Jacob Ward is absolutely right [“From the Editor,” December 2012]. This is the greatest time to be alive. I am 66 years old. In previous generations, this was considered elderly. Now, I am an active middle-aged person. I no longer need to worry about contracting polio, measles, or whooping cough.
In the United States, only 1 percent of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands, which has only 1/18 of the U.S.'s population, that number is close to 26 percent. With so many bikes on the road, Dutch company TNO is working on a car airbag that deploys outside the vehicle to reduce bicyclist injuries.
Every January, millions of people resolve to get more exercise. I Health-club memberships spike as does interest in fitness trackers, which use accelerometers to record activity. The trouble with those devices, though, is that they rely on binary tracking algorithms—moving or not—so they generally can’t tell the difference between a steady jog and vacuuming the living room.
When full-size foosball is hard to find, players can snap an iPad into the Classic Match Foosball table and boot up a game. Each of the eight rods has an optical sensor that relays direction and spin info through the iPad's connector. New Potato Technologies Classic Match Foosball $100
Infiniti unveils a system that could make voice-guided cars reality—steer-by-wire
For decades, aircraft engineers have used electronic fly-by-wire systems rather than mechanical connectors and hydraulics to link the pilot’s joystick to the wings. This year, Infiniti becomes the first carmaker to deploy the automotive equivalent—steer-by-wire.
Smart lighting that's as easy as screwing in a bulb
Brian Clark Howard
Smart lighting systems allow homeowners to control any bulb in their house, set timers, and dim lights—all from a single control panel. The systems aren’t perfect: They’re pricey, and setup often requires wiring fixtures, which also means professional Installation.
Traditional clickers send signals with infrared light, which means they require a direct line of sight to work. A new generation of remotes, which includes this Texas Instruments development kit [shown], will replace infrared with ZigBee radio.
Cleaner driveways, cars, and sidewalks—without the backache
Ames True Temper SnoBoss
The SnoBoss gives shovelers more leverage to dig under heavy drifts. Grabbing both of the shovel’s vertical steel handles, users push the scooper ahead of them like a plow. The shovel’s 26-Inch high-density polyethylene head supports more than 30 pounds of snow. Ames True Temper SnoBoss $35
The Blizzerator makes clearing snow or ice off cars easier and more comfortable. The scraper’s designer, a chiropractor, angled both the brush and the scraper head to 15 degrees, so that users don’t have to stretch across curved windshields or reach overhead to clean roofs. Blizzerator $20-$25
Ariens Compact Track 24 Sno-Thro
The Compact Track 24 can clear a driveway faster than any other snowblower of Its size. Engineers modified the 208-cc engine so that it propels the 200-pound thrower forward 18 percent faster than prior models. Tanklike treads make it easier for users to push the blower over steep or gravelly terrain. Ariens Compact Track 24 Sno-Thro $1,299
When melted snow runs into porous cement and freezes, the water expands, cracking driveways and sidewalks. Morton’s Safe-TPlus rock salt locks out moisture. The mixture Includes a small amount of hydroxyl ethyl cellulose powder, which forms a nonslip, water-blocking gel on the ground when wet. Morton Safe-T-Plus $8 (12-pound jug)
Drone vision turns the ordinary hunter into a sharpshooter
TrackingPoint XactSystem Series
TrackingPoint XactSystem Series
John McHale considered himself a respectable shot until he tried hitting a gazelle from 300 yards on a safari in Tanzania, a tough kill even for a more seasoned marksman. Conventional long-range rifles and scopes, like the one McHale was using, leave the hunter to account for the angle of the gun, the temperature and air pressure, and the curvature of the Earth.
Outdoor-apparel makers are adopting the Army’s newest camo pattern, MultiCam. The Army replaced some of its Universal Camouflage [left] with MultiCam [right], whose green, brown, and beige tones suit both deserts and woods.
MENTAL MAPS are becoming a thing of the past. GPS devices and smartphones have taught millions of travelers to expect turn-by-turn directions anywhere they go—and with good reason. Mapping services plot accurate courses nearly everywhere, with one glaring exception: They’re pretty much useless indoors.
Why the tiny zebrafish is becoming many researchers' favorite animal
THE ANIMAL facility on the bottom floor of a drab building at Duke University is uncomfortably warm and smells a bit like raw seafood. That’s not surprising given what’s down there. The space holds a few thousand plastic fish tanks, each home to dozens of zebrafish: one-inch-long, big-eyed vertebrates that are becoming go-to research subjects for many scientists.
From the outside, Daddy’s Girl Rose Etta II looks like an ordinary Beechcraft 1900 plane. But commercial aircraft don’t come equipped with 14 pilot lights that engulf them In flames on command. Named after a World War II B-17 bomber, Daddy’s Girl Rose Etta II became the first FAA-approved mobile aircraft-fire simulator in 1996 when the Michigan Department of Transportation and Kellogg Community College commissioned It.
Samuel Ellis, a biologist from the University of York, will tag 1,000 hairy wood ants with radio receivers to find out how they communicate and travel. The multiyear project, which begins this summer in Derbyshire, U.K., will be one of the largest radio-tagging experiments of Insects in the wild.
Last October, while a SpaceX rocket was making the second commercial spaceflight to the International Space Station, one of its engines shut down because of high pressure. To save fuel, it automatically ditched a communications satellite insured for $10 million at an altitude of about 200 miles.
How bloodsuckers help find the world's rarest animals
Many animals are still almost complete mysteries to science. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, researchers don’t know enough about 15 percent of mammals to even determine whether they’re threatened by extinction.
1 The striped meat-eating Tasmanian tiger was a marsupial the size of a large dog. Though experts largely agree the last one died in a zoo in 1936, some people hold out hope. 2 This heavily hunted ungulate may be extinct, but up to 50 might survive on the western tip of Java.
To build and supply a lunar base, astronauts will need heavy-duty space trucks for transporting gear. There’s just one problem: no roads. That’s why NASA engineers designed the rover they call ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer)—to handle any terrain, whether dusty, rocky, or crater-y.
We're producing more food than ever. So why is hunger on the rise?
VIRTUALIZATION IS a powerful tool for improving the real world. When we translate material things, from genes to jet planes, into numbers, we can analyze and manipulate them far more easily. But two recent reports suggest that virtualization can also have disastrous real-world consequences, especially when it conies to food.
HUMANS REGULARLY LOSE THEIR LIVES RUSHING INTO DISASTER ZONES. NOW ENGINEERS ARE RACING TO BUILD ROBOTS THAT CAN TAKE THEIR PLACE.
BY THE END of next year, robots will walk into a disaster zone. They won’t roll in on wheels or rumble in on treads. They will walk, striding across rubble, most of them balancing on two legs. Compared with human first responders, the machines will move slowly and halt frequently.
EXTREME STORMS SUCH AS HURRICANE SANDY HAVE PUSHED THE U.S. ELECTRICAL GRID TO ITS BREAKING POINT. THE TECHNOLOGY EXISTS TO KEEP THE LIGHTS ON-WE JUST NEED TO IMPLEMENT IT.
STOP CASCADING FAILURES
How to Create a More Resilient Grid
PLAN BETTER BACKUP
The Truly Smart Meter
INVEST IN EFFICIENCY
THE EXPLOSION lit up the Manhattan skyline. A sudden boom, a one-two punch of yellow light—then everything went black. After Hurricane Sandy shoved water into Con Edison’s 14th Street substation in October, causing electricity to arc between capacitors, about a quarter million customers were left in the dark.
THE DAZZLING, SOMETIMES ABSURD, ALWAYS PLAYFUL GENIUS OF ERIK DEMAINE
COULD THE SECRET TO BREAKTHROUGH SCIENCE BE AS SIMPLE AS HAVING FUN?
Just before he was old enough to vote but after he’d begun a doctorate in computer science, Erik Demaine arrived in New York City for the annual OrigamiUSA convention. He'd recently taken an interest in the hobby because he thought the math behind it might make for a compelling dissertation topic.
LONG-OVERDUE UPGRADES TO AMERICA'S RAIL SYSTEM COULD PREVENT THE NEXT BIG TRAIN CATASTROPHE. SO WHY ARE THE RAILROADS SO RELUCTANT TO MAKE THEM?
POINTS OF FAILURE Kinks in the U.S. Rail System
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION How Positive Train Control Works
The evening of January 5, 2005, was dry and cool in Graniteville, South Carolina. At 6:10, a 12-car Norfolk Southern freight train pulled up to the Avondale Mills textile plant, and Jim Thornton, a conductor with 18 years’ experience, climbed down from the locomotive to open a switch and let the train roll onto a siding.
NEWS OF IMPENDING fatherhood affects men in different ways. Some guys pump their fists. Others light cigars. A few flee. When 33-year-old Colin Furze learned that his girlfriend was pregnant, he channeled his paternal excitement into building the world’s fastest baby stroller.
Last September, a New York City gold dealer spent $72,000 on his worst nightmare: fake gold bars. The four 10-ounce counterfeits came with all the features of authentic ingots, including serial numbers. That’s pretty scary when you consider how many people own gold—or think they do.
A simple surveillance rig that e-mails photos of visitors
The mother of invention may be necessity, but French telecom engineer Clément Storck learned his father can play that role too. To remind his forgetful dad to close the garage door, Storck rigged it with a switch that triggers an iPhone alert—a home-automation hack that joined his repertoire of self-closing shutters and a tweeting cat door (see @PepitoTheCat).
Two projects reveal dazzling progress in portable DIY performance enhancement
NOW LED Video Wall
THEN Suitcase Stage Lights
When the electronica band Start--ker needed a portable video display, It turned to Hans Lindauer and Alex Norman, two members of a Portland, Oregon-based hacking community called DorkbotPDX. The duo designed an 80-pound, 8-by-13-foot LED wall that displays the band’s trippy-looking videos from an iPod.
Shuffle data at twice the speed for one tenth the cost
When moving terabytes of data from one computer to another, cut out the external drive— an expensive, sluggish middle man—by cutting up an Ethernet cable. Rearranging the small Internal wires on one end allows near-instant data transfer between computers via their network cards.
That really depends on how you define pollutant. For the purposes of this column, let’s put aside greenhouse gases and the eventual effects of climate change and focus on more tangible pollutants, starting with the ones that make their way from industry into communities nearby.
When this “mechanical man” appeared in POPULAR SCIENCE’S December 1953 issue, the U.S. military was experimenting with humanoid machines that could help teach first aid and test oxygen masks and flying suits. Harvey Chapman, an engineer in Los Angeles, envisioned an android with a civilian purpose: He spent 90 days In his garage turning discarded airplane parts into Garco, a robot that could hammer, saw, mix chemicals, solder, and stack boxes.