By M HarbisonPosted 07.11.2007 at 8:16 pm 1 Comment
A cloud of Internet buzz is forming around an as-yet-unnamed JJ Abrams film (the project currently has the working-title "Cloverfield") concerned with monsters destroying New York City. Details are scarce, although the rumors declare it's either a new Godzilla film, a Gears of War film, an alien-invasion film or (I'll freely admit, I'm hoping for this last one), a Cthulhu film. (Lovecraft fans will be cheered to hear that another Cthulhu film is set to be released sometime this fall.)
Of course, no hep flick worth its celluloid would launch without a viral marketing scheme— in this case a series of websites with puzzles, videos of various stripes on YouTube and loads of other stuff that will make you feel like an utter schmuck if you spend too much time on it. So watch the trailer, futz around on the sites if you must, and try to ignore the hype until the actual film comes out. Cthulhu fhtagn! —Martha Harbison
By M HarbisonPosted 07.11.2007 at 10:12 am 3 Comments
Forget the cloak and dagger. You want to be at the forefront of the spy game? Just load up Google Earth. A couple of days ago, the Federation of American Scientists posted images and an interesting analysis of a new kind of Chinese nuclear-propelled ballistic missile submarine, the picture of which cropped up in late 2006 on Google Earth. Check out the pictures and proposed layout of the so-called Jin-Class sub, and revel in the irony: people used to get thrown in jail for looking at this kind of data without a security clearance. Progress, indeed. —Martha Harbison
When thereâ€™s no safe escape, call in the Mules: These unmanned aerial vehicles could save lives on the battlefieldâ€”and off
By David AxePosted 07.11.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
U.S. troops are pinned down in a crowded city center. Several are wounded and need immediate evacuation. There are miles of labyrinthine roads and thousands of enemy gunmen between them and the nearest base. The threat from rocket-propelled grenades has grounded the big helicopters.
Dickson Despommierâ€™s hydroponic metropolis would squeeze sprawling farmland into skyscrapers, feed millions, and cool the Earth
By Amy FeldmanPosted 07.11.2007 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
Al Gore urges everyone to plant trees in An Inconvenient Truth. But where, asks Dickson Despommier, a 67-year-old microbiologist at Columbia University, can we plant them if, as scientists suggest, more and more of the world's forests will soon become farmland to support our explosive population growth?
Kent Couch, a 43-year-old Oregon man, flew 193 miles last weekend in a lawn-chair, strapped to a cluster of 105 helium-filled balloons. Apparently, he hit speeds of up to 25 MPH, and was able to control his altitude, rising with a system of water-filled ballasts that dumped extra weight by opening spigots, and falling by gradually releasing helium from selected balloons.
Couch's feat is impressive, but he's not the first lawn-chair flier to traverse the Western skies: In 1982, Larry Walters rose three miles over Los Angeles in an ill-controlled balloon rig. And a couple years ago, PopSci covered the flights of John Ninomiya, an avid balloon hobbyist who described his helium system in our How 2.0 section. —Megan Miller
After carefully weighing the pros and cons of the PPX trading commission, we have determined, for the foreseeable future, that we will not reinstate it. Some pundits believe that commissions discourage market manipulation, but there is also evidence that markets are self-correcting, and PopSci believes that this will be true in the case of PPX. We took user feedback into consideration when making this decision, and we agree that eliminating the commission will allow for a more fluid market and a more fun game, overall. Happy trading. —The PopSci Editors
By Gregory MonePosted 07.10.2007 at 12:18 pm 0 Comments
Did that advertisement in the mall bother you? Did it make you laugh? Soon, its designers may be able to record your reaction with the help of a tiny video camera and an advanced, facial analysis software package. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Erlangen, Germany are developing a rapid facial analysis program that will determine, based on an image, whether a person is happy, sad or angered while staring at an advertisement. Comparing what it sees to a database of 30,000 facial characteristics, the system determines whether the subject is male or female, and focuses on the contours of the face, eyes, eyebrows and nose to estimate his or her mood. You can watch a demo here. And no, it doesn't talk back to you, like those annoying Minority Report ads - though that day could be approaching. What would be worse, when you're feeling a bit low, than a Gap poster detecting your funk and telling you to cheer up?—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.10.2007 at 12:16 pm 8 Comments
Tennis great Roger Federer appears to be vulnerable to only one thing at Wimbledon, the line-judging technology called Hawkeye. The system calculates the position of the ball at several points during its flight across the net, computes its trajectory, then uses this information to determine how the ball will compress and skid once it hits the grass. Now, when a player challenges a judge's call, Hawkeye takes over, and displays a virtual re-enactment of the ball's flight and bounce on screens around the stadium.
Federer, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win his fifth straight title at the famous grass courts, threw a mini-tantrum in the fourth set on Sunday when the technology ruled that one of Nadal's shots, called out by the judges, had actually glanced the line. The ruling temporarily threw him off his game, as Nadal captured the set and appeared to have the necessary momentum to win the match. Though he did prevail in the end, Federer did not have kind words for the technology, declaring at one point that it was "killing me." In an article in the Times and a detailed post on his site, Paul Hawkins, the inventor of the technology, fired back by saying that the ball was clearly in, and Wimbledon officials stood by Hawkeye, too.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.10.2007 at 12:08 pm 0 Comments
NASA bounced back from the disappointing delay of the Dawn asteroid mission this weekend, reminding space fans that another exciting project is about to launch soon. At some point within a three-week window starting August 3, the Phoenix Mars Lander is slated to begin its journey to the Red Planet, ideally touching down in the northern plains sometime next spring. Once on the surface, Phoenix's two large solar panels will open up, and the lander will start to explore nearby ground with its nearly eight-foot-long robotic arm. A miniature weather station onboard will monitor the climate conditions, including the amount of water and dust in the atmosphere, while the arm will dig down beneath the soil, where scientists expect it will find ice. This isn't just wishful thinking: In 2002, the Mars Odyssey Orbiter uncovered evidence that big sections of Mars have water ice buried inches below the soil. The mission is only set to last for three months, but would be the first time that scientists actually use an instrument to come in direct contact with ice on Mars.—Gregory Mone
Synthetic mucus might help the robot nose smell trouble
By Graeme Stemp-MorlockPosted 07.10.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
The robotic schnozz can sniff for bombs and air pollution, along with other simple chemicals, but it still can't tell a smushed banana from a sprig of peppermint. Now researchers at the University of Warwick in England have hit upon a way to dramatically improve a robot's sense of smell: synthetic snot.
Just as in the human nose, man-made mucus catches molecules and ferries them to scent receptors, which identify individual scent molecules based partially on how long it takes for each molecule to dissolve in the mucus. Molecules of paint thinner,