TWO YEARS AGO, I sat with roughly 1,500 fellow attendees of the annual TED Conference and listened as one of the world's greatest explorers explained why we must stop plundering the oceans and start protecting them—immediately "Business as usual means that in 50 years, there may be no coral reefs and no commercial fishing, because the fish will simply be gone," the explorer said.
It's hard to talk about relocating humankind to space without sounding a little insane, so we expected a volatile response to our March cover story. We got it. Some told us that planning for life among the stars is folly. Others appreciated the boldness of the researchers who dare to publicly debate the finer points of starship design.
A photographer shoots and assembles an entire day of skies
Amateur photographer Chris Kotsiopoulos created this continuous image of the sky over Sounio, Greece, a town near his home. Late last December, he recorded the sun's path across the sky during the day and an 11 -hour star trail at night. With his DSLR camera on a tripod, Kotsiopoulos snapped a photo every 15 minutes while the sun was in the sky.
Plastic enclosures provide a cheap, bacteria-based sewage solution
Roughly 7,000 rural communities in the U.S. deal with sewage the old-fashioned way: by dumping it into an open holding pond and letting sunlight and bacteria do the rest. Not only do these ponds smell bad, but it takes the bacteria a long time to render the sewage nonhazardous, a situation that could pose a contamination risk to waterways.
TECH THAT PUTS THE FUTURE IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
A jet-propelled surfboard helps battle the breakers
DIMENSIONS: 7.1 ft. x 21 in. x 3.125 in. WEIGHT: 32 lbs. RUNTIME: 39 min. PRICE: $4,500 (est.) MORE INFO: wavejet.com
Surfers want to ride waves, not tire out while paddling to them. That’s where the WaveJet comes in. Two battery-powered jets tucked into the shortboard’s three-inch shell provide 20 pounds of thrust to propel riders at 12 mph—three times the average paddling speed.
Improve your odds in the wild with the SOL Origin survival kit. The palm-sized, 6.4-ounce set consists of 17 one-handed tools (including a knife, whistle, compass, signaling mirror, sparking device and tinder), all housed in a waterproof case.
Garden aids that help tame your yard with less time and effort
Imagine mowing only once a month and rarely having to water. Pearl’s blend of Dakota fescue, perennial rye and Kentucky bluegrass grows deeply (to capture more nutrients) and slowly (to extend time between mows). Pearls Premium Grass Seed (Sunny) $36 (five pounds); pearlspremium.com
Fiskars's scissors come fully equipped for small garden jobs, such as clipping flowers or quick hedge-trimming touch-ups. The snippers have a removable titaniumcoated blade, a notch to snip twine and a serrated edge to chew through thicker brush. Fiskars Cuts+More scissors $20; fiskars.com
With extra-sharp and deep teeth, this mini reciprocating saw cuts through branches of up to three inches thick. The trick to its clean, one-handed cuts is a retractable, spring-loaded arm that pushes stems into the blade. Black & Decker PSL12 Piranha Pruning Saw $80; blackanddecker.com
An extendable 5.5foot shaft, a head that rotates 135 degrees, and 12 volts of power give Craftsman's hedge trimmer an edge when pruning hard-to-reach areas, such as the tops of tall shrubs and other inaccessible spots. Craftsman NEXTEC Articulating and Rotational Hedge Trimmer $100; craftsman.com
Unlike typical electric mowers, this Worx doesn’t flinch when it hits weeds or overgrown grass. The battery-powered mower can crank up the torque, increasing the relative strength of its spinning blades, so it won't get stuck in the rough. WorxECO Pacesetter Mower WG 789 $780; worxyardtools.com
Getting your lawn in shape after the spring thaw can mean many uncomfortable hours of lifting, bending, stretching and sweating. These tools cut down on all that back-breaking labor, leaving you more time to relax and smell the roses.
With the Esflow, Nissan shakes up the electric-sports-car scene
When Nissan introduced its Leaf last year, it became the first major automaker to enter the modern pure-electric-vehicle market, which was previously populated almost entirely by tiny carmakers such as the Palo Alto, California, company Tesla Motors.
New jacket fabrics vent sweat without letting water or cold air sneak in
Rab Stretch Neo Jacket with Polartec NeoShell
Millet Trilogy Limited GTX with Gore-Tex Active Shell
Rab Stretch Neo Jacket
lindera microscope, NeoShell's permeable layer looks like spiderwebs spun from a polyurethane thread. The webs form tiny channels large enough that humid air can escape but small enough that water droplets (even those with the force of a 10-foot waterfall) can't get in. A polyester lining and durable outer-face fabric sandwich the layer and are fused to it with pinhead-size dots of adhesive, which keeps channels clear and air flowing. $365; us.rab.uk.com
Millet Trilogy Limited GTX
Thinner and lighter than its predecessor, Gore-Tex’s Active Shell fabric features a porous membrane that looks like cotton candy up close. The fabric bonds directly with a moisturewicking lining, eliminating a heavy layer of adhesive and trimming a few ounces off the jacket. An outer-face fabric attaches with microscopic glue dots; this way, the pores (about nine billion of them per square inch) don’t get gummed up. $400; milletusa.com
For 35 years, Gore-Tex has dominated the market for waterproof, breathable fabrics, but this spring it has some competition. Textile maker Polartec has developed its own waterproof, breathable fabric that threatens to trump GoreTex’s latest.
After 30 years of incremental changes, vending machines are getting a serious facelift. Instead of the usual machine with a window, Samsung created the Diji Touch vendor, featuring a 46-inch LCD touch panel Shoppers can tap a snack icon and pull up nutrition information before making their final purchase. Last fall, Samsung deployed 20 machines in the Northeast and plans to add about 150 more this year. Samsung uVending samsunglfd.com
It’s 8 p.m. You’re famished and standing in the middle of the supermarket. Where do you turn? Soon the answer could be an Intel, HP and Kraft kiosk that decodes your cravings for you. The station scans shoppers’ faces to judge their age and sex and then pairs that assessment with time of day and holidays to suggest recipes and shopping lists. For example, a customer identified as being in his mid-20s, at 11:00 on a Tuesday night, might get a suggestion for mac and cheese. Kraft plans to start testing the kiosks in grocery stores by the end of this year. Kraft Meal Planning Solution and Intel Connected Store intel.com
Toshiba’s objectrecognition system
Self-checkout counters can be swift—if you’re not buying produce. In the next few years, shoppers could use Toshiba’s objectrecognition system, which identifies fruits and vegetables, rather than typing tedious codes. With a camera, the system determines a food's shape, color and apparent texture, even through plastic bags, and picks the likeliest identity and alternatives (say, similar red apples). Shoppers correct any mistakes, making the system smarter. It already discerns 34 foods with 90 percent accuracy. Toshiba Object Recognition with Implemented Learning Capability toshiba.com
Home cooks have plenty of gadgets to help them whip up a smoothie or soufflé, but now touchscreens, facial tracking and object-recognition technologies are taking the labor out of a much more mundane chore: food SHOPPING.
Radio-controlled toys trade joysticks for smartphones
HOW YOU’LL BENEFIT
Having a Ball
Interactive Toy Concepts
Interactive Toy Concepts
The WiFli Helicopter makes flying easy. The controller app has directional commands and a virtual throttle, letting it take off with a finger swipe. In a crash, its hinged propellers fold instead of breaking. Interactive Toy Concepts WiFli Helicopter $80 (est.); interactivetoy.com
Interactive Toy Concepts
About the size of a baseball, Sphero rolls according to the tilt of your phone, using its own internal gyroscope for propulsion. Because Sphero reports its location back to its connected phone over Bluetooth, it can engage in multiplayer games. In an augmentedreality game called Sumo, for example, two players try to knock each other out of a ring shown on the phones. Sphero’s opensource platform lets anyone design apps. Orbotix Sphero $100 (est.); gosphero.com
Interactive Toy Concepts
Tankbots operate on four frequencies so that four people-and their 'bots—can play together. Each Rubik’s Cube-size tank comes with a dongle that attaches to a smartphone, turning the handset into an infrared remote. In autopilot mode, the toy uses infrared sensors to avoid obstacles. Desk Pels Tankbot $20; mydeskpets.com
Toys controlled by smartphones, leading to enhanced maneuverability and augmentedreality games Some 45 million Americans have a ready-made, near-universal remote control in their pockets. We already use smartphones to turn up home stereos, scroll through iTunes playlists, and pause Apple TVs.
A new transatlantic cable will speed up information exchange—for a price
THE CABLE MUST BE PROTECTED FROM SHIP ANCHORS, FISHING TRAWLS AND SHARKS.
BIG VS. LITTLE
Traders used to all buy and sell stocks in the same crowded room. Everyone received information at the same time, and the first guy to shout or signal got the sale. Today, using algorithms that exploit slightly different prices changing at slightly different speeds, and computers connected to exclusive fiber-optic lines that can buy and sell stocks within fractions of a second, high-frequency traders are able to buy low and sell slightly higher in virtually the same instant.
A whirring comes across the sky. From 20,000 feet above the Mexican border or Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a vehicle as long as the Chrysler building is tall drifts into the stratosphere. It looms like a cloud and stays put for 21 days, scanning for body heat below.
“We created a method to control individual atoms, to get them exactly where we want them, when we want them: an atom trap. Atoms are very fast, so we use powerful cooling lasers to slow them down . The lasers are on a table floating on air cushions, in a room without windows so we can't harm people on the street.
The plague begins with a fever, weepy eyes and a drippy muzzle. Dysentery and diarrhea follow, and then death by dehydration. Rinderpest sweeps through a herd quickly, and can kill half its animals in a matter of weeks. The loss of thousands or even tens of thousands of cattle can devastate a community.
Nearly 150 hacker spaces have opened in the U.S. in the past three years. Rather than havens of illicit computing, these communal workshops are places for members, in exchange for monthly dues, to get together and share equipment too big and dangerous for a home or garage (oscilloscopes, welding rigs, lasercutters) and collaborate on projects too audacious to undergo alone (thought-controlled helicopters, helium balloons with autonomous robot pilots).
More than 140 million Americans now make purchases by holding a radio-frequencyidentification-embedded credit or debit card within inches of a reader. A would-be thief can buy an RFID reader on eBay for $70, throw it into an innocuous-looking laptop bag, walk into a crowded area, and start stealing credit-card numbers and expiration dates.
More than 325,000 Americans die every year from sudden cardiac arrest, but two simple CPR devices could reduce that number by 10,000. According to a study published in The Lancet this winter, the ResQPump, which is used for chest compressions, and the ResQPOD, which prevents too much air from entering the lungs during CPR, could increase certain cardiacarrest victims’ chances of survival by 50 percent.
In January, Mark Anthony Riccobono, who is blind, drove a modified Ford Escape hybrid on the Daytona International Speedway, turning to avoid obstacles. He navigated using feedback from the car’s laser sensors and cameras, installed by a team of researchers from Virginia Tech and the company Torc Technologies.
Marine pollution takes many forms, from the millions of gallons of oil that run off our highways each year to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive gyre of floating plastic trash. But the most devastating pollutants are the nitrogen and phosphorus found in our fertilizer and sewage.
In the past two centuries, at a pace unprecedented in the geological record, the chemistry of the oceans has changed. Seawater has become approximately 30 percent more acidic. It won’t burn human flesh (at least not anytime soon), but it has begun to dissolve the shells and exoskeletons of many sea creatures, with potentially disastrous consequences for the entire marine biosystem.
As the atmosphere warms, the water cycle— the process by which seawater evaporates, rains down, and then evaporates again—will intensify. Everywhere, the ocean surface will become, on average, saltier. The extra evaporated water vapor will rain down disproportionately in areas such as the tropics and Scandinavia, bringing stronger storms and more frequent floods.
Fifty years ago, if you pulled a mooring rope from the waters off Cape Cod, it would have emerged covered with mussels, barnacles and algae. Today the lines would be coated with slimy invertebrates called tunicates, one of some 4,000 known invasive aquatic species worldwide.
In the past 20 years, nearly a third of the world’s coral has been destroyed. Around 90 percent of the reefs off the coasts of Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Kenya, the Maldives and the Seychelles are at risk. If ocean temperatures rise by another 7°F in the next three decades, as is predicted, 95 percent of the Great Barrier Reef will disappear.
Last year, fish consumption reached a global annual average of 37.5 pounds per person. Meanwhile, cod and bluefin-tuna populations have collapsed, and animals ranging from whales to turtles have been added to the Endangered Species Act.
All we really know is that we know very little. We don’t know how temperatures are changing in the midwater zone: Satellite sensors penetrate less than seven feet below the surface. We don’t know the terrain: Our charts cover less than 10 percent of the seafloor.
We asked 12 of the world’s foremost ocean expertsfrom scientists to policymakers to a sea captainhow they would begin to save the seas
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that by 2048, most commercial fisheries will have collapsed. If fishing collapses, so do we. I know it sounds sort of dramatic, but commercial fishing has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it.
How an undersea power network off the East Coast could make offshore wind power cheaper than coal
AC VS. DC
DURING THE LAST ice age, glaciers a mile high pushed several dozen cubic miles of rock, sand and debris into the ocean off North America's mid-Atlantic coast, creating a broad shelf that extends up to 40 miles offshore. This long, flat stretch of seabed and the shallow, windy waters that cover it make the ideal spot for dozens of offshore wind farms—and if all goes well, the network that would link those turbines together and back to the coast will soon be in place.
The limits of trayel are defined not by what vehic1es can do, but can do to us So how much can we take?
As the crew headed north, they received instructions from a Jacksonville controller, first to climb to 26,000 feet, then 39,000. "Three nine, zero bravo alpha," the first officer acknowledged. It was her last transmission. A few minutes later, the Learjet leveled out / ‘ and the controller issued another routine instruction.
China’s supertrains set new speed records while the U.S. plays catch-up
Planned High-Speed-Rail Projects in the U.S.
Vactrains: How Fast Is Superfast?
Last December, a prototype passenger train traveling between Shanghai and Beijing reached 302 mph, breaking the speed record for unmodified commercial-use high-speed rail. The feat, a culmination of six years of development by CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock, was an example of the revolution quietly transforming rail.
Amusement parks are so bLand This summer, take a brainier vacationvisit a ft th~ Pacific aboard a marine research ves~e1~ J~ns of ep~c natural disaster's
DIG FOR DINOSAURS
WATCH DISASTERS HAPPEN (SAFELY)
HEAD INTO THE LAB
WITNESS A CAR CRASH
DESCEND INTO DARKNESS
STUDY THE SEA
PLAY WITH ROBOTS
LEARN ABOUT THE BOMB
The tectonic forces that raised the Rocky Mountains also buried and preserved many dinosaurs. This makes the American West a playground for today’s fossil-hunters. The Field Paleo program at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology’s Museum of Geology runs several digs and welcomes visitors to participate in trips of four to 11 days.
A college student roars around campus on a motorized easy chair
Chris McIntosh’s first recliner was not your standard La-Z-Boy—it was electric-powered and capable of going 15 mph. After finishing it a year and a half ago, he used it to pull a doughnut on his high school’s front lawn, circle the gym during a pep rally, and rule the street near his home in Orinda, California.
The dirt bike had a foot shifter, but McIntosh converted it completely. He attached an electric-scooter throttle to the steering wheel and wired that to a speed controller from an electric wheelchair, which governs an electric motor that changes the gears.
Enough with the blue and white. The FaceTweak plugin for Firefox ( facetweak .com) allows greater creative control of your social surfing. Pick from 20 new backgrounds, then lock the menus at the top of the window, highlight birthdays, and zoom photos by mousing over them.
Man’s best friend gets a high-tech home, complete with a solar heating system, LED lights and a Wi-Fi security camera Pearl, my beloved labradoodle, dutifully watched me build myself a new house for the past three years. So when I was almost finished, I decided to build her a place of her own.
A five-and-a-half-ton solar array—to make better coffee
In 2004, artist Dave Hartkop was looking for a way to move out of his parents’ house. Pairing his interest in alternative energy with his brother Mike’s passion for coffee, he decided to start an online coffee business, and designed a huge solar-powered roasting system to supply it.
The body of New York engineer Chris Rojas’s iPhonecontrolled tank features a microcontroller, an antenna module for receiving commands (software he wrote translates input from the iPhone into commands the tank understands), and a solar charger and batteries.
With an estimated 175 million Twitter users, it’s no wonder it’s so hard to track down old tweets—yours or anyone else’s. Twitter stores them forever, but because of capacity limitations, its search engine takes you back just a week or two.
I’ve accidentally dropped an engine on my foot, set myself on fire, fallen off all sorts of things—and now I’m here to tell you about safety. Four of the biggest risks to DIYers are ones that often don’t get taken seriously, but they all can be mitigated with some easy-to-find gear.
A In a roundabout way, yes. But first we must heat that atmosphere, since the surface of Mars is about -58°F. "We know how to warm planets; we’re doing it right now," says Robert Zubrin, the president of the nonprofit Mars Society, a group devoted to Martian exploration.
“Coal-burning locomotives long have been recognized as wasteful machines," POPULAR SCIENCE correspondent Hawthorne Daniel wrote in our May 1925 issue. By then, diesel-electric engines—which burned diesel fuel, generating electricity to power electric motors—were becoming advanced enough that Daniel felt confident predicting the demise of coal-fired steam power.