Tomorrow, yours truly is shipping out to sunny San Mateo, California, for the second-annual Maker Faire. Put on by our good friends at Make and Craft magazines, the Faire is quickly turning into the ultimate DIY gathering anywhere. Ever! I'll be there scoping out the wildest projects and demos—the list is literally too long and amazing to even get into, but you can check out the full schedule over on the Make site, as well as the previews they've been running all month of what we'll be seeing this weekend (personally, I'm pretty pumped for the disco giraffe we featured in How 2.0 a few months back).
So stay tuned here for updates, photos and videos from Maker Faire this weekend. If you're in the Bay Area, come say hi. —John Mahoney
A California research team reveals how Mavericks, one of big-wave surfing's most famous breaks, is formed
By Jim RendonPosted 05.17.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Scientists at California State University at Monterey Bay have discovered why the state's most famous big wave, Mavericks, off the coast south of San Francisco, is so big. The wave, which draws some of the world's best surfers for an annual surfing contest, can reach up to 50 feet tall. Researchers uncovered the mystery this spring while conducting the most detailed mapping yet of the ocean floor off California's coast.
The Fanfin Seadevil is found at nearly 9,000 feet below; photo by David Shale
In her introduction to The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss, Claire Nouvian says she was inspired to create the book after seeing a film of deep-sea creatures made by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: "As crazy as it might seem, I had fallen in love at first sight. Like an adolescent surprised by the power of love . . . " (and so on). But if Nouvian seems overemotional initially, it becomes easier to understand her fervor once you brush aside the intro and skip to the meat: the photos.
Most of the book is composed of giant (frequently larger-than-life-size) photographs of deep-sea creatures: the gelatinous Pandea rubra, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a police strobe light; the seed-like larvae of the Spantagoid heart urchin, whose appendages stretch at near-perfect right angles; glass octopi like living x-rays, frilled sharks, furry lobsters. In all, nearly 200 creatures, some of which have never been photographed before, many of which are unknown species, all of which seem unreal, incomprehensible even.
Nouvian divides the organisms roughly in half—"Life at the Bottom" is one cluster, "Life in the Water Column" another—and intersperses the photos with short essays written by marine biologists from around the world. These pieces cover everything from the history of deep-sea exploration to the truth about sea monsters to the science behind bioluminescence ("without any doubt the most widely used mode of communication on the planet") and, thankfully, are both excellently written and spare. They provide background without ever detracting from the point—the creatures themselves.
Although the deep sea constitutes the single largest habitat on Earth, we understand very little of what exists there. Only 5 percent of the ocean's floor, for instance, has been mapped in any degree of detail. Over the past 25 years, meanwhile, a new creature has been noted nearly every other week. Nevertheless, as Nouvian is quick to point out, that most uncharted of territories is also the least protected. Because we cannot see it, because we're unaware of what is there, she argues, we cannot understand or care about the irreparable damage we are causing. When tropical reefs disappear, it's easy to see the effects our boats, trash and pollution have and to act accordingly. When deep-sea reefs disappear, only a handful of specialized scientists realize what that means.
Early on, Nouvian includes a telling quote by deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard (of Titanic-discovery fame): "At a time when most think of outer space as the final frontier, we must remember that a great deal of unfinished business remains here on Earth." The Deep highlights just how accurate that outlook is.—Abby Seiff
This mobile-phone system helps you choose a sunscreen and tells you when to reapply
By Jebediah ReedPosted 05.15.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Cellphones don't offer much shade on a bright day. But in December, Philips Electronics filed a patent on a system that would allow the devices to help prevent sunburns and skin cancer. The plan integrates information about a cellular customer's location with real-time local data about how much ultraviolet radiation—the component of sunlight that can harm skin—is hitting the area, as measured by the National Weather Service or yet-to-be-installed sensors at popular outdoor spots like beaches and ballparks.
After a lifetime of making racecars go faster, Bruce Crower's new engine uses steam to squeeze more mileage from gas
By Dan CarneyPosted 05.15.2007 at 2:00 am 8 Comments
How do you prevent insurgents from shooting down choppers? How do you keep a cast from itching? How do you reinvent the brick? You sketch. And then you work: nights, weekends-for years, if you have to. You blow all your money, then beg for more. You build prototypes, and when they fail, you build more. Why? Because inventing is about solving problems, and not stopping until your solution becomes real.
A muscle-numbing magic wand protects cops and citizens, Jedi-style
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 05.15.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
How do you prevent insurgents from shooting down choppers? How do you keep a cast from itching? How do you reinvent the brick? You sketch. And then you work: nights, weekendsfor years, if you have to. You blow all your money, then beg for more. You build prototypes, and when they fail, you build more. Why? Because inventing is about solving problems, and not stopping until your solution becomes real.
We're currently rolling out the winners of the 2007 PopSci Invention Awards. We'll be doling out a new innovation each day, so keep checking back for more of what the world's brightest inventors are currently cooking up. And if you just can't wait, pick up a copy of the June issue that just hit the stands.-Eds.
PopSci's official contributing troubadour and podcaster Jonathan Coulton got some major love in the Sunday New York Times Magazine this week as the centerpiece of a story on how musicians are using the Internet to interact directly with their fans in ways that were previously not possible. When he's not interviewing the best and brightest minds of the science world from his PopSci office on the moon or performing at our swanky Future Lounge in Second Life, Jonathan is a full-time, self-supported singer-songwriter. We're all crazy about his tracks here at PopSci (if you haven't heard "Code Monkey" yet, do so at your earliest convenience) and thrilled that Jonathan will probably have an even larger audience to interact with online after this week's piece.