Wednesday, President Bush announced the first official update to the National Space Policy in over a decade. Unsurprisingly, the standoffish document (download it here) is garnering negative reactions for its "with us or against us" treatment of space militarization. Most notable among these reactions was the one communicated by former vice president Al Gore during his lunch address at Thursday's Wirefly X Prize Executive Summit in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Here's a bit of what he had to say:
“Very few people have analyzed the insides of this new space policy. I urge all of you who are interested in space to analyze it very carefully. It has the potential, down the road, to create the [same] kind of fuzzy thinking and chaos in our efforts to exploit the space resource as the fuzzy thinking and chaos the Iraq policy has created in Iraq. It is a very serious mistake, in my opinion.
“We in the United States of America may claim that we alone can determine who goes into space and who doesn’t, what it’s used for and what it’s not used for, and we may claim it effectively as our own dominion to the exclusion, when we wish to exclude others, of all others. That’s hubristic.”
In the document's most telling passage, the United States pledges its commitment to the "use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes." Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Next sentence: "Consistent with this principle, 'peaceful purposes' allow U.S. defense- and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests." The idea seems to be that everyone should use space peacefully, but if we happen to deem it necessary to destroy another nation's communications satellites with any one of the numerous anti-satellite weapon systems the U.S. is currently developing, well, tough cookies. Watch PopSci's exclusive video of Gore's speech below. —John Mahoney and Megan Miller
The PopSci staff is a diverse group with wide-ranging interests—our extracurricular activities include, in no particular order, hand-stand classes, sci-fi conventions, kickball, triathlons, furries…and we even have a factchecker who plays in a gamelan ensemble. But there are two things dear to every PopSciers heart: robots and tasty alcoholic beverages.
This week we're unveiling PopSci's House of the Future in California—a real, live wonder-mansion built in partnership with Sunset magazine that contains all sorts of amazing gadgets and new technologies designed to make everyday life easier, more fun and better for the planet. As I write this, our publisher and ed-in-chief are in the Bay Area, preparing to fête the houses big opening day. (Stay tuned for lots of coverage of the house in the coming months.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, PopSci.com is celebrating the futuristic-house concept with the launch of a brand-new video blog called "Future Girl" (yup, thats me). The first episode is all about—you guessed it—"Houses of the Future." I talked to Barry Bergdoll, newly appointed curator of architecture and design at MoMA, about emerging trends in home design. I don't want to give too much away, but Bergdoll's vision includes "interactive membranes." (It's probably best if you just watch the video.)
So what's the plan for "Future Girl"? Each month I will interview a notable innovator or expert from the world of science and technology, and probably dance around to the awesome theme song written by contributing troubador Jonathan Coulton. You will watch and laugh and learn. Doesnt that sound nice? Check out the video here and let me know what you think. —Megan Miller
We handpicked a host of lovely and powerful cyborgs to illustrate Annalee Newitz's essay on pop-culture fembots, but film and TV history has blessed us with many, many more. Who did we miss? Which 'bot in this gallery is your favorite? Next week I'd like to crown one fembot with a People's Choice Award. Personally, I think Kelly LeBrock (Weird Science) portrayed the hottest fembot ever. What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below.
Amino acids are having a moment. Theyre nutritions new black, if you will. Not that you shouldnt keep taking your antioxidants and bioflavanoids or whatever, but those supplement bottles lined up on your kitchen counter just reek of 2005. This seasons miracle micronutrients dont need to be taken in pill form—theyre already in everything from your favorite energy drink to your trusty hangover remedy.
Exhibit A: A new study conducted at Cincinnatis Genome Research Institute indicates that leucine, an amino acid found in meat and dairy, may be responsible for regulating the neural circuits that control appetite. Does this explain why eating a big steak is so satisfying? Maybe. But my moneys on the fact that its just plain delicious.
Exhibit B: For reasons unknown, the folks at Red Bull recently installed a fridge full of their trademark jitter-inducing soft drinks at PopSci HQ—right outside my cubicle. And you wouldnt believe how quickly the staff is putting them away (our general manager, in particular, has a real problem). Although I suspect the drinks heavy dose of caffeine has a lot to do with their popularity, they also contain taurine, a basic building block of protein, which may or may not live up to the companys claim of giving you a superhuman boost of energy.
Exhibit C: On Friday evening, a group of friends and I tested out Kampai, a powdery supplement that contains L-glutamine and L-alanine and is purported to stop hangovers in their tracks. You just suck down a packet of the stuff before you begin drinking, and its supposed to dramatically reduce the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. I felt groovy the next morning after drinking four beers and sleeping only five hours, so my unscientific opinion is that the stuff definitely helped. My friends, however, went overboard with the beer drinking and reported feeling as lousy as ever on Saturday. —Megan Miller
According to a report in Englands Daily Mail, Limey soldiers will soon begin skydiving into war zones wearing carbon-fiber stealth wings fitted with mini turbojets that allow them to cruise up to 125 miles—literally under the radar—into enemy territories, at speeds of up to 140mph (!). Theyll do all this after jumping from planes at 27,000 feet, while carrying a couple hundred pounds of equipment on their backs. Whoa. My first thought was that once they land, these guys are going to look superdorky walking around with big, awkward airplane wings strapped to their backs. My second thought was that a fleet of 300-pound dudes in black bat suits speeding through the sky sounds terrifying, like the creepiest possible real-life version of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. My third thought was: Could I jump off the roof of my building and commute to work in one of these getups? How do I get one? —Megan Miller
Related: The Navy's Swimming Spy PlaneStealth ThreatThe Science of Stealth
Lots of people in the media—myself included—are getting really hyped up about global warming these days. All this talk about carbon-dioxide this and fuel-efficiency that. The level of collective anxiety is enough to make me go on a (locally grown, organic) potato-chip binge. Or something. But recently, the cheeky monkeys over at Cosmic Variance advanced a fascinating new theory: that feminism, not greenhouse gas, is destroying the planet. To support their tongue-in-cheek hypothesis, they used a cool new Google tool to build a helpful graph showing tons per capita of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere as a function of the ratio of girls-to-boys attending school in different countries. Where women are educated, they suggest, environmental destruction inevitably follows. Read it and weep. —Megan Miller
Related:It's Pretty Easy Being GreenThe Life Aquatic
It all started a few days ago with MacSaber, an application that turns
motion-sensor-equipped Mac laptops into motion-sensor-equipped Mac laptops
that make light-saber noises when swung madly through the air. It is fairly
entertaining for the swinger, and fairly horrifying for anyone observing the
reckless abandon with which such a beautiful and valuable machine is swung,
as I found out recently when PopSci.com webmistress Megan Miller subjected
me to a stealthy sneak attack with her shiny new MacBook.
Of course, the phenomenon has already hit YouTube, and here I give you first
a parody of our favorite unknowingly-filmed Star Wars Kid. This one is all
well and good, but this, friends, is the coup de grace. I
hereby proclaim that the ultimate apex of nerdery has been officially
reached, at the point where Star Wars, MacBooks, webcams, the Internet,
plush pleather computer chairs and people who look like the Comic Book Guy
Today just so happens to be the 29th anniversary of Star Wars's theatrical
release, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate. —John Mahoney
It sure would be cool to be a university-supported scientist in the Netherlands. Then, instead of just wondering what the moving parts on the inside look like when youre doing the humpty dance, you could use grant money to find out! Thats what these clever researchers did, anyway, by soliciting amateur street acrobats to have sex in an MRI machine. They shot the first images showing how tab A fits into slot B, and also how slot B responds to orgasm in a multiparous (mother of multiple kids) woman. Go ahead—take a gander. It's riveting. They say you know porn when you see it, right? Um, this isnt porn. —Megan Miller
For weeks now, Mac-o-philes have been slavering over the possibility of a redesigned Video iPod, rumored to be slated for release this spring. The latest whispers are that the device will be introduced on April 1, the 30th anniversary of the founding of Apple Computers, and that it will be approximately the same size as the current iPod, only with a full-size, horizontally viewable screen. Today I found this video that supposedly shows what it will look like. It's pretty neat-looking, but is it a hoax? My guess is probably. Who would leak this to You Tube? And could the click wheel really be a part of the screen like that? Wouldn't it get all smudgy? Huh. Questions abound... —Megan Miller
The Idaho Senate recently announced that, because it's so important to make improvements in math and science education, they'll be giving out bonuses to attract qualified educators to the state. Yay Idaho! But they also announced that the pay increase will be a mere 3.75%. The average starting salary for an Idaho teacher is $30,000, so that's a raise of just over $100 a month. The big kicker: Teachers won't even be eligible for the bonus until they've been working in the state for five years. Seriously? Ya think that's the way to lure teachers to Boise? Boo, Idaho. —Megan Miller
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.