A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, I went to Dubai to drive cars. I flew more than 40 hours to spend 30 hours there, but it was worth it: I was given my choice of high-performance car at the side of a track, and simply drove off. I consider myself a capable driver, but my tastes are conservative, and the first car I chose was an Alpina B5, the lone four-door of the bunch.
How is it that POPULAR SCIENCE can report clearly about anthropogenic climate change, yet simultaneously cover a new self-chilling beer can powered by the release of CO, into the atmosphere [“A Cold One,” July]? Surely nothing could be less cool than such a frivolous use of a greenhouse gas.
Readers who dispute the existence of anthropogenic climate change proposed the following changes to our title after our issue on the future of the environment: POPULAR PSEUDOSCIENCE POPULAR SCIENCE FICTION POPULAR POLITICAL CONSENSUS
The first direct brain-machine interface, developed in the 1990s, connected a computer to a rat. By 2003, scientists had mostly replaced rats with nonhuman primates. One of which is Jianhui, an eight-year-old rhesus macaque at Zhejiang University in eastern China.
Even watches that sync with an atomic clock aren't accurate everywhere. They contain a radio that picks up a signal from a long-range tower connected to atomic clocks around the world. But the towers have a range of only about 1,500 miles, leaving large regions, Including South America and Canada, uncovered.
The Sony RX100 produces the largest, most-detailed images of any point-and-shoot. The camera's one-inch, 20.2-megapixel sensor is nearly four times larger than that of the average pocket cam, and designers added a wide-aperture lens, so that more light reaches the sensor.
An accessory that replaces mouse movements with hand waves
It's been nearly 50 years since Douglas Engelbart, an engineer at the Stanford Research Institute, invented the first computer mouse. Since then, his basic pointand-cllck input scheme has remained fundamentally unchanged; even trackpads and touchscreens, which recognize multiple points at once, work on the same guiding principle.
The Brookstone Virtual Keyboard turns any flat surface into a touchscreen QWERTY keypad. Users pair the 1.5-inch Bluetooth accessory with their laptop or tablet. A low-power laser projector then displays the keyboard while an Internal infrared-filtered camera sensor monitors the typist’s fingers.
Thieves make off with at least 200,000 bikes every year. These four tools help keep two-wheelers locked down.
3/Wheel and seat locks
The TiGr secures a bike’s frame and both Its wheels. Riders loop the lock’s 23-inch titanium arms through the back wheel, pass them around the frame and any object up to 5.5 inches in diameter (bike racks, signposts, parking meters), and then fasten the ends together around the front wheel with a stainless-steel lock.
A new Bluetooth standard lets devies communicate without draining power
Wireless accessories such as headsets and fitness monitors are notoriously inefficient because the Bluetooth standard they use keeps them constantly connected to other devices—even when there’s no data to transmit. Bluetooth 4.0 (a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart), a new protocol debuting on devices this year, will change that.
THE DAYS OF leaning back to watch TV have ended. Eighty-eight percent of tablet owners say they use the device in front of the tube; they find tweets, news, video and other information related to the program they’re watching. Afraid of losing eyeballs, networks have released dozens of one-off apps with additional programming content.
How an underfunded team of Spanish astronomers could help solve the mystery of dark energy
SINCE 1998, when astronomers discovered that a mysterious force known as dark energy is blowing the universe apart, scientists have launched at least a dozen multimillion-dollar projects to figure out what, exactly, dark energy is. These range from the $71-million BigBOSS project to the $900-million Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is scheduled to see first light in 2019.
Since 2009, Utah has used computers to grade essays on a state student-assessment test. And testing companies use essayevaluating software as one of two graders on graduate-school admissions exams such as the GRE. But how well, really, can a computer grade an essay?
A mechanical road crew for filling potholes quickly and cheaply
A quarter of America's major metropolitan roads have stretches in substandard condition, and drivers pay the consequences—potholes alone cost car owners an average of $335 a year in tires, repair and maintenance. The standard method for fixing potholes is to send three workers and a hotbed truck to toss in an asphalt mix and give it a few thumps with a shovel or boot.
Today's artificial hearts contain pumps whose spinning rotors can damage blood cells, causing clotting that can lead to strokes. A new pump design could prevent that damage by mimicking the natural movement of human tissue. Christopher Suprock, founder of product-design firm Suprock Technologies, made the demonstration pump using flexible membranes and a ferrofluid, or magnetic liquid.
About 40 percent of U.S. trade-some $1.4 trillion a year-passes through the country’s 360 ports and waterways. (The rest arrives via truck, rail or plane.) And despite Increased protection since 9/11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says that these ports remain especially vulnerable to attack from small vessels carrying Improvised explosive devices, including radioactive dirty bombs.
The camera that takes photos 100 times bigger than the average point-and-shoot
"Our Aware-2 camera combines 98 small cameras with a spherical lens to take blackand-white glgapixel photographs. It set the record for the largest digital snapshot by a terrestrial camera. One Image from the camera, printed at 300 dots per inch, is 8 feet high by 16 feet long.
SOMEWHERE AROUND 2014, if all goes according to plan, Turkey will complete the Ilisu Dam, a major component of one of the world’s most ambitious—and controversial—hydro-engineering projects. The dam is the latest addition to the $32-billion Southeastern Anatolia Project (known by its Turkish acronym, GAP).
How a tiny group of designers built the most efficient racecar in history
AT 3 P.M. on the third Saturday in June, 56 cars stream past the starting line of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a multicolored, roaring blur. Two hundred forty thousand spectators have gathered around the 8.5-mile circuit in central France for the 80th edition of the race.
Five technologies that will shape the cars of the future
1 The Intelligent Cockpit
2 Cheap Carbon Fiber
4 Car-to-Car Communication
5 Tiny Internal Combustion
When J.D. Power released its annual customer satisfaction survey in June, the issue that most irked American car buyers was not wind noise, inadequate acceleration or anything else related to the actual process of driving. It was unsatisfactory voice recognition.
DHS Center of Excellence for Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response
Car bombs, improvised explosive devices and pipe bombs—for students at the University of Rhode Island’s energetic materials lab, those tools are as common as a hammer Is to a carpenter. The lab, run by chemist Jimmie Oxley and supported largely by the Department of Homeland Security, offers the most diverse explosives curriculum In the U.S. And many of the students who study there will advance to jobs on the front lines In the fight against criminals and terrorists.
The central feature in Sarah Stewart’s Harvard lab is a bright blue blast tank in which she and two undergrad assistants simulate some of the biggest booms in the cosmos: the collision of celestial objects. Attached to the blast tank is a 40-millimeter-diameter single-stage gas gun that launches quarter-pound projectiles up to 6,000 miles per hour—nearly eight times the speed of sound—at targets that mimic asteroids, planets and moons.
Last summer, students in the mining department at Missouri University of Science and Technology helped build a new engineering lab-by blasting more than 15,000 square feet out of a hill to clear land for construction. When not leveling hillsides, students working toward a masters in explosives engineering learn the finer points of demolition, mining and pyrotechnics.
Strategically located a few miles from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Propulsion Research Center has been a proving ground for some of the world’s top rocket scientists since its inception in 1991. In addition to making rockets that launch payloads Into orbit, says interim director Robert Frederick, students will soon begin work on new nuclear propulsion systems that could reach Mars in weeks instead of months.
Each summer, 45 undergraduate physics and engineering students from schools across the country converge at Princeton for a crash course in plasma physics. A state of matter found in stars and frequently in interstellar space, a plasma is an electrically charged soup of Ions and free electrons made by superheating atoms until they rip themselves apart.
At least a fifth of the wounded U.S. soldiers evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan returned with traumatic brain injuries, many of which were the result of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). To better understand how shock waves from IEDs affect the body and brain, members of Namas Chandra’s lab at the University of Nebraska simulate actual blasts with a piston driven by compressed helium.
The Reed Research Reactor is the only program in the country where undergraduate students oversee the day-to-day operations of a working nuclear reactor. In addition to learning about reactor safety and physics, students pursue independent research projects, such as irradiating plant seeds to induce genetic mutations.
A lucky few engineering students at the University of Florida get to do something vaguely magical: conjure their own light ning. To make bolts, students fire specially designed rockets, each of which trails metal wires connected to sensors, directly into thunderstorms.
Of the hundreds of forensic science programs that currently exist in the U.S. and United Kingdom, only a few train their students to analyze the aftermath of bombings. Undergrads with a science degree may apply to become one of two dozen U.K.-based masters students in Cranfield University’s defense-chemistry department.
The lasers in Vasan Venugopalan's UC Irvine lab-eight in all-are a million times more pow erful than TNT, and their beams are only one tenth the width of a human hair. Students use them to test the limits of living cells. When tis sues suffer a shot from a laser, Venugopalan explains, "there's like a nuclear blast.
Every year thousands of high school students take part in national and regional science fairs. PopSciscours those events to find 10 students with truly world-changing ideas backed by functioning prototypes. Turns out, some of the country's most brilliant inventors aren't yet even old enough to drive.
Name: Jack Andraka Age: 15 High school: North County High School, Glen Burnie, Maryland Invention: Early cancerscreening method Jack Andraka’s pancreatic cancer test is 168 times faster and 400 times more sensitive than current diagnostics.
A year ago, our POPULAR SCIENCE! InnoCentive challenge on PupSci.com asked for lesson plans that could be used at the middle-school level in each of five areas of science that will be vital in the future. Materials couldn't cost more than $50, and the lesson needed to fit into no more than three 50-minute classes.
Artist Michael Benson combines images from space into a new view of the solar system
MISTS OF MARS
NIGHT ON SATURN
Michael Benson has created God's own view of the universe. To make the images on display in his upcoming book, Planetfall, Benson first combed through the tens of thousands of photographs publicly available from NASA and the European Space Agency.
Brad Graham, the Ontario-based leader of online DIY bike community Atomic Zombie and a former record holder for making the world's tallest bicycle, may create more strange rides than any other amateur builder. Here are two of his latest.
After moving to a rural area this year, Graham built a bike that could handle large hills and gravel roads. Using scrap parts, he designed a trike with two rear wheels to bear the weight of a cargo box in back. A suspension system below the container smooths the ride on rough roads. He set the seat high to ensure good visibility, but low enough that he can push the backrest hard against the cargo box when he’s jamming up a hill.
Graham designed the recumbent Tomahawk purely for speed. He angled the seat back to make bike and rider more aerodynamic. By shortening the wheelbase and situating the rider between the wheels with the pedals out front, he improved the distribution of weight on the frame. To make the bike adjustable to riders of different heights, he built a sliding bracket that extends or shortens the steel boom that holds the cranks.
CAT WOODMANSEE didn’t want to commute by car or train, but the 50-year-old Silicon Valley software engineer wasn’t up to pedaling his bicycle 60 miles a day either. So, using a kit, he added an electricassist motor and battery pack to his Electra Cruiser 7D, a standard bike.
Strong, hard, tough. These sound like different ways of saying the same thing, perhaps describing a really good suitcase, But when applied to the physical properties of materials, each of these words has a very specific technical meaning that distinguishes it from the others.
Mike Warren, an editor at DIY website instructables.com, wanted a tool that was fun and unusual for projects that require soldering electronics. His solution? Disassemble a 15-watt soldering iron and install it in the gutted body of an air-pellet gun.
Microryza.com connects scientists with donors who can potentially fund their research. The Seattle-based staff screens proposed projects for feasibility and novelty and runs checks on applicants to prevent fraud. Once approved, researchers post videos and a Q&A about their projects on the site.
I’m always tinkering with cars and building strange machines, so it’s crucial that I have the right electronic test and measurement equipment handy. Last month I showed off the gear I use the most often in my shop. But at times, I need more specialized gadgets to make sure my projects are the right length, speed or voltage.
Scientists have isolated the brains of dogs, cats and monkeys and kept them alive for short periods in one way or another. But the most successful “whole-brain preparation” of a mammal was developed in the mid-1980s. A neuroscientist at NYU Langone Medical Center named Rodolfo Llinás came up with a way to keep the brain of a young guinea pig alive in a fluid-filled tank for the length of a standard workday.
All muscles are capable of cramping, but the ones farthest away from your spinal cord—in your feet and lower legs, for example—tend to be the most vulnerable to seizing up. The long, spindly nerve cells that run from the spinal cord to the toes are especially prone to damage.
Young drivers tend to have excellent vision and quick reflexes, yet they’re involved in many more fatal accidents per mile than older drivers. (One study found a threefold higher risk.) Many explanations have been put forward: Teenagers tend to have cheaper, smaller cars, for example, and they drive more often at night.
In 1951, businessman Murrell Belanger’s No. 99 racecar became the first to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the dirt track AAA Championship racing series. POPSCI correspondent Devon Francis attributed the car’s then success to its lightweight frame, 340-horsepower engine and low center of gravity.