Every month for the past seven years, I’ve undertaken some experiment—entertaining you, dear readers, by risking my life with dangerous chemicals. But this month I conducted an experiment of an entirely different kind: I went in front of a live audience on a popular Japanese variety show and risked their lives with dangerous chemicals.
By Bjorn Carey
Posted 12.20.2010 at 11:34 am 3 Comments
Hard to know, says Will Harcourt- Smith, an expert on early-human fossils at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Some infections leave their mark on bones. Athlete’s foot is not one of those infections. But if we make some logical assumptions, we might be able to make a good guess.”
By Rena Marie Pacella
Posted 12.17.2010 at 11:59 am 49 Comments
In April, President Obama urged NASA to come up with, among other things, a less expensive method than conventional rocketry for launching spacecraft. By September, the agency’s engineers floated a plan that would save millions of dollars in propellant, improve astronaut safety, and allow for more frequent flights. All it will take is two miles of train track, an airplane that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound, and a jolt of electricity big enough to light a small town.
There’s a long tradition of offering big cash prizes to entice talented and creative individuals to solve problems that have stymied industry and governments for decades. For example, in 1810, French cook Nicolas Appert won a 12,000-franc government prize for a food preservation method to help feed Napoleon’s army. His demonstration of putting food in airtight glass jars and sterilizing them with heat led to canning techniques that are still used today. Recently, such contests have blossomed, with many geared toward particle physicists and backyard tinkerers alike.
By Bjorn Carey
Posted 12.10.2010 at 11:03 am 25 Comments
It’s never happened, and NASA feels confident that it never will. For one thing, astronauts generally don’t float free. Outside the ISS, they’re always attached to the spacecraft with a braided steel tether, which has a tensile strength of 1,100 pounds. If it’s a two-person spacewalk, oftentimes the astronauts are also hooked to each other.
Every December since 2004, engineers have flown to the South Pole to drill 8,000-foot-deep holes in the ice. The team lowers cables, each strung with 60 disco-ball-size light sensors, into the holes and let them freeze over. So far they have completed 79 such holes, set in a grid half a mile on each side, and plan to drill the final seven this month. The result will be the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cube of ice packed with 5,320 sensors looking for cosmic particles.
The first time Marc DeVidts attended Dragon*Con, a sci-fi convention sometimes known as Nerdi Gras, he felt distinctly underdressed amid all the aliens and space travelers. He decided to outdo them the next time with a project tailor-made for the event’s late-night, darkened dance floors: an LED-laced, iPhone-controlled, all-white suit that flashes light patterns in time with the music. Travolta, meet Tron.
What happens when life takes you somewhere that lacks Internet access or electricity, but you need to use your computer? Whether you’re faking out your boss while on a long fishing trip, or suffering through an extended power outage, there are times when laptop batteries won’t cut it. That’s when this portable solar office setup comes in handy. With a few off-the-shelf parts, you’ll have continuous juice and Wi-Fi anywhere there’s sun and a cellphone signal.
By Morgen Peck
Posted 11.08.2010 at 1:21 pm 0 Comments
Toads. Clouds. Radon gas. Scientists have studied the movement of each of these in desperate attempts to improve earthquake detection methods by even just a few minutes. Now there’s a technology to test the radon theory for good and possibly give warning days before a quake.
As uranium in the earth decays, it emits radon gas, some of which collects in pockets underground. Some seismologists hypothesize that earth shifts imperceptibly in the days before a quake, causing fractures that puncture the pockets and release more radon. But it would take a lot of data to test the theory.
When astronauts next land on the moon, they're likely to whip up a celebratory dinner of freeze-dried macaroni and cheese. But a new self-building greenhouse could supplement that meal with a fresh salad to eat and oxygen to breathe.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.