In the age of ballot-box stuffing, the mechanical voting machine promised indisputably accurate election tallies. Sound familiar?
By Adam Voiland
Posted 10.18.2004 at 6:01 pm 0 Comments
"Plot and plan, scheme and engineer as he may, the crooked ward-heeler cannot discover a way of cheating the machine," PopSci wrote in 1920, urging the widespread adoption of mechanized voting as an antidote to Tammany Hallstyle election fraud. The gear-and-lever voting machine seemed to ensure a fair and scientific tally. Although it had debuted two decades before we featured it on our cover, in 1920 it was used in only 17 states. By the 1960s the machine predominated in U.S. elections.
Forensic scientists in Switzerland are pioneering a whole new way to do autopsies. No scalpel required.
By Jessica Snyder Sachs
Posted 10.16.2004 at 3:00 pm 0 Comments
A light shines under the closed door of a radiology suite, down a darkened hallway deep inside the University Medical Center in Bern, Switzerland. Outside the building, under the glow of a fluorescent street lamp, an empty hearse waits in the loading dock. Tonight the local undertaker is earning some extra money making a special delivery. Entering the radiology room through a back door, he gently deposits a body—double-wrapped inside a blue bag—on the sliding bed of a full-body scanner.
Innovations and steep gas prices may at last kick-start wind energy in the U.S.
By Joshua Tompkins
Posted 10.13.2004 at 2:00 pm 1 Comment
Next spring, General Electric will inaugurate the Arklow Bank Offshore Wind Park, a wind farm just off the eastern coast of Ireland. The plant is already operating at nearly full capacity, its seven massive 3.6-megawatt turbines cranking out enough electricity for 16,000 households. Arklow Bank is Ireland´s first offshore wind-energy project and Europe’s 19th, with at least 10 more slated to go up in 2005.
By Ed Finn
Posted 10.01.2004 at 1:00 pm 0 Comments
Sometimes it takes an outsider to bring new perspective to a field of study. Charles Pellegrino has made a career of this, skipping with omnivorous intensity between volcanology, archaeology, astrobiology and paleontology.
In his new book, Ghosts of Vesuvius (William Morrow, $26), Pellegrino throws them all in and then some, tracing the physics of destruction at Pompeii back to the origins of the universe and forward to the fall of the twin towers on 9/11.
By Michael Moyer
Posted 10.01.2004 at 12:00 pm 0 Comments
Vince Lombardi, the grand don of football coaches, once said that the sport is only about two things—blocking and tackling. He was wrong:
Football is only about one thing, and that thing is physics. Timothy Gay, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, takes us on a tour of football through the eyes of a physicist in Football Physics: The Science of the Game (Rodale Books, $22).
By Aimee Cunningham
Posted 10.01.2004 at 12:00 pm 0 Comments
Forget algebra camp—a scientist’s life can also begin with Gilligan’s Island or the James Bond movie Thunderball. Biologist Robert M. Sapolsky of Stanford University idolized Gilligan’s Professor, both for his ability to solve problems and for his implied relationship with Mary Ann (the young and misguided Sapolsky figured that scientists got the girls). Then there’s J. Doyne Farmer, a chaos theorist at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, who started tinkering with rockets after watching 007 blast off using a jet pack.
From crustacean companions she learns
the ups and downs of animal motion.
By Martha Harbison
Posted 09.29.2004 at 7:00 pm 0 Comments
Sheila Patek wants her California spiny lobster to make some noise. “C’mon, Clarisse,” she coaxes. Patek’s left hand is bleeding, the damage inflicted moments earlier when Clarisse, who is at least a foot long excluding antennas, let loose with her barbed tail. Undeterred, Patek keeps giving the lobster light, provocative squeezes. But Clarisse is unmoved.
Unless you are a representative of a national meteorological bureau licensed to carry a barometer (and odds are you’re not), bringing mercury onboard an airplane is strictly forbidden. Why? If it got loose, it could rust the plane to pieces before it had a chance to land. You see, airplanes are made of aluminum, and aluminum is highly unstable.
We predicted that in “a few years hence,” science would find
a way to harvest the full power of the sun. We’re still waiting.
By Dan Clinton
Posted 09.20.2004 at 7:00 pm 0 Comments
“Sunshine, our greatest source of potential power, is now largely wasted,” we declared in October 1934. But that’s not for lack of trying: Throughout history, humans have harnessed the sun’s power with increasingly sophisticated contraptions. One of the first uses of solar energy came in 214 B.C., when Archimedes set Roman warships aflame with reflected sunlight. Things got more complex in 1874, when engineer August Mouchot delivered 0.5 horsepower from a solar-powered steam engine (the steam was generated by transferring heat from a
One scientist turns up the volume on cellular chatter.
By Sam Jaffe
Posted 09.03.2004 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Walk into Jim Gimzewski´s UCLA laboratory, and the first thing you´ll notice is the music thumping out of the speakers. It´s a New Age?y, rustling kind of melody punctuated by a rhythmic drumbeat. You can´t quite dance to it, but it has its own hypnotic allure. The musician?
Scores of independent inventors rally to secure the homeland, one bizarre gadget at a time.
By Jill Davis
Posted 08.30.2004 at 7:00 pm 0 Comments
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received at least 300 applications for devices designed to win the war on terrorism. “Historically, when there is a cataclysmic event, there is a surge in inventor response,” says Richard Maulsby, public affairs officer at the agency. Among the newly minted patents is Boeing’s “intruder-proof flight deck door,” which secures an airplane’s cockpit from the cabin.
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.20.2004 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Environmentalism has reached a new, confused extreme. Recently an environmental council in Sweden’s Jaemtland province rejected an entrepreneur’s request for a permit to hunt the eggs of the mythological Storsjoe Monster, a local version of the Loch Ness Monster. According to legend, the creature lives in Lake Storsjoe and has the body of a serpent, the head of a cat and several winglike fins. The entrepreneur said that he wanted to raise baby monsters as a tourist attraction, but the local environmental council turned down his request.
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.