The scene Thursday outside of an Americatown, USA Best Buy. Photo by Matt McGee
What a day it has been. November 17, 2006: the date that will go down in history as the moment the world lost its collective mind over a new video game console. I'm as excited as the next guy about the sweet new hardware coming out this weekend, but damn...
I pose a challenge: find me a major online media outlet—local, national or otherwise—that doesn't have at least one mention of the insanity surrounding the Playstation 3 launch. With so many angles to choose from, it's going to be tough: there's the obvious low-hanging fruit in the unwashed hordes who, in forming ad-hoc shanty towns in parking lots around the country, sacrificed not only the $600 for the console and how ever much more for games and accessories, but also their dignity. But wait a minute, there's also the heartwarming tale of said unwashed immediately regaining said dignity (and an obscene profit) after, upon returning home, foregoing the urge to shower just long enough flip their just-purchased console on eBay.
The list goes on: armed robberies of Gamestop stores, Ludacris-hosted parties for the NYC refugees at the Sony Store, riots at a California Best Buy, shameful enlistments of the homeless to wait in line, a man hospitalized after running into a light pole in a mad dash for his place in line (a full day before they even went on sale) and my personal favorite, a first-hand account on a forum of a man who, along with his fellow campers, was robbed at gunpoint outside of a New York mall by a man hoping to take advantage of some tired, delirious gamers that may or may not have $600 in cash in their wallets.
Stay tuned for a similar challenge on Sunday when we do it all over again with Nintendo's Wii. Can't wait! —John Mahoney
We here at PopSci.com cordially invite you to attend the grand opening of our brand-new home in Second Life—the PopSci Future Lounge! Our virtual digs will be the place to come hang out with PopSci editors, attend events and concerts, pick up some free schwag or take a ride in our futuristic Concepts and Prototypes vehicles before they exist in the real world.
Join us tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. PST (9:30 p.m. on the East Coast) for opening remarks and a ribbon-cutting by editor in chief Mark Jannot (PS Mandelbrot in-world), and stay to check out live sets from PopSci podcaster Jonathan Coulton as well as Second Life musicians Nance Brody and DJ Nexeus Fatale. Or swing on up to our green-roof dancefloor/garden. Or pick up a shiny new Nokia 770 Internet Tablet for your avatar to chat with. Or kick back and see the video on our massive solar-powered flat screen. Or fly around on a kick-ass rocket-powered PopSci Slegeway (we're giving one free to the first 100 attendees. I've already logged some serious flight time, and they're a blast). Seriously, PopSci knows how to virtually throw down.
So come on over to our new home tonight (SL link here, be sure to IM Baccara Millionsofus in-world to get on the guest list)—we're the place with the giant Skystream windmills on the roof; you can't miss it. We've warned the neighbors over at Wired that it could be a rager (possibility of Wired vs. PopSci dance competition: high). And if this whole Second Life thing still doesn't make much sense, why not have a look at our in-depth primer from the September issue and give it a try? See ya there!—John Mahoney/Ricky Romeo
Though A-Team reruns would have you believe otherwise, vehicles that crash in real life aren’t immediately and inexorably consumed by giant explosions. Any movie geek knows this. Gasoline doesn’t explode—it burns, just like wood—except in the uncommon environment of an internal combustion engine. Yet our unlucky racer’s motorcycle blows up with such vigor, you’d think Michael Bay placed the explosive charges there himself. So what gives?
The answer lies in the way the bike tumbles across the racetrack. Take a close look at how it flips before conflagration. The first time the bike bounces off the ground, the force seems to knock the cap off the gas tank. As the bike flips again, you can see racing fuel spray out of the top of the tank in great arcs, billowing through the air along with the dirt and gravel kicked up by the skid. This, as they say, is a bad sign.
Gasoline, like every other fuel, needs oxygen to burn. Ordinarily, if you were to set a match to a pool of gasoline, only its surface would burn, because only its surface would be in contact with the oxygen in air. But as it’s injected into your engine, the gasoline is atomized (imagine a tiny gasoline spritzer set on “mist”) in order to thoroughly mix the fuel with air before your spark plug ignites the combination. Since every bit of nearby fuel is now surrounded by oxygen, this flame spreads almost instantaneously through the combustion chamber until everything is alight.
But in the case of the motorcycle explosion, the bike’s acrobatics did the work of atomizing the gasoline. Once a spark ignited the little droplets, the whole thing went up in a bang. So a word to the wise: If you’re going to have a catastrophic accident in a motorcycle race, try to keep your gas cap on. —Michael Moyer
Productivity is at an all-time low around the office since we discovered wavelit.coms watering-hole webcam. Set atop a termite mound and focused on a little pond on Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which abuts South Africas Kruger National Park, the 24-hour-a-day Africam pans and zooms to get the best, longest view of the creatures that visit. Right now its nighttime in the reserve, and nary a wildebeest is stirring, but earlier we saw a pack of impala, a herd of snorting buffalo, a critter that appeared to be a hyena and, best of all, a hulking rhino looking for a drink. OK, so a lot of the time, nothing happens, but its fun to keep a window open on your desktop anyway. The sound of chirping crickets calms this beleaguered cubicle dweller, and its a gas to yell Warthog! across the office and see your colleagues come running. —Martha Harbison
Sometimes at night, scientists stare out at the vast universe, and they wonder whats out there. They wonder if its wondering about us. They wonder if whatever's out there is, at that very moment, looking down and marveling at the Great Wall of China or the glimmering lights of our magnificent cities. Or the giant faces of our fast-food mascots.
One would have thought that after two centuries of existence, something as commonplace
as the nail would be about as good as it's going to get. Try telling that to the man they call
With a few subtle but ingenious tweaks, Ed Sutt has revolutionized the
nail as we know it. Listen in as podcaster Jonathan Coulton sits down with
Dr. Nail himself to discuss what went into PopSci's 2006 Innovation
of the Year.
Make the open-source Nokia 770 Internet tablet do anything
By Joe Brown and John Mahoney
Posted 11.13.2006 at 3:00 am 1 Comment
Imagine a gadget that fits in your back pocket and lets you surf the Web anywhere, write documents, make VoIP calls, watch movies, and listen to your entire music library. That´s not exactly what Nokia had in mind when it released the 770 ($360; nokia.com), a PDA-size Internet tablet with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But because the device has an open-source operating system, anyone can build new programs for it, endowing it with nearly endless functions (we´ve nicknamed it the HackBerry).
NASA's baby gets a checkup and a bunch of new toys
By Michael Moyer
Posted 11.09.2006 at 3:00 am 0 Comments
For a gallery of Hubble's most incredible images, click "View Photos" at left The terrific thing about NASA chief Michael Griffin's decision to launch a Hubble servicing missionthe telescope's fifth since 1990isn't simply that the spacecraft will be able to limp along for another four years. After astronauts visit Hubble on this latest mission (set to launch no earlier than May 2008), the telescope will be more powerful than it has ever been, thanks to some incredible new instruments being tested now.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.