DURING A RECENT FAMILY DRIVE out of town, my 13-year-old son, Rex, launched into a diatribe from the backseat, blasting the environmental myopia of every lone driver spewing unnecessary CO2 behind the wheel of a hulking SUV. (He actually wanted me to bump them off the road, thus ensuring that he won't join their ranks until long after he turns 16.)
After our August issue explored the latest in robot technology, readers wondered why U.S. engineers even bother with humanoid robots, like those mentioned in Jacob Ward's "The Loneliest Humanoid in America." Especially when Corey Binns's profile of 10 new machines that will make our lives easier, "Rise of the Helpful Machines," showed that 'bots don't need to resemble their human counterparts to be useful assistants.
In Living Large, contributing writer Sarah Z. Wexler takes a look at America's longtime obsession with oversizing everything from engagement rings to shopping malls. Drawing on firsthand reports from the likes of the country's largest working landfill in California and the driver's side of a Hummer, Wexler presents a complete portrait of the, yes, growing world of “extreme large.”
A lung-on-a-chip is the first lab-ready mini organ to be used in drug research
This ersatz lung, no bigger than a multivitamin, could represent a new pharmaceutical testing method. On it, researchers have created an artificial alveolus, one of the sacs in the lungs where oxygen crosses a membrane to enter the body's blood vessels.
Why you should keep your face away from big fireworks
This unlucky blast-test dummy was the star of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's annual July press event on the National Mall in Washington. The commission, which regulates fireworks' explosive power, here vividly shows the potential of pyrotechnics for bodily harm.
TECH THAT PUTS THE FUTURE IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
THE HAMMER, EVOLVED
A cordless nailer powerful enough for the pros and handy enough for the rest of us
MILWAUKEE M12 PALM NAILER
MILWAUKEE M12 PALM NAILER
First came rocks. Then hammers. After that came pneumatic nail guns, and then the pneumatic palm nailer, a hand-sized tool that can pound nails accurately in even tight spaces, such as between wall studs or ceiling joists. But it still requires an unwieldy hose and air compressor, and battery-powered alternatives have lacked the force that contractors need.
Husqvarna's new chainsaw keeps itself well-tuned to help minimize maintenance. It has a sensor that checks conditions, such as outside temperature and internal airflow, every eight rotations and then adjusts the engine's fuel-air mix to make sure the saw doesn't wear itself out.
Motion controllers aim for precision and fun. Which will make you jump?
How do you make videogames more lifelike? Get the players off the couch. Nintendo’s Wii got families on their feet with a controller that senses swings and other motions. In November, Xbox 360 fans will rise for Microsoft’s Kinect. And now Sony wants serious gamers to stand.
Mass-market electric cars are mere months away—and that has charging-dock companies scrambling
NISSAN HOME CHARGING DOCK
CHARGEPOINT LEVEL III FAST CHARGER
Society of Automotive Engineers
Society of Automotive Engineers
Society of Automotive Engineers
Society of Automotive Engineers
CHARGEPOINT LEVEL III FAST CHARGER
Next year the number of electric cars and plug-in hybrids in America will increase by an order of magnitude, and all of those cars will be able to draw electricity from any 120-volt wall outlet. Just not very quickly. Charging from the wall can take longer than 16 hours.
Hiking gear that keeps you safe, comfortable and oriented
The North Face Kishtwar
The weather-resistant Kishtwar strikes a good balance—it withstands all but the worst rains yet doesn't trap sweat like fully waterproof shells do. Its fabric, Polartec Power Shield Pro, contains a polyurethane membrane woven into irregularly sized and stacked pores. This maze blocks moisture but lets in enough air to vaporize sweat and help it escape. The North Face Kishtwar $280; thenorthface.com
CamelBak packs, which build in water containers and straws, just got comfier. Revamped containers are flat and wide to spread water evenly, welded in the center to end side-to-side sloshing, and held by a strap so they don't slump. CametBak Highwire $115; camelbak.com
Black Diamond Ultra Distance
Trekking poles add stability in tricky spots. These 47inch ones fold up small and light packing and axtend quickly when needed. Each 9.5-ounce stick is made of three 15.6-inch carbon-fiber tubes, linked by a Keviar cord. Pull the handle to tighten the cord and draw the tubes together in a snap. Black Diamond Ultra Distance $150; blackdiamondequipment.com
The best GPS unit for casual hikers is a phone. This popular app for the iPhone 3G or 4 saves open-source topographic maps iduses the GPS chip and motion sensors to track location speed and altitude. An update shows places en route that have been geo-tagged on Wikipedia; tap to read articles. Motion-X GPS $3: motionx.com
TrekSta Evolution GTX
This boot reduces blisters with curves that match a foot's shape, like indentations for toes in its upper. TrekSta laser-mapped 100,000 feet to create its ultra-detailed shoemaker's mold. Bonus: Fiberglass in the sole grips wet rock. TrekSta Evolution GTX $130; trekstausa.com
Breathable rain gear, carbon-fiber trekking poles, a $3 map app: Hiking technology comes in many forms. Here's what's arriving just in time for leaf-peeping season.
New sets and services finally bring television and Web videos together
HOW YOU’LL BENEFIT
ESPN3 on Xbox LIVE
You’ll soon be able to watch live sports on your Xbox 360— and compete in trivia contests against other fans. By November, Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE service will begin streaming the Web channel ESPN3. Viewers get access to interactive features, such as real-time polls and quizzes at the bottom of the TV screen, that are more commonly found in videogames and social-networking sites. Next up: additional channels and a wider range of social experiences, such as voice chat among viewers. ESPN3 on Xbox LIVE Included in $50/year LIVE Gold membership; xbox.com
The next generation of Internetconnected TVs and set-top boxes make the Web something you surf with a remote, not a mouse. Because an increasing number of TVs now stream video from the Web, manufacturers are building interfaces to help you navigate this sea of content.
A rider on the stand-up Dreamslide can zip down the street at 13 mph while putting out no more effort than a brisk walk. Its single-speed drivetrain is propelled by pedals that spin independently of each other and thereby constantly generate power. Standard sit-down bikes, in comparison, have an energy-deficient dead zone when the pedals are at the top and bottom of the rotation. Dreamslide $1,600; dreamslide.com
The ElliptiGO lets bikers climb hills more easily than on a sit-down bike. Its footrests slide back and forth on fixed rails like on an elliptical trainer, but this pair transfers power to a rear-mounted eight-speed hub via carbon-fiber arms and an oversize bike crank. Since the arc of each stride is longer than on a regular bike, there's more room to harvest energy, allowing bikers to quickly climb 20-degree inclines and reach 25 mph on flats. ElliptiGO 8S $2,200; elliptigo.com
Tarasov Cougar Touring Rowcycle
The Rowcycle merges the strength of both your arms and legs to increase speed and provide a total-body workout. As you pull back with your arms and push forward with your legs, a system of pulleys and belts, including an extra-strong Kevlar band, transfers energy to the rear wheel by way of a standard bicycle-chain drive. Tarasov Cougar Touring Rowcycle $4,500; tarasovrowcycle.com
A new generation of bicycle designers has reverseengineered classic exercise machines to create innovative ways of getting around town.
New theories test our understanding of nature’s most elemental force
No one has ever quite nailed down gravity. Newton saw that bodies appeared to attract each other even at a great distance, and from this observation was able to construct a mathematical formula that predicted the motion of the planets with astonishing accuracy.
Scientists grow the first working replacement lung
HOW TO REMAKE A LUNG
PHASE 1: STRIP IT
PHASE 2: BUILD THE AIRWAYS
PHASE 3: CONSTRUCT THE VESSELS
In the U.S., people needing a new lung wait more than a year on average for an organ. That’s often too long—237 people on the transplant list died in 2009. Recent advances in cell regeneration, however, could someday allow a patient to "donate” a healthy lung to himself in just a month.
A bioengineered pig that excretes fewer pollutants
INSIDE THE ENVIROPIG
1. MAKE THE ENZYME
2. BREAK UP THE POLLUTANT
3. POOP AND PEE AWAY!
This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. And this little piggy is genetically modified to poop less phosphorus, making it the most environmentally friendly pig in the world. Like all animals, pigs’s cells need phosphorus to make DNA, build cell membranes, and transport energy.
Space tourism, artificial organs, and butler 'bots—we look at Japan’s forecasts of its future
In 21 years, vacationers will sip mojitos while watching the sun set over the far side of the planet from the comfort of an orbital hotel—that, at least, is according to a panel of 40 Japanese scientists. In June, the Japanese government released its Foresight Survey, which since 1971 has polled the country’s top minds to map out Japan’s advances over the next 30 years.
How 140 scientists set a 1,000-square-mile tornado trap and pulled off the world’s most ambitious weather experiment
HOW TO CATCH A TORNADO
SETTING THE TRAP
MODELING THE STORM
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST TORNADO HUNT is stuck. I'm at an improvised command center in the conference room of the Holiday Inn Express in Perry Oklahoma, and 35 scientists are trying to decide where, on this cloudy May morning, to deploy the 50 equipmentladen trucks parked outside.
A tornado can pack as much kinetic energy as a bomb, so veteran storm chaser Reed Timmer and his team, who star in the Discovery Channel series Storm Chasers, built themselves a four-ton tank dubbed the Dominator to stay safe on the job. The team started by gutting a 2007 Chevy Tahoe and then wrapped it in a 16-gauge-steel shell.
Environmental disruptions and technological advances have always influenced where and how people live. Early humans may have left Africa after rapid fluctuations in rainfall destroyed their food supply, and the opening up of the American Southwest occurred roughly in parallel with improvements in air-conditioning technology.
CAN THIS HOUSE SAVE YOU FROM THE END OF THE WORLD?
The man who owns it says yes, and he's offering shares for just $5,000 down
TO REACH THE WORLD’S first everything proof underground luxury community, I drive east out of Barstow, California, 50 or so miles into the Mojave Desert, then turn down an unmarked gravel road, park in a barren lot surrounded by razor wire, enter what appears to be a small cinderblock garage, and walk down two steep flights of reinforced-concrete stairs, at which point the project’s enthusiastic promoter, Robert Vicino, greets me with an outstretched hand, slams a 3,000-pound blast door behind us, and asks this question: “Do you have a family?"
ONE MAN'S MISSION TO BUILD AN ECO-FRIENDLY, AFFORDABLE HOME
LESSONS LEARNED BRINGING IT ALL HOME
Hard-won advice from a proud and exhausted green builder
#1: BALANCE BENEFITS OF NEW TECHNOLOGY AGAINST RISKS
#2: KNOW YOUR CONTRACTOR
#3: ACCEPT YOUR DIY LIMITS
#4: RESPECT YOUR BUDGET
FIFTEEN MONTHS AGO, I set out to fulfill a lifelong ambition of building my own home using the latest green technology. On a $350,000 budget, several dreams came true. I installed a solar-powered boiler, a rooftop garden and a graywater recycling system.
Scientists hope to strengthen aging brains by tweaking the behavior of DNA
MEMORY LOST, MEMORY REGAINED
HOW WE MAKE MEMORIES
HOW GENES AFFECT MEMORY
HOW MEMORY IS LOST
HOW WE MIGHT GET IT BACK
I’M STILL PRETTY YOUNG, SO WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER WHERE I PUT MY KEYS?
HOW CAN I TELL IF I MIGHT LOSE MY MEMORY LATER IN LIFE?
AGE-RELATED memory loss—the kind where you remember friends from decades ago but can't remember your grandchildren—is largely a mystery, but a class of compounds used to treat cancer has given neuroscientists clues to its molecular underpinnings.
A state-of-the-art facility aims to make desalination more efficient
A PEEK INSIDE THE PLANT
HOW MUCH DOES DESALINATION COST?
HOW MANY DESALINATION PLANTS ARE THERE IN THE U.S.?
BY 2025, THE UNITED NATIONS REPORTS, two out of three people on Earth will live in places without enough freshwater to drink or grow crops. One way to beat that trend is to extract water from saltwater. The most common method of doing that is reverse osmosis, an energy-intensive process.
A dramatic technique for mining oil and natural gas called hydraulic fracturing is under fire. Here’s why
HOW TO WRING GAS FROM A STONE
1. BLAST IT
2. FRAC IT
3. PUMP IT
WHAT’S THE DANGER IN FRACKING?
WHAT’S IN FRAC FLUID?
CAN IT BE MADE SAFER?
NEED SOME NATURAL GAS? To generate more of it—and more income—energy companies are resorting to creative measures, eking out every last bit from the gas wells they drill. But environmentalists and publichealth advocates warn that one such process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can also taint nearby water supplies.
Interstellar dust may help astronomers understand the formation of stars and planets
THE LIFE OF A DUST GRAIN
1 INSIDE THE STAR
2. ON THE STAR’S SURFACE
3. IN INTERSTELLAR SPACE
IS INTERSTELLAR DUST VISIBLE FROM EARTH?
HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE GALACTIC ENVIRONMENT?
RIDING IN A CAR through space, if you were to hang your white-gloved hand out the window, it would come back dirty The space between the Milky Way's stars is filled with gas and dust—lots of dust. This summer, the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite produced a highresolution dust map.
A husband and wife build a replica of an odd 19th-century underwater craft
HOW IT WORKS
In 1894, American inventor Simon Lake designed the Argonaut Jr., a wheeled vehicle that would drive along the seafloor, the only way to reliably navigate underwater at the time. The unusual concept has inspired sub aficionados ever since.
Start with what you want to do, and Viator .com, which offers over 5,500 tours and activities in 450 destinations, will suggest places to do it. Want to dive with sharks? Type in "sharks," and browse packages in Jamaica and Bora Bora. Book an ATV jungle tour in Belize, gladiator lessons in Rome, or skydiving in New Zealand.
Locked your keys in the car again? No problem— now you can open the doors using your cellphone
Drive for long enough, and eventually you’ll experience it: that helpless feeling that comes when you discover you’ve locked your keys in your car. Before it happens again, install a system that unlocks your car doors with your cellphone.
1 Open the printer. Slide the battery cover plate off and remove the battery. Snap the plastic bezel off the front of the printer, and remove the two screws that hold the cover plate in place. Remove the narrow ribbon cable. 2 Route two wires into the printer via the paper exit slot.
Install a display on your netbook that’s easy to read even when you’re outside in the sun
It’s rare that the first people who get to use a groundbreaking technology are third-world students and home tinkerers. But a new type of LCD, which requires less power than conventional displays and is viewable even in bright sunlight, was originally developed by the company Pixel Qi for the One Laptop Per Child project and is now available as a DIY replacement screen for netbook computers.
1 Head to MakerShed.com to see which netbooks are compatible with the Pixel Qi display. We upgraded a Lenovo S10-2, one of two models the site recommends. 2 Remove two screws from the front of the display. Then carefully work your finger around the inside of the plastic bezel, starting at the bottom, until it snaps off.
Overclocking is simply improving your computer’s performance beyond its rated specifications by tweaking its settings. An example would be overclocking a $280 2.66-gigahertz CPU to 3.33 gigahertz. Normally a 3.33-gigahertz chip would cost you $1,000.
Keeping track of your airline, hotel and credit-card reward programs can be unwieldy. Award Wallet lets you manage them all in one place. Enter your account information for any of dozens of programs, and the site will update you on how many frequent-flier miles and shopping points you’ve racked up, as well as when they’re due to expire.
1. Drill a 10-to 15-millimeter hole in the middle of a camera-body cap, and stick double-sided tape to the outside. 2. Use a pin (or if necessary, a nail) to make a small, round hole in the center of an Altoidstin or soda can. The smaller the hole, the sharper the photos you’ll get.
A We’ve all sucked down a milkshake so quickly that it causes a sudden headache— the dreaded brain freeze. But... milkshake. Tasty. Must. Drink. Could chugging the rest of that shake cause lasting brain damage? First, let’s get one thing straight.
Faced with high cooling costs, Floridian engineer Michael Busick started a company, American Ingenuity, to promote a solution: houses made of foam. Busick claimed that foam houses provided the best insulation for the price. Foam-home buyers spent close to the same amount on construction and materials as buyers of traditional homes did, but electric and heating bills were often lower in a foam house—sometimes by more than a third.