Now that Food Tech week is winding down here at PopSci, it's time to sit back, rest our hands on the shelves of our full bellies and listen to the old timers tell us a few yarns about back in their day.
Despite having a readership made up mostly of men, Popular Sciences of old knew their way around a beauty parlor. Especially from the 20s to the 40s, PopSci offered makeup tips and advice to female readers, saying in effect "Look! We've got incredibly detailed cutaways of how things work AND beauty knowhow! What more could you want?"
When scientists take a break from studying, researching or inventing to devise a practical joke, the stakes are sky-high, sometimes literally. Who else can dangle a car off a bridge, or pull out a monster mask on a space station? A look into our archives finds an abundance of wild prankery.
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.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit The Plant, Chicago's first vertical farm. This claim depends on your definition of vertical farm, of course, because The Plant isn't the sort of futuristic vegetation-filled skyscraper you might expect, and it isn't solely agricultural. While food will be grown there, the space will also house small food-related businesses, breweries and bakeries and the like, so it might be more accurate to classify it as a "food business incubator." Whatever you call it, The Plant is definitely an example of innovative green food production, with the ambitious goal of being net-zero energy and net-zero waste by 2015.
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.
This week's step forward in conforming to the beauty standard at any cost is a laser that can turn brown eyes into blue ones. The treatment, developed by Stroma Medical's Dr. Gregg Homer, takes only 20 seconds to perform, but is irreversible. Aside from giving you the piercing stare of an Arctic wolf, the procedure could also impair your sight, experts warn. Brown eye pigment helps to prevent problems such as glare and double vision. Removing it could leave the eye with no way to control the light getting in.
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.
Everyone's favorite headless bipedal bot is back, just in time for Halloween. Petman won't be riding any horses around Sleepy Hollow, though - just showing off his moves on a treadmill. Boston Dynamics is developing Petman to test chemical protection clothing for the U.S. Army, and if he's joining the army, obviously he needs to get in shape.