After I die, I donâ€™t want to rot slowly six feet under or be reduced to a pile of ashes. Can you suggest any unusual alternatives to burial or cremation?
By Elizabeth SvobodaPosted 02.23.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Our favorite alternative for the afterlife-being launched into space like James Doohan of Star Trek's Mr. Scott fame-is suitable for those not bothered by the vagaries of commercial space launches. But if you like the idea of giving back to the planet after you leave, "promession," a body-disposal method developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak, may be the way to go. A body is put in a con-tainer and dipped in a vat of liquid nitrogen cooled to "321 degrees F, which dehydrates it and makes it so brittle that a jolt of vibration "shatters" it into heaps of powder.
I had the good fortune to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting this past weekend on behalf of the magazine. One symposium I missed, though, was "Science under Attack", which provided an overview of the current ideologically motivated attacks on both scientific research and science education in the U.S., and provided potential responses from the scientific community. (As I explained to a friend, I figured there was little reason to go to a debate about such matters, as there is really no scientific debate at all.) Looks like I missed a good one. As astronomer Phil Plait explains on his excellent Bad Astronomy weblog, the meeting served as a call to arms to scientists who are tired of having their empirical evidence equivocated with faith-based preconceptions. Specifically, he calls out some in the media who all too often serve as patsies in the fight:
To the media, please, dont simply take what people say and repeat it. Dont feel the need to get "balance" in your reporting by talking to "both sides". Sometimes there arent two sides! If someone builds a Holocaust museum, would you interview a white supremacist who says the Holocaust never happened to achieve "balance"? When a new vaccine comes out for a virus, would you interview a homeopath so that "both sides are heard"?
Im curious to see whether this meeting, following closely as it does on the heels of the Dover decision (in which a federal court ruled that the Dover school district could not include Intelligent Design in its science curricula) and the ID retreat in Ohio, will mark a watershed moment in the willingness of scientists to stand up for themselves. Might this mark the beginning of 2006: The Year Science Fought Back? —Michael Moyer
A few months ago, a friend got his laptop stolen out of his checked bag somewhere between the gate and the carousel—an incident made all that much more painful by his failure to have backed up his system in the past six weeks. It reminded me that I don't back up enough either, mostly because I'm cheap and lazy. Apple's free Backup annoys me because it stuffs everything into a proprietary format that you need the program to unstuff again. Then I found Silverkeeper, a free application from hard drive-maker LaCie. No complicated fancy features you'll never use—just give it a folder to copy stuff from and a folder to copy stuff to. After the initial backup, it'll only copy new files (unless you tell it otherwise) on the schedule that you set. It'll even wake your machine from sleep to do a 2 a.m. backup while you rest peacefully, knowing that if your machine goes kablooey or gets snatched, a copy of the important stuff is safely stashed elsewhere. Silverkeeper is Mac only, but PC folks can check out Karen's Replicator, a similarly competent bit of backup freeware. (And if you don't have an extra hard drive to back up to, see our guide to building your own in the March issue.) —Mike Haney
In our March issue, we showed you how to turn an Altoids tin into a portable charger for juicing up your cell phone, Blackberry, or MP3 player. Now, check out our slideshow of other Altoids gadgets, complete with links where you´ll find more creative ideas for transforming your favorite metal mint box.
Hot off the presses: Highlights from the world's biggest science conference
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.22.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
The annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference covers arguably the greatest variety of subjects of any science conference in the world. This year's gathering, held in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted symposia on everything from astrobiology to veterinary ethics. And although it's impossible for one reporter to cover more than a small fraction of the 200-plus scientific sessions held over five days, here are a few highlights of the most exciting research happening now.
A new study by University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba (funded by the Clorox company) answers the question that no working stiff really wants answered: What is the germiest profession? (Teachers, accountants and bankers round out the top three of gross, if you really must know.) Gerba stopped by the offices of PopSci the other day and offered to test some of the work surfaces with a device that looks for metabolic activity. The idea was to determine if we degenerate journalists are as filthy as were made out to be in the movies. Turns out, we are. The copier's Start button was a cesspit of bacteria, and Im never touching the editor-in-chiefs door-handle again. The toilet seats in the ladies room? Pretty clean! As for my desk…Im not saying anything except I attacked it with disinfectant right after I showed my esteemed guest to the door. —Martha Harbison
This novel concept uses your carâ€™s wasted heat to enhance power and fuel economy
By Matthew PhenixPosted 02.21.2006 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Certain parts of a car´s engine can reach temperatures in excess of 1,500�F. With this in mind, the engineers at BMW developed a way to boost efficiency: Transform that otherwise wasted heat into energy the engine can use. The resulting Turbo- steamer reclaims more than 80 percent of the heat lost from the engine´s exhaust and cooling systems. It uses this surplus heat to generate steam that helps drive the engine. It boosts power and torque by 10 percent and cuts fuel consumption by 15 percent without using a single additional drop of gasoline.
It floats, it flies, it eliminates enemy targets-meet the water-launched unmanned enforcer
By Bill SweetmanPosted 02.21.2006 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, famed for the U-2 and Blackbird spy planes that flew higher than anything else in the world in their day, is trying for a different altitude record: an airplane that starts and ends its mission 150 feet underwater. The Cormorant, a stealthy, jet-powered, autonomous aircraft that could be outfitted with either short-range weapons or surveillance equipment, is designed to launch out of the Trident missile tubes in some of the U.S. Navy's gigantic Cold Warâ€era Ohio-class submarines.
For the helmet-haters: a soft beanie lined with elastic polymers that stiffen upon wipeout
By Nicole DyerPosted 02.21.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Nineteen-year-old expert skier Janne van Enckevort was told that this cap would harden when his head struck the ice. To make sure, he removed the spongy pads lining the hat, crumpled them into a ball, and then smashed them against the floor. The ball stiffened upon impact, then quickly softened again.