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Popular Science Spring 2018

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United States
Camden Media Inc.
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the smartest move

IF YOU HANDED THIS ISSUE and the one that came before it to Shadow, the clever crow on our cover, he’d know something was up. That’s because, as you’ll learn on page 58, crows are scary good at judging volume. And what you’re currently holding—our intelligence issue—is more than 30 percent thicker than the one that arrived in December. We added 25 more pages to PopSci and increased the quality of our paper. That’s because the company let me do what I pitched when I applied for this job in 2016: transform Popular Science magazine into a quarterly publication. After reading that, someone, somewhere just called me an idiot. But hear me out—this is an awesome idea. Between magazine subscriptions, books, news apps, your favorite websites, Twitter feeds, Instagram rivers, Snapchat stories,…

2 min
your brain is just a pile of wet, fatty goop

YOUR BRAIN IS MOSTLY MUSH: A MESS OF FAT, A SPRINKLING OF WATER, AND TRACE amounts of compounds such as zinc and sulfur. You could probably find most of that stuff in your kitchen. But mix those ingredients together and you get neurons, neurotransmitters, and more—all the stuff that helps your brain shoot off faster-than-fast electric signals. Those neurons combine to form structures that link into a fantastically complex architecture, housing everything you think and feel and do. Your mind is an awfully ordinary thing. It just also happens to be the most extraordinary thing in the world. ONE Neuroscientists estimate that we can hold around 1 petabyte of data. That’s an enormous amount of storage: the equivalent of a million 1-gigabyte flash drives. A human head could just about manage rendering…

2 min
how missles got smart

HUMANS HAVE BEEN hurling projectiles at one another—with varying degrees of accuracy—since we developed opposable thumbs. But it was only in the past 100-odd years that we created missiles that can steer themselves. We spent the past century of trial and error in an endless attempt to throw bigger bombs farther and more precisely. As technology improved, weapons graduated from wire-guided torpedoes to catapulted bombers to independent cruise missiles. These are some of the most influential steps along the way. 1953 SIDEWINDER As an alternative to radar missiles, which required guidance from pilots, the U.S. Navy developed a heat-homing weapon that latched onto infrared signatures by itself. It’s so accurate and cheap that the military still uses variants today. 1983 TOMAHAWK General Dynamics began developing the Tomahawk in the 1970s. Today’s upgraded versions navigate…

2 min
iq ≠ intelligence

TOO MANY OF US USE THE TERMS “IQ” AND “INTELLIGENCE” AS IF THEY’RE interchangeable. They’re not. An IQ score isn’t a magical signifier of smarts; it merely quantifies your ability to take a particular kind of test. Wealthy, white Westerners tend to perform among the best on these exams, but that doesn’t mean they’re smarter than the rest of the world. Research increasingly indicates that the advantages that group enjoys—like better education and healthcare—set them up for success on such evaluations. And it doesn’t hurt that the most expensive education is generally geared toward improving one’s ability to fill in the proper bubbles. Access to money, school, and medicine can all change apparent acumen—but IQ ignores inherent intellect. 1 Race In some parts of the world, kids given IQ assessments were unfamiliar…

2 min
let me google that for you

THAT UNASSUMING SEARCH BAR OFFERS THE answers to so many questions, all without the judgment we risk when asking our know-it-all friends. As such, we unwittingly confess our deepest misunderstandings to the omniscient engine almost every day. Don’t worry: You are not alone in your ignorance. We mined the internet to find those truisms so many of us are embarrassed to learn are false, then dug up counts on corresponding Google searches. These are our greatest myths, verified by the volumes of compatriots who also seek an answer to that eternal question: Does a duck’s quack echo? 231,060 Many teachers believe each of us has an optimal learning style (visual, auditory, etc.), but neuroscientists disagree. Preferences exist, but you don’t absorb less information just because you dislike the delivery. PEOPLE LEARN BEST IN…

1 min
credit where it’s overdue

FOR A BUNCH OF SMARTIES, THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD isn’t always quick to recognize genius. Take Louis Pasteur, mocked for concluding that microbes—like the ones he had already discovered could sour wine and beer—were the source rather than symptoms of disease. We now appreciate that Pasteur proved germ theory. Rosalind Franklin led the lab that first visualized DNA’s structure—only to have colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick crib her notes and take credit for confirming the double helix. She died young, while the two men went on to share a Nobel Prize. She didn’t even get a mention in their acceptance speeches. Now that the scientific community (mostly) recognizes Franklin’s integral efforts, she’s become something of a patron saint for victims of research misconduct. But not every maligned genius got such…