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Popular Science January 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
venn diagram

Follow us on twitter @popsci Pressure-sensing lenses • You put them in your eyes—on purpose. • They help detect and prevent glaucoma. • They carefully cradle small white spheres. Snowball slingshots • Don’t shoot your eye out! • They defend your fort against invasion. UPDATED Each year, we predict the biggest stories in science and technology for the next 12 months. So, how did we do in 2014? We reported: The U.S. Army would use Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems (FDHS) to neutralize chemical warfare agents. Tokyo Electric Power Company would build an underground ice wall to sequester contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Infectious diseases like whooping cough and measles would reemerge on a larger scale. What happened: FDHS aboard U.S. ships had disposed of many of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-August. The company tried, but the ice wall failed because temperatures didn’t drop…

3 min
the power of ideas

On October 28, an Antares rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded 15 seconds after launch in coastal Virginia. Three days later, SpaceShipTwo, the experimental spacecraft from Virgin Galactic, disintegrated 50,000 feet over the Mojave Desert. It was a terrible week for private space: One dead. One injured. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of technology, supplies, and experiments destroyed. Not surprisingly, the incidents set off a round of furious hair tearing and teeth gnashing over the future of private space. Could the nascent industry survive such unmitigated disasters? The answer came less than two weeks later, when Orbital Sciences, which manages the Antares, and Virgin Galactic announced plans to move forward. Orbital had selected a new engine to replace the fl awed AJ26 on the Antares,…

2 min
used chewing gum

Tweet Out of Context Please take a seat. Dr. 10100110111 will be in to see you shortly prior to your surgery. @AbolitionOf WORD TO THE WISE The new question from “A Smarter, Fairer SAT” [November 2014] is redundant. Even without the word intense, clustering means concentrated. If one does not know the words dilettante, pilferer, or raconteur, then that person is not a reader or is too lazy to use a dictionary. What if this person becomes a surgeon operating on the “thingie” next to your “whatchamacallit”? Paul Koskovich, Canton, Ohio APTITUDE TEST Here’s how 310 readers did on our highly abbreviated SAT exam, posted at popsci.com.* The quiz included a verbal and a math question from both the current exam and the forthcoming redesign. Nearly a third of the respondents aced it, getting all…

1 min
the futureproof speaker

Obsolescence is one of the most annoying problems in technology: You save up to buy the newest piece of hardware only to have it eclipsed by a newer, shinier version just a few months later. What if our electronics were built to evolve instead? That’s the thinking behind Boom Boom, a software-upgradable speaker developed by Binauric. The softball-size unit comes with everything you’d expect from a portable speaker system—3.5mm audio input, Bluetooth connectivity, volume and power buttons—plus four microphones, an accelerometer, and a light sensor. Although there aren’t many uses for those additional components today, Binauric has issued an app that rolls out upgrades to the speaker. “We don’t want to build features without the cooperation of our users,” says Binauric co-founder Detlef Wiese. “We want to see what type of…

2 min

1 CAMERA51 Filters improve photos only so much. Camera51 helps before the shutter snaps. The Android app analyzes the subject and surroundings, then guides users toward the ideal frame. It will even fl ag objects that might otherwise ruin a perfect image. Free 2 RYOBI PHONE WORKS INFRARED THERMOMETER Ryobi’s new tool plugs into a smartphone’s audio jack, allowing it to measure temperatures from -22°F to 662°F—in real time, no less. $50 3 EC LYNC SYSTEM If there’s one thing closets and luggage always need, it’s more space. Eagle Creek solved that conundrum with a full-size rolling suitcase that can collapse—frame, wheels, and all—to a fraction of the size. From $280 4 BLADE 98S Wilson’s Blade series is the fi rst set of tennis rackets to incorporate basalt, a natural shock absorber, into the weave and the…

2 min
the return of the american midsize truck

CHEVROLET COLORADO Engine 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Horsepower 200 Fuel economy 22 miles per gallon overall Price from $20,995 Detroit automakers have always dominated the full-size pickup market, but they’ve more or less ceded the midsize one to Japanese automakers Nissan and Toyota. General Motors plans to reclaim it with all-new versions of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, which were discontinued in 2012. Although larger than before, the trucks are still much smaller than their full-size counterparts. A midsize Colorado with an extended cab is 17 inches shorter and more than 1,000 pounds lighter than a double-cab Silverado. As a result, the trucks are more maneuverable and get better fuel economy by two to fi ve miles per gallon. The downside is a diminished towing capability, but let’s be real: Only a small fraction of potential owners actually…