Once again, Popular Science celebrates the eternal human urge to go bigger! Better! Stronger! Meet three innovations with the need to exceed.
Bigger: A Park in the Sky
When architect Moshe Safdie was designing a hotel in Singapore, he ran out of ground space for a planned park. But there was plenty of air, so he drew up the three-acre garden connecting the 57th story of the hotel's three towers. He wasn't finished, though. Then he built the crowning piece of the Sky Park: an observation deck extending 218 feet from the hotel's roof—the world's largest cantilever.
Most congresspeople probably haven't thought about chemistry since high school, but they'll soon have to in order to protect the economy. In March, Colorado representative Mike Coffman introduced a bill to ramp up mining of 17 "rare-earth" elements, so called because large deposits of them are hard to find. Some are essential for electric auto motors and laser defense systems, and with demand for those rising, now is the time to stock up.
"If an asteroid hits the moon, it will just get another crater," says Gareth Wynn-Williams, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. It would take a moon-size object to move the moon, says Clark Chapman, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, and most likely the moon wouldn't survive. Hitting it with a much larger, denser object would be like whacking an egg with a golf club.
Eleven-year-old Salu Raikwar, born with six fingers on both hands, walks near the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. In December 1984 an estimated 27 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the plant and into the environment. The disaster resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people.
Now, with the passing of the 25th anniversary of the disaster, anecdotal evidence and reports not publicly available suggest a long-lasting legacy in the form of higher rates of cancer, delayed growth, and birth defects like webbed or extra fingers and cleft palates in children of parents exposed to the chemical, but no comprehensive studies have been made.
This month, James Duckworth and David Cyganski, engineering professors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will fill a building with expensive sensors—10 years' worth of R&D—and set the whole place on fire. If their system works in the 1,100ºF inferno produced inside the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy's burn building, the tech could give a fire chief everything he needs to make sure his crew returns safe and sound every time.
A worker stands inside one of the Metro tunnels under construction in New Delhi, India, in preparation for the Commonwealth Games this October. To overcome the challenges of a tight three-and-a-half-year schedule and construction underneath a densely populated city, engineers used 14 tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) to dig the underground thoroughfare.
A new electronic notepad may be lifelike, cheap and energy-efficient enough to replace those wasteful paper slips we still use for memos and grocery lists. The four-ounce Boogie Board runs for years on a single watch battery and, thanks to a novel use of the material inside ordinary computer screens, even mimics the feel of putting pen to paper.
In this micrograph of dorsal closure in a fruit-fly embryo, the protein actin is marked red, prominent around the gap in the epithelial cells. The microtubules that give shape to cells are green, and epithelial cells with their microtubules destroyed are blue.
One of the steps in fruit-fly development is similar to the healing of wounds. Until recently, scientists believed that when fruit-fly bodies take form during a process called dorsal closure, long strings of the protein actin behaved like the drawstring of a purse, pulling together the epithelial cells that eventually form the fly's skin.