He wasn’t alone. Scientists from Newton on have waxed poetic about curiosity’s role in discovery. Books extol the virtues of the childlike mind. There’s even a design conference dedicated to the power of play. I’m not one to judge, but despite coming from famously scientific minds, this all strikes me as rather unscientific.
For his feature “Radio Tecnico" (page 48), Damon Tabor spent four years investigating Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada, the man behind a massive, covert radio network used by the Zetas drug cartel. Tabor traveled to Texas and Mexico to interview sources, venturing into cartel-controlled regions. What kept him going?
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE GERMIEST THING IN YOUR HOME?
1. The dark, dank closet that contains my boiler. 2. It's probably my kitchen sponge. I'm terrified of it. 3. Statistically? I suspect it's me. (But I prefer to call them microbes.) 4. Doorknobs. The answer is always doorknobs. 5. The freezer, where I store my collection of heirloom bacterial cultures.
I found it troublesome to read [“Beyond the Boom," February 2014] about the supersonic jet company’s design philosophy: “Don’t worry about the boom." It won’t be just one jet making one flight a day. It’ll be countless jets traveling everywhere.
For non-astronomers, stargazing may seem simple: Just plop down a scope, and peer toward the heavens. It’s usually not quite that easy. Scopes can be tricky to set up and celestial objects elusive. The Celestron Cosmos 90 GT uses a Wi-Fi connection with a smartphone to do the hard work for you.
Sports have always been about numbers. We obsessively rank and handicap athletes based on averages and percentages. But while we can tally jump shots or backhands, we’ve never been able to fully understand why some are successful and others aren’t. Now manufacturers are releasing equipment embedded with data-gathering capabilities, allowing a first Look into the dynamics of any shot.
Expected in mid-2014, the new standard will deliver the same transfer speed (up to 10 gigabits per second) as its predecessor, with a couple of notable improvements: The plug will be smaller—about the size of current micro USBs— and reversible.
Netflix’s current paid U.S. subscribership, at least three million more than HBO's. The streaming-video service has made it abundantly clear that it aims to steal premium-cable viewers. CEO Reed Hastings recently joked that the HBO CEO’s password is “netflixbitch.”
There are headlights that sync to your steering, ones that shift their aim when the road curves, even ones that dim their glare when they sense other cars. But with the new Laserlight system, Audi is returning to the basics: making beams brighter.
Speaker maker Bose released a chip that can run noise-canceling software on most cars, not just those with Bose sound systems. It generates sounds that cancel out noise from the engine and exhaust. In January, Mercedes-Benz began retrofitting QR codes on all models from 1990 onward.
Kia may be known for its drab, budget cars, but the GT4 Stinger concept couldn’t be further from a standard family sedan. Designers borrowed the turbocharged 2.0-Liter, 315-horsepower engine from the company’s Optima racer, paired it with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, and sat the entire thing on 20-inch rims.
We Like to think of ourselves as rational beings, but there are many ways we can be subconsciously influenced. At Least, that’s the premise of ABC’s new series Mind Gomes. Christian Slater and Steve Zahn star as consultants who use psychological techniques to manipulate their clients’ bosses, co-workers, and family members.
It might shine Like any other bulb, but the Rhythm Downlight LED from Lighting Science (price not set; available summer) can make users feel energized or sleepy on cue. NASA plans to deploy similar technology on the International Space Station to help astronauts regulate their sleep.
PUNG! YOUR PHONE LIGHTS UP: “MAKING TUNA SALAD? DONT FORGET THE MAYO! 20 PERCENT OFF MEGAMART BRAND.”
Last June, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software, sneaked something big into his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. On a slide listing features that would debut in iOS 7, an unfamiliar word appeared: iBeacons.
CeLLs Live in a three-dimensional worLd, but until recentLy, scientists using fluorescence microscopes could see them well in onLy two dimensions. With advances in confocaL microscopes, which use pinhole apertures to focus Light on several planes, scientists can now view samples with depth, like these human prostate-cancer clusters.
How climate change has shifted spring’s emergence, in five charts
Leaves appear earlier
Want to know more?
Cherry trees bloom earlier too
Flowers precede birds
Birds lag behind bugs
As the planet warms, the temperatures that trigger spring arrive earlier. But not everything’s adjusting on the same schedule. Flowers open before their insect pollinators come out, and birds return from migration too late to find their usual bug meals.
For more than 50 years, engineers have built the rods that hold nuclear fuel the same way, out of zirconiumbased metal alloys. They maintain structural integrity at high temperatures and allow uranium neutrons to escape in order to produce nuclear reactions.
Most gridlock strikes when the quick braking of one driver ripples rapidly down a string of cars. "There is no accident, there is no bottleneck—it is a phantom blockage," says Berthold K. P. Horn, a computer scientist at MIT. Horn recently developed an algorithm that shows traffic can flow more smoothly when people follow certain rules.
Popular Science: Why do you hove so many sandboxes? Daniel Goldman: No one has ever studied the complexities of a sidewinder rattlesnake’s movement on sand, its natural substrate. In principle, you can understand how a hummingbird stays aloft or how a shark swims by solving fluid-dynamics equations.
A pacemaker’s battery needs to be swapped out about every five to eight years, requiring surgery. Engineers are now working on a device that converts the mechanical, energy of a beating heart into electrical energy and could last indefinitely.
Stop looking for “hardwired" differences in male and female brains
TODAY’S NEUROSCIENTISTS ARE USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO UNWITTINGLY PERPETUATE STEREOTYPES.
In December, a highly publicized study declared that distinctive wiring in the brain explains different skill sets in men and women. After scanning hundreds of participants’ brains, the researchers reported that men have stronger connections within a given hemisphere, whereas women have stronger connections between the two.
THE WORLD'S MOST AWESOME VEHICLES, TOOLS, AND TOYS, DISSECTED AND DEMYSTIFIED
This year, the first fully electric racing series will debut in cities around the globe. Called Formula E, the new Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) championship is the zero-emissions complement to the Formula One (F1) international racing series.
Plate tectonics—the theory that explains the sinking, spreading, and slip-sliding of big chunks of Earth’s surface—is a bedrock of geology. But it can’t explain what happens to plates once they sink, or account for the forces that drive many of the planet’s volcanic hotspots.
An induction cooking range is faster and has better temperature control than a gas or electric one—and yet, it never gets hot. Inside the range, an electric current passes through copper coils, creating a magnetic field. The field interacts with the bottom of a cooking pot containing a ferromagnetic material such as iron or stainless steel.
1. A microphone listens for ambient noise, such as traffic or chatter. 2. A circuit board inside the headphones generates a sound wave that opposes that of the noise. 3. The headphone driver plays that wave, neutralizing the clamor.
1 The screen displays two images with different polarizations. 2 Glasses contain filters placed in opposite directions, allowing only one image to enter each eye. 3 The brain combines the two images to perceive depth.
Next year, robots will Land on the moon, competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The contest offers $40 million in rewards, including a $20 million grand prize. Winning is fairly straightforward: Safely land a privately funded spacecraft, move it a third of a mile, and beam back HD-video “mooncasts."
MOON EXPRESS The team’s coffee tablesize MX-1 spacecraft will rocket to the moon using hydrogenperoxide fuel—a stronger mixture of the stuff used to clean wounds. PENN STATE LUNAR LION More than 80 students are working on a spacecraft that will “hop” across the moon’s surface using thrusters.
The Wiffle ball has been fooling batters since its invention in 1953, but scientists only recently learned why. Mechanical engineer Jenn Stroud Rossmann at Lafayette College placed the ball in a wind tunnel, measured airflow around it, and concluded that the shifting balance of forces inside and outside the ball is what makes it so devilishly hard to hit.
Solar cells typically convert just 20 percent of incoming energy into electricity in part because they capture only certain wavelengths of light. Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems have developed a solar cell that converts 44.7 percent—a new record.
There can be up to 25 pounds of lean meat in the fat trimmings of the average beef cow. BPI, a meat-processing company, pioneered the process of extracting it. Meat-product manufacturers use this lean finely textured beef—a.k.a. pink slime—to create packaged ground beef with specific lean-to-fat ratios.
Surgery has always been synonymous with incisions. But the new snake-inspired Flex System from Medrobotics could reduce bloodshed and hasten healing by traveling through a convenient (if unsettling) alternative: a natural orifice, such as the mouth.
Since electronic cigarettes hit the market in 2007, yearly sales have reached $1 billion in the U.S. Although they’re popular, it’s still unclear how safe they are. Last year, a study from an international group of scientists showed that the toxins in e-cigarette vapor are 9 to 450 times lower than in tobacco smoke.
Last year, evidence emerged that rockets containing sarin, a clear, odorless, and tasteless nerve agent, had been used in the Syrian conflict, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more. Intelligence agencies are still investigating who Launched the attack, but in September, Syria signed the Chemical Weapons Convention—an international post-Cold War agreement prohibiting the manufacture and stockpiling of these arms.
HOW THE ZETAS CARTEL TOOK OVER MEXICO WITH WALKIE-TALKIES
ON SEPTEMBER 16, 2008, Carl Pike, the deputy head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division, watched live video feeds from a command center outside Washington, D.C., as federal agents fanned out across dozens of U.S. cities.
Equipped with short-range walkie-talkies programmed to specific frequencies, cartel informants called hawks report the movements of Mexican police, soldiers, and rival cartels from positions along streets and near border crossings.
RESERVOIRS OF HIV HIDE DEEP WITHIN THE BODY. SCIENTISTS ARE NOW CLOSING IN ON METHODS TO WIPE THEM OUT.
HOW HIV INVADES CELLS-AND HOW TO STOP IT
THE YOUTH CORPS
IN 2007, a little-known German doctor applied to speak at a prestigious AIDS conference, claiming to have cured a single case of the disease. He described a 41-year-old man, dubbed the “Berlin patient,” who had had both AIDS and leukemia. The patient received a bone-marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor and no longer showed any sign of the virus.
Noah Fierer wants to map the hidden universe of microbes—starting in your kitchen
Onarecent morning, Noah Fierer, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, found himself standing 1,000 feet above the farmland of eastern Colorado. He was perched near the pinnacle of the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory, a cellphone-tower-Like spire built in 1977 to conduct climate and weather research.
One morning about a year and a half ago, at my home in Brooklyn, New York, I woke up the usual way: My dog leapt into bed and plopped his face on my pillow. That day, I wondered what came with him. Did living with an animal influence my apartment’s microbial composition?
The Super Awesome Micro Project, a full-size car made of 500,000 LEGOs, sprung from an unlikely partnership between Romanian tinkerer Raul Oaida and Australian investor Steve Sammartino. The two met over Skype in 2012, and since then, Sammartino has helped Oaida raise money for his ambitious projects, including a jet-powered bicycle.
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that men living in anarchy would lead "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" lives. So as much as I’d enjoy rebuilding civilization from piles of trash after an apocalypse, I’d first worry about a way to send petrol-marauding punk rockers scrambling and make infectious zombies take a dirt nap.
In a world of digital cameras and instant gratification, photographer Justin Quinnell embraces pinhole photography, a technique hundreds of years old. He uses beer cans and photographic paper to record the gradual shift in the sun’s path over the course of several months.
In January, a key patent expired for an ultrahigh-resolution 3-D—printing technology. It isn’t a household term now, but it could be after future (and more capable) generations of consumer 3-D printers make it to market. Here’s one way it’s already being used.
Ultralight tents don't have to lighten your wallet. Save a bundle of cash by making one from Tyvek. The breathable, water-resistant material, a favorite of home contractors, weighs less than two ounces and costs about $2 per square yard. Here's how to fashion a featherweight bivouac from the stuff.
Sean Hodgins enjoys ring smithing, a hobby he adopted from his grandpa, and Loves building small electronic gadgets. So he combined his passions to make a ring that turns body heat into Light. Hodgins milled a two-finger band out of aluminum—an excellent thermal conductor—to cradle a 6-millimeter by 3-millimeter Peltier module and custom circuit board.
A More than 100 weather indices have been proposed over the past century in an effort to translate environmental conditions—how cold it is, how windy, how sunny, how wet—into felt experience and physiological risk. Many of these, like the wind chill and the heat index, focus on specific subsets of the variables in play.
A Different bird sounds have different functions. Songbirds use elaborate music to attract a mate or to Let rivals know the Limits of their territory; other kinds of birds will chirp for food or to communicate a message to their peers, such as the presence of a predator.
In 1926, the Sunbeam Tiger racecar set the land-speed record at 152.33 mph. But it wasn’t the Tiger’s speed that secured its spot on the August cover of Poputar Science that year, it was the efficiency. The car produced Less than one tenth the horsepower of its competitors, but a Lightweight body allowed it to reach high speeds on Less fuel.