A wind-powered record player, the microbes of beer pong, and more

Our favorite images of the week


In the 1950s, Jaguar unleashed its classic XKSS, an elite road car (it won three straight LeMans) built for non-professional drivers. The company planned on making 100, but a factory fire destroyed the final nine cars—and the components needed to make them. Now, some six decades later, the company is recreating the lost cars bolt by bolt. We broke down how exactly Jag reverse engineered a design from 1957, from the exact metal alloy to the perfectly weathered leather.

Walking On Air

Designing a robot capable of walking on two legs is actually a lot harder than it seems. To make a bipedal bot that didn’t topple, researchers at UCLA’s Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory created a balloon body buoyed by helium.

Singing In the Wind

Here’s an easy way to build a record player that’s powered by the wind. To avoid chipmunk reprises, you’ll need a steady flow of air, so we suggest using a fan for the best quality.

A Change Of Heart

Sputnik Planitia, an icy plain that forms part of Pluto’s heart, has apparently made a cross-planet move. In two reports out this week, scientists found that due to the pull of gravity, the plain moved 745 miles southeast, toward Pluto’s equator. We outlined the theories in detail, here.


The World Meteorological Organization report this week that 2016 will likely be the hottest year on record. A strong El Nino event in the Pacific may partially explain the record-breaking temperatures.


This new pill developed by researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s hospital opens up into a star-shaped device once it reaches the stomach. There, it releases medication on a daily basis for a week or more. The proof-of-concept pill, which was tested in pigs, could make medicating easier not only for people with chronic illnesses, but also for people in malaria-stricken third-world countries.

Cute But Deadly

There’s a dangerously low amount of batrachotoxin, a potent toxin useful in drug research, left in the world. But this week, researchers report that they figured out a way to synthesize the toxin in a lab. The toxin works by blocking sodium ion channels in nerve cells, rendering the channels useless, and paralyzing the muscles the nerve cells typically help function. Researchers say this mechanism is extremely useful in understanding how to develop proper local anesthetics, which are crucial for modern medicine.

Color Aware

A new app, developed by two Microsoft software engineers, helps some colorblind people better distinguish two colors. The app filters images and makes certain colors appear brighter or darker than they actually are.

Microbe Pong

At last, the beer pong science we’ve always feared: the college party staple, wherein bros toss ping pong balls into cups of beer that the losing team must ultimately chug, is a microbial minefield. To figure out exactly what microbes are at play in beer pong, Popular Science editors challenged researchers at Rockefeller University to a game. Each time the ball moved, we swapped the ball for microbes. Rockefeller researchers analyzed those swabs later to find that beer pong is one microbe-infested game. Check it out here.

Shine A Light

Researchers wanted to figure out how ancient people constructed this 6,000-year-old amulet. Unfortunately, none of them are around to ask. So the researchers used a technique called photoluminescence spectroscopy—basically shining a light on an object and measuring the light that bounces back. The technique is based on the idea that different materials have different wavelengths of light. The group determined that the people that created the amulet used a technique called lost-wax casting, which uses a one-time (rather than permanent) mould.
Claire Maldarelli
Claire Maldarelli

is the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.