I TOOK A JOB at POPULAR SCIENCE in 2006, fresh from a yearlong stint as a health and fitness editor. On my first day, in a story meeting, I confidently and casually praised the life-extending virtues of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine I’d been reading about that morning, and suggested we run a story about it.
I have nothing against setting aside part of the lunar surface, but why make it all inaccessible to development [“Why the Moon Should Be an International Park,” November 2013]? Traveling and living in space is my fondest dream. I worked supporting the space program and astronomy for over 30 years and take it personally when someone suggests a plan that could slow expansion into space.
Several of the world’s largest desalination plants sit along the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Every year, they deliver 115 billion gallons of potable water to more than 550,000 people in Dubai alone. But the plants have had to slow or shut down production more frequently over the past decade because of an unexpected disturbance: massive algal blooms in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
The robot of the popular imagination, whether it’s R2D2 or Rosie, just works. But in reality, making a robot just work takes a lot of hard work. Many would-be roboticists give up when faced with a soldering iron, an Arduino board, and lines of code.
1 The Zeus combination snow shovel and brush reduces trunk clutter. The two-foot-long brush serves as the polycarbonate shovel’s handle. It can also be detached and used on its own. Quirky Zeus $30 The Breath is the first humidifier to automatically maintain optimal humidity in a room.
For years, automakers have worked to push fuel economy beyond 100 miles per gallon. Reaching that mark typically meant three things: cutting weight, maximizing aerodynamics, and improving powertrain efficiency. In 1999, Volkswagen engineers got close with the Lupo 3L, a three-cylinder coupe that could go 78.4 miles on one gallon of diesel.
Alpine ski boots that are comfortable both uphill and down
K2 PINNACLE 130
K2 PINNACLE 130 with the flip of a lever, the Pinnacle 130 boots toggle easily between walking and skiing modes. When a skier locks the cuff in place, a carbon-fiber insert slides into the upper to provide extra stiffness. When the boots are in walk mode, the insert lifts into the cuff, which allows the skier to move freely. $850
SCARPA FREEDOM SL
SCARPA FREEDOM SL People say one pound of weight on the feet adds five pounds of pressure on the back. At 3.9 pounds each, the Scarpa Freedom SLs are the lightest alpine boots available. Designers thinned the shell in areas where a skier doesn’t need much support, such as the top of the upper, shaving about half a pound off each boot. $769
BLACK DIAMOND FACTOR MX
BLACK DIAMOND FACTOR MX The Factor MXs have a greater range of motion than any other alpine boots: 40 degrees in walk mode. The cuff rotates on ball joints, so the boot moves more naturally with the ankle. A whale-tail cutout in the calf of the shell leaves room for the leg to flex so skiers can take longer strides. $769
Even though skiers are spending more time hiking into the back-country, their boots are still geared to traditional lift-access runs. Most alpine boots have cuffs and uppers that are single, rigid pieces, which makes walking in them awkward and painful.
The world’s first waterproof interchangeable lens camera
Photographers typically have two options when shooting underwater: double the size of their D-SLR with an expensive submersible housing or opt for a waterproof point-and-shoot with the image quality of, well, a point-and-shoot. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, such as the Nikon 1 AW1, produce D-SLR-quality images minus the delicate moving parts of D-SLRs themselves.
Call it the curse of the picture window. Big panes may light up a home, but they also let in enough heat to drive up the temperature by several degrees, raising cooling costs. Selftinting windows solve the problem, darkening or turning opaque on command, but they are expensive and require custom installation.
The Novaerus air-filtration system uses a cold plasma field to destroy virtually 100 percent of airborne pathogens. Removing them from the air decreases surface contaminants as well. Scientists at Microsearch Laboratories in the U.K. fed a variety of pathogens through the intake vent of the system.
Can software distill mayhem down to a social network?
OUTPUT THE SOCIAL NETWORK
ON CHICAGO’S gangembattled South Side, a shooting can incite swift retaliation, which spawns even further violence. That’s what may have happened in September in Cornell Square Park when gunmen opened fire on a basketball court just hours after one of them had been wounded in a separate incident.
More than 1,000 working satellites orbit Earth. As space becomes increasingly crowded, there’s a greater chance that the satellites’ radio signals could overlap. To avoid that problem, which disrupts communications, satellite antennas must transmit only within a narrow frequency band.
"I made the Digital Chocolatier, a machine that builds chocolates layer by layer, from the bottom up. Four tubes hold nuts or chocolate. The chocolate tubes are heated for melting. For each layer, a servomotor positions the correct tube, and a valve releases the contents.
The film Her, which opens across the country this month, tells a love story between a man and some software. It may seem far-fetched, but researchers say it’s plausible. If so inclined, they could stitch together existing systems into one irresistible romance algorithm.
A SINGLE film can come from many sources of inspiration, but part of the idea for the movie Her came 10 years ago, when writer and director Spike Jonze was interacting with an online chatbot. More specifically, it came midway through the conversation, when things got weird.
Moon dust is dangerous. Each mote is like a tiny shard of glass—there’s no wind or rain to soften the edges of lunar soil. During the Apollo missions, it jammed equipment and got stuck in the seals of space suits, causing a serious loss of pressure.
A global commission officially changed the atomic weights of 19 chemical elements, including molybdenum, cadmium, selenium, and thorium. A Duke University team showed that monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains could control two virtual arms at once, using just their thoughts.
Wartime Bunkers: The Perfect Place for Research and Innovation
1 Power Plants
2 Wildlife Sanctuary
3 Data Storage
KATHERINE HARMON COURAGE
One of Europe’s newest solarand biofuel-power stations is a former Hamburg air-raid shelter called the Energiebunker. The 138-foot-tall structure was inaugurated last year and is scheduled for completion in 2015. It holds equipment that will generate electricity for 1,000 households and heat for 3,000, creating 95 percent less carbon-dioxide emissions from heating than oil and gas boilers.
To investigate how insects detect and react to motion so quickly, neuroscientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute examined the fruit fly. Turns out its brain, despite being several times smaller than a poppy seed, is astonishingly complex.
Nature spent millions of years perfecting flapping-wing flight. Now engineers can reproduce it with machines.
UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT
TURNING INSIGHTS INTO ROBOTS
BUILDING A TOUGHER DRONE
THE COMING SWARM
OVERCOMING FUTURE HURDLES
Richard Guiler and Tom Vaneck were sitting at a bar a few blocks from their office, trying to take their minds off work. For nearly a year, the two engineers had been struggling to develop a durable drone that could dodge objects, navigate inside buildings, and fly in stormy weather.
The 20 ideas, trends, and breakthroughs that will shape our world in 2014
01 LASERS UNLEASH A FLOOD OF SPACE DATA
02 JANUARY 20, 2014
03 COMPUTERS DECODE OUR BRAINS
04 PAINKILLER CRACKDOWN
05 FIRST-RESPONDER BOTS FACE OFF
06 HOW TO DISMANTLE A CHEMICAL WEAPON
07 DRONES GET THE GREENE LIGHT
08 CLIMATE TAKES PRIORITY
09 CELEBRITIES GO TO SPACE
10 CURIOSITY ROVES TO MT. SHARP GALE CRATER, MARS
11 HOW TO BUILD AN ICE WALL FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN
12 CANCER DIAGNOSES BECOME LESS INVASIVE
13 Sally Jewell@SecretaryJewell 29 Oct 2013
There are 10 billion exosomes in each milliliter of blood plasma. Just two to four milliliters of blood are needed for an exosome-based cancer test.
14 SCIENCE BUDGETS STAY SMALL UNITED STATES
15 FOUR NEW STUDIES EXPLORE THE MEDICAL BENEFITS AND PRACTICAL DILEMMAS THAT ARISE FROM SEQUENCING NEWBORNS' GENOMES
16 WIND GOES OFFSHORE
17 SEVERAL NEW FUNDS CREATED EXCLUSIVELY FOR BITCOINS ENABLE INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS TO BUY AND TRADE SHARES OF THE DIGITAL CURRENCY.
18 PHYSICISTS CREATE SPYPROOF CODE
19 INFECTIOUS DISEASES REEMERGE
20 SIXTEEN STUDIES ORGANIZED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND WILL DETERMINE CLIMATE IMPACT FROM NATURAL-GAS PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION.
IN JANUARY 2013, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter received a historic transmission: an image of the Mona Lisa. It was the first time scientists used a laser to send data to the moon, a feat that promises to exponentially increase the flow of information to and from space.
SENDING PEOPLE to space has always involved a frank assessment of their defects, and in the early days, it was a matter of finding people without any. First it was fighter pilots—calm in a crisis, physically perfect, unquestioning in their execution of mission control’s instructions.
An open-source construction system could upend architecture as we know it
HOW TO PRINT A HOUSE
ON A COLD, GRAY DAY in central London, Alastair Parvin is staring at a coffeepot, or what used to be one before he took it apart to clean it. The appliance lies strewn across an office table, a wreck of wet steel and springs. Parvin co-founded WikiHouse, an open-source construction system that could transform how people design and construct buildings.
The fastest face down, headfirst, human powered vehicle
GRAEME OBREE doesn’t own a car. And why would he? The Scottish racing cyclist built a bike in his kitchen that can travel at highway speeds. Last year, it even broke a world record. Obree is no cycling novice. In 1993, he broke the world record for distance biked in an hour: He cycled 32 miles in 60 minutes on a closed track.
Sift through paleontological history with this simple tool
You don’t need to be a paleontologist or travel through remote canyons to find exquisite fossils. The teeth, shells, and bones of ancient animals could lurk in a creek, quarry, or on a beach near you. Once you find a good location—the map below shows a bunch of spots-you’ll need to separate fossils from surrounding soil.
Belt sanders may smooth floors and strip paint, but YouTube user wyldediver demonstrates how they can also breathe new life into dull blades. To sharpen yours, start with a 150-grit belt. Slowly run one side of the blade across the belt a few times using light pressure (the sharp edge should point down at an acute angle to the belt).
Modify a tollbooth car tag to hear when it’s scanned
Tollbooth plazas aren’t the only locations that scan car tags like the E-ZPass. One wary driver in New York City modified his tag to sound off during activation. “I drove around [Manhattan] and realized, Wow, this is being read everywhere!” he says.
To gain a new appreciation of “remote control,” try steering a stranger’s robot from halfway around the world. Livebots.cc lets visitors both guide dozens of machines connected to the site and link up their own bots. POPULAR SCIENCE drove one called Puppet Bob toward a dog, but the canine was unfazed—even by the bot’s “dance” and “urinate” commands.
At the yearly Rottnest Channel Swim in Western Australia, participants often smear their bodies with animal fat for insulation against the 70-degree water. But their own body fat also helps to keep them warm, like an extra layer of clothing beneath the skin.
It’s very hard to figure out when the influenza virus first started making animals sick. Studies of the history of major human epidemics suggest the flu has been around for at least a thousand years. “The certainty diminishes as we go further back into the past,” says David Morens, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The astronaut on POPULAR SCIENCE’S February 1982 cover introduced a new kind of space traveler: the mission specialist. Until then, NASA had required astronauts to be certified jet pilots. Mission specialists focused on tasks other than flight, such as conducting scientific research or repairing equipment, and some worked as physicians or engineers on Earth.