AN OLD OIL PAINTING hangs prominently in my office, a portrait of a bespectacled gentleman dressed in a dark three-piece suit and white bowtie; a quill juts from an inkwell on the desk behind him, and his right index finger keeps his spot in the book he holds as he looks contemplatively off into the middle distance.
I am a voracious 55-year-old reader, and "No Pulse" [March] was the best article I have ever read. 'Nuff said. Robert Paris Granada Hills, Calif. I just finished reading your article on the no-pulse heart, and I thought it was one of your best.
The homemade bombs known as lEDs accounted for 60 percent of all U.S. military injuries in Iraq and have killed more than 21,000 Iraqi civilians. Last November, a month before the last U.S. troops departed, Iraq's federal bomb squad paraded with bomb-disposal robots in Baghdad.
The fastest, lightest, most maneuverable R/C jet plane
Remote-control jets have never perfomed particularly well. Their engines are less efficient than exposed propellers at an R/C plane's speed, which makes the toys sluggish and difficult to steer, leading to crashes. To compensate for the lack of power, engineers at toy manufacturer Great Planes reduced the weight of their F-86 craft to 2.35 ounces—30 percent lighter than any comparably sized R/C jet.
The five-megapixel Twist webcam can be reshaped to fit on any laptop or monitor. Its four-inch silicone arm bends to clamp onto even the smallest bezels, while its rubberized texture prevents slippage. HerculesHD Twist Webcam $35 Players get more than satisfaction when they finish one of Ravensburger's jigsaws.
The long-awaited Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid is finally on the road. Now what?
2012 Fisker Karma
At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the start-up Fisker Automotive unveiled its Karma concept, a high-end plug-in hybrid the company would use to challenge Tesla Motors. Cofounder Henrik Fisker said the Karma would go on sale in late 2009. Then the recession, a switch in battery suppliers and other delays kept Fisker from shipping the first trickle of cars until late last year.
A new five-core chip makes smart devices more versatile ever
Software designers at Acer made a single modification to the stock Android operating system in their 10.1-inch tablet: a quick-access pop-up menu. From the circular menu, users can easily jump among tasks, apps and recently visited sites. Acer A510 $450
Eee Pad Transformer Prime
With its keyboard dock attached, the Transformer Prime morphs from a tablet into a de facto mobile workstation. The dock also houses an extra battery, which increases the tablet's standalone runtime from nine to 16 hours. Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime From $500; keyboard dock, $150
Lenovo engineers built the LePad K2010 with two speakers flanking either side of the 10-inch high-def screen. The speaker drivers are programmed to use acoustic tricks that create the illusion of surround sound within three feet of the screen. Lenovo LePad K2010 Price not set
Most tablets fall into one of two categories: low-power devices that last for a day in standby mode but sputter when playing high-def games, and high-power models that handle demanding tasks but suck power in standby. Nvidia engineers combined a low-power single-core CPU and four high-performance CPUs onto the same die, allowing tablets to run efficiently in any situation.
Originally intended to block sound, modified noise-canceling circuitry now helps people to hear
In Related News
Able Planet Personal Sound Amplifier
Of the estimated 36 million Americans who report some level of hearing loss, as many as 20 million have mild to moderate conditions, in which they struggle to pick out voices in cacophonous settings. Although the condition is common, treatment is limited.
How smartphones will become the only device a hard-core gamer needs
When Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo introduces a new videogame console, its obsolescence within six years is more or less assumed. Nintendo is likely to release the new Wii U later this year, and other console makers are rumored to be working on next-generation systems.
Anyone can preserve food— the hard part is making it taste good
BARB STUCKEY hands me a plastic tray of mashed potatoes sealed with an opaque layer of film. “We packaged these up over a year ago,” she says. The United States Potato Board has asked Stuckey and her colleagues at Mattson, a commercial food lab in Foster City, California, to devise a way to put fresh, ready-to-eat mashed potatoes into a package that can sit unrefrigerated on a supermarket shelf for months.
Changing the teeth on the world's largest tunnel-boring machine
NEXT YEAR, workers will start digging a 1.7-mile tunnel underneath downtown Seattle using the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine. The 57.5-foot-diameter, $80-million drill, which is currently under construction for the State Route 99 project, has about 600 cutting tools—steel bits and spinning disks on the borer’s face that break up dirt and rock.
Printing protective plates from patterns in nature
OTHER THINGS THAT FALL FROM THE SKY
Neri Oxman, the director of the Mediated Matter research group at the MIT Media Lab, designs skins and body armors inspired by human tissue. “Most patterns in nature—whether scales or spiderwebs—have some kind of logic that can be computationally modeled,” she says.
AT LONDON’S Heathrow, which moves more international passengers than any other airport, the fuel jockeys of the Aircraft Service International Group oversee refueling. Filling an Airbus A380 [pictured] can take two hours, at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute.
IF YOU WANT a robot to maneuver aggressively, it has to be small. As you scale things down, the “moment of inertia”—the resistance to angular motion—drops dramatically. Our nano-quadrotor robots are made to be as lightweight as possible: less than a fifth of a pound and palmsized.
SOCIETY MUST MAKE two big leaps in order to enable truly self-driving cars. The first is technological. Engineers need to improve today’s cars (which can warn a driver that he’s drifting out of his lane) beyond current Google and Darpa prototypes (which maintain the lane on their own) to the point where automobiles can edge forward through a construction zone while their owners sleep inside.
NASA asked the world's top aircraft engineers to solve the hardest problem in commercial aviation: how to fly cleaner, quieter and using less fuel. The prototypes they imagined may set a new standard for the next two decades of flight
Passenger jets consume a lot of fuel A Boeing 747 burns five gallons of it every nautical mile, and as the price of that fuel rises, so do fares. Lockheed Martin engineers developed their Box Wing concept to find new ways to reduce fuel burn without abandoning the basic shape of current aircraft.
The first era of commercial supersonic transportation ended on November 26, 2003, with the final flight of the Concorde, a noisy, inefficient and highly polluting aircraft. But the dream of a sub-three-hour cross-country flight lingered, and in 2010, designers at Lockheed Martin presented the Mach 1.6 Supersonic Green Machine.
The best way to conserve jet fuel is to turn off the gas engines. That's only possible with an alternative power source, like the battery packs and electric motors in the Boeing SUGAR Volt's hybrid propulsion system. The 737size, 3,500-nautical-mile-range plane would draw energy from both jet fuel and batteries during takeoff, but once at cruising altitude, pilots could switch to all-electric mode [see "High Voltage," page 56], At the same time Boeing engineers were rethinking propulsion, they also rethought wing design.
The largest nation on Earth is flying more people more places than ever before. Its struggle to do so without (further) destroying the environment could show the rest of the world a greener way to travel
The Path Not (Yet) Taken
Zero Net Emissions by 2050?
When discussing any environmental issue in China, it's always a struggle to decide which deserves more emphasis: how dire the situation is, or how hard Chinese authorities are trying to cope with it. China’s skies, waters and even sources of food are some of the most poisonously contaminated on Earth.
How Felix Baumgartner will withstand a 120,000-foot free fall
Sometime before the end of this year, skydiver Felix Baumgartner intends to climb into a capsule suspended beneath a helium balloon, rise 23 miles above Roswell, New Mexico, open the capsule door, and jump out. On the 120,000-foot free fall—the longest ever attempted—he will face temperatures as low as -70°F and speeds of more than 700 miles an hour, becoming the first person to accelerate through the sound barrier without a craft.
Inside the first production-ready electric airplane
CANARD PUSHER AIRFRAME
RANGE-EXTENDING GAS ENGINE
Engineers have historically faced two obstacles when designing electric aircraft. Batteries that run the electric motors have been too heavy and not energy-dense enough to provide sufficient power. And the consequences of failure were too high: Running out of power would all but assure a crash landing.
Why drones won't be taking over our wars anytime soon
EARLY IN 2008 ON THE BLACK SEA COAST, a Georgian drone flying over the separatist enclave of Abkhazia transmitted an instantaneous artifact from the age of human flight—the video record of its own destruction by an attacking fighter jet. What happened that day was born of incendiary post-Soviet politics.
Two paper-plane master. Two designs. Which will fly the longest?
Engineers have long used paper to study flight. Everyone from da Vinci to Jack Northrop has tested their aircraft this way. Today making paper planes has become as much a sport as a learning tool. For this issue, we asked two top designers to turn a sheet of magazine paper into the longest-flying plane possible.
In his free time during high school, Adam Munich built a portable x-ray machine
Building an X-ray Machine
HOW IT WORKS
Late one night two years ago, Adam Munich found himself talking with two new acquaintances in a chatroom. One, a Pakistani guy, was complaining about rolling electricity blackouts in his country. The other had broken his leg in a motocross accident in Mexico and said his local hospital couldn't find a working x-ray machine.
How to turn an old netbook into a touchscreen tablet
Transform a Netbook into a Tablet
Tablets are taking over the portable-computing market, but that doesn't mean the netbooks that they've replaced are useless. It's possible to jam the processing power and battery life of most netbook models into a smaller, touchscreen-equipped package.
One of the nastiest substances on Earth creates a beautiful glow
BEING A MAD SCIENTIST can be a thankless job, but every once in a while you get a chance to shine—literally. I recently had that opportunity when working with a TV show to film one of the most beautiful of all chemical phenomena, the cold luminosity of white phosphorus.
STEP 1 Drill a 15/64-inch hole in the center of the dial of a kitchen timer such as Ikea's Stäm model. Insert a ¼-inch-20 set screw. STEP 2 Drill an 11/32-inch-diameter hole in the bottom of the timer. Screw a ⅜-inch bolt or a ⅜-inch tap cutter into the hole to create threads for a ⅜-inch to ¼-inch-20 bushing (a threaded insert that allows the timer to be mounted to a tripod).
"This little mortar can be heard for blocks. A thin 3/8-inch-20 nut, soldered over a hole in the bottom of the [juice] can, forms a fitting for the detonator—a model-engine spark plug. The mortar base houses a small ignition system, consisting of two flashlight batteries, a model-airplane spark coil, a 20-microfarad radio condenser and a doorbell button.
With the free Mac OS X application, users can build, test, and publish videogames without doing any coding. The simple drag-and-drop interface allows aspiring game designers to add new images, sounds and rules to classic arcade templates, or start from scratch to come up with the next great first-person shooter or Angry Birds.
Q MY DOG IS A VERY GOOD LISTENER, BUT HOW MUCH CAN HE UNDERSTAND?
THAT DEPENDS. Dogs aren’t linguists, but they have remarkably good social cognition skills. Daniel Povinelli, a psychologist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, tested dogs’ ability to read cues from people. He placed a reward (a scrap of food, for example) under one of two buckets while the dog was out of sight, and he masked both buckets with an odor.
First, it's important to know that the big bang wasn't an explosion of matter into empty space—it was the rapid expansion of space itself. This means that every single point in the universe appears to be at the center. Think of the universe as an empty balloon with dots on it.
No one is entirely sure. Water has high surface tension, yet the molecules at its surface are unstable, which makes the air-surface interface mysterious and difficult to describe. Satoshi Nihonyanagi, a researcher at a molecular-spectroscopy lab in Japan, studies water and its surface—"specifically probing the interface," he calis it—using isotopically diluted H2O, which doesn't vibrate and is easier to observe.
The complete back-issues of this magazine—all 1,680 of them—are stored in a walk-in closet in our New York offices. We don't often visit the place. It's musty and locked, and only one person keeps a key. But to put together this issue, which arrives the same month that Edward L. Youmans founded Popular Science Monthly in 1872, we spent many hours there.