By Lucas Pollock
Posted 07.30.2011 at 3:04 pm 0 Comments
When Jacob Appelbaum spoke at a workshop for Arab bloggers in Beirut in 2009, he knew his audience would pay special attention. The 26-year-old American programmer had spent the previous year in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia and Hong Kong training communities and activists how to use an increasingly popular program called Tor to evade government attempts to track their movements online.
By Joshua Saul
Posted 07.29.2011 at 3:28 pm 1 Comment
During the 2010 season, about 160 NFL players suffered concussions, which doctors have linked to depression, early onset of Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. The number of concussions in the NFL has increased by at least 20 percent each season for the past three years. The rate of concussions among high-school and college players (where they go unreported) is probably much higher.
By Barry Trimmer, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 07.25.2011 at 10:27 am 1 Comment
I make robots that are soft and floppy. If you can change your shape, you can go anywhere—you can squeeze through small holes in a rubble field and navigate unstructured terrain like forests. The problem is that if you’re soft, you’re slow, because when you push against something, your body deforms rather than creating forward motion. So we looked to the caterpillar as a model.
By Joshua Saul
Posted 07.21.2011 at 2:00 pm 8 Comments
"Barnacle" has become a term for something tenacious and problematic for a reason--they are determined little buggers that cause lots of damage to marine craft. But dealing with barnacles can create even more problems than it solves.
By Paul Vaska, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 07.05.2011 at 1:59 pm 2 Comments
I’m an instrument builder, mostly, and I work on positron-emission-tomography devices: PET. Doctors use them to look for cancer, but neuroscientists use them too. In studies with lab rats, they inject a mildly radioactive substance into the rat, and the PET scan measures the gamma rays the substance gives off. This tells researchers what part of the brain the substance is in and what parts are active.
A solar disaster isn't a question of if, but when--and it looks like soon
By Damon Tabor
Posted 06.30.2011 at 3:08 pm 24 Comments
One of the biggest disasters we face would begin about 18 hours after the sun spit out a 10-billion-ton ball of plasma--something it has done before and is sure to do again. When the ball, a charged cloud of particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME), struck the Earth, electrical currents would spike through the power grid. Transformers would be destroyed. Lights would go out. Food would spoil and--since the entire transportation system would also be shut down--go unrestocked.
By Steve Daly
Posted 06.29.2011 at 3:56 pm 0 Comments
John Underkoffler looks at his desktop computer and sees an outmoded, inadequate tool. Trackpads and touchscreens, the former MIT instructor says, are limiting. Don’t even get him started on the mouse. The future, he says, is in gesture recognition-based interfaces, which he calls “spatial operating environments,” or SOEs.
Going once, going twice, sold! to the space enthusiast in the second row
By Jennie Walters
Posted 06.28.2011 at 3:05 pm 3 Comments
In April, NASA announced plans to "donate" four space shuttles to American museums for about $30 million apiece. That's a bit steep for armchair astronauts, but a surprising amount of semi-affordable space stuff goes to auction each year.
By Juliet Eilperin
Posted 06.16.2011 at 10:17 am 10 Comments
In 2005, Eric Stroud, the managing partner of Shark Defense, a New Jersey company that specializes in shark-repelling technologies, happened to be carrying a rare-earth magnet as he passed a tank full of sharks. The sharks fled, and Stroud took note. After further tests, Stroud and his colleagues found that sharks that came within 20 inches of rare-earth magnets similar to the one he had been carrying would consistently swim away.
The same techniques used by vets to speed horse rehab might work for humans, too
By Emily Anthes
Posted 06.14.2011 at 12:53 pm 13 Comments
Over the course of the three races at this year’s Triple Crown, the odds are 10 to 1 that at least one horse will suffer a career-ending injury. “Orthopedically, the horse is a disaster waiting to happen,” says veterinarian Bob Harman. “They’re so big--a 1,000-pound animal on little toothpick legs--and they’re working at high capacity.” Harman is also the CEO of Vet-Stem, a California company that treats racehorses with stem-cell therapy.
By Nicholas Money, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 06.06.2011 at 10:53 am 3 Comments
We know of at least 70,000 species of fungi, but we don’t know how most of them get their spores airborne. That’s what we’re trying to find out. Fungi are spectacularly mobile, especially when they’re launching spores, and that is a tremendous biomechanical feat. For microscopic things, air represents a significant obstacle.
By Katharine Gammon
Posted 05.31.2011 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Three low-energy innovations to keep out the heat help scientists ship snowmen to Bahrain, chill beer with nanoparticles, and bring vaccines to developing areas.
Physicists led by Geoff Smith of the University of Technology– Sydney have created a coating that allows heat to escape all the way into space. When an object radiates heat, some of it bounces off nearby molecules in the air, ending up right back on the object itself.
Major League Baseball pitchers can’t wear white gloves or wristbands because they obscure the ball, making it difficult for batters to gauge a pitch’s path. Professional table-tennis players aren’t allowed to wear clothes that match the ball for similar reasons, but there are no such rules in tennis.
By Chadwick Matlin
Posted 05.31.2011 at 1:10 pm 2 Comments
The U.S. Forest Service has battled fire with fire for nearly a century, but it wasn't until the past decade that backburning--in which professionals set brush alight before a wildfire does--became an exact science. Wildfire experts call this science prescribed burning, and its practitioners are known as burn bosses. Here are three increasingly precise tools to stop a wildfire cold.
By Joshua Saul
Posted 05.20.2011 at 11:03 am 7 Comments
In 2006, Darpa, the Department of Defense’s R&D arm, commissioned AeroVironment, a company specializing in remote aircraft, to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) small enough to fly through an open window. AeroVironment had already built the 4.5-foot-wingspan Raven, which first saw combat over Afghanistan in 2003, but making a UAV so much smaller took five years and 300 different wing designs.
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.