Popular Mechanics, 1953
Zip your zipper
It can go around curves and move forward and backward. Get ready for tiny bots to zip around your pants, jackets, and dresses.
Slay Motörhead covers
Just listen to that drumming. Lemmy may have found the band’s seventh drummer.
Swim like an octopus
These robot octopuses use webbed arms to quickly whip through the water.
Give Your Plants a Boost
Sterilize soil for growing seedlings by heating it up in the microwave first. Colorado State University horticulturist Laura Pottorff suggests filling plastic containers with a thin layer of soil and microwaving them for 90 seconds per kilogram.
Save That Stamp
You can remove a stamp from an envelope by putting a drop of water of it and then microwaving it for 10-15 seconds.
According to Good Housekeeping, microwaving a sponge can kill 99.9% of most household germs (and around 99.8% of E. coli and salmonella). Try it yourself: Saturate your sponges with water and zap them in the microwave for 60 seconds.
Make Your Own Heating Pad for Sore Muscles
Cut the foot off an old tube sock and sew the end together. Fill it with rice and then sew the top closed. Now you’ve got an inexpensive heating pad you can use over and over. Take your pad to the next level by adding a few drops of lavender to the rice.
Save Your Stale Bread
If that two-day-old bagel is getting a little hard to chew, then wrap it (or any bread) in a moist paper towel and zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds. The moisture from the towel will soak into your bagel. Read the rest of this entry »
The Innovation 15: Our Most Science- and Tech-Friendly Members of Congress
So maybe things aren’t that great. The 113th Congress of the United States is on track to enact just 251 laws in its two-year session, the least productive Congress since 1973. If a bill attempts to do anything more than rename a post office, it’s likely to languish in committee, ignored, while lawmakers sling partisan dung over budgets and borders. Not a great environment for innovation-minded legislation trying to become law. But it’s midterm- election time in America, and 33 Senate seats and every seat in the House of Representatives are up for grabs. Read the rest of this entry »
The perfect balance of humor, style, wit, and an awesome mix tape, Guardians of the Galaxy takes a band of misfits and creates a new team of heroes for us to cheer on for years to come.
I read Anthony Verducci’s review with one eye closed, because I’ve not seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet, though our Hong Kong Bureau chief has, so this is for him. For movies I’m planning to see, I’m also careful to limit my exposure to previews, trailers, and commentary, so I can preserve the surprises. Oh hell, I barely limit my exposure to anything. The one-eye thing, well, pirates have their reasons, it’s good for ducking in and out of dark movie theaters.
Here’s a plot run-through with minimal spoilers: On the eve of his mother’s death, our soon-to-be-hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is captured by space pirates. Yondu, leader of the Ravagers, adopts and teaches Peter the art of thievery. Fast-forward 26 years and our charming protagonist is grooving to a 70’s soundtrack while dancing his way through a mission to steal an ancient silver orb that can destroy whole planets.
The big bad guy, Ronan the Accuser, sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the deadliest woman in the galaxy, to retrieve the orb. Meanwhile, a pair of bounty-hunters—Rocket, a wise cracking, trigger happy raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, and a living tree creature Groot (Vin Diesel)—are out to collect the bounty on Quill.
While in the midst of a melee, this quartet of misfits is arrested and thrown in a maximum security prison called Kiln. A muscle-bound inmate named Drax the destroyer (Bautista) wants to kill Gamora, but she explains that Ronan cannot be allowed to get his hands on the orb. Reluctantly, all five team up for a prison break. Cue the fight scene.
Images via NASA.
For Popular Mechanics, Niko Vercelletto writes: Since it reached the orbit of Saturn 10 years ago today, the Cassini spacecraft has captured mind-blowing images and collected invaluable data about the ringed planet and its multitude of moons.
Launched from Earth in 1997, the probe was originally approved for a four-year mission, but that mission has now been extended three times. Good thing, too. With so much time spent in orbit of the sixth planet, Cassini has studied not only the gorgeous gas giant but also moons such as Titan, with its great hydrocarbon lakes, and Enceladus, with its jets of ice. Read the rest of this entry »
For Popular Mechanics, David Hambling writes: A new video shows a Russian military robot doing something no American machine in service can match: firing a machine gun. It’s hardly a technological triumph—the U.S. has been testing armed robots for decades. But while political and ethical caution has prevented the West from advancing with the concept, Russia seems determined to field a wide variety of combat robots.
The Russians call such robots MRKs, from the Russian for Mobile Robotic Complex. The latest is the MRK-002-BG-57, nicknamed Wolf-2. It’s basically a tank the size of a small car with a 12.7-mm heavy machine gun. In the tank’s automated mode, the operator can remotely select up to 10 targets, which the robot then bombards. Wolf-2 can act on its own to some degree (the makers are vague about what degree), but the decision to use lethal force is ultimately under human control.
Although the U.S. military fielded thousands of robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, these were used for bomb disposal and reconnaissance only. In 2007 the widely publicized deployment of three Talon/SWORDS robots fitted with machine guns ended in fiasco. The robots were confined to their base and never sent out on patrol because of fears of what might happen if anything went wrong. Work continues with MAARS, the successor to Talon/SWORDS, but there is no sign yet of anything being fielded. And when the budget gets tight, unmanned systems tend to feel the squeeze first. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m interested in building a backyard drone, but I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. What FAA regulations and privacy laws should I be aware of before I jump in?
Davey Alba writes: If you intend to build and fly a drone recreationally, you face only a few restrictions, which come to you courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration. Just make sure your unmanned aerial vehicle flies within your line of sight, less than 400 feet above the ground, during the day, and more than 3 miles from any airport. (You’ll be in even better shape, according to the FAA’s recommendations, if you choose an operating site far from noise-sensitive and densely populated areas such as parks, schools, and hospitals.) These rules, detailed in FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 and published in 1981, were written for model aircraft, but for now the FAA is applying the same rules to UAVs.
Poisonous Government Snow
Georgia isn’t good at snow. Two inches fell in Atlanta last month and, amidst car crashes and television parodies, snow skepticism was born. Georgians bravely took to YouTube, determined to demonstrate that neither matches nor lighters nor blowtorches (a disproportionate number of Georgians seem to own blowtorches) could melt that strange, white stuff that the government insisted was just frozen water. On film, the snow blackens, twists like plastic, and stubbornly refuses to melt.
Although entire Web pages are dedicated to debunking the chemical snow theory, the simplest way to deal with snow skeptics is to put the stuff in a microwave or on the stove. Spoiler: It melts. The blackened snow was caused by soot from the lighter, because butane burns inefficiently, and as snow turns into slush under a blowtorch, it only appears not to melt. Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait explains how the snow is, in fact, slowly melting.
The entire episode, however, brings up a good question: Who was the first Georgian to decide to burn the snow, just to see what would happen?
Adam and Eve? Superintelligent Beings From Outer Space
Now that even Bill Nye has weighed in on the debate about creationism and evolution, some of us would welcome any sort of common ground between science and religion. The ancient alien theory may offer a solution: Adam and Eve were extraterrestrials who traveled to Earth aboard a space ark piloted by—you guessed it—Noah.
Moniker, a Texas company that started with two guys and a little seed money, will put customized guitars in the hands of everyday guitarists. Have it your way, because mass customization is the future of manufacturing.
From Popular Mechanics, Chris Raymond writes: Kevin Tully was in Syracuse, N.Y., studying for the bar exam when a friend came pedaling up to his apartment on a bicycle. Not just any bicycle but a one-of-a-kind machine she herself had created on a hip, design-it-yourself website owned by Republic Bike. “She went online and picked out all the colors and parts,” he says. “She was really enthusiastic about the bike because it represented her sense of style.”
As a lifelong guitar player, Tully identified with that sense of pride. He was no Jimi Hendrix, but the two instruments in his home ranked among his most prized possessions. How great would it be, he wondered, if they could truly reflect his personal taste?
And so, over Thanksgiving in 2011, Tully approached his high school friend Dave Barry, a fellow guitar enthusiast, with the idea of launching a business. “Your guitar is kind of an extension of yourself, and guitar players are creative by nature,” Barry says. “We wanted to give people the opportunity to create their own guitar.”
Erik Schechter reports: Making a list of failed weapons systems, the temptation is to trot out the infamous ice-and-sawdust ship, the giant tricycle tank, or some other ridiculous doohickey. But the world of military programs is not neatly divided between the sublime and the stupid. There are a lot in-between cases.
In the 1960s, MB Associates developed the Gyrojet, a family of experimental guns that fired tiny rockets instead of bullets and did so in near silence. Despite making a cameo in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, though, the Gyrojet ran into plenty of problems. The rocket-bullet picked up speed only once it left the barrel, so the gun was useless at close range. It also jammed frequently and was not very accurate.
Nevertheless, alternatives to the conventional bullet still pop up now and again. Just last year, Sandia National Laboratories researchers developed a laser-guided, dart-like bullet that can hit a bull’s-eye a mile away.