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Popular Science November/December 2017

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
back to the future

THIS ISSUE IS SPECIAL TO me. I mean, they all are, but 14 years ago, Best of What’s New was my whole job—my first real one in magazines. In November 2003, an unsolicited email from then editor-in-chief Scott Mowbray beeped into my inbox. Subject: “Job at Popular Science.” At the time, I was a freelance writer, which actually meant a Tuesday graveyard shift at US Weekly—spent not writing—and other evenings slinging triplefried everything at a fancy Chinese restaurant. The PopSci post scooped me up and dropped into the mix with the most innovative people on the planet. A decade and a half later, everything is different: the internet, the players in the space race—even the edges of our countries are altered, shaped by the changes that we humans seem to exhale like…

3 min
thirty years later ...

That smart cooker, which we’ve nicknamed the Millennial Oven, perfectly follows the trajectory of innovation over the past 30 years. It’s built around bedrock technologies—convection cooking, image recognition, microprocessors, compact cameras, wireless radios—but elevated by the addition of an anyone-proof interface. We’ve seen this story time and again since 1988, the year Popular Science editors first anointed 100 products as the Best of What’s New. The cultural shift over those years is remarkable. Thirty years ago, science and tech were the domains of enthusiasts: audiophiles, mechanics, and IT gals MacGyvering together the components for makeshift local networks. Today, specialized ideas—like printing wirelessly or blasting into space—have rocketed into the mainstream. Because of that shift, by today’s standards, many of the first BOWN winners are just plain wonky. Two classes of product dominated those…

4 min
cells that kill cancer

Tumors are sly. To survive, the cells bypass our immune systems by retaining similarities to healthy cells. But they also have differences. Over the past decade, researchers have targeted these unique traits to re-enlist the body’s department of defense. Immunotherapies train our own systems to detect those distinct variances. This year, that effort took a huge leap: The FDA approved Kymriah, the first human gene- edited therapy for cancer. The treatment modifies a patient’s T cells (specialized white blood cells) to add a receptor that locates the malignant ones so the killer T’s can attack them. In trials, 83 percent of patients were in remission after three months. One reason Kymriah works so well is that it’s the most customized method to date: The modified cells are specific to both…

4 min
body, heal thyself

EVER SINCE A SAVANNA DWELLER FIRST SLAPPED MUD on a wound to ward off flies—and infection—our frail human bodies have relied on creative intervention to survive. Science has since come up with all manner of potions and procedures (from aspirin to organ transplants to bionic knees) to keep us from falling to pieces. But it turns out the body might be its own best pharmacy; each one of us possesses internal stores of life-extending remediation. Scientists are now learning to access those once locked and guarded inner warehouses to nudge us toward durability. Witness the frontier of using the body to fix itself. From supercharging our immune systems to bolstering protective microbes in our guts to tweaking our genes, medical research is now enhancing our own defenses and selfrepair mechanisms. And…

4 min
a real console, really mobile

While Microsoft and Sony compete to see who can fit more computing power into their machines and app developers look for places to cram microtransactions, Nintendo has built a system that bridges the gap between home and on-the-go play. The key to the Switch is a 6.2-inch, capacitive HD touchscreen sandwiched between a pair of removable controllers. The setup has its own battery and storage, so you can play Zelda on your lunch break just like you would in your living room. Each motion-sensitive Joy-Con can act as an independent controller for impromptu Mario Kart multiplayer battles. 01 WARMTONE RECORD PRESS VIRYL TECHNOLOGIES An automated record press Vinyl albums are selling better than they have since the early ’90s, so it’s about time the production process caught up. This $195,000 machine aug t…

1 min
big-screen blowout

MUPPET BABIES PROBABLY LOOKED PLENTY CLEAR ON THE 20-INCH STANDARD-DEFINITION TV that sat in the corner of Mom’s living room in the late ’80s. That relatively low-res picture had the equivalent of 25 pixels of image data per inch; blow it up much beyond 32 inches, and Baby Kermit’s nappy would start to split, revealing gaps and jagged edges. Let’s call that size the image’s breaking point. Apply the same density of color blocks to modern high-def screens, and you can figure out just how massive they could get before they’d fissure. Take a look. STANDARD DEFINITION Tube TVs didn’t have pixels like flat-screen sets do, but it still took image-processing trickery to make them any larger than 3 feet. PIXELS (Equivalent) 307,200 1080p HD The most common resolution for boob tubes, 1080p high-def can…