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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.

United States
Bonnier Corporation
Read More
4 Issues

In this issue

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.
popular science

Editor-in-Chief Joe Brown Executive Editor Corinne Iozzio Group Digital Director Amy Schellenbaum Design Director Russ Smith EDITORIAL Features Editor Susan Murcko Articles Editor Rachel Feltman Senior Editors Purbita Saha, Chuck Squatriglia Technology Editor Stan Horaczek DIY Editor John Kennedy Senior Producer Tom McNamara Engagement Editor Ryan Perry Associate Editor Claire Maldarelli Associate Producer Jason Lederman Assistant Editors Jessica Boddy, Sara Chodosh, Sandra Gutierrez, Rob Verger Commerce Editor Billy Cadden Editorial Assistant Sara Kiley Watson Copy Chief Cindy Martin Researchers Ellen Airhart, Cadence Bambenek, Jake Bittle, Diane Kelly, Erika Villani Interns Donavyn Coffey, Marion Renault, Jess Romeo, Grace Wade ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY Photo Director Thomas Payne Art Director Katie Belloff Consulting Production Manager Glenn Orzepowski EDITORIAL PRODUCTION Group Managing Editor Jean McKenna Managing Editor Margaret Nussey CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Brooke Borel, Kat Eschner, Tom Foster, William Gurstelle, Gregory Mone, Sarah Scoles, P.W. Singer, Nick Stockton, James Vlahos, The Voorhes (photography) Executive Vice President Gregory D. Gatto Vice President, Editorial Director Joe Brown Group…

2 min.

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.…