On March 1, the Republic of Ireland becomes the first democratic country in the world to ban the traditional incandescent lightbulb. Stores there will no longer carry the century-old technology, which converts only between 5 and 10 percent of electricity into light, losing the rest as radiant heat. (Compare this with the 40 percent efficiency of compact fluorescent bulbs.) In its place, hardware stores will stock shelves with compact fluorescents, halogens and LEDs.
Mars Science Laboratory
Launching in the fall, this research rover will collect and examine Martian soil and rock samples for traces of carbon, life’s most common building block. To find that carbon, ChemCam will fire lasers at the ground and analyze the vapor produced by the impact.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
NASA is going back to the moon—after the LRO finds astronauts a good place to land. Launching on April 24, the LRO will map out the moon’s surface and home in on the poles, where scientists believe there could be water.
Earth's twin could be waiting for us hundreds of light-years away. In fact, thousands of Earth doppelgängers may be lurking in the cosmic distance, orbiting stars just like our sun and maybe, just maybe, harboring life of their own. Although telescopes have identified more than 300 planets outside our solar system, most of them are too harsh to host life. One notable exception to the typical "hot Jupiter" model is a rocky Earth-like planet discovered in 2007, dubbed Gliese 581 c.
Nearly five decades ago, Americans learned that one of their most treasured habits—smoking—was lethal. This year, we could get more scary news, when scientists announce the results from Interphone, the largest-ever study to investigate whether cellphones cause cancer.
NASA will fire up its latest rocket this April for its first test flight. Ares 1 is designed to haul a 25-ton payload, making it capable of ferrying either six astronauts to the International Space Station or four astronauts to low-Earth orbit, where they can transfer to another vehicle and head to the moon. The rocket contains two stages: a reusable solid rocket booster and an engine powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. If all goes well with Orion, NASA’s planned crew vehicle, Ares 1 will be whisking the first crews into space by 2015.
2009 promises to be a big one for all things science and tech-related. From the LHC's big comeback to SciFi blockbuster sequels, you heard it here first. We bring you "The Future Now," and we don't mess around.
Read more of Popular Science'spredictions for 2009.
After years of testing in muddy fields, genetically enhanced flood-resistant rice is about to hit agricultural markets in tropical Asia, following Indonesia, with India and Bangladesh up for approval later this year. Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are expected to follow suit.
Should they cast their eyes skyward at just the right moment, a few lucky observers could see something spectacular this summer: a Boeing 747 splitting open a ballistic missile with a laser in mid-flight. After 12 years and $5 billion in R&D, the Missile Defense Agency’s Airborne Laser (ABL) will make its first real-world attempt to shoot down a missile in midair.
These three projects will harness natural resources to powerful effect.
This resort town, population 11,000, plans to moor four 260-foot-tall turbines a mile and a half offshore, at a total cost of $40 million. Along with Hull's two existing onshore turbines, wind power could generate 14 megawatts, enough to supply energy to the entire community.