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Popular Science

Popular Science Winter 2019

This is the most exciting time to be alive in history. Get Popular Science digital magazine subscription today and see why. By taking an upbeat, solutions-oriented look at today's most audacious science and revolutionary technology, we forecast what tomorrow will be like. We deliver the future now.

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Land:
United States
Språk:
English
Utgiver:
Bonnier Corporation
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Quarterly
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4 Utgaver

i denne utgaven

1 min.
these walls talk too much

TWO DAYS AFTER MY WIFE gave birth to our daughter, we returned home, to the same place we’ve lived for the past handful of years. It was the same apartment, except now it was completely different: In the two days since we turned from a family of two into a three-person crew, our house got loud. I first noticed when my wife asked me for some trail mix. As I opened the snack drawer, I knocked a precariously balanced pot lid into a cast-iron canyon and activated a Rube Goldberg-like symphony of cascading metal. The baby, whom we had spent the past 90 minutes soothing, promptly screamed as if to compete with the noise. We got her back to sleep, Christine got her trail mix, and I decided to change clothes. On…

2 min.
contributors

Sara Chodosh Assistant Editor Sara Chodosh earned a B.A. in neurobiology and philosophy of science at the University of Pennsylvania, but in her senior year decided she’d rather analyze research as a journalist than perform it herself. She later learned to express information visually, and aesthetically, through the coding language R and Adobe Illustrator. For her feature on page 64, she parsed the data to explain, in screaming detail, precisely what happens physiologically in infants when they cry—and how that unmistakable sound registers in the adult brain. Ryan Bradley For his story on page 66 about NASA’s Deep Space Network and the signals it picks up from probes like Voyager I and II, Ryan Bradley traveled to the Mojave Desert. There, he avoided scorpions, rattlesnakes, and biting donkeys to reach the 230-foot-wide, 3,000-ton…

1 min.
sound it out

BOOM! SPLAT! POW! CAN YOU HEAR the difference? These words evoke three very different sorts of collisions. It might seem obvious that all languages have ways of representing common noises, but linguists long considered onomatopoeias—terms that spell out the sound they name—to be something less than “real language.” In fact, some languages have uniquely rich systems that go beyond basic onomatopoeia to encode moods, experiences, and visuals into delightfully specific words called ideo phones. This network shows some of the best, and how they overlap and interconnect across many tongues from around the world.…

2 min.
a quiet place

WHAT WOULD YOU PUT in your dream home? A pool? A wine cellar? For the 48 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, practical considerations can trump showy add-ons. Instead of installing a basement ball pit, for instance, you might add a doorbell that vibrates your phone when someone’s there. We’ve used simple tweaks—and theoretical gizmos based on emerging tech—to build a house that doesn’t assume you can hear. Aging boomers and lifelong earbud addicts could help give some of these design principles an increasingly universal appeal. But even if your senses stay pitch-perfect, consider how a few changes could make your house more accessible—and make life easier for everyone. THE GREATEST ROOM A counter facing into the living area keeps the cook from missing any action. Appliances with insulation to hush…

1 min.
animal noises are off the charts

WHAT SOUNDS LIKE SILENCE often contains messages not meant for human ears. Some critters make noises too high-or low-pitched for our bodies to process. On the other end of the wildlife spectrum, calls can be so intense that they cause us pain and irreversible hearing loss. But much of nature’s symphony is simply unexpected. Tiny creatures are some of the loudest; seemingly mute animals aren’t really quiet at all; and even the ocean is filled with song. This scatter plot shows the volume and frequency of some of the wildest, noisiest, and most intense voices that color our world’s acoustic landscape.…

2 min.
play it again

MAKING NOISE IS EASY, but saving it is hard. Humanity’s first big innovation in file sharing came along around 3,400 years ago, when ancient Mesopotamians experimented with a written notation for melodies they’d previously only shared out loud. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that engineers began to capture the sound waves themselves. The quality of early devices was low—poor materials and grimy recording environments could make music turn ghostly. But technicians continued to refine their tools; now anyone with a smartphone can save high-quality audio. Next time you blast your personalized playlist, remember to thank these musty old machines. Phonautograph In 1853, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented the phon autograph and made the likely first copy of a human voice seven years later. The device’s stylus preserved sound waves by etching…