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Popular Science November - December 2016

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 best tech. every day.

YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, ALTON BROWN The Food Network star cooks pizza with 1,000-watt lights, and makes ice cream with fire extinguishers. What could go wrong? On PopSci.com, he hacks our holidays. Expect all the fixin’s—and pyrotechnics. ALL EYES ON THE RED PLANET This fall, Elon Musk builds out his plan to colonize Mars; the Europeans land their first working space craft there; and Ron Howard tells us how he created his six-part Mars docudrama for the National Geographic Channel, premiering in 170 countries and 45 languages. BEER-PONG HORROR STORY The stars of every house party, beer-pong balls are unsavory guests. We got out our cotton swabs during one match to find out which microbes invade the cups, table, and ball surfaces. The results are stomach-bouncing.…

7 min
the professional passenger

NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO, UBER ROLLED INTO PENNSYLVANIA, POACHED RESEARCHERS FROM Carnegie Mellon University’s famed robotics program, and set up a secret facility to build an army of autonomous cars. In September, the company made history and finally dispatched its fleet of self-piloting cabs in Pittsburgh to pick up actual passengers. The cars rely on numerous sensors—cameras, lidar, GPS—to see where they’re going and avoid the number-one scourge of roadways everywhere: human error. Uber’s success could mean countless lives saved and the beginning of the end of human driving. Piloting the project is director of engineering Raffi Krikorian. He sat down with Popular Science to explain how his cars work, what the company will do in case of a crash, and what it’s like to commute to work each day…

1 min
should i replace my laptop with a tablet?

SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, ADVANCEMENTS in everyday tech have allowed us to replace many things in our quotidian lives. Laptop and desktop computers helped some go paper- and penless. Touchscreen tablet computers only furthered the transition. With companies making their tablet devices more powerful, can the iPads and Surface Pros dethrone the Macbooks and ultrabooks that have nestled themselves on our desks and in our bags? We set out to find the answer. Check out this handy guide to see if you should put your trust in a tablet. FROM LEFT: COURTESY APPLE; COURTESY NETFLIX; COURTESY MICROSOFT; COURTESY ADOBE; COURTESY HP; COURTESY EA…

1 min
smartwatches, dissected


1 min
what’s melting greenland’s ice sheet (besides climate change)? algae

GREENLAND’S HEFTY ICE SHEET, THREE TIMES LARGER THAN Texas, is melting faster than ever and contributing to rising sea levels. In addition to the warming climate, there might be a secondary culprit: algae. A four-year project called Black and Bloom launched this year to determine how algae, bacteria, and other particles change the albedo, or reflectivity, of the ice. Since algal blooms are darker than ice (as seen here), an algae-laced surface absorbs more sunlight, warms quicker, and melts more. Cyclically, as more ice melts into liquid, it creates a better environment for blooms. “We have an inkling that these algae are spending their entire life cycles in the ice,” says project researcher Christopher Williamson. By better understanding how microbes affect melt rate, scientists can more accurately predict how Greenland’s…

3 min
ayah bdeir

AYAH BDEIR CREATED LITTLEBITS—ELECTRONIC BUILDING BLOCKS THAT snap together to form high-tech DIY projects—with engineering and design pros in mind. But when she brought her invention to Maker Faire in 2009, it grabbed the attention of children, and their parents and teachers. Today, the company has sold millions of littleBits, and has an education team that writes littleBits-based curricula now used in more than 3,500 schools worldwide. “Many kids are tech-savvy when it comes to using devices,” Bdeir says, “but they don’t necessarily think of themselves as creators.” She predicts that acquiring this “creative confidence” is key to competing in the job market of the future, and to tackling technology jobs that don’t yet exist. WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, AS FAR AS I KNEWthere wasn’t anything called data mining or…