STEVE JOBS WAS THE IMPERIOUS POPULIST, A TYRANT OF JOY
IT SEEMS SOMEHOW that I'm not supposed to say this, but I will: I have always been an Apple person. I was a freshman in college when the Macintosh made its debut; I watched as the rows of Selectric IIs were replaced by Macs in the all-nighter room in the basement of my dorm.
Readers responded to our story about astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her controversial study on arsenicbased life ["Scientist in a Strange Land," October] with sympathy for the researcher. Elsewhere in the issue, an article on contraceptives for wild animals generated controversy of its own.
An ongoing experiment tests the mettle of glass and other materials
High-energy radiation and atomic oxygen wreak havoc on satellite parts. To evaluate the durability of materials being developed for future satellites, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is running samples through a space-based torture test called MISSE-8.
In Libya, garage tinkerers modified weapons—and won
SARAH A. TOPOL
The rebel forces that deposed Libya’s dictator Muammar Qaddafi in August were supported by some of the most advanced militaries on Earth. But they managed to win most of their battles by themselves using small arms fashioned in makeshift workshops.
The prospect of great wealth will be one of the main draws of space exploration in the coming decades. A 650-foot-diameter asteroid (about average) can contain $1 billion or more worth of platinum-group metals and untold amounts of ice or water-which are perhaps even more valuable in space because they can be converted to fuel in situ.
The giant keyhole limpet’s hemolymph carries a protein that is the essential component of a new cancer vaccine. Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) carries oxygen in limpet blood. It is an unusually large protein—near virus size—and contains many epitopes, which trigger our body to produce antibodies.
In the 1980s, doctors noticed that chronic-ulcer patients who received a “vagotomy”—cutting the vagus nerve that controls the stomach-lost their ulcers and ended up with an intriguing side effect: They lost weight. The vagus nerve is the main route for signals between the stomach and the brain, regulating acid production, stomach expansion and satiation.
Humans are not very efficient. When we walk, we waste close to 20 watts of energy per second. Instead of turning all calories into lift or forward motion, we turn most of them into heat that’s quickly dissipated. So my colleagues and I came up with a way to harvest the wasted energy from human motion and convert it into about 10 watts of electricity.
In 2006, Netflix made its vast database of user-generated movie ratings available to the public, offering $1 million to the first team that could improve the accuracy of the company’s recommendations by 10 percent. That’s a lot of money—but Netflix could have spent much more on in-house development, with no guarantees. By 2009, the top team had its prize, and Netflix had its algorithm.
Does this mean well be able to fire beams out of our eyes?
By day, Seok-Hyun Yun and Malte Gather are physicists at Massachusetts General Hospital. But at night, for the past four years, they worked on making a human cell behave like a laser. They built their human laser out of the same three components found in all lasers: a pump source, which provides the initial light energy; an optical cavity, which concentrates the light from the pump source into a beam; and a gain medium, a substance in which electrons are excited until they reach a higherenergy state and simultaneously release that energy as a beam of photons—laser light.
In November 2010, Microsoft released Kinect, a motion-sensing accessory for its Xbox 360 gaming console. Kinect could measure depth by sending out thousands of small infrared dots to create a 3-D map of a room, and its microphones could pinpoint sound in space.
WHAT WE LOVE MOST about selecting the Best of What's New every year is that each of these 100 innovations really exists. For 24 years now, we have seen physical dispatches from the future, held them in our hands, and marveled. They felt impossible a year ago and even today seem almost magical.
Digital cameras have consistently and dramatically improved since they first went on sale in the early '90s, thanks largely to the introduction of ever smaller, ever more-powerful sensors and processors. But those changes have been incremental compared with the leap taken in Lytro's light-field camera.
Verizon's Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network already reaches half the country with towers that transmit data 10 times as fast as other cellular systems. The network has sufficient bandwidth to transmit large packets of data in solid chunks on pathways dedicated to specific types of information-data has its own "lane," and so on.
Google's payment app replaces a wallet full of credit cards, coupons and even cash. At checkout, a near-fieldcommunication, or NFC, chip in the handset creates a four-inch-wide magnetic field that can be recognized by any of MasterCard's 300,000-plus PayPass terminals.
Joi Ito was an early investor in Flickr, Last.fm; Twitter and Kickstarter. Now, as the new director of the MIT Media Lab, he's applying his digital savvy to innovating in the material world
MARK JANNOT: I recall you saying around the time of your appointment, “The thing about world-changing innovation is that it’s totally unpredictable.” Given that, how do you foster innovation, and then how do you pick the winners? JOI ITO: Well, I don’t think that you want to tell anybody that there is anything they can’t do.
Three decades ago, Volkswagen engineer Peter Hofbauer found himself staring at a Beetle engine's cylinder head—that awkward slab of metal bolted to the combustion chamber-and wondering, Can't we just replace that thing with more pistons?
The Audi A7 is the world's first fully Web-connected car. A built-in cellular data connection allows drivers to pull high-resolution 3-D aerial images from Google Maps into the navigation screen, dispatching with current cartoonish maps.
Most automotive night-vision systems, which spot pedestrians and then flash a warning on the car's console, suffer from a metaphorical blind spot: Drivers are safest when looking at the road, not a screen. The Mercedes Spotlight function, part of the optional Night View Assist Plus system, solves the puzzle.
Several big-wave surfers have been killed while attempting to conquer giant swells. Billabong's VI wetsuit significantly reduces that risk. After a wipeout, the surfer pulls an attached ripcord, puncturing a carbon dioxide cartridge that inflates a bladder in the back of the suit.
Co-designed by a former snowboarder who was paralyzed while attempting a trick, the 50-by-80-foot Katal pad eliminates much of the danger of learning skiing and snowboarding tricks. When a rider touches down on the pad after going off a jump, a small amount of air is displaced in one of two internal chambers.
Shane Dorian nearly died while surfing. Now hes making the sport safer with a fast-inflating wetsuit
IN FEBRUARY 2010, Shane Dorian chased a winter swell to Maverick’s, a surf spot south of San Francisco known for its massive waves. Things were going well for the then-37-year-old Hawaiian, a celebrated pro surfer, until he lost his balance on a 50-footer, and the crashing mountain of water pushed him deep below the surface.
3-D in theaters looks more realistic than 3-D at home for two reasons: The screen is huge, and the projector's resolution surpasses that of any HDTV. Sony's personal viewer is the first to bring theater-quality 3-D to your living room. Inside the HDMI-connected visor, twin 0.7-inch OLEDs sit about one inch from a user's eyes, taking up the entire field of view: the sensation is equivalent to sitting 65 feet from a 62.5-foot movie screen.
Surround-sound systems typically require their subwoofer and five speakers to be strategically placed around a room. For the first time, Bose packed that entire setup into an HDTV. Inside the six-inchthick cabinet, six speaker cones sit back-to-back in two rows and fire in opposing directions, canceling out any shaking, and a curved bell directs bass out of the bottom of the set.
Stanley LaBounty designed its remote-controlled robot for a single purpose: to destroy everything in its path. The F16 cuts metal pipes, tears down stairwells, and hammers through concrete floors. Its 16.4-foot telescopic arm can rotate 360 degrees and operate grapples, shears, a giant drop hammer, and more than 120 different tools, including a chipping hammer and a diamond chainsaw, all powered by a hydraulic circuit.
Space heaters cause nearly 20,000 home fires in the U.S. every year. The Dyson Hot stays safe while heating rooms faster than any other heater. An insulating sheath separates the Hot's ceramic heating elements from the device's outer walls to keep them cooler.
Salvaging a downed oil platform takes months, as a team of divers cuts apart the rig and a derrick hauls each piece to the surface. The VB10000 can remove an entire rig in a few hours, for a quarter of the price. Last fall, Versabar's $100-million monster completed its first lift off the coast of Louisiana.
Rio needs 30 percent more power for the upcoming Summer Olympics and World Cup. Hydroelectricity supplies 90 percent of Brazil's fledgling 1,500-mile grid, but tapping the city’s nearest source of water would have required building a dam that would have flooded a city of 130,000.
Jon Khachaturian began his career putting offshore oil rigs in place. Now he pulls them back out
BEFORE IVAN HIT in 2004, hurricanes were rarely able to knock over any of the thousands of aging oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. A rig can withstand an 80-foot wave. But Ivan brought 100-foot peaks. So did Katrina and Rita. In the past seven years, the region’s fiercest recorded hurricanes have torn down more than 200 rigs.
Farmers and ranchers worldwide use about 180 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer every year, much of which eventually runs into waterways and oceans, causing algae blooms that kill aguatic life. The mix of more than 30 microbes in Forage Boost could eliminate all other fertilizer use on the planet's eight billion acres of pasture grass.
Most communities in the U.S. treat their wastewater just enough to legally dump it, but not reuse it. Pasteurization Technology Group has developed an inexpensive treatment system that yields water clean enough to be returned to aquifers.
A deft merger of features in OS X Lion, the latest iteration of Apple's desktop operating system, is beginning to close the gap between computers and gadgets. As mobile devices get faster, they become more capable of taking on tasks normally left to computers, such as photo editing and high-def streaming.
Most processor upgrades are incremental, touting small speed boosts and slight bumps to a computer's battery life. The new generation of Intel chips takes a more substantial leap. The iSeries chips, code-named Sandy Bridge, run at up to twice the speed of their predecessors and clock up to 10 hours of battery life.
A quarter of the 13 million patients worldwide who are undergoing treatment for HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis will die not from their diseases, but from liver complications caused by the treatment itself. In many cases, all it would take to prevent their death is access to a regular screening process that would tell doctors when to back off on treatment, but until now the process has required expensive lab work that uses microscopes and computer chips-resources unavailable to millions of patients in the developing world.
The ReWalk could help some of the five million wheelchair users worldwide plagued by lost bone mass and decreased blood flow by allowing them to walk, even up and down stairs. The first exoskeleton designed for people with severe walking impairments, its backpack computer monitors user movements and sends signals to the joints, where motors stand in for muscle.
How a chemist and a doctor found a much cheaper way to diagnose disease
TWENTY YEARS AGO, the u.s. Department of Defense asked a group of researchers, including chemist George M. Whitesides of Harvard University, to invent a way to quickly detect anthrax and other biohazards in the field. He proposed a handheld device that would use polymers to draw samples through a complex series of very small chemical baths.
NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LAB MESSENGER
CARNEGIE MELLON ASTROBOTIC RED ROVER
The end of the shuttle program left the U.S. with two options for getting to space: paying for a seat on a foreign rocket or hiring a ride from a commercial space company. The commercial option became viable last December, when the SpaceX Dragon became the first privately built vehicle to orbit the Earth and return home safely. During Dragon's unmanned flight, the 13,700-pound reusable capsule rode on top of a SpaceX-built Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center into orbit and circled the planet twice before splashing down 500 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Most flying robots use rotors or propellers, limiting the craft's ability to maneuver in tight places. The Nano Hummingbird navigates by changing the angle and shape of its paper-thin wings-which beat 20 to 40 times per second-and can hover in place for up to 11 minutes.
Of all the threats naval vessels face when operating close to shore or in the harbor, swimmers, divers and small boats are among the most difficult to detect. The best methods of finding such threats-human divers and trained dolphins— can't work nonstop, nor can they carry sufficient weapons to stop an attack.
David Forbes was on his way home to Tucson, Arizona, after a family trip last summer when a policeman stopped him in the Detroit airport. The officer said he had received 50 panicked phone calls since Forbes had entered the building, and now his entire family had been marked for extra screening.
Forbes’s iPod plugs into a circuit board on the vest’s left shoulder. The board includes a digitizing chip—a type used in security video systems that allows the feeds from four cameras to fit on one monitor—that he repurposed to scale iPod video down to a resolution consistent with his display.
Don’t get pestered for pictures. Before the holidays, post a distribution list on Picplum.com. Upload your favorite family-friendly photos, and the site will automatically print and mail out copies (from $7 per month). 2 Simplify your shopping with the Christmas Gifts List app for iPhone ($1 ; xmasgiftsapp.com).
With cellular carriers changing their pricing, now is the time to start cutting data usage—and that exorbitant phone bill
CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS
USE BETTER BROWSERS
LOOK FOR DATA-SAVING APPS
The average smartphone user consumed 89 percent more megabytes of data in the first quarter of 2011 than in the same period last year. But the era of unlimited data is almost over as, more and more, cellular carriers are instituting tiered pricing plans.
A glass of instant Kool-Aid requires eight ounces of water and a surprising amount of innovation
When you think of technology, you probably think of computers and jet engines and such. But there are other feats of engineering that are equally sophisticated, just less obviously so. Instant Kool-Aid, for example. There are two fundamental problems in creating a small tablet that quickly turns a glass of water into a fruity drink.
Thieves make off with millions of dollars’ worth of laptops and mobile devices every year. Most stolen gadgets go unrecovered, but tracking software can help. The software runs in the background of the operating system or, with some services, the boot-level layer, which makes detecting the tracker much more difficult. Services like Prey (preyproject.com) provide free software for up to three laptops or Android devices.
In my shop, I keep acetone to remove tough residues and to prep surfaces before applying a finish, denatured alcohol for general cleaning, and mineral spirits to remove paint from brushes and my spray gun (as well to thin some kinds of paint).
A No. The charm has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the charmer waving a pungi, a reed instrument carved out of a gourd, in the snake’s face. Snakes don’t have external ears and can perceive little more than low-frequency rumbles. But when they see something threatening, they rise up in a defensive pose.
The first instant cameras weren’t entirely instant. The photographer still had to read a light meter and set the exposure, and the film lacked the fixing agents necessary to develop a finished photo. Then in 1973, Polaroid introduced the self-metering, fully automatic SX-70 Land Camera, the first camera to use integral instant film, which contains all the required chemicals in a sealed, waterproof pouch.
Twin Lenses By connecting two cameras, New York City camera repairman Fred Weiner gave photographers the ability to shoot both color and blackand-white at the same time. The Watch-Cam The 3.5-ounce Wristamatic captured images through a 20-millimeter lens.