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Popular Science February 2015

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
a bit about us

ALIENS IN OUR ARCHIVES MARCH 1967 Conspiracy theorists tout a government plot to conceal the truth about flying saucers. Popular Science finds the evidence secondhand and slim. JUNE 1994 Astronautics engineer Robert Zubrin proposes that radiation emitted by interstellar spacecraft could be the key to finding aliens as they zip by. JUNE 1997 Fifty years after a UFO supposedly crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, the city turns the infamous event into a draw for global tourism. JANUARY 2007 The French beam a TV show called Cosmic Connexion toward a star system 45 light-years away. The target audience? Aliens, of course. A 3-D–PRINTED COMET XYZprinting was kind enough to let us borrow a da Vinci 1.0 AiO 3-D printer and scanner, and we took it for a spin. We promptly printed a model of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and confirmed, yes, it…

3 min
aliens among us

For scientists, few questions inspire as heated a debate as, What is life? You’d think we’d have that one down by now. But it turns out that defining life is really difficult. Go too narrow and it’s arbitrary, like you’re drawing a line in the sand. Go too broad and it’s meaningless, like there’s no line at all. A lot of scientists say they would prefer to leave the business of a precise defi nition up to philosophers. scientists say they would prefer to leave the business of a precise defi nition up to philosophers. Instead, researchers tend to focus on a few characteristics indicative of life, namely metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction. Among those, metabolism is often viewed as the fi rst among equals. After all, without some…

2 min
peer review

DIFFERENT BUILDING BLOCKS Q: “How Habitable Is That Exoplanet?” [December 2014] was interesting, but I am curious why it seems to assume that extraterrestrial life must be similar to ours. Even on Earth there is biologically surprising life. Russ Brown, Savannah, Ga. A: Astronomers recognize that life could come in forms unlike ours, so they’ve expanded the definition of habitable to include planets very uninviting to humans (no coffee!). We describe some that might harbor microbes that eat and breathe rock in “Have We Found Alien Life?” (page 32). HAVE A COMMENT? Write to us at letters@popsci.com or to Popular Science 2 Park Ave. 9th floor NYC 10016 TWEET OUT OF CONTEXT Unless they’re really confident that it won’t get loose, a liquid metal ball floating in a space station seems like a bad idea.…

2 min
the best drone for aspiring filmmakers

“PEOPLE WANT CONVENIENCE AND HIGH-END CONTROLS. THE INSPIRE 1 HAS BOTH RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX.” The use of recreational drones has exploded in the past few years—and so has the use of drones in Hollywood (cue the chase scenes in Skyfall). But amateur filmmakers still face a hurdle: Many consumer-grade drones don’t come with a camera, and if they do, the equipment isn’t very good. If you’re just filming around the neighborhood, chances are you don’t need the same setup as the one used to make a James Bond movie—but with the new DJI Inspire 1, you can get awfully close. The Inspire 1 is the first consumergrade drone that comes ready to shoot 4K video. Largely derived from the Phantom 2, its best of class predecessor, the Inspire 1 adds…

2 min

LINDSEY KRATOCHWILL 1 MOLESKINE SMART NOTEBOOK Moleskine and Adobe made a Creative Cloud-connected notebook that syncs digital and hand-drawn art. Scrawl your masterpiece on the page, and capture it with an app that renders it into vectors. $33 2 PAWSCOUT PET FINDER Pet tags can only help reunite you with your missing pet if someone takes the time to read them. Pawscout Pet Finder tags actively help fi nd wayward pets with an embedded Bluetooth antenna. The tag sends a smartphone alert if Fido wanders too far— and helps home in on his location when he runs away. $30 3 QUIRKY OUTLINK When paired with a Quirky Wink hub, this smart outlet lets users monitor the electricity fl owing to devices, turn the outlet on or off , and program schedules. $50 4 WORX CLAMPING SAWHORSE Integrating two…

1 min
gesture control for mobile devices

2003 The year the first commercial gesture-control device, a PlayStation 2 accessory called the EyeToy, was released. In 2010, Microsoft popularized gesture controls with the release of the Kinect. In its fi rst 60 days on sale, the device sold 133,000 units per day, a Guinness World Record. Three years later, Leap Motion brought the same capabilities to personal computers. But both devices required stationary sensors to perceive movements, so users couldn’t stray too far. Now, a new set of devices— outfi tted with ultrasound, electromyography (EMG) sensors, and inertial sensors—are allowing the use of touchless interfaces anywhere. Nod Labs Polite or no, pointing is a universal human gesture, so Nod Labs decided to leverage it. The Nod ring includes inertial sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, that enable pixel-level control on any…