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Popular Science Spring 2021

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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4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the more things change

THE DAY I SAT DOWN TO START WRITING this letter, March 10, 2021, marked one year since I first took the Big Chair here at PopSci. March 11 was the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, and March 13 meant a full 365 days since the staff collaborated in an office together. Editor-in-chief-ness aside, this is an extremely common tale: fractured workplaces, isolated families, a full trip around the sun filled with dread, uncertainty, and, eventually (mercifully), some hope. We’ve all done what we can to cope with the strain of pandemic life—as weeks turned into months, then into a year plus. The plus is the real kick in the teeth. Even with vaccines rapidly going into arms across the US, we don’t yet have a clear…

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1 min
how does popsci relax?

I knit. It’s the perfect activity to shut down my brain and keep me entertained. Sometimes I’m at it into the wee hours of the morning.Sandra Gutierrez G., assistant editor, DIYWhen I’m stressed out, I immerse myself in a video game. Fighting, building, and exploring always seem to leave me feeling better than when I started.John Kennedy, DIY editorI typically load a roll of film into one of my old cameras and go for a drive or walk and snap photos. I really enjoy how methodical the process is.Stan Horaczek, technology editorI run, but not too fast. Finding that Zen pace—where you feel like you can seemingly go on effortlessly forever—is hard but more than worth the effort.Claire Maldarelli, science editorMy best friend and I “rage bake.” Kneading bread dough…

2 min
downtime, usa

THE WORD LEISURE—time that belongs to you, free from work or other duties—dates to 14th-century Europe. But for much of its existence, the term was an abstract concept to all but the wealthy. That began to change in the United States in the late 1800s as laborers pushed for a 40-hour week. At long last, the masses could unwind at parks, theaters, and beaches. Today, we spend our spare moments a little differently, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual American Time Use Survey reveals. While sports and socialization remain important, modern escapes are increasingly digital and defined by television and video games. Yet who gets to decompress, and how, still varies widely. Map the data and you’ll find that sex, income, and family life determine how we spend our free…

1 min
life finds a way

PEOPLE TEND TO THINK of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone as a nuclear wasteland. But 35 years after a reactor meltdown drove 350,000 people from the region (an area half the size of Delaware), flora and fauna thrive. Some believe the region’s biodiversity has actually increased with no one around. As a coniferous forest reclaims the city of Pripyat in Ukraine, hundreds of species, from butterflies to bison, roam crumbling streets and abandoned buildings. Here’s what four of them tell us about how nature adapts once we’re gone. 1/ Wild horses The Przewalski’s horse lived only in captivity until researchers turned 36 loose in the territory between 1998 and 2004. The herd has more than doubled and shows no sign of mutation, which could mean the site is a good place to introduce…

1 min
what makes bob ross so relaxing?

FEW PEOPLE WATCHING The Joy of Painting have an interest in learning the craft. They just want to chill, and Bob Ross, who hosted the program until his death in 1995, is a sure path to serenity. His subdued baritone and the gentle sound of a brush on canvas made him an ASMR artist for the analog age. You can almost feel stress evaporate watching the dabs and strokes coalesce into a beautiful nature scene. Here’s a look at how Ross elevated relaxation to an art form. Soothing scenes You’ll find few traces of civilization in the master’s canon, which is a big reason his work is so relaxing. Not only do landscapes inspire chill, but admiring them can reduce cortisol levels and boost dopamine. People, who inhabit just a handful of…

3 min
what can silence a ringing ear?

IT TAKES MANY FORMS. Bells or clicks that chase away sleep, crashing ocean waves that break focus, a low ringing frequent enough that it derails lives, relationships, and careers. The perception of sound in the absence of external noise—a condition known as tinnitus—plagues an estimated 10 to 25 percent of American adults. It’s especially common among the nation’s veterans, at least 1.5 million of whom currently receive disability benefits to help manage the affliction. Yet despite its prevalence, few have studied the condition, which means a cure remains elusive. In this vacuum of answers, audiologist and hearing scientist Sarah Theodoroff guides patients on their quest for calm. She splits her time between treating vets and studying new techniques to quiet their inner clamor. Theodoroff got her earliest glimpse inside the human ear…

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