One month from today--July 1st, 2012--is the deadline for the newest InnoCentive challenge. We're looking for suggestions for new applications of a brand-new, unique material, a cementitious calcium carbonate that is remarkably strong and easy to use. It's got some great potential in architecture, ceramics, physical sciences, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals. There's a guaranteed award on this one, which is great--the best suggestion will receive a prize of $7,000. It's a great challenge, and one really well-suited for you guys--we know there are some great brains out there reading this, and we'd love to see some killer PopSci entries. Read more about it over at InnoCentive.
Here's the the question: you can charge an iPhone with any AC-to-USB adapter. So how does Apple get off charging $29 for theirs? Ken Shirriff took one completely apart to figure it out, and it turns out, Apple's charger goes above and beyond what's needed--it's legitimately more complex and sturdier and more capable than other chargers. Upgrades include "super-strong AC prongs, and the complex over-temperature / over-voltage shutdown circuit," as well as a bunch of hardware designed to keep electromagnetic interference to a minimum. Of course, the added hardware probably costs a dollar, and Apple sells it for $20 more than competitors, but still! Teardowns: so useful! [via @mattbuchanan]
Late one night two years ago, Adam Munich found himself talking with two new acquaintances in a chatroom. One, a Pakistani guy, was complaining about rolling electricity blackouts in his country. The other had broken his leg in a motocross accident in Mexico and said his local hospital couldn't find a working x-ray machine. The two situations fused in Munich's mind; he wondered if a cheap, reliable, battery-powered x-ray machine existed—something that could be used in remote areas and function without being plugged in during blackouts. After discovering that the answer was no, he spent two years building one himself out of Nixie tubes, old art suitcases, chainsaw oil, and electronics from across the globe. It was an incredibly ambitious project for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old.
Every year, the editors of Popular Science put hundreds of home-brew inventions through a rigorous vetting process. Are they genuine innovations? Do they solve serious problems? Do they have a chance to become real-world products? This year, the process was no less daunting, but at the end, 10 stood above the rest.
iFixit's beautiful teardowns of products have long been misconstrued as simple gadget porn, when really they're more of an activist call to action: take care of your objects! Repair them, improve them, make them last. iFixit sprung up largely as a response to companies providing wholly inadequate documentation, leaving their customers stranded--and the site's new venture, Dozuki, aims to give those companies a second chance, by taking advantage of what iFixit has made--and in the process, revolutionize the whole idea of the manual.
In my future house, I want a refrigerator that will tell me its contents via Wi-Fi, so I'll be able to check whether I need extra butter when I'm at the market. I want a lamp that will turn on when it senses sunset, so I won't have to adjust my automatic timers; I want a garden-watering system that will gauge whether my tomato plants are thirsty; and I want an outdoor rain/hail/snow sensor so I can make better weather spotter reports.
Being a mad scientist can be a thankless job, but every once in a while you get a chance to shine—literally. I recently had that opportunity when working with a TV show to film one of the most beautiful of all chemical phenomena, the cold luminosity of white phosphorus.
By Adam DachisPosted 04.19.2012 at 5:27 pm 7 Comments
Tablets are taking over the portable-computing market, but that doesn't mean the netbooks that they've replaced are useless. It's possible to jam the processing power and battery life of most netbook models into a smaller, touchscreen-equipped package. The project is very straightforward: Remove a few parts, add a touchscreen overlay (about $80; MyDigitalDiscount), reseal the device in its new tablet form, install a driver, and calibrate the screen. And if you use an old netbook you have lying around (or buy a used one), it costs a fraction of the price of a new tablet.
Some people golf. James Price tiners with the full-blown flight simulator he’s been building in the nose of a Boeing 737 jetliner in his garage for the past two decades. The air traffic controller and aviation enthusiast is now one of only a few people in the world who have built this kind of flight sim in an actual aircraft nose. And he’s among only a handful of people in the world with a toy this cool.