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Popular Science March 2015

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United States
Camden Media Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
death, taxes, and deadlines

A few months ago, I caught up with a buddy for a drink. He’s in advertising, and like most of his colleagues, he works awful hours. Nights, weekends, you name it. But it didn’t appear to bother him. He always seemed like one of those corporate ironmen, the guys suspiciously impervious to heavy work loads and overly demanding bosses. But on that night, my buddy came clean. He told me he stopped sleeping well a few years before. Then he’d gotten a weird back pain that wouldn’t go away, so he slept even less. At the same time, his job ramped up. In pain and perpetually tired, he was working even more. Eventually, this all became intolerable, so one morning he marched over to his boss, gave his two weeks notice,…

1 min

William Gurstelle Roman soldiers invading your backyard? William Gurstelle’s interest in historical weaponry, machines, and defenses could help. For the first installment of his Manual column, History Fights Back (page 68), Gurstelle adapted a Roman-style catapult, simplifying it to make it easily replicable. Early tests worked a little too well: They attracted, rather than deterred, neighbors. Jonathon Kambouris Assembling a sandwich is not usually deemed a feat, but photographing one suspended in midair for “Your Lunch Is a Sodium Bomb” (page 34) certainly is. Aided by food stylist Susan Ottaviano and a near-invisible combination of props, shelves, and wires, photographer Jonathon Kambouris built and sculpted each layer of the sandwich independently, then assembled them in a single shot Daniel Grushkin When writer Daniel Grushkin scans the room at scientific conferences, Suzanne Lee always stands out.…

2 min
three things that stressed us out this issue

1 Hearing the story of how the world’s tiniest sculpture [page 29] was lost forever due to one clumsy thumb smudge 2 Realizing that our passwords—no matter how complicated we try to make them— probably don’t do much good [page 77] 3 Working around four holidays, one of the world’s largest consumer technology expos, and an international auto show STRANGEST THING WE SAW AT THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW Of all the brilliant, amazing, crazy technology debuted at CES 2015, perhaps the strangest we found was Suitable Technologies’s 18-foot-tall Beam telepresence robot. It lorded over the show floor, and made the regular-size Beam in our office look downright puny. UPDATES We’ve Created a Monster In the December 2014 issue, we gave Medrobotics Flex System (a bendable bot for throat surgery) a Best of What’s New award. Now, the researcher who invented…

3 min
peer review

ECHO CHAMBER In his essay “Animals Like Us” [January 2015], Charles Siebert discussed the scientific investigation into personhood, inciting many responses, both for and against extending it to animals. Even if chimpanzees, elephants, and other animals were as intelligent as humans, it wouldn’t necessarily mean they should be freed. We don’t guarantee that right to humans. Children are essentially captives and rely on caretakers, just as zoo animals depend on zookeepers. A chimp on the loose in New York would certainly die. Clive H. Walker, Layton, Utah I hope the Nonhuman Rights Project’s efforts inspire us to consider the broader issue of species ism. Using cognition as the metric to determine who is entitled to legal and moral consideration is a slippery slope. But as Jeremy Bentham wrote, “The question is not, Can…

1 min
make your own reality

PRINTABLE, HACKABLE VR There’s a growing problem in the virtual reality (VR) industry: Filmmakers and game developers don’t want to produce content for a headset few people have access to. And hardware manufacturers don’t want to build accessories for headsets that don’t have content. Razer’s new open-source virtual reality (OSVR) platform could eliminate this catch-22, clearing the way for more VR experiments. Using Razer OSVR, hackers and companies alike can build software that works on multiple VR operating systems and headsets. The platform supports popular videogame engines, gesture controls, and head-mounted displays (including industry leader Oculus Rift DK2). Razer also released the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit, which comes with a modifiable VR headset. The kit ships with open-source hardware, and the circuit boards are modular, so they can be swapped out for new…

2 min

1 SIMPLICAM POWERED BY CLOSELI This Simplicam security camera does more than indicate intruders. It identifies them. The device can remember 10 faces, so it can discriminate between a teen rummaging for a snack and a stranger. $150 2 HELIOS SMART Solar chargers sound great—until you wait around for hours for your iPhone to power up. Solpro’s new device reduces that downtime by up to 300 percent, meaning it can fully charge a phone in 90 minutes with just the sun. $159 3 RUST: THE LONGEST WAR An insidious foe, rust has its way with much of the metal that makes up our world. Author Jonathan Waldman follows a pipe-cleaning robot through Alaska, crawls in an abandoned steel mill, and explores why corrosion wields such power. $27 4 FLIC In this era of taps and swipes, sometimes…