ROUGHLY 10 MONTHS AGO, POPULAR SCIENCE became the first magazine to sell subscriptions to its digital edition on the iPad, offering them at $14.99 a year. Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken us up on the deal, but only a tiny percentage of those iPad subscribers have come from the ranks of subscribers to our print edition.
I have been a POPULAR SCIENCE reader for over six decades, and “The Data Age” [November 2011] is the best issue I have had the pleasure to read. RALPH OWENS Sparks, Nev. There was much more data in “The Data Age” issue than the average human being could digest and understand.
Last August in Huanchaquito, a town on the arid northern coast of Peru, the winter winds uncovered six human skulls. A villager alerted Yale University archaeologist Oscar Gabriel Prieto Burmester to the find, and soon thereafter Burmester and his team had unearthed the ancient remains of 43 children and 76 llamas, and not a single adult-a sacrificial site.
An artificially intelligent thermostat adapts automatically
Nest Learning Thermostat
Programmable thermostats help save money by resetting the temperature when homeowners are asleep or away. But setting them up can be painstaking, and 89 percent of users never get them out of manual mode. The Nest thermostat requires almost no setup and teaches itself when to adjust the temperature.
Tesla's Model S sets a new standard of comfort and performance for battery-powered cars
COURTESY TESLA MOTORS
COURTESY TESLA MOTORS
Tesla Model S
Until now, there hasn't been an all-electric car fit for road-tripping. But Tesla's Model S, due out late this year, is made for extended drives. Its battery goes up to 300 miles on a charge. Its cabin is spacious enough for seven passengers.
Sledgehammers are the monsters of demolition. They can deliver enough force to pound boulders into dust, but strangely, it doesn't take much to break them in two. When workers miss their target and whack the hammer's handle on debris, called overstriking, the hammerhead can snap off, becoming a dangerous projectile.
The Tour de France cycle lets users ride outdoor routes at home. Cyclists create a route using Google Maps, and the bike automatically.lg inclines and declines to mimic the path's topography. It also takes into account the user's weight and height to simulate wind resistance. ProForm Tour de France $1,300
Nexersys iPower Trainer
The accelerometers on the Nexersys mixed-martial-arts trainer's seven strike pads track movement in three directions to determine the accuracy and power of every punch, kick, elbow jab or knee. Fighters can follow 80 workout routines or spar with an onscreen avatar. Nexersys iPower Trainer $2,295
WebRacing Light Speed 1
The Light Speed tracker turns any cardio machine into a real-time virtual race. The device's laser tracks a reflective sticker placed on an exercise machine and relays speed data to a user's computer, where he can compete against others on digital courses. WebRacing Light Speed 1 $249
Body Vib D1 Vibration Dumbbells
During strength training, BodyVib weights vibrate gently at 36 cycles per second, triggering contractions in often-neglected stabilizing muscles. The dumbbells vibrate only when someone hoWs their capacitive touch-sensitive grip. BodyVib D1 Vibration Dumbbells Price not set
Amazon's Kindle Fire defies the speed limit for mobile computing—and everyone else better catch up
After last year's flood of largely indistinguishable Android tablets, it’s natural to glance at Amazon’s wildly different Kindle Fire and think “iPad killer.” But although the seven-inch tablet’s $200 price tag will do plenty to draw attention (and sales), the Fire, at its core, is little more than a video-ready e-reader.
Biologists find a new use for old weather data: tracking animals
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF BIRDS
THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of bats in the U.S. are in serious trouble, threatened by such hazards as wind turbines and a fungal infection called white-nose syndrome, all while facing the uncertainty of a changing climate. Most bats hide in caves during the day and live in the air at night, making them notoriously difficult to study.
"We invented a recumbent tricycle for people who have trouble balancing"
DRILL, DON'T KILL
Our trike has extra back support and a steering system to make turning easier. On a normal bike, leaning in the direction you want to go helps you turn. It’s hard to do that on a trike because it’s rigid, but ours has hydraulic pistons that tilt the tires when you lean, allowing you to make tighter corners.
How robots will do the heavy lifting in two of the most punishing environments on the planet
Building in the Sahara
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering and Automation in Stuttgart, Germany, is developing a robot to construct a 2,270-square-mile solar farm in the Sahara. The 100-ton Industrial Parallel Kinematics device (IPAnema) is similar to the Skycam that hovers above the field at NFL games: 2,000 feet of polyethylene cable strung between four mobile towers suspend the end effector, a box with jaws built for grasping solar reflectors.
STEN-CHRISTIAN Pedersen oversees the northernmost antenna array on Earth, 25 dishes tracking about 100 satellites on the small archipelago of Svalbard, 500 miles south of the North Pole. Even when the winds are -76°F and visibility is 10 feet, Pedersen drives to the satellite station.
IT TAKES ONLY 48 HOURS to distill a barrel of whiskey. The next decade is spent making it taste good. The liquor undergoes constant chemical changes, some from the charred oak of the barrel itself, which acts like a sieve, trapping the large-molecule forms of alcohol (methanol, butanol) that give young whiskey such a rough edge.
From the possible revision of the Standard Model to the amateur invasion of outer space, five trends that will define the days to come
A Dozen Stories to Expect in 2012
Ocean Secrets Revealed
Tesla Offers a Luxury Sedan
Turing Turns 100
Largest Offshore Wind Farm
CHINA STEPS UP
IN 2012, two large, well-funded companies, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, will begin making regular journeys to suborbital and orbital space, commencing the post-NASA era of commercial space travel. But those companies will not be alone in their efforts.
Engineers are testing the limits of mining and pushing farther underground than ever before. How far can they go?
The Mine of the Future
EVERY MORNING around 4:00, workers at South Africa’s Mponeng gold mine line up at the elevator. Dressed in overalls and outfitted with a helmet, headlamp, goggles and earplugs, they load into the three-story steel cage 150 at a time. The men pack in side by side, climbing the stairs between decks to find a spot to stand.
How engineers are deploying breakthroughs in materials science and artificial intelligence to make everything from planes to subs to soldiers...disappear
BEYOND THE B2
Invisibility Comes Within Reach
Camo Gets a Makeover
The youngest active stealth bomber in the U.S. turns 15 this year, and the other 19 B2s in the Air Force fleet are nearly five years older. Meanwhile, the integrated defense systems they face have become much more sophisticated. Multi-static radar, which is now relatively common, is so sensitive that it can detect certain stealth craft.
I was visiting my hometown of Del Rio, Texas, when my grandmother told me she had seen a drone flying over El Indio, a tiny village just east of the Mexican border, about 75 miles down the river. The newspapers that summer were filled with stories about the Predator drones poised to patrol the skies above the Rio Grande, but the date of deployment was not yet at hand, and in any case Predators ordinarily fly far too high to be seen from the ground, so I decided to take the afternoon to drive down to El Indio and investigate.
The world's largest video-game controller does away with sore thumbs, but it might sprain a few ankles
Building a Supersized NES
ONE NIGHT LAST FEBRUARY, Ben Allen and a group of electrical-engineering students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands needed some help testing their 20-inch-long prototype of the classic 1980s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller. The group was in the early stages of designing an absurdly enlarged version of the device— one as long and wide as a compact car—in an attempt to break the world controller-size record.
Download the Evoz app ($70 a year for premium; myevoz.com) to two iOS devices, place one of them in the nursery, and you'll be able to hear your child's cries anytime you open the app. Acoustic processing distinguishes crying from other sounds and sends an alert to the phone you're carrying or to the Evoz website.
How to turn an everyday MacBook Air into a professional-grade powerhouse
Since I travel constantly for work, swapping my bulky MacBook Pro for a half-the-weight MacBook Air changed my life. Ultra-thin laptops like the Air—not to mention phones, tablets and iPods—come equipped with solid-state, or flash, memory, which writes data on tiny transistors rather than bulky spinning disks like conventional hard drives.
Magnets don't have to be big to produce deadly force
In the past, magnets were nothing to fear. The small ceramic type long used on refrigerators were barely strong enough to hold up a piece of paper. The same size magnet today can kill you. Every electron in a material has a spin that creates a tiny magnetic field around it.
How can I tell if mu phone's performance measures up?
Without conducting some tests on a smart-phone, it's hard to tell whether an upgrade is overdue or just a waste of money. The most important component to benchmark is the CPU, which is most easily done on Android phones—the free application Quadrant generates a graph comparing processor speed with that of other popular phones.
How I designed a part for my truck and got it built from scratch
Recently I converted my old Ford pickup to diesel, and I needed to make a bracket to hold a throttle position sensor, which helps to control the new transmission. Often I wing this sort of thing, working from notebook drawings or cardboard models.
Q WHAT HAPPENS IF I PUT ROCKET FUEL IN MY CAS TANK?
Q WHY DO LIBRARIES HAVE THAT SMELL?
YES, BUT ONLY with practice. The best place to start is right before bed. Deirdre Barrett, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of The Committee of Sleep, asked 76 college students to choose a problem (where to take a vacation; how to arrange their furniture) and focus on it while falling asleep.
POPULAR SCIENCE reported in July 1988, after years of speculation, the existence of the B-2 stealth bomber. Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-2 owes its stealthiness to an extremely smooth "flying wing" design and to carbon-fiber composite materials attached to its exterior that absorb radar signals rather than reflect them back.