Posts

September 30, 2014

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5:00 PM | Climate Week 2014: The Wrap-Up
March for climate action Two days before the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon (right) joined over 300,000 people to march in New York City for action on climate change. United Nations As Climate Week NYC slips into the rearview mirror, what can we take away? Did anything, you know, happen? Yes ... sort of. From the sci-tech perspective, important energy and conservation agreements were announced. Now the hard work of putting […]
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3:00 PM | 'Promiscuous' Molecules Are Duping Druggists
Chemicals in flasks Photo by Joe Sullivan on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 When researchers are looking to treat a disease, a common method is to find a protein associated with the ailment and find a way to render it useless. Often, scientists will swamp the protein in thousands of chemicals and see what sticks--literally. However, a commentary in Nature warns that scientists are too easily fooled by these tests. Chemicals that bind to harmful proteins can shut down their […]
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2:00 PM | Space Combat Won't Look At All Like 'Star Wars'
Concept Art For A Space Weapon National War College, via Wikimedia Commons If humanity brings war into space, what will those battles look like? Well, if our understanding of physics is anything close to correct, they won’t look at all like Star Wars. In this six minute clip by PBS Digital Studios, host Joe Hanson explores the physics of space battles. Space battles in fiction, especially television and movies, resemble World War II aerial dogfights or naval battles […]
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1:08 PM | Robot Learns To Grab Objects By Asking The Internet
The BarrettHand The researchers tested their robot-training regimes on this commercially available, three-fingered robot hand. Barrett Technology Some things are just harder for robots to do. You know, things like appreciating literature, or writing music. Or grasping objects with their fingers. There are a lot of elements that go into grasping. A general grasping robot has to first figure out the important properties of what it's trying to hold, using whatever […]

September 29, 2014

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8:57 PM | Climate Change May Be To Blame For California Drought
The 2013 California Rim Fire U.S. National Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons There is something coming between Californians and their water, and according to a brand new report from the American Meteorological Society, man-made greenhouse gas emissions are likely at fault. Much of the American Southwest has been in drought conditions for more than a decade—harsher in some places than the dry spell that caused the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Until recently, however, […]
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8:15 PM | Runner-Up In NASA's Space Taxi Contest Will Fight Decision
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser NASA/SNC With the recent retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, NASA has been in desperate need of some space taxis -- vehicles designed to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. For the past three years, the space agency has had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to fulfill this need, which hasn't been cheap or ideal. But rather than build these spacecraft in house, NASA decided to outsource the problem, […]
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7:45 PM | The Turbine Tweak That Could Save Battered Bats
Spectacled Fruit Bat In A Tree. Shek Graham via Flickr CC By 2.0 Wind turbines kill upwards of 600,000 bats each year. (As if bats didn’t have enough problems already…) But the good news is that there may be something we can do to cut down on turbine-related deaths. Paul Cryan, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the lead author of a new study, says that raising the “cut-in threshold”—the wind speed at which turbine blades start to […]
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6:45 PM | Robot Orb Could Scan Cargo Ships With Ultrasound
Screenshot Of EVIE Demonstration Animation Courtesy of the researchers Inspecting a ship’s cargo is a dull, tedious, time-consuming task. So a pair of researchers at MIT, including graduate student Sampriti Bhattacharyya and her advisor Harry Asada, created a small robot that resembles a squished foam ball to inspect ship cargo quickly, cheaply, and silently. They presented their findings earlier this month at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and […]
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5:37 PM | Designing Technology For Our Animal Friends
Orangutan Plays With iPad, 2012 Orangutan Outreach Human-computer interaction is a fast-growing field of study that examines questions like how people feel about robots, or what people choose to click first when they visit a webpage. With some clever setups, researchers are even able to investigate scenarios aren't quite technologically possible, such as how people react to a robot that begs not to be put away. The results of human-computer interaction studies can […]
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5:00 PM | Portal 2 Improves Cognitive Skills More Than Lumosity Does, Study Finds
Fun with Physics Screenshot from the game Portal 2 Valve Corporation Like many people, Val Shute likes playing video games. But while she's gaming, she doesn't exactly think about the same things the average person does. For example, Shute loved playing the video game Portal 2 when it came out in 2011. "I was really just entranced by it," she tells Popular Science. "While I was playing it, I was thinking, I'm really engaging in all sorts of problem-solving." […]
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3:57 PM | How An Evangelical Christian Researcher Reconciles Science With Her Faith
Earth NASA Editor's note: Our profile of Bill Nye [September 2014] elicited an impassioned response from readers. We received more than 100 letters, many from readers grappling with how to reconcile scientific concepts like climate change with religion. We asked climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, why science doesn't have to conflict with faith. (We wrote about Dr. Hayhoe previously in July.) Popular Science does not necessarily […]
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2:00 PM | The Bike That Never Needs Repairs
Priority Bicycles Sam Kaplan Every mechanic knows that moving parts break down over time, and David Weiner, founder of Priority Bicycles, knows it better than most. Weiner spent six years as a bike mechanic in his hometown of Walnut Creek, California, and much of his job was spent fixing the same handful of problems: tuning derailleurs, adjusting brakes, greasing chains, and replacing flat tires. Though Weiner eventually left his job for a career in software development, his […]
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1:00 PM | The Lab At The Bottom Of The World
Since the 1950s, a small but growing number of international scientists have spent months at a stretch on the world’s most remote continent: Antarctica. This year, 29 countries will host research programs there, meaning about 800 scientists and support staff will venture south for the summer season, from October to March. The U.S. Antarctic Program alone will field more than 100 projects, many of which will be making up for lost time; sequestration kept some expeditions off the ice in […]
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1:00 PM | Science On Ice: 7 Antarctic Experiments To Keep An Eye On
Since the 1950s, a small but growing number of international scientists have spent months at a stretch on the world’s most remote continent: Antarctica. This year, 29 countries will host research programs there, meaning about 800 scientists and support staff will venture south for the summer season, from October to March. The U.S. Antarctic Program alone will field more than 100 projects, many of which will be making up for lost time; sequestration kept some expeditions off the ice in […]

September 26, 2014

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10:00 PM | The Week In Numbers: Crabwalking Robots, Ferocious Fungi, And The Future Of Game Of Thrones
Clay Model. Click to enlarge. AMNH/D. Finnin 165: number of pounds Lonesome George weighed at the time of his death, before scientists stuffed and mounted him for display. 2: the number of rubber bands needed to build your own shoebox phone projector.  100,000,000: amount of money in American dollars the President of Korea pledged at the UN Climate Summit to help developing nations undertake low-carbon economic growth. Tumbling Alone Photo […]
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9:15 PM | The Week In Drones: Drones Fight Ebola, Iranian Dogfighters, And More
Satellite Image Of The Hollywood Sign United States Geological Survey, via Wikimedia Commons Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news: the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft. Unprepared Skies The future moves faster than bureaucracy. When the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for the safety of America’s skies, started building its NextGen air traffic control system in 2003, drones were mostly […]
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8:30 PM | Enormous Butterfly Swarms, Saharan Duststorms, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week
Woolly Micron Arthur E. Smith made took this microscopic photograph of a sheep tick 110 years ago to exhibit in London as part of a large collection. The pictures would have been the first many people of the time had ever seen. Arthur E. Smith/archive.org
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6:30 PM | FDA Takes Action Against Companies Selling Fraudulent 'Ebola Cures'
Ebola Virus NIAID As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread throughout West Africa, one thing is on everyone’s minds: finding a cure. But while many researchers are toiling away, trying to fulfill this desperate need, others are trying to capitalize on it. Various companies are claiming to have treatments that can cure or prevent Ebola, and those treatments can be yours! For a fee, of course. Sarcasm aside, there is no cure or treatment for Ebola yet, and […]
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5:31 PM | Camera-Toting Drones Are Coming To Hollywood
Hexarotor Filming Mountain Climbers In Haute-Savoie, France Tangopaso, via Wikimedia Commons After four years of lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Federal Aviation Administration announced yesterday that movie producers can fly drones to shoot film. This is good news for commercial drone use in the United States, but it might be too little, too late. As the FAA stalls on defining drone regulations, leaving commercial UAVs grounded throughout […]
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4:15 PM | Behold The Best Slow-Motion Camera On The Market
Phantom v2511 Vision Research In the time it takes to blink, the Phantom v2511 has already captured more than 7,500 frames of video. Expand that rate to one second, and the v2511 captures 25,600 frames at a resolution of about 1 megapixel. That’s still a far cry from the 1-trillion-FPS camera MIT researchers developed in 2011, but unless you plan to record the motion of light, it should work just fine. By The Numbers 39.32: Gigabytes of memory per second used by […]
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3:21 PM | In Africa, Ebola Patients Need More Than Medicine
Liberia's Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit Morgana Wingard for USAID The dusty hills around Lima sprout concrete at all angles. There are many words here for the gray delineation of poverty-struck areas: áreas tugurizadas (slum zones), the less formal tugurios (projects), solares (tenements), barriadas asistidas (assisted shanty towns). The average shanty-town income is less than $150 a month, which makes it a difficult place to conduct public health campaigns. In the […]
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1:00 PM | Bad Space Weather May Have Caused Fatal Afghan Gun Battle
US Chinook Flickr/The U S Army, CC BY 4.0 Three American soldiers* may have died in Afghanistan’s battle of Takur Ghar because of disruptions caused by plasma bubbles – a form of space weather – according to a new study. Space weather is normally associated with violent solar eruptions and geomagnetic storms. But the natural variability in the Earth’s ionosphere outside of these active events can still hinder a broad range of technologies. Equatorial […]

September 25, 2014

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9:00 PM | For Car Buyers, The Repo Man Is Just A Click Away
A Dodge Magnum SE 2007 raul, via Wikimedia Commons The problem with cars is that they move. For lenders interested in making sure loan repayments happen on schedule, moving collateral can present an investment risk. Recently, Popular Science reported on how, in an effort to mitigate this risk, repo men are scanning billions of license plates, putting drivers' privacy at risk in order to track down repossessed vehicles. Now The New York […]
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8:15 PM | Earth's Water Is Older Than The Sun
A Star Is Born. Some of Earth's water started out in an interstellar cloud (top left) that later got incorporated into the fledgling solar system. Bill Saxton, NSF/AUI/NRAO Since water is one of the vital ingredients for life on Earth, scientists want to know how it got here. One theory is that the water in our solar system was created in the chemical afterbirth of the Sun. If that were the case, it would suggest that water might only be common around certain stars […]

September 19, 2014

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10:20 PM | This Week In Numbers: Origami Microscopes, Laser Turrets, And A Bit More Than One Texas
Mark Those Birds! Zooniverse Penguin Watch 50: number of cameras researchers are using to study penguin populations in the Antarctic. You can help researchers identify penguins in adorable photographs, all while helping to train their artificial penguin-spotting intelligence. 1/2 millimeter: width of a huge "artificial atom" used to build a photon lattice at Princeton University. (That's big enough to see with the naked eye!) ABC Laser Turret […]
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9:44 PM | How Gorilla Poop Could Help Stop Ebola
Jock, A Western Lowland Gorilla Jackhynes Police drove through Kroo Bay this morning, past the open sewers and snuffling pigs, yelling at people to go inside—largely to no avail. All the 14,000 residents of the shanty town in Freeport, Sierra Leone, had been ordered to stay indoors for three days, to try to stop the spread of Ebola. Sierra Leone’s attempted lockdown is unprecedented: The whole country has been placed on house arrest and 20,000 volunteers have been […]
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8:51 PM | Video: Peter Thiel On How We Can Make The Future Awesome
Peter Thiel The entrepreneur and author of a new book, Zero To One, stopped by the Popular Science offices for a chat. Popular Science Peter Thiel has never shied from speculating on the future—and then pouring money into technologies that match that vision. As a cofounder of Paypal, he pioneered a new form of e-commerce. As an investor, he made an early bet on Facebook and SpaceX. Breakout Labs, a program of the Thiel Foundation, provides philanthropic […]
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8:30 PM | Next Week Is Climate Week
Climate Change Collage Wikimedia Commons Next week is Climate Week in New York City. The happenings begin on Sunday with what promises to be a massive march demanding action to curb human-propelled global warming. On Tuesday, the United Nations will hold an all-day climate-focused summit for world leaders. Each day will also brim with meetings, panels, and exhibits on climate change, energy, and resilience happening all over town. PopSci will be covering the […]
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8:00 PM | Astounding Auroras, Hiding Black Holes, And More Amazing Images Of The Week
Small Galaxy, Big Hole Don’t underestimate little galaxies, because they can pack one big punch. On Wednesday, a team of astronomers recently revealed that the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 is actually home to a giant, supermassive black hole. The momentous discovery goes against the conventional belief that only big galaxies can house giant black holes at their center. With this unveiling, described in the journal Nature, it could mean that the universe is home to many […]
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6:53 PM | The Week In Drones: Robots Piloting Robots, Indiana Drones, And More
Triton Drone Completes Its First Flight Alex Evers, via Wikimedia Commons Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news: the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft. Robot Pilots Most drones are actually human-piloted, with the controls elsewhere and the pilot steering remotely. In this video, the pilot is itself a humanoid robot, learning how to fly an airplane in a flight simulator. With a panel of controls in its mechanical […]
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