Humans might be the most highly-evolved species on the planet, but most animals possess skills we can only dream of having. Imagine how much electricity we could save if we could see in the dark the way cats do. Imagine leaping from tree to tree like a monkey. Giraffes, which are otherwise calm and genteel, sleep only 4.6 hours a day (forget flying, how can I learn to do that?).
We realized a long, long time ago--centuries, perhaps even thousands of years before the publication of Popular Science, shocking as that sounds--that nature provides the best blueprint for invention. We've borrowed canals from beavers, towers from termites and reflectors from cat's eyes. More recently, George de Mestral patented Velcro in the 1940s after seeing how burrs stuck on the fur of his dog. Although the words "bionics," "biomimetics," and "biomimicry" became popular only after the 1960s, history shows that nature has always provided ideas on solving everyday problems. Our archives don't go back to the time of Leonardo da Vinci and his bird-like flying machines, but we can take you to the late 19th century, where we applied those same principles for building our first practical airplanes.
Before Ford's Model T entered mass production, cars were largely a novelty, a curio for those privileged enough to afford them. They sputtered odorous gases, crawled at speeds barely faster than a horse's gallop, and stirred up so much dust that you'd need to wash up after disembarking. Pretty cool!
There's something timeless about a good detective story. At the end of a long day, it's nice to know that the clues check out, the crooks get caught, and everyone goes home happy. During the early 1930s, Popular Science capitalized on the mystery genre by running a series of articles detailing how the modern detective incorporates science into crime detection. We were enthralled by scientists who could trace a bullet to its weapon simply by examining it under a microscope. We were thrilled that a person's gender and age could be determined from a single strand of hair.
For all our talk on "the future now," there is one future we'd prefer to delay for the next five billion years, and that's the inevitability of our planet's destruction. Mankind's speculated on the end of the world for thousands of years, but it wasn't until recent centuries that people began attaching scientific possibilities to doomsday scenarios, instead of blaming the gods for our demise.
Over the years, Popular Science has strived to answer your questions about the world we live in. What's on the moon? Why don't we have flying cars? How do magnets work? As compelling and relevant as these questions are, though, none inspires as much fury as the age-old debate on whether men and women are equally capable.
For the most part, we answered no. Like it or not, our magazine has always been a product of its time, and for at least the first 70 years of our 138-year history, we held men in higher esteem because science and feminist literature had not yet given us reason to believe that women could accomplish much on a grand scale.
Few things have inspired as much mythology and mystique as the moon. We've credited it with triggering madness, housing deities and rousing werewolves. Even after the age of Enlightenment, astronomers hyped up the moon so much, that the more we found out about it, the more unglamorous it became. By the time Popular Science came around, most astronomers were fairly certain that the moon was dead. In fact, by 1887, we declared the moon a "frozen and dried-up globe, a mere planetary skeleton, that could no more support life than the Humboldt glacier could grow roses."
Advanced electric drive, autonomous navigations and other tecnological advances will revolutionize the way we drive. PopSci presents three stunning visions for the future of the automobile. Illustrations by Nick Kaloterakis and Bob Sauls. Research by Jon Alain Guzik
Most of us consider airports an unglamorous, necessary evil. Between the inevitable delays, grumpy travelers, long lines, and lost baggage, we can barely summon the energy to appreciate our surroundings, let alone how they were conceived.
Like us, past generations have envisioned a future of efficient, aesthetically-pleasing airports, and our 137-year archive certainly yields a few fantastical gems.