Most modern medicines are carefully synthesized organic molecules so potent that each pill contains only a few milligrams of the active ingredient. Pepto-Bismol is a fascinating exception, both because its active ingredient is bismuth, a heavy metal commonly used in shotgun pellets, and because there is a lot of it in each dose. So much, in fact, that I was able to extract a slug of bismuth metal from a pile of pink pills.
A 50,000-volt stun gun and liquid propane canister lets the flames fly
By Gregory MonePosted 08.28.2012 at 10:58 am 12 Comments
Richard Hamel was watching the 2010 animated film How to Train Your Dragon with his grandchildren when he noticed something odd about the tails of the flying beasts. Hamel, a longtime radio-control plane builder, realized that those appendages resembled an unconventional aircraft design feature known as an inverted V-tail. In lieu of a vertical stabilizer and horizontal rudder, some aircraft rely on two fins arranged in a V shape.
How science is transforming the sport of MMA fighting
By Matthew ShaerPosted 08.27.2012 at 12:49 pm 4 Comments
Greg Jackson, the single most successful trainer in the multi-billion-dollar sport of professional mixed martial arts fighting, works out of a musty old gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not far from the base of the Sandia Mountains. On a recent morning, the 38-year-old Jackson, who has the cauliflowered ears and bulbous nose of a career fighter, watched two of his students square off inside the chain-link walls of a blood-splattered ring called the Octagon.
Shape-shifting stadiums could transform the way we watch sports
By Bjorn CareyPosted 08.21.2012 at 10:06 am 6 Comments
Almost as soon as RFK Stadium opened in 1961, it became clear that the stadium was a dud. Football fans complained that the low seating made it difficult to see the entire field. Baseball fans complained that they had to twist in their seats to see the action at home plate. By trying to accommodate two sports, the stadium failed at both. All dozen of the combination football-baseball stadiums built in the U.S. since then have garnered similar complaints.
In my work I rely on many pieces of test and measurement equipment just as much as my hand tools. Although I can accomplish a surprising amount with just a hammer, I can't complete any of my mechanical or electronics projects without being able to reliably quantify things like length and voltage. Here are the gadgets I use in my shop the most.
By Nadia Cheng as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 08.17.2012 at 11:00 am 4 Comments
Our 14-inch-long robotic elephant trunk has five segments, each made of a silicone membrane with an embedded metal spring that acts like an exoskeleton. The segments are filled with dry coffee grounds and each is vacuum-controlled separately. When coffee grounds are loosely packed, they’re in a liquid-like state. When they’re vacuum-packed, they transition into a solid-like state.
Drones are learning the difference between a car and a tree--and how to make their next moves
By Andrew RosenblumPosted 08.14.2012 at 10:14 am 5 Comments
Self-piloted drones have become sophisticated enough to land on moving aircraft carriers, but put a single unexpected tree in the way, and they will crash. Now a five-university group that includes specialists in biology, computer vision and robotics is trying to teach drones to dodge obstacles on the fly. Working with $7.5 million from the Office of Naval Research, the scientists aim to build an autonomous, fixed-wing surveillance drone that can navigate through an unfamiliar city or forest at 35 miles an hour.
On a clear day early next year, an unmanned aircraft painted in the dark gull gray of a Navy fighter jet will take off from a runway at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, bank over the Chesapeake Bay and set a course toward an aircraft carrier, motoring several miles out over the Atlantic. As it approaches the carrier, the craft will open communication with air-traffic control, request landing clearance from the deck officers and establish a glide slope that accounts for wind velocity, ship speed and even the slight rolling of the ship's deck. Pilots consider a carrier landing one of the hardest operations in all of flight. The X-47B will land without any pilot at all.
By Luke MitchellPosted 08.10.2012 at 1:35 pm 6 Comments
Science is how people attempt to see the world as it truly is. That’s why I’m drawing the title of this new column from the wisdom of the greatest of scientists. Since Isaac Newton first stated his Second Law of Motion, we have understood that “force” is really a product of mass and acceleration: F = ma. Move more things faster, and they will exert more force.