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Popular Science August 2015

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United States
Camden Media Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the stars within reach

A few months ago, I found myself backstage with Bobak Ferdowsi. If you recall the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, then you probably remember him. Ferdowsi is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and because he happened to sit near the TV cameras—and because he wears a pretty serious mohawk—he unintentionally became the face of the most successful space mission in decades. President Obama dubbed him the “Mohawk Guy,” and then invited him to take part in his inauguration parade. Ferdowsi and I had agreed to speak at the Pioneers Festival—a startup gathering in Europe—on the topic of private space. While we chatted backstage, I lamented that it had been almost eight years since the first of Virgin Galactic’s many promised space-tourism launches. “And we’re still waiting,”…

1 min

Rinku Patel While we know that the human microbiome protects our health, “what’s overlooked,” says science journalist Rinku Patel, “is the environment where we pick up the trillions of foreigners that shape our immune system.” Writing “Bugged” (page 40), about the microbes that share our real estate, put her on a mission. She now leaves her doors and windows open so the microbes can come in. Jarren Vink Photographer Jarren Vink is accustomed to making static objects look great. But the Tesla Powerwall (page 16) proved a challenge. “It looks like a giant cellphone,” Vink says. Despite the battery’s unassuming design, it was wheeled into his studio in a wooden crate, stamped with the Telsa logo, worthy of an Old Masters shipped from the Louvre. “Too bad we couldn’t shoot the crate,” says…

1 min
a bit about us

WHAT DOES THUNDER LOOK LIKE? For the first time, scientists can “see” the sound of thunder. The image at left shows how its acoustic energy dissipates. For more storm science, turn to page 25. FROM THE ARCHIVES: A Brief History of Extinguishing Fire In Manual this month, we feature a project that uses sound to put out fire (page 63). We’ve written about creative ways to snuff flames before: DECEMBER 1937 An inventor in New York thought one water hose wasn’t enough. He devised an octopuslike sprinkler system with eight hoses. It was mounted on a tractor that he could drive through orchards and farms when fires broke out. OCTOBER 1938 Find yourself without water? Perhaps there’s some dirt around. We described a unique tool that used rotary blades to scoop up sediment and spray it over…

2 min
peer review

CONCERNED YOUTH Q: I’m 14 years old, and a longtime reader of Popular Science. In the June 2015 article “Long Live the Mammoth,” Beth Shapiro neglects a crucial point when talking about the pros and cons of de-extinction. Couldn’t bringing back extinct species have negative impacts on other members of the ecosystem, and even lead to the extinction of other species? Ronnie Eytchison, Huron, Ohio A: While it is impossible to predict every consequence of releasing a species into the wild, one critical component in selecting a species for de-extinction is to carefully evaluate risk at each stage of the process. This includes not only technical and ethical risks, but also ecological risks. To my mind, the goal of de-extinction technology is to restore missing components of an ecosystem so as to protect species that…

1 min
take hills without breaking a sweat

Commuters love nothing more than blowing past hipsters on fixies. That’s one reason the 28 mph Stromer ST2 electric bike is a total joy for urban cyclists. With a 90-mile range—twice that of other e-bikes—you can forgo work altogether and head for the hills. The ST2 packs a 48-volt battery in the frame’s down tube, evenly distributed for balance—another e-bike first. It also stretches battery life by way of regenerative braking. A gyroscope and accelerometer further boost efficiency by adjusting battery output while the bike is in motion. Pedalers love the peripherals too. An onboard touchscreen displays your speed and power mode. Riders can customize the level of motor assistance by programming a custom profile; torque, pedal sensitivity, and power-assist level can all be changed on a whim or saved for later…

2 min

1 DEATH STAR LIGHT-UP BEACH BALL SwimWays lets you flaunt your Star Wars fanaticism ahead of this year’s big-screen installment. It might not have planetdestroying lasers, but with embedded LEDs, you can use your imagination. $7 2 CONNECTED COLLAR DogTelligent’s Connected Collar quiets unruly pups— and trains them to stay that way. An ultrasonic speaker emits a sound that discourages barking, plus the collar works as a virtual fence and leash. $130 3 LUNA Much of our lives is spent sleeping. So the Luna smart mattress cover uses sensors to track your sleep, and integrates with smart-home devices to control lights or a thermostat to create the optimal sleeping environment. $235 4 HARDWARE STORE SAW Brooklyn Tool & Craft’s short-bladed saw has a unique tooth design that can handle both rip and crosscut jobs. The blade’s diagonal…