Susannah Tringe spends a fair bit of her work time, currently for the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, in the fragrant, murky wetlands of California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Thriving microbial communities there could be the key to understanding how wetlands mitigate or exacerbate greenhouse-gas levels in our atmosphere. Tringe is cataloging the genetic fingerprints of the entire microbial ecosystem to determine how these wetlands work and if we can tailor them while restoring drained wetlands to absorb more greenhouse gas than they emit.
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.
When a natural-gas line exploded late last summer in San Bruno, California, the ensuing firestorm raged for hours. The blaze, which took crews more than 12 hours to control, destroyed dozens of homes, injured more than 50 people, and killed eight.
Click the thumbnails to see how the most advanced PIG robot works.
Age-related memory loss—the kind where you remember friends from decades ago but can't remember your grandchildren—is largely a mystery, but a class of com-pounds used to treat cancer has given neuroscientists clues to its molecular underpinnings. Scientists also suspect that the compounds responsible for this insight, called histone deacetylase inhibitors, could significantly slow memory loss—perhaps for years.
In Popular Science's July issue, we look at the phenomenon of stem-cell tourism: patients who head overseas for experimental medical treatments unavailable in the U.S. For the article, I spent a few days checking out Regenocyte, a Florida-based medical operation that coordinates experimental stem cell treatments in the Dominican Republic.
Now another developing country known for courting overseas patients -- Costa Rica -- has discontinued stem cell procedures at its biggest clinic, the Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM) in San Jose, which has treated about 400 people since it opened in 2006.
It's 2:30 in the afternoon in the Dominican Republic, and Karen Velline, a 66-year-old grandmother from Cold Spring, Minnesota, is lying on an operating table, swaddled in sterile surgical sheets. She's just moments away from a procedure so experimental that no doctor will perform it on U.S. soil. Yet she calmly stares up at the ceiling, more excited than anxious.
Check out today's featured Invention Award winner, OneBreath, a portable ventilator that saves more lives for less cost.
Four years ago, when Matthew Callaghan was a surgery intern at the University of California at San Francisco, the medical world was buzzing over the prospect of a global flu pandemic. One of the biggest potential problems was logistical: Because 95 percent of the ventilators in the U.S.—which keep critically ill patients breathing when their respiratory system is unable to function—are already in use, thousands of patients would die for lack of available life support. Ventilators cost hospitals from $3,000 up to $40,000 for state-of-the-art models, making it impractical for most hospitals and clinics to stockpile them for emergencies.
Check out today's featured Invention Award winner, SoundBite, a device designed for people with single-sided deafness.
One day in 2006, stuck in bumper-to-bumper Bay Area traffic, Amir Abolfathi had a eureka moment. Formerly vice president of R&D for Invisalign, a company known for transparent dental braces, he had recently been chatting with a friend who was working on hearing aids. Abolfathi knew that bone was a good sound conductor. What if he could somehow make a removable oral hearing aid—one that could channel sound from wearers' teeth to their ear through the bones in their head?
This past weekend, high school students from all over the country gathered at California's NASA Ames Research Center to meet their brilliant peers, present their groundbreaking research -- and chat with interested venture capitalists on the side.
On December 8, 2006, Markus Häring caused some 30 earthquakes -- the largest registering 3.4 on the Richter scale -- in Basel, Switzerland. Häring is not a supervillain. He's a geologist, and he had nothing but good intentions when he injected high-pressure water into rocks three miles below the surface, attempting to generate electricity through a process called enhanced geothermal. But he produced earthquakes instead, and when seismic analysis confirmed that the quakes were centered near the drilling site, city officials charged him with $9 million worth of damage to buildings.