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Popular Science April 2015

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United States
Camden Media Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the power of understanding

Like many people, I have been watching the recent measles outbreak with mounting dismay. As of press time, there were more than 120 reported cases and climbing. This, for a disease the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared eradicated in the U.S. 15 years ago. That more people are at risk today than a decade ago is sad. We should be moving forward, not backward. But how we got here is perhaps even sadder. As someone who makes a living communicating science, I can’t help but notice an extraordinary disconnect on the issue of vaccines. On one side, there are those who believe a discredited and de-licensed doctor, Andrew Wakefield, as well as various celebrity anti-vaxxers. Politicians who can’t seem to decide where they stand only make things worse. On…

1 min

Cassandra Willyard Whether reporting on New York’s dirtiest stretch of water or on circumcision to prevent HIV in Uganda, writer Cassandra Willyard has an eye for science and public impact. While researching “Yes, You Can Reverse Disease” (page 50), she was amazed by the pace of recent medical progress. “Often in medicine, you see incremental advances,” she says, “but these are big, bold efforts.” Steve Featherstone Like most of us, writer Steve Featherstone is gadget-dependent. So when he visited a region in West Virginia where electromagnetic waves from cellphones and Wi-Fi are forbidden, it was disorienting. “I couldn’t text, email, or call to set up meetings,” he says. His story, “Greetings From the Quiet Zone” (page 54), follows electrosensitives—people who claim such waves harm them. Heather Hansman The idea of public data banks for our…

2 min
architecture, quantified

40 Number of architectural drawings used to design Chicago’s Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) 5,000 Number of drawings used to design the Shanghai Tower AN EARLY LOOK AT VIRTUAL REALITY In June 1993,Popular Science tested virtual reality headsets. The technology was much less mature than it is today [page 37], but the experience was no less eye-opening: “As I put on a belt pack, an attendant tightens the visor over my glasses like a blindfold. I’m given about a minute to orient myself in a cartoonlike world. The resolution is noticeably lower than the pictures on the monitors. Pushing a button on the joystick moves me forward in the picture. I can also turn around 180 degrees, look up over my shoulder, or squat down, and the view adjusts accordingly. ‘Insert credits,’…

2 min
slipperier truths

Many of you voiced additional concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline in response to the five we investigated in “Slippery Truths” [February 2015]. Information editor Katie Peek responds to a few of them. Darell Potter: I would have liked to see how many miles the Keystone XL pipeline would add to the existing lines transporting oil and the total miles of all pipelines. KP: There are something like 50,000 miles of crude-oil pipeline in the U.S. today, and the new Keystone XL segment would add about 800. Martin H. Crowe: If it costs $8 billion to build the pipeline, what does it cost to build a refinery closer to the source? Or along existing pipelines? It is likely less than $8 billion and would avoid all the increased environmental risk. KP: To manage the…

1 min
show & tell

WORST JOB AWARD We asked about your worst jobs.Ben Coatsof Ventura, California, wrote: “When I was 27, I got a job at a record company dialing Total Request Live on MTV (pressing redial over and over again, all day long) to request its big song. If you got through without a busy signal, which happened two to three times a week, you had to request the song ‘Punk Rock Girl’ by the Dead Milkmen [above] and keep redialing. The first time I got through, I gave an enthusiastic request. Then (hours later) the guy next to me gave a monotone ‘Punk Rock Girl, Dead Milkmen.’ I quit after a week.” SEND US PICS! Show & Tell: Electronics can have a fine life as intended, but it’s more fun to give them a new…

1 min
a stereo for minimalists

ALWAYS HEAR YOUR FAVORITES! BANG & OLUFSEN BEOLAB 18 Price $7,120 Mid-range/woofer amps 160 watts x 2 Not everyone enjoys being a DJ. Many music fans just pick a playlist and leave it running. That’s why Bang & Olufsen created a smart music-streaming hub to anchor its high-fidelity BeoLab 18 wireless speaker system. The BeoSound Moment is a two-sided tablet and dock that plays songs it thinks you want to hear. The device learns your listening habits over time (like the fact that you rock out to Katy Perry on Sunday mornings) and creates custom mixes on the fly. The Moment selects tracks from the music-streaming service Deezer and its 35-million-song database, plus any audio files available on your home network. Smartphones and tablets can also connect to the Moment with Bluetooth, granting access…