Malaria kills upwards of a million people a year, infects hundreds of millions, and significantly damages the economies of dozens of countries. Cures and prophylaxis for malaria range from bug nets to drugs to gin and tonics, but none are weirder -- or more poetically just -- than a new method that uses mosquitoes themselves to deliver a malaria vaccine.
Some people may think locking some volunteers in a tin can for a couple of months is enough preparation for a flight to Mars, but the NASA panel reviewing the agency's manned space program envisions a more ambitious set of training wheels: docking with asteroids and a flyby of Venus.
The recent anniversary of Apollo 11 has sparked a revived call for manned exploration of Mars. And many have responded to that call by listing the vast technical challenges that such a journey would entail. However, some have worried that the psychological challenge of sending men to the red planet far outweighs any engineering issue.
To test the psychological effect of such a trip, the European Space agency set up simulated Mars missions where six "astronauts" were locked in a tube for months on end. The volunteers for the initial, 105-day, test have just emerged from their titanium chrysalis, and it seems like it wasn't a day to soon.
In a world of rapidly evolving threats, every branch of the military is looking for a way to respond as quickly as possible. But whereas the Air Force, Army and Marines can simply fly to whatever hot spot flares up next, the Navy, by its very nature, still needs to sail. That's where the Underwater Express comes in.
Currently, the Navy's fastest submarine can only travel at 25 to 30 knots while submerged. But if everything goes according to plan, the Underwater Express will speed along at 100 knots, allowing the delivery of men and materiel faster than ever.
When I was taking chemistry in college, the mass spectrometer was a desk-mounted machine about twice the size of a PC. Oh, how times do change. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created the first nanoscale mass spectrometer. Only four micrometers across, the device can measure the mass of single molecules in an entirely novel way.
For years, creating the gears and sprockets needed to make a microscopic robot has required the expensive and time-consuming process of silicon etching. Carving out each individual piece with a laser has made producing more than a couple of pieces prohibitively difficult and costly.
A team at Columbia University now seems to have found a way around that problem. By laying a thin sheet of metal over a special layer of polymer, the team has created nanogears that assemble themselves, opening the possibility of much faster, cheaper, widespread production.
Of the many obstacles preventing manned travel to Mars, spending over a year weightless ranks as one of the biggest. Extended weightlessness degrades the muscles and bones of astronauts so thoroughly that by the time they get to Mars, they may not have the strength to walk on it.
Here at Popular Science, we work under the assumption that ray guns are cool. But you know what's even cooler? A flying ray gun. And thanks to an $8 million dollar funding bump from the Air Force, a flying ray gun is closer to production than ever.
The defense company Raytheon unveiled the beam weapon in 2001; back then they mounted the device on a Humvee. Now, the military's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate has requested an upgrade to the weapon that would allow the JNLWD to attach it to helicopters and other aircraft.