I HAD LUNCH in Los Angeles recently with a friend who hosts science videos on the Web. She interviews scientists, explains fundamental scientific principles, tours amazing labs—but she doesn’t publicly attach the word “science” to what she does.
To operate such an aircraft in a public space is a blatant disregard for public safety. Painting a negative and potentially damaging light on what should be a safe and enjoyable hobby was unnecessary. Ed Johnson I hope when I fly my model planes and helicopters, I don’t incite fear in passers-by because of articles like yours.
During NASA’s Apollo missions, the famously powerful Saturn V launch rockets hurled astronauts into space, many toward their lunar destination. After falling back to Earth, the spent F-l engines sat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for nearly five decades.
WHO HASN’T sat on the couch at the end of a marathon gaming session and wondered what it would be like to make a game rather than just play one? With Pixel Press, anyone can do both—no coding required. The app, which debuts on iOS later this year, converts simple marks on paper into a playable videogame.
1 Is that a fish nibbling at the line or a change in the current? The SmartRod is the first fishing rod that automatically detects a bite. An accelerometer on the handle records vibrations from the pole and sends the data to a microcontroller, which differentiates between a promising catch and background jiggling.
Patagonia has made the warmest natural insulation, down, even warmer—and water-resistant. Engineers use radio waves to separate individual tendrils on feathers, then spray on a layer of hydrophobic siloxane. The process exaggerates down’s treelike structure, keeping air pockets open and capable of trapping 30 percent more heat. Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka $699
By placing a hand In the vacuum-powered, waterfilled CoreControl glove, an athlete can cool down 33 percent faster than by resting alone. Stanford University biologists Instructed college-age men to exercise on a treadmill in a hot room, use the lab model of the cooling system for three minutes, then do a set of bench presses.
wHEN MICROSOFT INTRODUCED the Kinect sensor in 2010, the company said the motion-capture system would transform gaming. That was only partially true; gamers could do novel things like swing an imaginary golf club or dance, but the Kinect wasn’t sensitive enough to register intricate maneuvers.
A flew earthly installation will see the universe better than any space-based telescope
THE FIRST SCIENTIST I meet at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope site is wearing a portable oxygen tank. At 16,400 feet in the Andes, he’d be unable to think clearly without the tube up his nose. He runs the observatory’s brain—a supercomputer as powerful as three million laptops working together that compares light from the telescope’s 66 dishes quadrillions of times every second.
As sailboats get faster, they also get more dangerous. After a sailor died in a crash during practice, the America’s Cup changed Its rules, requiring competitors to wear helmets and body armor. Finals are this month.
In field biology, describing a lizard as “green” just won’t do when the exact shade could be the key to identifying a species. You need to be specific: There’s pale green, grass green, citrine, and 48 other greens to choose from in the new Color Catalogue for Field Biologists.
How will robots of the future get around? Some say tank treads. Some say legs and feet. But nobody knows for sure, and that’s why researchers at Cornell University designed a computer program to figure it out. The software simulates evolution.
In 2011, water pollution closed or drove visitors away from U.S. shores on more than 15,000 beach days across the country. In many places, the problem is getting worse. As coastal towns crowd with rooftops and parking lots, they produce more runoff from rain.
The idea is to take the energy in light and store it as a fuel we can use later. So we made the GRAFSTRR (GravityFed Solar-Thermochemlcal Receiver/ Reactor)—a 1,000-pound cylinder of insulated steel, about 3 feet wide and 2.5 feet tall. In the lab, 10 lamps simulate only 10 to 20 kilowatts of sunlight.
IT’S NOT the mosquito’s fault. Malaria is actually caused by the Plasmodium family of parasites, which is carried unwittingly by mosquitoes. And these parasites are tricky foes. Come up with a treatment or vaccine and the few that survive will still breed.
Since scientists don't just sit around memorizing stuff, students shouldn't either.
The best way to teach science is not to teach it
IN 2012, a shocking 69 percent of American high-school graduates failed to meet college-readiness benchmarks in science. And in a 2010 paper about math and science achievement, the U.S. ranked last out of the eight countries studied (including England, South Korea, and Hungary).
Thinking about a science degree? Consider a lab where research meets white-knuckled adventure
ICECUBE NEUTRINO OBSERVATORY
BURIED DEEP IN THE ICE below the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, IceCube is the world’s largest and most remote neutrino observatory. Neutrinos are nearly massless particles that rarely interact with matter. Trillions of them pass through the earth every second, carrying information that may help explain the physics of supernovae and the source of high-energy cosmic rays.
EVERY SEMESTER, on a threeacre wooded bluff overlooking the Tennessee River in Knoxville, about 75 undergraduates help Dawnie Wolfe Steadman deposit dead bodies. Steadman, a forensics professor at the University of Tennessee, studies the many ways In which a body decays.
THE MOST IMPORTANT teachers in Roger Barker’s textile lab are mannequins. Barker studies how textiles respond to extreme conditions by re-creating real-world environments with three types of models: PyroMan endures conditions that mimic a burning building; it has 122 thermal heat sensors that record heat flux while Barker blasts it with eight propane-gas burners.
STUDENTS AT Texas Tech University are trying to protect against the ravages of hurricanes, tornadoes, and other dangerous storms. By studying how extreme storms form and evolve, along with the damage they cause, engineers can design structures to withstand them.
VAN ROMERO’S students don’t want to be doctors or lawyers. They want to blow things up for a living. Romero, New Mexico Tech’s vice president of research and economic development, and his staff oversee students as they detonate any number of explosives, whether C4 or TNT, across the school’s 26,000-acre mountaintop blasting range (which includes a quarter-scale urban canyon for modeling an explosion’s shock waves).
REED NUCLEAR REACTOR Reed College Operate a 250-kilowatt nuclear reactor. LIGHTNING RESEARCH LAB University of Florida Learn about lightning by creating bolts during storms. HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY U.S. Geological Survey Study one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
BEFORE HIS STUDENTS leave for Swaziland every summer, Robert McCleery, a professor of wildlife ecology, Imparts a long list of survival tips, which Include: Always baboon-proof the campsite; don’t get malaria; don’t float around In the rivers, which teem with hippos, crocs, and the parasite bllharzla.
THIS SUMMER, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is hosting 450 undergraduates from around the country for 10-week-long internships, where they may work on projects in planetary science, astrophysics, astrobiology, or robotics.
THE BADLANDS of southern Utah are famously rugged, a maze of sandstone cliffs and canyons that can amplify summer temperatures into furnacelike conditions. But this wasn’t always the case. Seventy-five million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, the region was a gigantic coastal forest much like today’s Gulf Coast, filled with frogs, salamanders, and even tyrannosaurs.
STUDENTS IN Paul Worsey’s explosives program have a new class to add to their schedules: fireworks manufacturing. They grind incendiary chemicals and combine them into professionalgrade fireworks; the final project is to create a five-inch pyrotechnic mortar—and set it off.
ONLY THE TOUGHEST and most sure-footed students need apply for undergraduate honors thesis work in Hazel Barton’s lab. Barton studies cave microbes, and students will often do their fieldwork in Brazilian caverns, accessible only by donning snakeproof boots and hacking through the Amazon with a machete.
MOSTDIDN'T REALIZE THEIR INSTRUCTOR, A RISING STAR IN THE DIY-ELECTRONICS MOVEMENT, IS ALSO A 12-YEAR-OLD.
UIN ETNYRE WALKS to the front of a crowded room at Deezmaker 3D Printers and Hackerspace in Pasadena, California. He adjusts his laptop on the workbench, then looks up and addresses the class. “Thanks for coming out on a Saturday,” he says, his voice barely audible over the steady hum of servomotors.
As the selection of open online courses grows, learning doesn't end with a degree
The first massive open online course, or MOOC, launched in September 2008 at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Via the Web, anyone could attend the class on learning theory, and 2,300 people signed up. MOOCs quickly took off. In 2011, a Stanford University class on artificial intelligence enrolled 160,000, inspiring one of the instructors to found the MOOC start-up Udacity.
A new type of engine could usher in an era of affordable spaceplanes
THE SABRE ENGINE: HOW IT WORKS
A disembodied jet engine, attached to a hulking air vent, sits in an outdoor test facility at the Culham Science Center in Oxfordshire, England. When the engine screams to life, columns of steam billow from the vent, giving the impression of an industrial smokestack.
WORLD WAR II COMBAT PILOTS HAVE BEEN LOST AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN FOR NEARLY 70 YEARS. NOW AUTONOMOUS ROBOTS HAVE BEEN DEPLOYED TO FINED THEM
ON A BRIGHT morning in midMarch, Pat Scannon stands on the deck of a 40-foot catamaran looking for an airplane hidden in the waters of Palau’s western lagoon. A limestone ridge thick with vegetation juts into the cloudless blue sky behind him.
In 2007, Matt Denton stopped on the side of the road near his home in Hampshire, England, to watch an excavator dig. The machines had fascinated him since childhood, but after years of designing control systems for animatronic Hollywood creatures, Denton saw the shovel-tipped boom through a more imaginative lens.
A pilot selects one of several gait patterns from a touchscreen control panel. One mode designed for rough terrain instructs the robot to pick each leg up before swinging it forward. Manipulating the joystick can direct the machine to creep forward, backward, or crab-walk to the side.
Artist Scott Parenteau designed his geodesic Walking Pod for shelter and transportation at Burning Man, an annual weeklong festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The 1,800-pound dome crawls on two sets of six legs powered by batteries.
A pump that goes from blow to suck with no moving parts
When you blow air across the top of a straw clipped in soda, liquid rises up the tube. This might seem strange, but a Venturi pump—named after the Italian physicist who invented it—takes advantage of the same effect, simply by virtue of its shape.
Microbes aren’t known for their artistic merit, but that hasn’t stopped scientists from using bacteria to find their inner Ansel Adams. Bioengineer Chris Voigt and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have hacked a harmless strain of Escherichia coli so that it produces black pigment in darkness or, in red light, remains transparent.
3-D-print your own invisibility cloak to live a sci-fi dream
PAVITHRA S. MOHAN
The invisibility cloak Harry Potter brandishes against dark lords and nosy professors Is now a reality—at least In microwave light. Duke University engineer Yaroslav Urzhumov has designed a plastic disk that makes a small object placed in Its hollow center Invisible to frequencies from 9.7 to 10.1 GHz (close to the range used by radar speed guns).
Use this crypto-currency to fund ambitious projects
So you’ve got yourself a bitcoin. Congratulations! Its value was hovering around $100 at press time. But what can you do with your newly acquired digital riches? Quite a lot, as it turns out—especially If you have a penchant for projects. More and more vendors who cater to makers accept bitcoin, a digital currency that’s created and maintained by its own extensive virtual network.
A long-standing estimate pins the velocity of a sneeze at roughly 100 meters per second, or 224 miles per hour, but that appears to be a gross exaggeration. The figure originates from a mid-century researcher named William Firth Wells, who analyzed the size of airborne droplets from a sneeze and then inferred the speed at which air must travel across a liquid surface to form them.
For the entomophiles who keep insects as pets, this question will seem a little silly. Some bugs appear aggressive, and others, shy; some venture into the open, others hide by the wall. But beyond casual observation, researchers are still learning the dimensions of an insect’s personality and how individuals of the same species might differ in temperament.
When POPULAR SCIENCE published its December 1981 cover story, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) had just begun to probe dangerous marine environments, like shipwreck sites. Controlled by pilots at the surface, the vessels could descend deeper, explore longer, and ascend faster than human divers.