Just 15 minutes a day! Absolutely free! Guaranteed results! The same breathless promises have been prying open our wallets for decades, offering hope for beauty, health, popularity and eternal youth. We combed the archives for the most brazen scams from the 1920s to the 1940s. Some seem harmless, while others are downright sinister (such as Alois P. Swoboda, who even managed to swindle Woodrow Wilson, with his supposed secret to "supreme life.")
When Atari's Pong first came out, Popular Science had a succinct opinion: Playing a game on a video screen was "one of those novelties that everyone will shortly get tired of." We've never been so glad to be wrong.
We don't see a lot of cryptozoology - the study of animals that have not yet been proven to exist - in the pages of PopSci these days, but that's what we have the archives for. Buried within the decades upon decades of "real" science, filled with "facts" and "research" are some gems of articles, where we chart the progress of believers searching for creatures we strongly suspect they may never find, but secretly hope they will.
Considering I was between the ages of -2 and 8 for the first 10 installments of the Best of What's New, it's remarkable how many vivid memories I have of the 1980s' and '90s' greatest innovations. I owned and loved the computer game that let you print out clothes for your Barbies. My dad taught me the rules of hockey by watching Red Wings games with me on Fox, where infrared technology left a streak of color behind the fast-moving puck so I could follow it. And I even built and programmed a Lego Mindstorms robot at nerd camp one summer.
I have never understood why people who aren't circus clowns ride unicycles. They seem designed specifically to create wipeouts and, subsequently, schadenfreude (a lesson our writer learned all too well in 1967 when he undertook the massive challenge of learning to ride one). But who knew that tucked away in the pages of PopScis past were some of the weirdest, most delightfully retro-futuristic unicycles of all time? Now we all do. And I don't think it's a stretch to say our lives are all the better for it.
As terrifying as this cover is, we won't lie, it's a pretty accurate depiction of how we feel about our vehicles on a bad day. Car maintenance doesn't come naturally to everyone, least of all first-time car owners in the 1920s. This week, we're taking a look at some old school car safety and maintenance tips, mostly from the glory days of stick shift and all that entailed for rookie motorists.
Now that we've spent this week looking at all the incredible ways data is gathered, computed, analyzed and used, we thought we'd take a look through the archives to see how we got to this data age to begin with.
Without question, Alexander Graham Bell's master invention changed our lives and revolutionized the way we communicate. But science is never satisfied, and so we began a steady stream of improvements to the telephone that took it from rotary dials and operators to the unique problems of autocorrect and Siri's witty retorts. Today, we take a look back at the ever-evolving history of the telephone.
Our archives are filled with terrifying things -- flying tanks, radium faucets, and groundbreaking lobotomy techniques, to name a couple -- but few of them are as deliberately scary as the past century's amusement park rides and attractions. With names like The Wastebasket of Dizziness, The Ring of Death, and the Corkscrew of Fate, how could they not instill terror in even the most seasoned roller coaster enthusiasts?
The early 20th century saw the Golden Age of Roller Coasters, as well as the peak of Coney Island's popularity. As amusement parks flourished, so did our interest in thrill rides. How did engineers prevent roller coaster cars from toppling off the track? How did the Parachute Jump ensure soft, and not splattered, landings? And why would anybody want to roller skate down a loop-the-loop?