Issue: 20140401

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
APRIL 2014
4
True
284
Friday, December 5, 2014

Articles
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POPULAR SCIENCE
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GMC
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GMC
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dyson: DC65 cleans
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dyson
DC65 cleans
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CONTENTS
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From the Editor
The Virtues of Curiosity
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Cliff Ransom
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.
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From the Editor
Contributors
DAMON TABOR
REBECCA BOYLE
SCOTT ALEXANDER
GRAHAM MURDOCH
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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?
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TD Ameritrade
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TD Ameritrade
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A Bit About Us
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE GERMIEST THING IN YOUR HOME?
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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.
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masthead
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Masthead
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GEEK GLOSSARY
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GEEK GLOSSARY
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Cab Cadet
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Cab Cadet
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Peer Review
PARADISE: DISRUPTED
SAFE UNDERSTANDING
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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.
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Peer Review
FORMS OF FLATTERY SENT TO OUR OFFICE THIS MONTH
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One of our readers, cartoonist Leigh Rubin, was inspired by the January 2014 cover story, “Rise of the Insect Drones." For more, go to his website at rubescartoons.com.
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Progressive Casualty Ins. Co.
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Progressive Casualty Ins. Co.
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Feed The Pig.org
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Feed The Pig.org
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Now
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A Tlescope That Finds Stars far You
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Corinne Iozzio & Amber Williams
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.
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Trending
The New Era of Sports Stats
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New Zealand company
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DAVID CASSILO
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.
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review
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WHAT IS USB TYPE C?
A LITTLE MORE DETAIL
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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.
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NOW
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33.4 MILLION
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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.”
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review
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Obsessed
Some things are just... better
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AMBER WILLIAMS
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Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.: Maker's 46
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Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.
Maker's 46
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article
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NOW
Speed Lab
The 500-Yard Headlight
2x
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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.
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Speed Lab
Car News You Should Care About
ONE THIRD
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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.
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Speed Lab
DESIGN OF THE MONTH
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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.
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How To
Trick Others into Doing Your Bidding
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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.
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Lab-Tested
Tired? Wired? This Bulb Can Help.
THE PROMISE
THE RESEARCH
THE RESULTS
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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.
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Higher Standards
Watch out for iBeacon— because it’s watching you
PUNG! YOUR PHONE LIGHTS UP: “MAKING TUNA SALAD? DONT FORGET THE MAYO! 20 PERCENT OFF MEGAMART BRAND.”
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SCOTT ALEXANDER
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.
PopularScience_20140401_0284_004_0034.xml
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SIGMA Corporation of America: 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM
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SIGMA Corporation of America
18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM
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The new age of microscopy
SEEING CELLS AS THEY'RE MEANT TO BE SEEN: IN 3-D
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Susannah Locke
Amber Williams
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.
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By the Numbers
The New Spring
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
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Katie Peek
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.
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The Big Idea
CERAMICS COULD PREVENT NUCLEAR DISASTER
Pottery just got really high tech
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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.
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HOWTO... AVOID TRAFFIC JAMS
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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.
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Haiku: BIGASS FANS
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Haiku
BIGASS FANS
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Q + A
WHEN RATTLESNAKES AND ROBOTS COLLIDE
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FLORA LICHTMAN
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.
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Advertisement: App Store
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App Store
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K&N Engineering,Inc.
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K&N Engineering,Inc.
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Rough Sketch
A Pacemaker Powered by Heartbeats
THE PARTS
YOU COULD BE A PROUD OWNER OF MOON DUST
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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.
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Consumer Cellular
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Consumer Cellular
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Subjective Measures
Stop looking for “hardwired" differences in male and female brains
TODAY’S NEUROSCIENTISTS ARE USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO UNWITTINGLY PERPETUATE STEREOTYPES.
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VIRGINIA HUGHES
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.
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Sun Setter
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Sun Setter
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THE NINTH ANNUAL HOW IT WORKS ISSUE
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FORMULA E RACECAR
THE WORLD'S MOST AWESOME VEHICLES, TOOLS, AND TOYS, DISSECTED AND DEMYSTIFIED
SOUND
PIT STOPS
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Mathew Jancer
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.
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THE NINTH ANNUAL HOW IT WORKS ISSUE
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THE INNER EARTH
SLABS
PLUMES
PILES
KNOW YOUR PLANET
CRUST
MANTLE
CORE
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Valerie Ross
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.
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HOW IT WORKS
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INDUCTION STOVETOP
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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.
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039
HOW IT WORKS
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NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES
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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.
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040
HOW IT WORKS
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POLARIZED 3-D GLASSES
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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.
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040
HOW IT WORKS
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DOGGIE PADDLE
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In January, scientists showed with underwater video that dogs swim with movement more like a run than a trot (in which diagonally opposite legs move at the same time).
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040,041
HOW IT WORKS
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PRIVATE MOON LANDER
CHALLENGES
REACH THE MOON
LAND SOFTLY
GET MOVING
PHONE HOME
EXTRA-CREDIT CHALLENGES
GRIFFIN
RED ROVER
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Rebecca Boyle
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."
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041
HOW IT WORKS
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3 MORE TEAMS TO WATCH
ME
PSLL
BM
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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.
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042
HOW IT WORKS
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A WIFFLE BALL PITCH
EXTERNAL FORCE
VORTICES
INTERIOR FORCE
HOLES
NET FORCE
WHY NO H?
Three Wiffle Ball Hacks
THROW AN UNHITTABLE KNUCKLEBALL
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Bjorn Carey
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.
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043
HOW IT WORKS
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THE HIGHESTEFFICIENCY SOLAR CELL
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Lillian Steenblik Hwang
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.
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043
HOW IT WORKS
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HOW TO MAKE “PINK SLIME"
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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.
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044
HOW IT WORKS
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SURGICAL SNAKEBOT
Steer
Sense
Slice
Slither
QUICK HISTORY
THE INSPIRATION
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Erik Sofge
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.
PopularScience_20140401_0284_004_0059.xml
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045
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GEICO
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GEICO
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046
HOW IT WORKS
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AN ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE
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Brooke Borel
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.
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046
HOW IT WORKS
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CHEMICAL WEAPONS
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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.
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047
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Bose Corporation.: Wave SoundTouch
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Bose Corporation.
Wave SoundTouch
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RADIO TECNICO
04.14
RADIO TECNICO
HOW THE ZETAS CARTEL TOOK OVER MEXICO WITH WALKIE-TALKIES
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DAMON TABOR
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.
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RADIO TECNICO
04.14
INSIDE THE ZETAS' NETWORK
BREAKING DOWN THE GHAIN OF COMMAND
HAWKS
ANTENNAS
REPEATER
REGIONAL COM CENTERS
CONTROL
GUNMEN
BOSSES
SMUGGLERS
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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.
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THE AIDS CURE
04.14
THE AIDS CURE
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
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APOORVA MANDAVILLI
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.
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INVISIBLE WORLD
Noah Fierer wants to map the hidden universe of microbes—starting in your kitchen
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Joel Warner
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.
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064,065
What's living with you?
What's living with you?
What's living with you?
Trillions of friends you never knew you had
NERD BOX
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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?
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066
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THE GREAT COURSES
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THE GREAT COURSES
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067
Manual
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A LIFE-SIZE LEGO CAR YOU CAN ACTUALLY DRIVE
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Duve Mosher
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.
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068
MANUAL
Rebuild
A HOMEMADE CROSSBOW DESIGNED TO IMPALE A CAR DOOR
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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.
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069
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gravity defyer
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gravity defyer
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070
MANUAL
Build It
Turn Empty Beer Cans into Sun-Tracking Cameras
INSTRUCTIONS:
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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.
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071
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sleep number: DualAir
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sleep number
DualAir
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article
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072
MANUAL
Defined
Selective Laser Sintering
CUSTOMIZED SPLINT
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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.
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072
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EPILOG LASER: FUSION 40
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EPILOG LASER
FUSION 40
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073
073
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ZOYSIA FARM NURSERIES
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ZOYSIA FARM NURSERIES
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074
074
MANUAL
Cheap Tricks
BUILD A LIGHTWEIGHT TENT FOR A PITTANCE
INSTRUCTIONS:
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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.
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074
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WeatherTech
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WeatherTech
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075
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HARBOR FREIGHT
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076
MANUALI
Enviable Project
A Glowing Ring Powered by Body Heat
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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.
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076
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ROCKAUTO.COM
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ROCKAUTO.COM
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077
077
Ask Anything
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Wind chill? Heat index? Can’t we combine them?
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Daniel Engber
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.
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077
077
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Advertisements
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SPION
Military Zoom Binoculars
SPION
Binocular Tripod
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078
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Davis: Vantage Connect
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Davis
Vantage Connect
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078
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Valentine Research, Inc.: Valentine One
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Valentine Research, Inc.
Valentine One
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078,080
ASK ANYTHING
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Why do some birds chirp while others gobble?
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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.
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079
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Advertisement: Captioning Telephone
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Captioning Telephone
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080
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EdgeCraft Corp.: Chef'sChoice
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EdgeCraft Corp.
Chef'sChoice
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080
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Rosetta Stone
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Rosetta Stone
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081
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Plama CAM
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Plama CAM
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082
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084,086,087
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POPULAR SCIENCE SHOWCASE
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085
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DR: Portable Burn-Cage
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DR
Portable Burn-Cage
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085
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RHINO
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RHINO
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085
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085
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SunSetter Products
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SunSetter Products
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088
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089
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POPULAR SCIENCE DIRECT
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090
From the Archives
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Shocking Speeds from a Tiny Racer
A Record of Records
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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.
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091
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092
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App Store
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