I haven't been completely fair in the material I select for these archive galleries. In between covering space colonies and robots, I've neglected a feature of PopSci that is as prevalent in the year 1900 as it is now that we're nearing 2011: the advertisements.
When was the last time a film scene blew your mind? Plenty of people will cite Avatar's dizzying 3-D battle sequences. Others may name the rotating hotel hallway scene in this summer's Inception. Now ask your grandpa the same question. Chances are, he'll answer that Avatar in IMAX was cool, in a seizure-inducing way, but it doesn't compare to the first time he watched a movie in color.
Nothing makes you wish for a high-speed rail, a flying car, or a teleportation device like having to travel over Thanksgiving. Apparently, the future of chaos-free commuting is in Europe, Japan and China, where passengers enjoy the luxury of trains that glide along at 200 miles per hour. Meanwhile, those of us living in America get to choose between radioactive scanners, enhanced pat-downs, and the joy of holiday highway congestion. Injustice! Suffice to say, our maglev train envy is making the spirit of Thanksgiving a little harder to grasp this year.
For as long as ships have been around, naval powers have competed for supremacy on the seas. After the steam engine's invention in the 19th century, warship design underwent a major upheaval, culminating in an arms race for the best battleships and cruisers. Some of these ships went on to become famed World War I and II icons. Others never made it past the blueprint stage. You'll find that when it comes to naval warfare, the Popular Sciencearchives favor both the formidable and the funny speculations, as long as they contribute to a bright (Allied) future.
In September 1954, we compared the kitchen to a wife's workshop. This was the post-war era, after all. The 1950's are commonly referred to as America's favorite decade: a golden age of consumerism, economic prosperity, and conservative social mores. While engrossed in the Cold War, the media propagated how wholesome American housewives could enjoy superior household appliances as a reward for the country's endorsement of capitalism. In the spirit of domesticity, Popular Science published several features geared toward making kitchens as efficient, snazzy and high-tech as possible.
Although the issues of climate change and crude oil have received plenty of media coverage over the past decade, scientists have been working for over a century to develop technology capable of replacing conventional fuels with renewable energy.
You could even argue that society has attempted to harness renewable energy since ancient times. Over the past 138 years, Popular Science has seen engineers adapt Dutch windmills into wind turbines, water mills into commercial tidal power facilities, and Roman hot spring-powered underfloor heating systems into geothermal electric power plants.
For the past hundred years, we've been dreaming about flying cars. Transportation has come so far since the automobile's invention that flying cars seem like a natural part of what life should be by now. Who hasn't suffered rush hour traffic without imagining one's vehicle zipping above the congested highways? Flying cars would be fun to drive. Flying cars would eliminate the hassle of finding a ride to and from the airport. But, unhappily, flying cars have yet to achieve ubiquity.
It's not as if the automobile industry has lacked viable candidates for a mainstream f.c. We perused our archives to unearth a number of flying cars that we'd love to take for a spin.
Let's face it, sometime within the next century or so, overpopulation, the exhaustion of natural resources, an alien invasion -- or perhaps the optimistic spirit of adventure -- will force us to leave Earth in search of a new habitat. Earlier this week, NASA and DARPA announced a preliminary "Hundred-Year Starship" program for sending pioneers on permanent missions to Mars. To many, relocation from Earth sounds like a glorified exile, but some retro-futuristic eye candy from the Popular Sciencearchives will surely change their minds.
On October 16, more than 150 countries will observe World Food Day to raise awareness of poverty and hunger. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations established the occasion in 1979 and held the first one in 1981 with the theme "Food Comes First." The October 16 date commemorates the founding of the FAO, which was born after President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited representatives of Allied Nations to Hot Springs, Virginia, to discuss the founding of an international organization dedicated to food and agricultural development.
Although World Food Day is only 29 years old, malnutrition has plagued our planet's citizens since the dawn of mankind. Feeding billions of starving people poses a daunting challenge, and many argue that industrialization has only drained the world of its natural resources. Convinced that that's not always the case, we consulted our archives to find ways that science and technology actually worked to fight the hunger crisis.
Ah, death and disease, mankind's greatest obstacles to reaching its full potential. Picture a future where people's bodies were healthy enough to withstand famine, drought, and mutant viruses. Imagine where our technology would be if great scientific minds like Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla were still alive.
Over the last century and more, medical science has certainly tried to help people live longer -- if not forever -- but as Popular Science has witnessed, the greatest advancements in science have occurred only after some trial and error. Unfortunately for the human subjects of the error.