will deliver speeds of at least 1,2GHz—and a few will even exceed 2GHz—truly qualifying as desktop replacements.
If your beat-up knuckles don't do you in, the tedium of tightening a nut in a tight spot will. But Midland Design's QuickTwist ratchet wrench makes short work of any job, no matter how limited the space. In addition to regular rotation, you can tighten by twisting the tool's grip like a motorcycle throttle. Price: $75. www.quicktwist.ca
As satellites grow bigger and more powerful, so must the rockets that carry them into orbit. A new generation is emerging—not only are they more muscular, but they're also efficient and environmentally friendly. In the battle for the world's launchpads, here's how the contenders stack up.
Which of the latest high-tech new-car options will pay you back at trade-in?
1. KEYLESS ENTRY
2. INTEGRATED HANDS-FREE PHONE
3. IN-CAR VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT
4. HEAD AND SIDE AIRBAGS
5. IN-CAR NAVIGATION SYSTEMS
6. STABILITY CONTROL
Current Wisdom: Who doesn't love keyfob door openers? But magnetic entry cards— such as those from Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac—that open and start the car require getting used to Outlook: Keys will be obsolete someday— it's a given Price: $250 (keyfob) Should You Buy It? Yes. Keyless entry will be a big plus when you sell
INTEGRATED HANDS-FREE PHONE
Current Wisdom: Perfect for the traveling salesman and no one else Outlook: Driver distraction is a real issue, with legal momentum. In the not-too-distant future, hands-free may be your only choice for making calls on the road Price: $600 and up Should You Buy It? Time will tell. If your car is prewired for a phone, your bases are covered. Otherwise, it's worth considering
IN-CAR VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT
$1,300 to $3,000
Current Wisdom: An overpriced but incomparable way to keep the kids quiet during long trips Outlook: It'll no doubt remain popular with the sport-utility, station wagon, and minivan set Price: $1,300 to $3,000 Should You Buy It? Even bet. It probably won't be a deal-maker (or breaker) when you sell your vehicle
HEAD AND SIDE AIRBAGS
$300 to $500
Current Wisdom: The more airbags you have, the better Outlook: Pretty much the same. In addition to front airbags, head and side ones should become ubiquitous in the next few years Price: $300 to $500 Should You Buy It? Absolutely. Don't even think twice
IN-CAR NAVIGATION SYSTEMS
$1,500 to $2,500
Current Wisdom: You either love them or hate them Outlook: More complete systems that include concierge and news services should eventually supplant navigation Price: $1,500 to $2,500 Should You Buy It? Only if you want it. Little value will be left when you sell
$550 to $1,100
Current Wisdom: Useful but pricey. Usually available only on high-end models Outlook: As with antilock brakes (ABS) and traction control, the technology will quickly expand to less expensive models Price: $550 to $1,100 Should You Buy It? If you can afford it. That said, insist that your car have ABS
"Ciba Vision has combined the peanut butter and the chocolate," says New York opthalmologist Barry Farkas, referring to the company's Focus Night & Day contact lenses, the first designed for continuous 24-hour, 30-day use. The lens is a hybrid of an oxygenpermeable silicon lens (the peanut butter) and a more comfortable soft lens (the chocolate).
This month's "Why didn't I think of that" award goes to Panasonic's nickei-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery set, which converts AAs to C or D batteries. It comes with rechargeables, but alkalines work as well. Just pop on the appropriate jacket and you're ready. Of course, you get the battery life of a AA, not that of longer-lasting Cs and Ds. Price: $30; includes six AAs, two AAAs, four adapters, and a charger. www.panasonic.com
He had never fired a pistol. Then he was handed a loaded police Glock.
hate guns. Actually, that's not true. I love guns. Well, that's not true either. My feelings about guns are too complex and intimate to label so casually. On the one hand, I see guns as vicious devices designed solely to propel small, hard projectiles into flesh and organs, to maim, mutilate, and destroy the beautiful human machine.
Some say it's too big a job, but scientists would sure like to try.
mORE THAN HALF OF America's electricity comes from coal— and coal is dirty stuff, contributing mightily to smog, acid rain, and climate change. Can it be cleaned up? The government says yes: President Bush has pledged $2 billion for his Clean Coal Power Initiative.
iI'S A BOT-EAT-BOT WORLD AT THE Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham, England. A herd of cylinder-shaped robots grazes peacefully, each angling its solar cells toward pools of light on which it feeds. Suddenly, a predator robot rams one of the grazers, trapping it between its metal tusks.
STRESSED OUT? FORGET THAT FAT-LADEN COMFORT food and have something light. Researchers led by Catherine Stoney at Ohio State University have found that fat sticks around in your bloodstream when you're uptight. First the researchers injected calm people with triglycerides (any fat that comes from an animal or plant) and found that the fat left their bloodstreams at a rate of 3.2 percent per minute.
RESTORED VISION MIGHT BE IN THE FUTURE FOR THE 3 MILLION AMERICANS WHO SUFFER from blinding retinal damage. Alex Ignatiev and his colleagues at Houston's Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center have developed ceramic photocells to replace damaged rods and cones—the millions of specialized cells in our eyes that convert light into electrical impulses.
CREMATION IS ALL THE RAGE IN the funerary world, accounting for one-fourth of U.S. interments in the year 2000—a number expected to rise by another 15 percent in the next 10 years. Consequently, alternative cremation services are popping up everywhere.
Doctors unveil the latest in mechanical parasites.
'lEECH" IS DERIVED FROM AN OLD ENGLISH WORD MEANING "PHYSICIAN," and in the practice of Dr. Gregory Hartig, based in Madison, Wisconsin, that makes sense. After performing a reconstructive surgery, Hartig still sometimes prescribes leeches.
WHEN A MALE SPIDER OF THE SPECIES G. cancriformis goes a-courtin', it's in his evolutionary interest to choose a virgin. That's because a female's first mate almost always gets to fertilize her eggs, while subsequent males wind up with nothing to show for their ardor.
IF YOU LIKE NEW CARS, YOU probably love their smell: the mingling scents of taut leather, shiny propylene, and new rubber. Used-car dealers have even been known to spritz the interiors of "pre-owned" autos with an ersatz version of this bouquet.
STEAM LOCOMOTIVES, AIRcraft carriers, and weed whackers have one thing in common: They are powered by engines that convert heat into motion. Unfortunately, such engines are not terribly efficient. But physicist Marlan Scully of Texas A&M University in College Station has a radical idea that could substantially improve them.
EVERYONE KNOWS THAT EXPECTANT MOMS who smoke risk damaging their babies' physical health. New evidence from a Danish study (see chart) shows that smoking can also harm babies emotionally. Patricia Brennan of Atlanta's Emory University has found that the more cigarettes a woman smokes in the third trimester of pregnancy, the more likely her children are to be arrested for a crime or hospitalized for substance abuse.
Gearing up for the voyages of the starship SiMiCon.
AN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT, LOOKING VERY MUCH LIKE A TINY VERSION of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, may soon be heading into airspace where no one in their right mind would want to go. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, like the Predator and the Global Hawk have received high marks for missions over Afghanistan.
LONG BEFORE THEY WERE UNITS OF measurement, Curie, Fahrenheit, Ohm, and Watt were exceptional scientists. Indeed, in years past, you had to be pretty exceptional to get something named after you. But standards have dropped lately, as evidenced by the miniscule Calponia harrisonfordi spider, named for the star of the Indiana Jones movies.
iN THE BEGINNING, BEFORE THE first landlubbers crawled out of the murky ocean depths, viruses were everywhere. These parasites infected our earliest ancestors, and today, many millions of years later, bits of their genes live on in our genes.
This is the engine, fuel tank, and transmission of a revolutionary new kind of car. In the following pages; we offer a first peek at the cool designs it makes possible.
The Tech: What's In, What's Out
How the Autonomy Works
Snap-On Sports Car
Full Frontal Sedan
THE AUTOMOBILE HAS BEEN ON THE VERGE OF BEING reinvented practically since it was invented. Cars that would float and fly, cars that would walk, cars that would cruise like bubble-shaped VIP lounges: Surely a brand-new car was right around the corner, or at least a couple of years away—as promised on our 1940 cover at right.
The inside account of how GM stole the Detroit auto show by hustling its Pontiac Solstice off the sketchpad and onto the stage in record time.
Bob Lutz never minces dreams. The 70-year-old ex-BMW, ex-Chrysler, ex-Ford executive and ex-U.S. Marine Corps aviator joined General Motors last September with a nononsense, ambitious agenda. His immediate task as the automaker’s vice chairman and product czar: to snap the world's largest vehicle manufacturer out of its longstanding, self-inflicted catatonia.
Sony and Apple make computers they claim will bring order to the chaotic and confusing digital desktop. We put the two systems to a head-to-head test.
The Hubs We Compared
Listening to Music
Ripping a CD to Your MP3 Library
Loading a Portable MP3 Player with Tunes
Two Companies, Two Strategies
Watching a Movie
Editing Your Home Movies
Making a DVD
Dialing Up the Internet
Dealing with a PDA
Touching Up Photos
The idea is simple: a home computer that acts as a kind of dispatcher, translator, and organizer for all your digital devices. A computer that can download and edit data from PDAs, digital cameras, the Web, MP3 players, DVDs, and CDs without the nightmarish struggles over compatibility that have made many users want to hang themselves from the nearest beam with a USB cable.
What's it like to grow up with a mother who is a distinguished physicist and the sister of one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century? In the month of Mother's Day, POPULAR SCIENCE News Editor Charles Hirshberg remembers.
in 1966, Mrs. Weddle’s first grade class at Las Lomitas Elementary School got its first homework assignment: We were to find out what our fathers did for a living, then come back and tell the class. The next day, as my well-scrubbed classmates boasted about their fathers, I was nervous.
Forest fires like this one destroy 4 million acres each year. We train with the elite force in charge of putting them out.
WILLIAM G. PHILLIPS
tEN MINUTES. THAT’S ALL IT TAKES FOR THE fire to jump from the far ridge to within spitting distance. With no time to escape, and little chance of rescue, the order comes: "Deploy fire shelters!” I drop my pack and rip open my one-person heat shield as the fire closes in.
More than $13 million of research has led to this: Four TEST PAGES editors at a local pub on a Tuesday afternoon drinking draft, canned, and bottled Guinness beer. A lot of it. There's an art to the perfect Guinness pint. But since few of us have a pro pint-puller at home, company researchers have developed the "rocket widget" with the goal of recreating Guinness's signature creamy head in a bottle.
My last colonoscopy involved a 5-foot endoscope snaked through my lower intestine. Now there's a noninvasive option: I'm here at Open Systems Imaging in California for a virtual colonoscopy. The secret is software that, after a painless 20-minute CT scan, creates a high-quality 3-D image of my colon.
Accuweather, The Weather Channel, and the PopSci Dartboard battle it out.
WHO'S THE MOST ACCURATE?
WILLIAM G. PHILLIPS
"EVEN I COULD PREDICT THE WEAther better than those guys.” That statement, uttered by Managing Editor Jill Shomer on a colder-than-predicted January afternoon, started it all. The mounting conventional wisdom, it seemed to us, was that today's meteorologists couldn’t forecast clouds in a rainstorm.
It's going to snow tomorrow. This much I know, because I had studied the next day's forecasting model at the New York office of the National Weather Service. Jeffrey Tongue, a head meteorologist here, smiles. There's too much dry air at the upper levels, he says, and any precip making it east will turn to rain because of the urban heat island.
Explosives are no match for Wolverine, the police robot that thinks for itself.
Diffusing Bombs with Brains
"I can teach you to use this thing in 20 minutes," says Sandia National Laboratories' Phil Bennett. "And I'll have you retrieving a bomb in 40." Bennett's referring to Wolverine, a new police robot. It looks similar to the Albuquerque Bomb Squad robot next to it—both have cameras, an articulated arm, a mechanical gripper, and tank-like treads.
Hot new car segment, meet your intended buyer. Well be over here with a dictionary.
THE POPSCI INDEX
YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE A NAVEL RING TO BE AN AUTOmotive designer these days, but it helps. Take the three cars you see here—Ford Focus ZX5, Mazda Protegé5, and Toyota Matrix XRS. They're the first entries in what automakers are calling the Next Big Thing, a segment aimed directly at 22-year-olds with ankle tattoos.
The newest generation of running shoes from Nike, Avia, and Adidas thrives on changes in stride.
It's 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday and I'm standing in Central Park in shorts and a long-sleeve shirt. Around me are hundreds of googly-eyed couples eagerly awaiting the start of the New York Road Runners Club's Valentines Day 10K. My date today is colleague Trevor— and three pairs of new-fangled running shoes.
We ask Chris Pesa, who spent a month delivering the mail with it.
We Take Segway for a Spin
CHRIS PESA IS ONE OF THE FIRST PEOPLE to put the Segway Human Transporter (a.k.a. It, Ginger, and the Invention That Will Change the World) to a reallife test—on his 390-stop mail route in Tampa, Florida. We caught up with him to see how it Works.
This looks like a regular saw. It's not. That's the point.
"THIS IS HEAVY." THAT’S MY FIRST thought when I pick up Bosch's 15-pound Top Handle Worm Drive circular saw ($175), a new take on the conventional powerhouse popular among pros and serious do-it-yourselfers. I think this because it looks like a lighter conventional "sidewinder" circular saw.
IN 1900, NO ONE COULD HAVE PREdicted the next half-century of science and technology; the same holds true today. But in his new book, The Next Fifty Years (Vintage, $14), John Brockman gives it a noble try. With the help of 25 contributors— a veritable who's who in science—Brockman looks at everything from mathematics to cosmology, medicine to computing.
When Mickey or Bullwinkle falls to pieces, it's Ron Stark to the rescue!
RON STARK COULDN'T believe it. A woman was approaching him holding a rare piece of original animation from Walt Disney’s Fantasia. "It was Mickey Mouse from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ and she was waving it around like a piece of salami.
At death's door, Donald gets his feathers fluffed and his paint refreshed.
This cel—a clear plastic sheet, similar to 35mm film—was created in 1966. Stark determined it was starting to lose its acetic acid. This forces the cel to stretch "like a piece of taffy," he says, and as it changes shape, the paint begins to flake off.
Ivan Moscovich likes nothing better than a riddle wrapped inside an enigma.
OVER THE course of his amazing life, Ivan Moscovich has been a railroad supervisor, a museum director, an inventor, a researcher for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and an artist. But math and science puzzles are his greatest love, as shown by his recent book, 1,000 Playthinks (Workman Publishing).
Moscovich's "Playthinks" run the gamut from easy to tough. Here's one from each end of the spectrum.
Tough: Digraph Hexagon
Easy: The Trapdoor
In this directed graph ("Digraph"), each path between two of the numbered points allows travel in just one direction, which is marked with an arrow. With that in mind, can you find the route that will allow travel to all six points? Can you work out which way to push the rack so that the trapdoor will open?
When the scammers got tough, a crusader got going and going and going.
ONE DAY IN 1992, AS BOB LOUGHER sat at his desk at American Inventors Corp., he finally figured it out: "This entire operation is a sham!" The company was raking in upward of $10 million a year by selling a worthless patent search service to inventors.
Why is the knuckleball so hard a baseball pitch to hit? Todd Jett Chester, Pa. Batters see knuckleballs much less frequently than more conventional pitches. Of the thousands of professionals who've pitched in Major League Baseball, only 84 qualify as knuckleball pitchers, according to Knuckleball Headquarters ( www.oddballmall.com/ knuckleball).
Some typists hunt and peck, but most serious keyboard-bangers use QWERTY. The QWERTY (named for the key placement of the upper left row) key arrangement has spawned millions of touch typists—and enduring controversies concerning its value as well.
"People must come to a better understanding of laboratory men and their methods, for science plans our future and sends us the bills." So warned Harland Manchester in a 75th birthday issue that celebrated scientific progress. This issue marks our 130th year.