If you ever see a large industrial metal fire (yes, they happen) on the news, you may be surprised at what the firefighters do to extinguish it: nothing. Several metals, including lithium, sodium and magnesium, can burn easily, and from time to time large amounts catch fire in factories. But even heaps of burning metal need not cause immediate panic. They don't blow up; instead they tend to build up ash that chokes off their oxygen supply, so they slowly burn out.
Your dirty hands can harbor millions of germs, but simply washing your hands with regular soap—making sure you vigorously rub them together for 30 seconds—will slough enough microbes down the drain to cut that number to the tens of thousands.
Our experts tackle the answer to your burning questions
By Matt CokeleyPosted 06.05.2008 at 3:06 pm 7 Comments
You may find this hard to believe if you’re standing near a swarm of chain smokers, but most scientists think the trace amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants in cigarette smoke have, at most, a negligible effect on the climate. “In fact,” theorizes John M. Wallace, a professor at the University of Washington’s climate-research department, “it might even counteract global warming by an equally minuscule amount, because the white particulate matter in smoke would reflect some of the sun’s energy, thereby minimizing heat.”
The real reason Sony’s new mini speakers are so powerful
By Mike KobrinPosted 06.05.2008 at 2:50 pm 2 Comments
Sony's petite SRS-ZX1 computer speakers produce outsize bass for their dimensions (7.5 by 3.1 by 7 inches). But the company's press release had us stumped. It said that the speakers amplify low tones by directing sound along a Möbius strip, a flat strip twisted 180 degrees and joined at the ends. One problem: A Möbius strip is a two-dimensional closed loop. How would sound get in or out?
From the smallest pro camera to a static-free music phone speaker our editors round up the summer's must-have products
By PopSci StaffPosted 06.05.2008 at 12:59 pm 1 Comment
In each issue, PopSci rounds up the must-have products for the month. This June, check out dozens of the hottest new products: from the smallest pro camera to a eco-friendly mower to a frame that prints out its shots.
New lenses let amateur astronomers see the stars in more detail
By Eric AdamsPosted 06.04.2008 at 11:30 am 0 Comments
AstroTech’s ultra-compact telescope is priced for amateurs, yet it rivals larger, more expensive models. By packing in three glass lenses, it focuses red, green and blue light all at a single point. This eliminates the blurry, bluish halo in two-lens amateur scopes, which focus blue light in a different spot than red and green.
Newly discovered human skeletons suggest that people are people, no matter their height
By Day GreenbergPosted 06.04.2008 at 11:21 am 7 Comments
From left to right, a modern human female skull, a fragment of an older Palauan skull, and a model of a Homo floresiensis skull.
It could be any human skull, but this one is in fact much smaller and comes with a lot more controversy. In 2006, South African paleoanthropologist Lee Berger discovered this skull and thousands of other human bones piled in corners, buried under sand, or cemented to walls by dripping flowstone (the mineral that makes stalagmites) in a pair of burial caves in the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Millions of nanosize nails form a highly repellent surface
By Day GreenbergPosted 06.03.2008 at 2:13 pm 5 Comments
A trio of prismatic drops (left to right: water, ethylene glycol and ethanol) balances on a new ultra-repellent surface invented by scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The surface, made up of silicon spikes just 400 nanometers wide, physically repels a wide variety of liquids, including water, oil, solvents and detergents.
Previously, scientists relied on chemical modification to make surfaces repel liquids, a time-consuming process. In the end, each coating worked to repel only certain liquids, and oil-repellent surfaces simply weren't possible to manufacture.
France considers a slower mode of luxury air travel
By Lisa KatayamaPosted 06.03.2008 at 12:02 pm 2 Comments
The High Life
Most of us fly for speed, but French industrial designer Jean-Marie Massaud believes that slow cruising in an airship could be the next step in air travel. Massaud has sketched airships since the age of five, he says, and has since collaborated with major brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Yamaha to design, respectively, perfume bottles and submarines. Now he's partnering with Onera, France's space agency, to create the world's first luxury airship. The design of the Manned Cloud calls for a double-decker, 5.6-million-square-foot airship shaped like a whale. Boasting a top speed of 105 mph and outfitted with all the amenities of a cruise ship, it would ferry 55 passengers from Paris to Madagascar in four days, offering a turbulence-free, unpressurized flight at an altitude of a mere 9,800 feet.
Find your friends five ways with these sleuthy Web services
By Eric MikaPosted 06.02.2008 at 1:35 pm 1 Comment
By now, even your toddler knows where and how to locate just about anything on the Web. But unless your friends are all dialed in to the same social network, a white-pages-style directory for finding actual people is often harder to come by. These five services aim to change that.