I read with interest the story "Longest Train Tunnel" [Best of What's New, December 2011]. The only problem is that nowhere in the article did it say how long the tunnel is. Military secret? Or is it just "really long"? Tom Wright Lakewood, Calif.
Last October, near Karlsruhe, Germany, Thomas Senkel completed the first manned flight of an electric multicopter, flying it 10 feet off the ground for 90 seconds. Senkel, a physicist and paraglider pilot who helped found the company E-volo to build the craft, invented it after seeing a YouTube video of a German hobbyist's remotecontrolled hexacopter in action.
Building and programming robots is no small feat. Just to get a robot to perform a simple action—say, turning when someone claps—can require hours of coding. Cubelets make robot creation as simple as stacking blocks. Each 1.6-inch cube contains an eight-megahertz processor preprogrammed to execute one function.
Typical speaker docks recharge only iPhones or iPods. iHome's iC16 is the first dock that uses a USB port to link with and charge Android handsets as well. Listeners can also sync the speaker with an app that they can use to program music to play at set times, such as before bed or as an alarm in the morning.
36-volt batteries give electric yard tools the power to compete with gas-guzzlers
Stihl BGA 85
Most blowers draw air through vents in their sides and force it to turn 90 degrees before blowing it out, an inefficient route that wastes power. Instead, the Stihl blower pulls air from a rear vent and channels it straight out of the nozzle, saving energy. On its highest speed, users get 385 cubic feet of air per minute, comparable to gas-powered blowers.
Oregon PowerNow CS250E
Even months after charging, Oregon's lithiumion-powered chain saw will start instantly. It can cut a three-inch-diameter branch into 250 slices on one charge. And if it senses too much stress, it shuts itself off, preventing wear on the motor.
Black Er Decker Cordless String Trimmer/Edger LST136
Black & Decker's latest edger is 28 percent lighter than a gas model. Users can run it with less power for touch-ups or more for overgrown weeds and can cut a mile of lawn edges on a single charge.
Battery-powered backyard tools have typically topped out at 18 volts—plenty for light work but not nearly enough for cutting fat branches, trimming dense grass, or blowing piles of wet leaves. Manufacturers are now introducing 36-volt lithium-ion-powered tools that can handle those more-demanding tasks, often as well as gas-powered ones can.
The reinvented Porsche 911 is lighter, faster and more efficient
Since unveiling the 911 in 1963, Porsche has built many dozens of variations, ranging from convertibles to racing editions to subtly tweaked versions distinguishable only to board members of the Porsche Club of America. Full-blown generational revamps have been rarer.
Everything necessary to get a multi-room wireless stereo system running
D-Link Amplifi HD Media Router 3000 (DIR-857)
D-Link's Amplifi prioritizes music and video streams so they'll play without sputtering, even if a bandwidth-heavy task, like a photo upload, is running at the same time. Outside the house, the Amplifi provides remote access to music. With an MP3-loaded hard drive plugged into the router's USB, listeners can play songs through a cloudbased smartphone app.
The HTC Rezound comes with the sharpest screen of any phone (342 pixels per inch, to be exact)—handy when navigating Altec's remote-control app or reading liner notes on the 4.3-inch screen. When used with headphones as a media player, the Android handset's audio equalization is pre-tuned for the deep bass of most pop and hip-hop.
HP Pavilion HPE Phoenix
HP's Phoenix has enough storage (160 gigabytes to start) to hold an entire music library, enough power for users to mix and edit their own original songs, and a one-gigabyte graphics engine-ideal for rendering high-def games and video. All the while, the liquid-cooled tower can easily handle continuous audio streaming to Altec's speaker.
Altec Lansing MN5000
The 100-watt MN5000 serves as both the amplifier and central speaker in a multi-room sound system. Over Wi-Fi, it combines songs on a user's hard drive with music from Pandora and other services into one mega-library. With a phone app, listeners can browse the catalog, choose the rooms in which music will play (the MN5000 syncs with other Altec gear), and adjust volume.
Siri is not just a voice, It's a brain—and It's capable of controlling more than a phone
WHEN SIRI DEBUTED last October, it became the most intuitive voicerecognition software available. But Siri is more than just a speech-control app; it is a complete, artificially intelligent user interface. What Apple calls its “personal assistant” requires no programming and continually improves with use, as remote servers back up its ever-expanding vocabulary and understanding of natural conversation.
How disposable, networked satellites will democratize space
How to ready a CubeSat for space
IN 1999, PROFESSORS Robert Twiggs of Stanford University and Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University began to standardize the satellite business. They designed a small orbital unit-a four-inch cube with little metal feet-that was wide enough for solar cells, basing their design on a plastic display box for Beanie Babies.
In 2010, engineers in the U.S. dismantled 60 dams, helping to reclaim rivers for wildlife. Most of these dams were small, though; removing large ones poses a much bigger challenge. In September, the National Park Service started the largest-ever dam-removal project in the U.S., on the 210-foot (the tallest ever removed) and 108-foot dams on the Flwha River in Olympic National Park in Washington State.
Ed Adams, an engineering professor at Montana State University, used to study avalanches from inside a fortified shack. He would attach his shack to a boulder on a mountain, set small explosives in the snowpack, and trigger an avalanche, surrounding the shack.
"We made carbon nanotubes that are blacker than anything else
OUR MATERIAL absorbs more than 99 percent of visible and ultraviolet light and 98 percent of infrared light. It’s at least 10 times as good at capturing light as black paint, so we can use it in telescopes, where stray light can contaminate measurements.
Last year, the Austrian engineering firm IAT21 set out to construct a flying machine that floated like a hummingbird, traveled as fast as a jet, was as quiet as a hot-air balloon, and was simple enough that a car mechanic could repair it. The company's working prototype, called D-Dalus, is roughly five feet by three feet square and can lift about 100 pounds.
ON MARCH 31, 2009, a panel of scientists and civil servants met to assess the risk presented by a recent series of tremors in the Abruzzo region of Italy. They concluded that a major seismic event was unlikely. Soon thereafter, Bernardo De Bernardinis, the vice-director of Italy’s Department of Civil Protection, the organization that put together the panel, told reporters that citizens should not worry, and even agreed with a journalist who suggested that people relax with a glass of wine.
The tornado that destroyed my hometown was born in an otherwise unremarkable atmospheric collision over the American Central Plains. On May 22, 2011, a geostationary satellite 22,300 miles overhead recorded a large collection of cloud lines drifting over southeastern Kansas.
In the waning decades of the 20th century, men from New Zealand began inventing new ways to injure themselves. They jumped from bridges with elastic bands attached to their ankles, ran class-5 rapids without boats, and fixed themselves to large kites to achieve great speed.
Playgrounds are competing for kids' time and losing. Nearly 25 percent of children ages 9 through 13 have no free time for physical activity, and a child is six times as likely to play a videogame as to ride a bike. The playgrounds of tomorrow must offer something that even the most enticing virtual offerings cannot: real spaces that look at least as amazing as anything virtual.
A $50-million plan to make riders weightless, for eight long seconds
INSIDE THE RIDE
KINGDA KA, the tallest roller coaster on Earth, drops its passengers a life-flashing 418 feet. Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa, the fastest, literally takes riders’ breath away at speeds of up to 150 mph. Though thrilling, these are phenomena of degree, not kind.
WILL KEEPING SCORE OF ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON? AN EXPERIMENT IN SELF-IMPROVEMENT
The experiment began at 11 a.m. in my bedroom in Brooklyn. I bought an app from the iTunes store called EpicWin, a fantasy-themed game designed to improve users’ lives by motivating them to accomplish real-world goals with virtual-world rewards.
What six inventors would build-if money, safety and the very laws of physics were no object
2-D to 3-D
"The personal pet creator would be the size of a mini-fridge and have a touchscreen interface. You would choose a robotic platform from a menu and then start adding features: How many legs? Is it aquatic? Amphibious? Avian? What length of fur or color of scales?
IN THE LATE 1980s, millions of arcadeaddicted kids sat in the faux racing seats of Sega’s OutRun videogame, grabbed the rubber-covered wheel of the imitation Ferrari Testarossa, pressed down on the pedals, and imagined they were roaring down the street.
How to get yesterday's games on today's mobile devices
THE BEST RETRO GAME EMULATORS
Fans of classic videogames have long been able to mimic old game systems on their computers using apps called emulators. Now, smartphones and tablets can also run them. With the right emulator and game files (downloaded separately), virtual versions of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis and other consoles—as well as dozens of vintage arcade titles that can't be found as standalone downloads— will be available anywhere.
Seemingly harmless children's toys have long been made from highly hazardous materials
Among the most strictly enforced consumer-protection laws are those banning lead in toys. Lead is an insidious poison: It's slow-acting and results not in immediately noticeable effects like rashes but in behavioral problems and a slightly lowered IQ.
Do-lt-yourself projects that deliver endless hours of play
1 Sledding winch
2 Oversized Operation
3 Videogame robot
Two years ago, Web developer Josh Smith and telecom engineer Brian Freed took their families sledding at an old ski resort in Pennsylvania but found that the 45-minute walk to the top of the 1,200-foot hill limited their runs. By the next winter, they had a solution to the problem: a homemade sledding lift.
Q Will listening to Mozart really make me smarter?
Joseph A. Bernstein
YES, BUT NO MORE than listening to Justin Bieber. The misconception that there’s something unique about Mozart’s ability to increase brainpower began in 1993, with a paper in Nature. Neurobiologists Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher and Katherine Ky of the University of California at Irvine found that students who listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata demonstrated a temporary increase in spatial-temporal reasoning, as measured by an IQ test.
In this issue, the editois of POPULAR SCIENCE have CalefuILli Consideled the future of fun. But what about its past? We Can't be impartiaL about our own efforts to amuse readers, so we asked MAD magazine's ALjaffee, distinguished inventor of the "fold-in," for his expert opinion.