By Lawrence UlrichPosted 06.10.2011 at 10:45 am 23 Comments
Barely a year ago, you could get 40 miles per gallon on the highway in exactly one conventional gas-powered car--the two-seat, toaster-size ForTwo, from Smart. But with fuel prices approaching $4 a gallon, membership in the 40-and-over club is growing fast. Hyundai, Chevrolet and Ford have introduced efficient sedans and hatchbacks. Now an unexpected entrant is joining the club: Mazda, the carmaker that built its reputation on affordable performers like the 155mph Speed3 and the rotary-engined RX-8.
This summer there's an excellent line-up of films full of mind-blowing technology. A stealth aircraft makes an appearance in X-Men: First Class, while the Green Lantern will travel between worlds using a ring that can open up wormholes. Although some of these gadgets remain far beyond the realm of possibility (at least for now), here's the science behind Hollywood's awesome line-up of wrist lasers, vibranium shields and X-jets.
Click here for the summer movie science smackdown.
By Nicholas Money, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 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.
When Jason Woods was 19 and living on his own for the first time, he decided to buy an old ski boat. The 1969 Sportster was perfect for driving girls around Lake Berryessa, near his home in Napa, California, but after a few months, he found that transporting and storing a 16-foot boat was an expensive hassle. He wanted a craft that he could toss in his car and carry to the water. Unfortunately, no options existed.
Our dependence on big systems--big oil, big coal--steers us away from little ones, such as biofuel made from garbage, that are transforming communities in other countries
By Hillary RosnerPosted 06.02.2011 at 5:33 pm 1 Comment
From the backseat of a beat-up Toyota taxi, Thomas Taha Rassam Culhane points out the passing sights. Fraying sacks of charcoal cut from nearby forests wait beside makeshift shops. Corrugated metal, cardboard and other scrap make up the ramshackle huts. A stream of dirty water, stained red by runoff from a nearby factory, runs down the alley. Garbage is everywhere. The ingredients of life here in Mukuru, one of Nairobi's largest slums, are raw. Yet Culhane leans forward in his seat, excited by the possibilities they present.
The taxi stops at the Mukuru Skills Training Center, an art and vocational school. A guard emerges from a small concrete shack to open the front gate. The Mukuru neighborhood is dirty and chaotic, but inside the compound, tidy bits of improvisation are everywhere: An art studio opens onto a small garden filled with herbs and saplings. Three composting toilets turn waste into fertilizer. And outside a bare-bones kitchen, a 500-gallon tank full of old beans and banana peels is slowly generating cooking gas.
When Chris Mullin was a physics postdoc at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California, one of the most annoying parts of his day was his commute. He had to drive half of the 35 miles between his home in Berkeley and his lab in Livermore into near-direct sunlight. The glare gave him headaches and made it tough to see oncoming traffic. “I thought, ‘God, I feel tense, I feel unsafe,’ ” he says. So he came up with an idea: sunglasses that would use an electronic shield to block glare instantly.
A mini inkjet prints on any flat surface with a wave of the hand
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 06.01.2011 at 10:02 am 9 Comments
In 2000, one of Europe’s largest rubber-stamp companies approached Alex Breton, an engineer from Stockholm, Sweden, for product ideas. Instead of dreaming up a new stamp, he designed the PrintBrush, an 8.8-ounce handheld gadget that uses inkjets, computer-mouse-like optics and navigation software to print uploaded images and text on any flat surface, including paper, plastic, wood and even fabric.
By Chadwick MatlinPosted 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.
A robber is cornered in a dead-end alley. He turns to face the police officer pursuing him, ready to fight. He pauses. The officer's left forearm is encased in ballistic nylon, and half a million volts arc menacingly between electrodes on his wrist. A green laser target lands on the robber's chest. He puts his hands up; it's a fight he can't win.
For police and corrections officers, preventing and defusing confrontations can save lives, and that's the premise behind the BodyGuard.