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Popular Science Australia September 2018

This is the most exciting time to be alive in history. Discovery and innovation are reshaping the world around us, and Popular Science makes even the most complex ideas entertaining and accessible. By taking an upbeat look at today's most revolutionary science and technology, we forecast what tomorrow will be like. We deliver the future now!

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the technology is the personal

Not because of the way they project holograms around the room or have icons that float in mid-air next to them. No, the unrealistic part is how all the personal communications tech in The Expanse looks the same.According to The Expanse ’s exhaustively detailed wiki, the handsets people use in that universe (about 250 years in our future) are just dumb terminals. They hook into some kind of ubiquitous computing service that’s everywhere - embedded in the walls even - and your mobile phone bill reflects how much computing power you used over the month, or whatever.And that’s a prediction I can get behind. We’ve already offloaded all our non-personal data storage to the internet, and we’re in the process of giving “the cloud” our personal stuff too.But what…

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fastest airbag ever

As the world’s car manufacturers continue to deal with airbag recalls, other airbag developers have the luxury of not needing to protect human lives. All they need to protect is a massive investment in time and money on the part of NASA.The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is a concept re-entry vehicle designed to help probes and rovers survive the punishing process of setting down on Mars. The disc-shaped vehicle deploys an airbag to create atmospheric drag (even in Mars’ extremely wispy excuse for an atmosphere), and to induce a stabilising spin. This test vehicle, sitting on a recovery barge in the Pacific in 2014, worked perfectly - at least in terms of the airbag. Ironically, its old-school parachute, which only opened at the last minute, was torn apart and the…

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arthur c clarke does it again

The idea of using airbags on the outside to decelerate a spacecraft isn’t new, and has popped up once or twice in SF movies that try to be “about the science”. A very early appearance was in the 1984 film 2010: The Year We Make Contact, where bags protected the Leonov as it used Jupiter’s atmosphere to brake into an orbit around Io. Why such a high-risk manoeuvre? Because it looks cool! ■…

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mobile macro

ON THEIR OWN, SMARTPHONE CAMERAS CAN grab impressive images of the full-size world. But while their wide-angle lenses can effortlessly capture landscapes, they can’t expose the miniature scenery all around us. That requires some extra glass. The Moment Macro Lens magnifies what your phone sees by 10 times, revealing, for example, ordinary salt—seen in the inset at upper left—as a vista of jagged crystals.The setup contains a lens and a removable hood. To capture a sharp, well-lit image of a tiny scene, place the translucent lens hood on or around the subject; it’s clear enough for ambient light to illuminate the object but opaque enough to block excess rays that can create distracting flares or other artefacts.Inside, three curved glass elements focus the remaining light into the camera.…

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measured success

TO LOVE PRECISION IS TO LOVE DECIMAL POINTS. MINUSCULE measurements can make all the difference with pernickety processes like hanging a perfectly level picture, baking a Pinterestworthy batch of cupcakes, or even crafting a masterful cuppa. These digital tools can precisely perceive the tiny increments that can turn a merely good result into a truly great one. 1 Weight A sprinkle of excess baking powder can ruin your confections, but the American Weigh AMW-SC-2KG digital scale uses strain gauges to meter ingredients—or anything else you can fit on its 100-mm steel tray—down to 0.2 grams. 2 Colour Film, photos, and video games deserve accurate color. The Datacolor Spyder5PRO employs a light sensor called a colorimeter with seven built-in filters to detect changes in hue and brightness scarcely…

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NOTE ON PRICING: Prices, where appropriate, are given in currency of origin because the USD is on a bit of a tear right now. Also, we can’t figure out the import rules anymore, like do you always have to pay GST on top of everything now, or what? Still, at least it means we don’t have to go to a shop. Ugh! Modal Electronics SKULPT www.modalelectronics.com $449 We love analogue synthesisers here at PopSci and we’re open-minded enough to give some of the digital ones a go too. Modal’s says this is a “virtual analogue” synth. Okay. It’s a four-voice synth with all the esoteric synth features you’ve forgotten about since the rats got to your Telstar EP. Still Modal’s has rep…