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Popular Science Summer 2018

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
Camden Media Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

1 min
the life of popular science

1 / 1910s Our graph begins when PopSci became a’zine, color covers and all. Edward Youmans began the pub as a journal in 1872. 2 / 1940s Wartime meant plenty of green-clad men gracing our front page—along with a darker palette to match the mood of the country. 3 / 1990s A shift to cherry red logos and blue skies behind jet planes and futuristic cars manifest as an era of purple (the average of the two colors). 4 / 2010s As the magazine moved toward single-topic issues, cover hues changed with each edition. Ergo this kaleidoscope of stripes.…

2 min
five for one

THIS MAGAZINE IS WEIRD. Instead of three traditional sections—short stuff up front, long stuff in the middle, party in the back—it’s kind of like…five tiny self-contained magazines? Yup! Just like a full-grown issue of Popular Science, each one of these mini zines has its own theme and three-section architecture. You could read each one independently if you wanted, but they’re also related (and, like, glued together and stuff). Why completely restructure a magazine for one fleeting trip to the newsstand? We wanted to tell a complex narrative that emphasizes the importance of each part of a process: the journey from growth to decay, and the potential for rebirth. Everything in our world has a life cycle, and every step is as critical as the trip itself. So we gave each stride equal…

1 min
what’s life?

LIFE IS A TRICKY CONCEPT. YOU’RE ALIVE. THIS MAGAZINE is not. But what about the flu? The virus has many of the characteristics scientists and philosophers ascribe to life (Genetic material: Check. Moves: Check. Evolves: Check.), yet researchers debate whether these virulent agents truly live. Scientific literature contains roughly 123 distinct definitions, all assigning different combinations of attributes to the state of being. But our conception of that state is getting even more fraught: New forms of artificial intelligence on this planet and potential extraterrestrial beings throughout the universe might be vital in ways we don’t even know to look for. The chart below shows how living (or non-living?) things stack up against some of the more common notions of life.…

2 min
we’re really bad at making babies

HUMAN BABIES ARE BORN HALF-baked and vulnerable, and around 303,000 women died giving birth in 2015. No other primate has such a brutal labor or an infancy so long and helpless. Some scientists blame our precarious reproductive state on 6 million years of evolutionary pressure—and the resulting biomechanical compromises. It all started with armfuls of fruit. As humanity’s African homeland became a mix of forest and savanna, our predecessors had to go vast distances to gather grub. Walking in long strides—without chimplike swagger or knuckle dragging—made it easier to carry food. Over thousands of generations, the pelvis shifted to make our new method of locomotion more efficient. The tops of the hip bones flared, and the pubic bone moved toward the bottom of the spine, shifting the shape of the birth canal.…

3 min
the longest haul

CAREER PLANNING Successive generations need to fill all the vital crew roles—such as medics and mechanics—which doesn’t leave much room for freedom of choice. A version of modern career tests would assign occupations based on aptitude, passions, and available jobs. PROPULSION We’re gonna need a mighty push. So far, no one’s had any better ideas than Freeman Dyson: Slap A-bombs on the back of a ship and physically shove ourselves forward with constant nuclear explosions. It’s not safe or healthy, but it’s all we’ve got. WASTE MANAGEMENT A healthy human needs almost 300 gallons of water a year, and there won’t be any pit stops. We’ll need to reclaim every drop we use. The ISS already packs a system to recycle astronaut pee, which we’ll scale up to avoid surges of raw sewage from the…

1 min
alien humans

Living on a planetary colony By the time we’re ready to leave the solar system, we might have Martian colonists to pick up along the way. Dark skin fares better against the UV radiation piercing through the Red Planet’s paltry atmosphere, so pale settlers probably wouldn’t thrive. Low gravity makes bones brittle, meaning evolution might select for those who can afford to lose bone mass—short, squat, sturdy folk. After generations on a spaceship Low Gs could also go the other way, making us tall, willowy, and brittle, thanks to spine stretching and bone loss. Ship dwellers en route longer than expected would have to opt for C-sections to avoid shattered pelvises, meaning massive noggins could flourish. Mutations might be more likely (thanks, space radiation) and a small gene pool means random changes could…