Once upon a time, achieving the perfect tan involved basking outdoors with a paperback and a sheet of aluminum foil. But towing the line between a healthy glow and a blistering sunburn proved more challenging than expected. The further paleness fell out of vogue, the more interested we became in products and devices that could brown our skin without burning it to a crisp.
Nowadays, those of us without adequate sun exposure can visit tanning salons to attain a glowing complexion, but those living in decades past had to practice a little more creativity. Now that we're in the last month of summer, we thought we'd pay homage to the sunny days of yore by collecting some of the most enterprising suntanning technologies from our archives.
We've covered a fair number of amphibious craft over the years, most recently (and perhaps most memorably), a land-water ice cream truck that popped up on the Thames during Britain's National Ice Cream Week. And while you won't find any floating treatmobiles in our archives, the old-time amphibious vehicles we uncovered might prove just as charming.
Last Friday, we bade adieu to NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle program as Atlantis lifted off for the very last time. Practical or not, the loss of our capacity for manned spaceflight is a little depressing for those of us who uphold interstellar travel as the paragon of human progress. While we can respect NASA's decision to prioritize other projects, we can hardly fathom how something as futuristic as human space travel ended up becoming a part of our country's past.
Ironically enough, the past can look a whole lot like a distant tomorrow when you study it through our 138-year archives. So until NASA can afford to send humans back into space, let's reminisce on the agency's golden age by flicking through our most dazzling space features.
It's not often that you flip through a copy of Popular Science without seeing something about cars, be it a feature on eco-friendly automobiles, a compendium on futuristic concept designs, or an article on crackpot DIY vehicles. If you look carefully through older copies of the magazine, you'll spot charmingly-illustrated advertisements tucked between the aforementioned stories -- and in most cases, they serve as a surprising testament to that decade's culture, as well as to the beauty of (most) vintage automobiles.
If you've ever felt puzzled by the lack of similarities between polo and water polo, you're not alone; clearly, one inventor from the 1930s thought that the latter could benefit from the inclusion of ponies. As silly as it looks, the idea wasn't entirely unprecedented, nor was it original (two decades earlier, we covered an aquatic polo pony powered by a simple crank and gear). The era's growing demand for novelty sports, aided by the growing sophistication of mechanical gear, sparked trends that involved everything from motorized water horses to rowboat-inspired race cars.
While touting space as the next great frontier, we tend to forget that our oceans encompass domains that might as well exist on other planets. Like outer space, the deep sea isn't an easy place to access, but explorers reared on Jules Verne and tales of the giant squid couldn't resist the challenge of mapping Earth's most alien habitat. To that end, innovators like aqua-lung inventor Jacques Cousteau, Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard, and aviation pioneer Edwin Link built submersibles fit for the long and treacherous task. As Piccard once said, "Exploration is the sport of the scientist."
After celebrating the 67th anniversary of D-Day this week, it's only fitting that we publish a gallery documenting World War II-era PopSci. A warning, though: this was the 1940s, so practically nothing in here conforms to our modern-day notion of political correctness. Some of these headlines may sound a little extreme, but rest assured, we took care to elaborate on the idea from a scientific standpoint.
General Electric has pretty much had its hand in every major technological advance in the 130 years since its founding (in part by Thomas Edison!). The company recently started a Tumblr of some of its most striking innovations, filtered through Instagram, a photo sharing service that crops and alters photos to look all fuzzy and vintagey, something like a Polaroid or Instamatic. But this equipment looks at least as amazing without any photo filters, so we asked GE to send us the unaltered photos of these pulse-detonation activators and electrochemical fuel cells and all the other cool stuff they've been posting.
See them all in our gallery.
During the 1950s, architecture, cars, and gadget design took on a curiously spaceflight-inspired aesthetic. Manufacturers built vehicles with ornamental tailfins. Upswept roofs and parabolas cropped up on buildings. Logos incorporated starbursts and satellite shapes, while parallelograms, wings, and free-form boomerangs became the motel sign shapes du jour. In retrospect, those designs look a little gimmicky, but they nonetheless reflect a collective 1950s confidence about America's dazzling future as a leader in space flight and economic prosperity.
In all our years of covering science, no issue has invited controversy like evolution, and that includes the debate on climate change and whether we'll ever own flying cars. As a magazine that had been Team Darwin since its founding in 1872, (just 13 years after Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species), we made it a point to publish periodic in-depth features defending evolution as a credible explanation for the origin of life.