By next fall, NASA plans to launch its biggest Red Planet rover yet, the $1.8-billion, SUV-size Mars Research Laboratory. Even though the MRL will be able to haul five times as much equipment as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are already on Mars, a group of Swedish researchers say that they could accomplish far more if accompanied by a squad of helper ’bots. Fredrik Bruhn, the CEO of Ångström Aerospace Corporation, and his colleagues have designed the small inflatable scouts to assist bigger, less mobile rovers in their hunt for signs of microbial life on Mars.
Snapping ankles and dancer-like toes are what makes Michael Phelps win
By Corey BinnsPosted 08.01.2008 at 12:55 pm 7 Comments
Despite its name, the dolphin kick—the motion that propels the swimmer forward underwater after he dives in and at the turns—isn't just about the legs. It requires a swimmer's entire body to crack like a whip, creating a fluid wave that starts at the chest and increases in amplitude as it travels all the way through the toes. In the best swimmers, this wave moves at about nine feet every second, about half the speed an actual dolphin performs the same motion. To move this quickly, whole-body flexibility is key.
A fast run and a carbon-fiber pole create 20 feet of vertical
By Corey BinnsPosted 07.25.2008 at 11:31 am 1 Comment
The pole vault is all about energy conversion. The kinetic energy built up during the vaulter’s run turns into potential energy stored in the pole as the vaulter bends it nearly 90 degrees. When the pole recoils, it unleashes that energy to help propel the vaulter up and over the bar. Of these stages, Peter McGinnis, a professor of kinesiology at the State University of New York at Cortland, has found that the most important is the speed of the vaulter just before he plants his pole. The energy built up during the run accounts for almost 60 percent of the vault’s height.
The biomechanics behind throwing 100 mph without ripping your elbow apart
By Corey BinnsPosted 07.17.2008 at 11:44 am 0 Comments
The slingshot move of a pro pitcher's shoulder is the fastest recorded action in sports. A pitch's power, however, is generated by his entire body. For a right-handed pitcher, the chain of kinetic energy starts as soon as he lifts his left leg and faces third base. The energy of that foot landing transfers into the rotation of the trunk and then finally unleashes in the arm whipping around at the elbow.
Scientists design a microwave device to halt invasive aquatic critters
By Corey BinnsPosted 07.11.2008 at 11:28 am 5 Comments
Transoceanic freighters haul 80 percent of the world's commercial goods. But those boats inadvertently carry destructive cargo as well. An empty ship can suck up more than 10 million gallons of water to stay balanced as it crosses the open ocean. Upon its arrival into another port, the crew pumps the ballast water and any small animals or plants living in that water—sometimes thousands of organisms per gallon—into foreign harbors, where they invade and damage local ecosystems.
The FYI experts tackle the question that plagues every audiophile
By Corey BinnsPosted 07.03.2008 at 12:43 pm 19 Comments
Sorry, vinyl aficionados, but CDs most accurately capture the clarity of musical performances. If you look at the grooves of a standard long-play record, or LP, through a microscope, you'll see that each is filled with what look like rolling hills. These are, in fact, an extremely close replication of the shape of the sound waves from the musician's instrument. But because the needle that carves the groove is shaped slightly different than the needle that reads it, the LP will never sound exactly like the original performance.
To rescue the Earth, we need bold engineering ideas that go beyond simple recycling
By PopSci StaffPosted 06.13.2008 at 4:10 pm 29 Comments
Making a dent in the climate crisis is going to take more than solar panels and recycled toilet paper. Scientists are finding ever more creative ways (pig pee! DIY tornadoes! mini nuclear reactors!) to clean up the Earth
On this week's podcast, we cover the high-tech behind the summer's hottest movies
By PopSci StaffPosted 05.14.2008 at 3:37 pm 2 Comments
They're not just chock-a-block with action. This summer's biggest blockbusters are backed by some of the most advanced technology on the planet. On this week's Cocktail Party Science, Chuck Cage sits down with writer Corey Binns and editor Martha Harbison to discuss the art and science of Speed Racer and its implications for the future of film.
The high-speed stunner Speed Racer resets reality by creating a fantasyland out of nothing but computers and imagination
By Corey BinnsPosted 04.11.2008 at 1:44 pm 1 Comment
Go, Speed Racer
A fully composited single image from the Speed Racer movie. More than 500 effects artists worked on the film.
Filming conventional high-speed action fare is hard enough, but to bring the classic cartoon Speed Racer to life, the Wachowski brothers had to contend with 300mph racecars sporting fanciful features like robotic reconnaissance pigeons and wheels that can rotate 180 degrees. With 2,300 visual-effects (VFX) shots—twice as many as last year's eye-popping 300—it heralds the future of summer-blockbuster fare: The entire movie, aside from the human actors, exists only in a computer.
When Rajiv Bhushans father complained of blurry, browned vision and pain from bright lights, doctors told him that surgically replacing his eyes lenses was the only way to correct the cataracts that had left him legally blind. Instead, after learning that cataracts result from an age-related accumulation of proteins and lipids in a persons lens, Bhushan, an electrical engineer, set to work concocting a chemical solution to break up the molecules clouding his fathers eyes.
Six years later, the eyedrops, called C-KAD, are entering the final stages of clinical testing. If all goes well, they will hit pharmacy shelves in two years, becoming the first non-surgical treatment.