PRIVATE COMPANIES HAVE 40 ORBITAL FLIGHTS SLATED BETWEEN NOW AND 2014.
NEARLY SIX YEARS AGO, we published a two-part report by Bruce Grierson on the entrepreneurs, advocates, engineers and dreamers who were building the foundations of a space-tourism industry that would get civilians off-planet without relying on (or waiting for) NASA.
we revealed how everyday chemicals may be poisoning us, looked Inside the training that may one day send NASA's newest class of astronauts to Mars, and presented 10 of the most brilliant young minds In science.
CAPSULE DÉJÀ VU
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Arianne Cohen's article on man-made chemicals ["Personal Chemistry”] does a fantastic job of describing some of the biggest sources of exposure, but it misses one key point: We are not exposed to these chemicals just through direct contact.
OVERSIZE SCULPTURES OFFER A CLOSER LOOK AT BACTERIA AND VIRUSES
This 41-inch-long sculpture of the Escherichia coli bacterium is part of British artist Luke Jerram's "Glass Microbiology" series of portraits. Other organisms he has vitrified include HIV, SARS and swine flu. To create each one, Jerram used images from an electron microscope and had guidance from virologist Andrew Davidson of the University of Bristol in England.
SCIENTISTS FIND A RATCHET-LIKE MECHANISM THAT PULLS WOUNDS SHUT
One of the steps in fruit-fly development is similar to the healing of wounds. Until recently, scientists believed that when fruit-fly bodies take form during a process called dorsal closure, long strings of the protein actin behaved like the drawstring of a purse, pulling together the epithelial cells that eventually form the fly's skin.
Dick Tracy, this is your year. Gadget makers have tried to re-create the 2-Way Wrist Radio before, but now they've finally managed to pack cellphones into watches so sleek and functional that you'd actually wear them. LG's GD910, which went on sale in Europe last year, kicked off the trend.
Think of Archerfish's wireless camera as a security guard that can hide in corners. Like its predecessor, its software searches in real time for intruders and sends you instant e-mail alerts, but the new version swaps easy-to-spot wires for Wi-Fi.
AN ELECTRIC-CAR HOLDOUT DECIDES TO DAZZLE THE ZERO-EMISSONS SCENE
In September, Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen called the Chevy Volt a "car for idiots” and said that electric vehicles were "for the intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they are.” Audi must have felt the need to atone for the harsh words, because the following month the German carmaker announced that it would build the baddest electric car yet: the E-tron, an all-electric supercar that could go on sale in the U.S. in two to three years.
A table that automatically charges any laptop, gadget or even jigsaw that you place on it—that's the promise of wireless power, and it just got one step closer. Magnetic induction systems, which transmit electricity without jacks and ports, have finally gone beyond the electric toothbrush into big, high-wattage gear.
MOTION SENSORS GET A NEW CALLING: CAPTURING ATHLETES’ EVERY TWIST
An airplane’s flight data recorder, or black box, saves stats from many different sensors so that pilots can reconstruct and analyze a trip after the fact, whether to find problems or certify that they completed a recordsetting route. Now extreme-sports athletes can quantify a wicked ride the same way.
TRACK HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY USE WITH WEB-CONNECTED MONITORS
Shaspa Smart Home
THE TREND: Internet-connected energy monitors. They grab details on electric use from your wiring and send them to a Web site where you can analyze the data—and figure out how to save both watts and cash. WHY NOW: Utilities keep promising "smart" electric meters that automatically provide real-time, online info, but most Americans still don't have them.
A SCHOOL USES VIDEOGAME-BASED LESSONS TO TEACH A NEW GENERATION OF KIDS
An 11-year-old boy taps furiously on a laptop, blasting enemies as he weaves through a maze. They wipe him out before he can reach the end-game over. Frustrated, he opens the game's programming window, adjusts the gravity setting, and this time bounds over the baddies.
ROBOTIC INSECTS COULD POLLINATE FLOWERS AND FIND DISASTER VICTIMS
HOW ROBOBEES POLLINATE AN ORCHARD
STEP 1: ESTABLISH HOME BASE
STEP 2: SURVEY THE LANDSCAPE
STEP 3: MAKE A MAP
STEP 4: GET POLLINATING
ANATOMY OF A ROBOBEE
Teamwork among honeybees keeps a hive running smoothly. Worker bees collect pollen, nurse bees care for larvae, and male drones spread the colony's genes. Each insect's efforts ensure the colony's success. That strategy led Gu-Yeon Wei to suggest that Rob Wood morph an almond-size robotic fly he had developed into a fleet of autonomous bees, each capable of carrying out specialized tasks.
About 20 percent of watermelons are left to rot in the field because they're too blemished to sell in stores. Scientists from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that the unused fruit left on a harvested acre could produce about 24 gallons of bioethanol—fuel that could be poured back into farm equipment or sold on the open market, all without competing for land with food crops.
The opening riff of Takin Care of Business” thumps rhythmically from an iPod as a room full of middle-aged military veterans tap in time on drums. This is the sound of brain rehab. Studies show that music can promote new neural connections, which Colorado State University neuroscientist Michael Thaut theorized could help overcome common symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as short-term memory loss and impaired decisionmaking skills.
Three minutes. That's how long it will take your doctor to use the world's smallest ultrasound device to find out if your chest pain is caused by fluid buildup around your heart—an early sign of congestive heart failure—or if it's just last night's chicken vindaloo.
For centuries, sailors recounted tales of giant waves that arose from otherwise calm seas and washed ships away. In 1995, scientists confirmed the legend when an 84-foot-tall wall of water slammed an oil rig in the North Sea. Now, with much of the world economy tied up in offshore oil rigs and cargo shipping (and, in the future, offshore wind farms), scientists have developed a new theoretical model that could predict freak-wave danger zones.
INHALABLE CHOCOLATE PAVES THE WAY FOR A SAFER TB VACCINE
In 2007, David Edwards, a biomedical engineer at Harvard University, gave his students a project: Develop a way to inhale food, rather than chewing and swallowing it. "They took a whiff of everything from pepper to carrots and coughed a lot," Edwards says.
GO TO THE MOON. GO TO MARS. Land an astronaut on an asteroid. With ambitions like these, does NASA really have time to play bus driver to the International Space Station? The thrifty innovators behind the bustling private-space industry say they can do the grunt work better and cheaper, and this year NASA may take them up on the offer
BY LEAVING TASKS SHORT OF THE MOON TO PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, “NASA CAN ACTUALLY FOCUS ON DOING THE COOL STUFF.”
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A SOLUTION
SPACEX COULD DO ISS TRIPS FOR $20 MILLION PER SEAT. “NO LATER THAN THREE YEARS FROM TOMORROW” MUSK PROMISES.
WHO’S ON TOP?
Sizing up the private race to space
OUT OF THE BLUE
“IF ALL WE DO IN LIFE IS SOLVE ANOTHER BLOODY PROBLEM, THAT’S DEPRESSING. YOU NEED THINGS THAT INSPIRE PEOPLE."
SAM HOWE VERHOVEK
Mojave is a boneyard, a place where commercial airliners go to die. Yet on the day I visited last October, there was life in the wide blue sky overhead, and it was more striking than the sight of even the most modern airliner. I saw a kind of flying catamaran streaking from west to east.
ONE MAN'S MISSION TO BUILD AN ECO-FRIENDLY, AFFORDABLE HOME
ROOFTOP GREENERY GUARDS AGAINST WATER DAMAGE AND BLAND MEALS
JOHN B. CARNETT
WHAT'S A GREEN home without actual greenery? I wanted my eco-friendly house to feel more connected to nature, so I turned the flat stretches of roof into gardens. Rooftop flora is not only scenic, but it can also protect a home against temperature extremes, absorb carbon dioxide, and triple the life span of a roof.
Nearly 17 million gallons of gas are spilled annually refilling yard equipment. Ryobi's new batterypowered chainsaw, string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer recharge in an hour, without a wasted drop of fuel. Plus, there's no worrying about changing spark plugs.
BIG PHARMA TEETERS ON THE EDGE OF THE PATENT CLIFF
The end of patents on some of the biggest drugs means cheaper generics now but may mean fewer new drugs later
So long, Lipitor. See you later, Advair. This year marks the beginning of the socalled patent cliff, when pharmaceutical companies lose exclusive patent rights to many of their top-selling brand-name drugs. Companies could cede $140 billion in sales by 2016 as cheap generic versions move onto the market.
Ferrer Laboratories brings out a pill that includes three drugs to protect against heart attacks and costs less to buy than the individual pills. Combining aspirin and drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, the pill could make patients more likely to take their medicine.
Three cameras onboard this minibus-size observatory will monitor solar activity to help scientists understand the mechanisms that underlie the sun's behavior and the solar cycle. MISSION: PRISMA WHO: Sweden LAUNCH: February The two Prisma craft, Mango and Tango, will dance together in orbit, testing technology that could lead to autonomous spaceflight using a combination of GPS, satellite-tracking cameras and radio signals.
CRYOSAT-2 FINALLY DELIVERS THE DEEPEST LOOK YET AT POLAR ICE
In late February, the European Space Agency will get a second chance to launch a satellite designed to take the most sensitive measurements yet of sea ice and glaciers. In 2005, the launch rocket failed to separate and brought the original CryoSat satellite crashing into the Arctic Ocean.
FINAL ACT: Cassini finished its original mission of exploring Saturn and its moons in 2008. Its new Equinox mission to observe seasonal changes on Saturn extended its life to this year. SECOND LIFE? Likely to be extended again, Cassini will continue to send information and images until at least 2017.
Scientists have identified nearly a quarter of a million marine species to date, and 1,400 more are discovered every year. A decade ago, the world's leading ichthyologists, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, embarked on a seemingly impossible task: to create a list of all known ocean species, showing where they live and how many of them exist.
Indiana joins 18 other states that have approved e-waste laws putting the bill for the recycling of sometimes-toxic electronics on device manufacturers. Seven of the states start collection this year. Manufacturers will be required to cover the cost of recycling electronics, including TVs and almost anything with a screen that measures at least four inches diagonally.
HAZARD: Twelve new hydroelectric dams on the Yangtze River will disrupt the habitats of 188 fish species. CLEANUP COMMITTEE: The Nature Conservancy and Three Gorges Project Group Corporation will develop a restoration plan for affected wetlands and floodplains to maintain fish habitats.
Sixty SunCatcher concentrated solar dishes— the most efficient in the world at converting solar energy—will be installed in Arizona early this month, powering 202 homes annually. Larger facilities are scheduled to break ground in California and Texas later in the year.
THE PROGRESSIVE Automotive X Prize promises $10 million in prizes to the first cars that can maintain 100 mpg in a series of road races. Who will win? We've handicapped the field. MAINSTREAM-CLASS: Must have at least four wheels and seat four adults Delta Motorsport Britain: The all-electric E-4 coupe mounts an electric motor for each wheel on the chassis, netting it up to 95 percent drivetrain efficiency 3.5 times that of the standard car.
Nearly three years after General Motors announced a concept car called the Chevrolet Volt, setting off an avalanche of hype, skepticism and imitation from other automakers, the electric-car renaissance is here-almost. This is the year major automakers have said they would give us the electric cars we were promised.
THREE PEOPLE WHO COULD WIN OR LOSE IT ALL IN THE NEW YEAR
CRAIG VENTER, BIOLOGIST
LORI GARVER, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR
RANDALL L. STEPHENSON, AT&T CHAIRMAN AND CEO
JOB: BUILD ARTIFICIAL LIFE On the agenda: Venter says he's in the final stage of creating the first synthetic biological organisms. Man-made organisms could churn out pharmaceuticals and carbon-neutral fuels. ExxonMobil is working with Venter's company, Synthetic Genomics, and, if all goes well, will invest up to $600 million in his synthetic-algae-based biofuels.
What's starting up or shutting down in the world of physics
DEATH: TEVATRON AT FERMI NATIONAL ACCELERATOR LABORATORY
BIRTH: NATIONAL IGNITION FACILITY
DEATH: PLANCK ORBITER
BIRTH: ATACAMA LARGE MILLIMETER/ SUBMILLIMETER ARRAY
The Tevatron is the most powerful proton accelerator in operation. It was due to shut down a year after the start of the higherenergy Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European center for particle physics near Geneva, Switzerland.
TWO ANTICIPATED TIME SINKS THAT WILL DESTROY DUR SOCIAL LIVES
STARCRAFT II: WINGS OF LIBERTY
COPS GET SUPER-'BOT
SUBORBITAL TEST FLIGHT
May 7 Robert Downey, Jr., returns to his double role as industrialist Tony Stark and crime fighter Iron Man. This time, he takes on Russian villain Whiplash and faces the Black Widow, along with industry rival Justin Hammer. It's Iron Man, so you know what to expect: lots of tech, big explosions and droll commentary.
This year, you won't need a living room to have a Super Bowl party. You won't even need a TV. For the first time, broadcasters in select cities will send the game live not just to big-screen TVs but also to cellphones, netbooks and other mobile devices.
According to Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity is a point at which man will become one with machine and then live eternally—which makes Singularity University, a nine-week academic retreat named for the concept, sound a little cultish. Our writer traveled west to investigate and found 40 stunningly sane brainiacs out to change the world
“WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FINGER?”
WHEN I ARRIVED ON CAMPUS, I EXPECTED TO ENCOUNTER A BUNCH OF SCI-FI NERDS WHO COULDN’T WAIT TO PLUG INTO THE MATRIX.
KURZWEIL SEEMS TO THINK WE CAN SINGULARIZE OUR WAY OUT OF ANYTHING.
IN THE END, S.U.’S ASSOCIATION WITH KURZWEIL SEEMED TO BE PRIMARILY A MARKETING TOOL TO ATTRACT ATTENTION AND TOP FACULTY
Bruce Klein asked after noticing my bandaged digit. Cooking injury, I told him. "Maybe we can sprinkle some nanobots in there and fix it up," Klein replied, and chuckled, though he was only sort of kidding. Prior to hanging his hat here in the administration office of Singularity University (S.U.), Klein produced the film Exploring Life Extension and coedited the book Scientific Conquest of Death, both of which are pretty selfexplanatory.
INSIDE THE SCENE-STEALING TECHNOLOGY USED TO MAKE JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
James Cameron is stubborn. He decided nearly a decade ago to film his humansversus-aliens sci-fi adventure Avatar in 3-D, but he refused to start production until technology could convince the viewer that he or she could step through the screen and pick up a bow alongside the Navi, the film's 10-foot-tall, blue, catfaced alien protagonists.
An array of 72 to 96 cameras, depending on the size of the set, hang around the perimeter of a sound stage and are configured in a grid. Later, a computer replaces the studio walls, floor and ceiling with digitally rendered three-dimensional environments and structures.
BEHIND THE 3-D MAGIC IS A DIRECTOR WHO WON'T LET EVEN THE LAWS OF PHYSICS GET IN THE WAY OF AN EPIC STORY
SCIENCE ADVISERS ARE ANNOYING:
BUT SOMETIMES SCIENTISTS ARE USEFUL:
AUDIENCES WILL LIKE IT ANYWAY:
I have just enough of a science background to get me in trouble. When I'm writing, I'm thinking: What can cause a mountain to float? Well, if it was made out of an almost-pure room-temperature superconductor material, and it was in a powerful magnetic field, it would self-levitate.
A BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO: ONE RIDER AND ONE ROBOT TO DO ALL THE WORK
HOW IT WORKS
• STABLE AND SAFE
• CURB APPEAL
The project began as a challenge. Carl Morgan's son Justin, recalling how he used to have to crank up a nasty hill outside their Bainbridge Island, Washington, home every day, asked his dad, a retired electrical engineer, if he could build something that would take care of the pedaling for a lazy biker.
Observe the world’s largest elephants— as well as lions, giraffes and other wildlife in South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park—on a live webcam at africa-webcams.com. No beasts in sight? Try the Smithsonian National Zoo’s webcam page (nationalzoo.si.edu) to spy more than 20 kinds of critters in captivity.
A WIRE SCREEN IS ALL IT TAKES TO PREVENT DANGEROUS GASES FROM EXPLODING
RE-CREATING A DAVY LAMP
If you were a coal miner in the early 1800s, the light you used was an open-flame oil lamp—even though mines were sometimes filled with "fire-damp," a volatile mixture of air and methane gas. Explosions were inevitable, and at times threw bodies from mine shafts like grapeshot from a cannon.
ASSEMBLE A SYSTEM THAT NOTIFIES YOU WHEN SOMEONE’S AT YOUR DOOR
MAKE A PIZZA CAM
THERE'S NOTHING BETTER than Guys' Night, an evening of gaming or movies in my basement media room. The only trouble is when we (invariably) order pizza, because I can't hear the doorbell from there. The solution: an inexpensive DIy digital surveillance system tied to Twitter.
SAVE MONEY—WHILE STILL TAKING GREAT PICTURES— BY USING A VINTAGE LENS WITH YOUR DIGITAL CAMERA
ADAPT A MANUAL LENS TO YOUR DSLR
EASY 10000 HARD
One of the key features of digital SLR cameras is the ability to change lenses to get a wide range of shots, from ultra-zooms to super-close-ups. And now DSLR owners no longer need to spend a bundle on high-end lenses to take advantage of their camera's functionality—there's a way to use older, far less expensive manual-focus lenses instead.
Tired of hearing his alarm clock buzzing on school snow days in New York's Hudson River Valley, middle-school student Patrick Insinger hacked it with an Arduino micro controller and a relay circuit controlled by software he modified. The program is set up to check a local Web site that reports school closings.
Feel chained to your tunes? There are a number of ways to get your home music library from your computer to other rooms. You could go the DIY route and set up another computer on your wireless network to share songs. But for a simpler setup, go with a dedicated media-streaming device.
Q Can microwave technology be used to make food cold?
Just how old is dirt?
A Microwaves can transform a frozen pizza into hot, melted goodness in four minutes flat, but they can't rescue your melted ice-cream sundae. To cook food, a microwave oven converts voltage into high-frequency electromagnetic microwaves.
Just 12 years before the first manned space flight, American scientists were still grappling with how to break away from the Earth's gravitational pull. To do so, a craft needs to travel at more than 25,000 mph. And although the U.S. Army's record-setting 5,000mph rocket was impressive at the time, scientists realized that much more research was necessary.