For decades, scientists have believed there to be a fairly well-defined boundary at the edges of our solar system, a region where the sun appears only slightly brighter than the rest of the spangled heavens. But as they sail through the blackness, humanity’s most-traveled spacecraft, the Voyager probes, have learned the lines are anything but clear. The edge of the solar system may not be a smooth edge at all, but a turbulent moat of roiling magnetic bubbles.
This summer there's an excellent line-up of films full of mind-blowing technology. A stealth aircraft makes an appearance in X-Men: First Class, while the Green Lantern will travel between worlds using a ring that can open up wormholes. Although some of these gadgets remain far beyond the realm of possibility (at least for now), here's the science behind Hollywood's awesome line-up of wrist lasers, vibranium shields and X-jets.
Click here for the summer movie science smackdown.
Green technology is on the rise, but the U.S. still consumes an enormous amount of fossil fuels
By Fathom Information DesignPosted 06.06.2011 at 3:42 pm 0 Comments
The U.S. consumed 94.6 quadrillion BTUs of energy in 2009, more than any other nation. It also produced more energy than any nation but China: some 73 quadrillion BTUs.Those 94.6 quads break down into 308 million BTUs per capita--the equivalent of about 50 barrels of oil for every American.
Michael Bove, the director of MIT's Object-Based Media Group, got his grad students a Kinect for Christmas. The range-finding, motion-sensing camera add-on to Microsoft's Xbox 360 game system turns the human body into a controller, but Bove's students did something far more amazing with it. "A week later," he says, "they were presenting holograms with it." The students had hacked the Kinect, and found that it was a perfect tool for capturing images to project in three dimensions--in other words, for holograms.
When Jason Woods was 19 and living on his own for the first time, he decided to buy an old ski boat. The 1969 Sportster was perfect for driving girls around Lake Berryessa, near his home in Napa, California, but after a few months, he found that transporting and storing a 16-foot boat was an expensive hassle. He wanted a craft that he could toss in his car and carry to the water. Unfortunately, no options existed.
Our dependence on big systems--big oil, big coal--steers us away from little ones, such as biofuel made from garbage, that are transforming communities in other countries
By Hillary RosnerPosted 06.02.2011 at 5:33 pm 1 Comment
From the backseat of a beat-up Toyota taxi, Thomas Taha Rassam Culhane points out the passing sights. Fraying sacks of charcoal cut from nearby forests wait beside makeshift shops. Corrugated metal, cardboard and other scrap make up the ramshackle huts. A stream of dirty water, stained red by runoff from a nearby factory, runs down the alley. Garbage is everywhere. The ingredients of life here in Mukuru, one of Nairobi's largest slums, are raw. Yet Culhane leans forward in his seat, excited by the possibilities they present.
The taxi stops at the Mukuru Skills Training Center, an art and vocational school. A guard emerges from a small concrete shack to open the front gate. The Mukuru neighborhood is dirty and chaotic, but inside the compound, tidy bits of improvisation are everywhere: An art studio opens onto a small garden filled with herbs and saplings. Three composting toilets turn waste into fertilizer. And outside a bare-bones kitchen, a 500-gallon tank full of old beans and banana peels is slowly generating cooking gas.
On the ground, solar power has its limitations. Solar cells are not especially efficient. It rains. The sun disappears at night. A space-based solar panel can generate five times the energy of a similar panel on Earth by circumventing both weather and hours lost to darkness. A 2007 study by the National Space Society estimates that a half-mile-wide band of photovoltaics in geosynchronous orbit with Earth could generate the energy equivalent of all the oil remaining on the planet over the course of one year. Though costly, launching working solar satellites is possible today. It's transmitting the captured energy to Earth that presents a challenge—one that scientists are just starting to work on.
Hey, reader, what are you wearing?
Did rumpled jeans fit your fancy this morning? Or perhaps a nice cotton-poly blend shirt with a paisley print? Here at PopSci, we prefer this spring's new line of nanostructured piezoelectric thermo-capable waterproof spider silk fireproof onesies, with added UV protection. Now that sounds like the uniform of the future.
Click here to check out our gallery of future textiles and fabrics.
When Chris Mullin was a physics postdoc at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California, one of the most annoying parts of his day was his commute. He had to drive half of the 35 miles between his home in Berkeley and his lab in Livermore into near-direct sunlight. The glare gave him headaches and made it tough to see oncoming traffic. “I thought, ‘God, I feel tense, I feel unsafe,’ ” he says. So he came up with an idea: sunglasses that would use an electronic shield to block glare instantly.
A mini inkjet prints on any flat surface with a wave of the hand
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 06.01.2011 at 10:02 am 9 Comments
In 2000, one of Europe’s largest rubber-stamp companies approached Alex Breton, an engineer from Stockholm, Sweden, for product ideas. Instead of dreaming up a new stamp, he designed the PrintBrush, an 8.8-ounce handheld gadget that uses inkjets, computer-mouse-like optics and navigation software to print uploaded images and text on any flat surface, including paper, plastic, wood and even fabric.