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Popular Science Australia - April 2018

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BABY BRAIN Why thinking like a child makes an AI smarter.
RISE
OF THE
TINY PC
IT'S COMING
om fringe theory to
stream technology
PLUS
INTEL'S MEMORY
REVOLUTION
WHAT IS A
HARDWARE
WALLET?
LIFE IN THE
RON LUNG
ORLD'S
RDEST
TESTS
*Further pur
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You can also extend your home theatre to wireless
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Play & Share
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USB Music Anywhere
ISSUE #113, APRIL 2018
EDITORIAL
Editor Anthony Fordham afordham@nextmedia.com.au
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What will the development of quantum computers mean for
our civilisation? Oh sure, better cryptography, “more powerful”
processing, but bottom line, we just don’t know... yet.
This phenomenon isn’t unique to
quantum computing, of course. It’s
something we see time and again with
all new world-changing technology.
In some ways, it’s how we can deine a
technology as world-changing: everyone
agrees it’s going to be hugely important,
but nobody can predict exactly what
impact it will have.
The internet remains the classic
example. Although invented in the
1960s, even by the late 1990s, the
internet was still being dismissed as
a fad. Most commentators thought it
nothing more than a curiosity.
There’s a famous 1999 interview
between David Bowie and BBC
journalist Jeremy Paxman. In it,
Bowie predicts that the internet will
change the nature of music, and
erode the “barriers between creator
and audience”. The longer he spoke,
the more Paxman spluttered with
indignation that Bowie could possibly
believe this about the internet.
To be fair to Paxman, in 1999,
internet at home meant accessing it
over a dial-up modem. Concepts like
YouTube, Facebook, Netlix and more
simply could not work over such limited
bandwidth. But the few people whose
predictions were at least a little close
to reality, all assumed that bandwidth
would increase and that streaming
music and video would be possible soon
enough. They were laughed at.
Oddly enough, as the dot-com boom
intensiied, many lipped from doubters
to hopeless optimists, and lost serious
money building websites to deliver
content that simply couldn’t “it” down
the intertubes of the day.
Then in the second decade of
the 21st century: critical mass.
Bandwidth increased massively, then
exponentially. Forget showing a nice
little video in your browser, today
Netlix can serve you a TV show in 4K,
as long as you have 25Mbps connection.
Which millions of people now have
(though statistically, as an Australian,
you probably don’t, sorry).
More or less the same thing happened
all over again for mobile phones.
Who carries a phone everywhere it’s
ridiculous! Then smartphones - who
is does email web on a tiny screen like
that, it’s ridiculous!
Quantum computing isn’t a consumer
technology, of course. It’s a much
bigger deal than that. Quantum
computing is more like the invention
of the transistor. Sure, most people
have heard of it, but few understand it.
Heck, we don’t even really understand
it. But we’re reasonably comfortable
that when a lab has that many scanning
electron microscopes, it must be doing
something important, right?
Quantum computing is still at
the stage of “hit it with a hammer
until it works”. Sure the hammer
is microscopic, and also a laser or
magnetic ield of some kind, but the
point is we’re going through the process
of turning the idea into reality.
Sooner than you think, though,
qubit-based computers are going to
get applied to stuf. What stuf? Like
always, it will be super secret stuf irst.
Then it will ilter down to the rest of us.
And then the world will shift again
and I’ll be writing an editorial about
“remember when nobody realised the
impact quantum computing was going
to make on civilisation? It all seems so
obvious now!”
This is how the world begins. Not with
a bang, but with a lot of extremely hard
work behind the scenes.
ANTHONY FORDHAM
afordham@nextmedia.com.au
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
3
APRIL 2018
Contents
36
04
POPULAR SCIENCE
The Quest for
a Quantum
Computer
For daily updates: www.popsci.com.au
Once it was a fringe theory. Then
the world started to take notice.
We’ve been anticipating the first
quantum computer for years
now. Scientists and engineers are
getting closer by the day.
08
Update
Events of Interest
08 Bitcoin struck by lightning
10 Self-driving car kills pedestrian
12 Lasers turn light into matter
18
State of the Art
Your guide to everything
14
18
20
23
Insight
26
62
Optane: Intel’s big bet
Smarten up your home
Puzzles to melt your brain
A robot to ask: why am I?
Important stuff for futurists
25 How flu kills
30 Why kids are smarter than you
think, and why that’s good for AI
Features
Read, think, read some more
36 Historical IQ tests were... hard
46 Quantum computing
Charted
Data in digestible form
58
59
60
61
62
How much data is there?
Worst recipe ever
Monkeys writing Shakespeare
How weak is your password?
Head trip!
How 2.0
Made for you, by you
68 You Built a tiny gaming PC?
72 Tales from the field
The Other Stuf
Bonus Extra Material!
03
74
78
80
82
Our Editor Rants
From the Archives
Retro Invention
Lab Rats!
Next Issue
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
05
The Business World
is Shifting to
Greener Technology
Epson’s NEW
WorkForce
Enterprise range
leads the way
*
96%
less power usage
100 ppm, maximum 320 W
Reduce costs, maximise savings
To book your free demo or discover more visit
www.epson.com.au/workforce-enterprise
*Based on Epson WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590 max power consumption of 320W, and comparable speed model Fuji
Xerox Color 1000i Press max power consumption of 7600W, based on manufacturers own specifications.
UPDATE
All the science and
tech news that’s worth
reallocating to your
forebrain or whatever.
Compiled by Anthony Fordham
and Staff Writers.
Bitcoin Struck
By Lightning
So-called “second layer” tech aims to solve cryptocurrency’s
biggest challenge - scaling
W
hen Bitcoin soared to US$19,783
on 17th December 2017, not
all holders of the world’s most
prominent cryptocurrency were celebrating.
That’s because the cost to send Bitcoin
between users sky-rocketed along with the
spot price. Worse, because so many people
wanted a piece of that sweet crypto action,
the network became congested, creating a
perfect storm: slow transactions and extreme
fees, as long as 17 hours and as high as $50.
It’s a problem long anticipated, but
fortunately the solution is almost here.
Originally proposed in late 2014, by Bitcoin
developers Joseph Poon and Thaddeus
Dryja, the Lightning Network will run
alongside the main Bitcoin blockchain, and
allow smaller transactions to be sent almost
instantly, and - from the point of view of
many end-users - for free.
Update
Rather than wait hours for dozens of
$3 coffee transactions to be confirmed
on the blockchain, a coffee shop can offer
customers a Lightning Network channel,
for a pre-committed amount of funds, say a
week or month’s worth of coffee.
This channel incurs the normal
network fee, but its users can do as many
transactions within it as they want, for no
extra cost, and almost instantly.
Why not just buy a $90 monthly coffee
subscription? Because the Lightning
Network allows users to contest
transactions. If a customer think the shop
charged them for two coffees instead of
one, they can send a code that demands the
coffee shop sort out the problem or forfeit
the value of one coffee back to the customer.
More importantly than this though,
Lightning Network should restore Bitcoin’s
capacity to handle small, near-instant
transactions between people oceans apart.
$1.18
The average network fee, in March 2018, to
send any amount of Bitcoin on the network, in
USD. Network costs are paid to miners, in
Bitcoin, and are calculated not on how much
Bitcoin is being moved, but rather on the file
size of the transaction, and how quickly the
sender wants the transaction confirmed.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
9
FUTURE SHOCK:
FLAT FARMING
Do you miss having to grow your
own food in your little patch of
farmland near your house? No?
Oh, well that’s a shame because
Vincent Callebaut Architectures
has conceptualised this new
“biophilic” building. Be a
permaculture hippy on the
terrace of your own exclusive
million-dollar apartment!
S9 Camera
Knows What
Matters
The problem with capturing super-lowlight images quickly is simple: the sensor
needs to boost power to grab photons fast,
and that power creates noise in the image.
The solution involves a combination of
variable-aperture optics, taking three
images in quick succession and combining
them, and a whole lot of processing.
The resulting low-light images from
the Samsung Galaxy S9 won’t impress
if blown up to poster size - there’s still
noise. But on your Facebook feed or seen
through the Instagram app, they look
amazing. Tripod deprecated.
ON A 435-acre
tract
Self-Drive Uber Kills
Pedestrian
on the Ohio River near
ability,
even when
Major US news outlets reported in late
Sh ppingport,
Pa.,investigators rule them
“not ata fault”
an accident.
March that an autonomous car struck
stands
majorin
triumph
This
accident,
of the
Western
Woralong
d — with several fatal
and killed a pedestrian, while undergoing
crashes that
America’s
firstoccurred
full-scalewhile drivers
testing by Uber.
were using
Tesla’s
Autopilot feature,
nuclear
power
plant.
Arizona woman Elaine Herzberg died
demonstrates
thatafter
the public won’t accept
There,
only 15 years
after she wheeled her bicycle into the road
cars
that
are merely
“as good as” humans in
the
first
chain
reaction
and was hit. Uber’s vehicle had a human
avoiding
accidents.
in
the historic
Chicago
backup driver, who was also unable to react
Self-drive
squash
court,systems
atoms will need to be
quickly enough to prevent the impact.
preternaturally
silently splittingaware
in a and able to react
The accident has highlighted a challenge
with
literallydustless
superhuman speed, to protect
smokeless,
that autonomous vehicles will need to
pedestrians from their own fatal mistakes.
overcome: public opinion of their safety and
10
POPULAR SCIENCE
Update
Hardcore
(But Friendly)
Hardware
Wallet
GOLD IN
THEM THAR
NEUTRON STARS
Stars are mostly hydrogen,
helium and maybe a few
specks of other elements
no heavier than iron. So
how does gold ever get
made? New research
suggests via neutron star
collisions. How much
gold? Three to 13 Earth
masses of gold. Bling.
The biggest risk to cryptocurrency users
remains having their coins or tokens stolen.
Cryptocurrency management systems are
called wallets, but function more like a keyring,
allowing the user to authorise transactions.
Software wallets running on a PC can be
compromised via keyloggers. Hardware wallets,
in contrast, are single-purpose computers that
“air gap” a user’s cryptocurreny private keys.
Prague-based Satoshi Labs created the Trezor
hardware wallet a couple of years ago, but its
interface is more “hacker” than “home user”.
Now the company has launched the
Trezor T, a full-colour touchscreen device its
developers hope will bring Bitcoin and other
cryptocurrencies to (even more of) the masses.
While it’s pricey at $250, the Trezor T is also
essentially uncrackable, thanks to sophisticated
USB management, and it supports eight
different cryptocurrencies so far.
Still not convinced? Satoshi Labs won’t
mind: the first production run is already sold
out. preorder.trezor.io
A VERY HIGH PERSPECTIVE
CULLING
PREDATORS:
DOESN’T WORK
Recent studies in
Washington State,
US, have been unable
to show a significant
correlation between
culling wolf populations,
and reducing attacks on
livestock. Non-lethal
deterrence - fences, dogs,
flapping red flags - are
more effective. Of course,
the claims are being
disputed.
Thanks to farming software business Granular, farmers will soon be able to monitor
their crops from space. Satellite imagery provider Planet will give Granular’s customers
access to daily images from 200 satellites. It’s enormously valuable data that can give
new insight into crop management.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
11
Update
Turning Laser Light Into Real Matter
Everyone knows E=mc2 but what about m=E/
c2? That’s the equation for the amount of
energy required to create mass - or matter from, well, energy itself.
It’s an important part of confirming
Einstein’s theories and the work done by
other physicists after him, and scientists at
the Imperial College London are trying to
actually do it.
The idea is simple enough. Proposed in
1934 and called the Breit-Wheeler process,
TOP 5
Greatest rocket launches
on YouTube
12
POPULAR SCIENCE
it hypothesises that it should be possible to
smash two photons together hard enough
to create an electron and a positron (an
anti-electron). Electrons don’t have a LOT
of mass, sure, and if the electron and the
positron touch each other they’ll convert
back into energy via an matter-antimatter
annihilation, but that’s not the point. The
point is to demonstrate that energy can be
converted into matter.
That the Breit-Wheeler process wasn’t
5
confirmed back in 1934 had a lot to do with
the unavailability of extremely powerful
lasers. Now though, the Gemini laser at
STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s
Central Laser facility might be up to the job.
If the experiment is a success and the BreitWheeler process confirmed, it will add one
more piece, perhaps the final piece, to the
puzzle of quantum electrodynamics and give
us new insight into such things as gamma ray
bursters, and even the Big Bang itself.
ROUTINE SOYUZ LAUNCH
IMAX SHUTTLE LAUNCH
Spectacular in its no-fuss
simplicity. Plus onboard shots!
youtu.be/fW2EhH1xRrY
Atlantis’ was filmed in 2009 for an
IMAX doco. It’s like being there.
youtu.be/uuYoYl5ky
4
Paint an
Asteroid
to Save
the Earth
All those brave totally unqualified oil rig
workers who saved the Earth by blowing
up asteroids with nuclear weapons in
films from the late 1990s, maybe have
unnecessarily risked their lives.
Instead, it may be possible to divert
an asteroid by simply painting part of it
a different colour. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx
probe (pictured) will visit possibly-Earthimpacting asteroid Bennu to investigate. By
painting one side of the asteroid, say, white,
it will change the rock’s thermals properties
as the sun heats that side slightly more. This
can lead to a change in its “orbital dynamics”
and turn a direct-hit into a near-miss.
Not that there’s any rush: Bennu, which is
about the size of a large skyscraper, has a 1 in
2700 chance of hitting Earth... in 2135.
$10,000
Claimed total cost of the world’s first massproduceed, 3D-printed electric car. Italian
car maker XEV and Chinese 3D printing
material maker Polymaker say the LSEV cuts
typical car production costs by 70%, and part
counts from over 2000 to just 57. LSEV should
hit the road in late 2019.
3
FALCON HEAVY TEST LAUNCH
EPIC LOUD SPACE SHUTTLE HD
APOLLO 11 SATURN V
Take-off is cool, twin boosters
landing at the end is even cooler.
youtu.be/sB_nEtZxPog
Launch of Discovery. Crank the
bass and rattle the windows!
youtu.be/OnoNITE-CLc
Essential cut with all the good bits.
A true 20th century legend!
youtu.be/4cOhZy7dhTo
2
1
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
13
State
of the
Art
A New Way
to Remember
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
FOR MOST OF THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING
science, there has been a distinct divide between a
computer’s CPU, its RAM, and its storage system.
To complete its calculations, a CPU must rapidly
store and retrieve mathematical results from
temporary memory. The fastest memory is
the CPU’s built-in cache. The next fastest is
the system RAM. And the slowest is the hard
drive, be it a magnetically-recorded diskette
or the somewhat faster (but still slow by
CPU standards) solid-state-drive.
The divide is partly due to design,
but mostly due to cost. The faster the
memory, the higher the price, and
the smaller the affordable capacity.
That’s why a typical PC has a CPU
with 12 megabytes of cache, but 16
gigabytes of RAM, and two, five,
14
POPULAR SCIENCE
Optane tech is making
its way into a range of
products, from
enterprise kit to ultra
fast SSDs for gamers.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
15
State
of the
Art
10 even 12 terabytes of hard d
Another factor is the way ca
RAM aren’t “persistent”. Whe
off the power, they get erased
memory, like a hard drive, has
a separate thing.
Now Intel wants to break dow
with a radical new kind of mem
At the chip level, it’s called 3D X
(pronounced: cross-point) but f
type purposes it’s branded Opt
The first Optane-equipped s
drives came out in 2016, but 20
launch of a substantial update. While Optane
will load your games faster on a home PC, it’s
real benefit will be for those workhorses of
the internet itself: data centres.
Having a fast hard drive in a data centre
server means more than just being able to
read and write files quickly. The hard drive
needs to be able to respond to a request for
a file quickly too.
With NAND- or flash-memory based SSDs,
as the number of requests for data increases,
so does the wait-time for each new request.
Being able to grab a file in a microsecond isn’t
that great if you have to wait a whole second
to even get your turn to ask for the file.
End users will most
likely first encounter
Optane in the form of
a high-end SSD
Intel’s enterprise Optane drives - such
as the DC P4800X we tested - maintain
responsiveness even as the load on their
server ramps up. It keeps the data moving.
This can be applied to situations rather
more important than just browsing funny
cat pictures. An example Intel gave us
was an MRI development project at the
Unviersity of Pisa.
One of the problems with MRI is it
requires patients to lie inside a gigantic
magnet, which makes weird clanking noises,
sometimes for as long as 40 minutes. This
isn’t great for anyone who, for instance,
suffers from claustrophobia.
An experimental new MRI system
Enterprise-grade
drives have a special
form-factor with ultrafast connections.
equipped with Optane memory (among
other innovations) is able to do what’s
called “in-memory computing”, and hold
vast amounts of data close to the CPU for
extremely fast access.
Early results show with this system, a
typical MRI could be completed in just two
minutes. Apart from being good for patients,
that’s great for hospitals too. More tests,
faster results, better patient outcomes.
Right now enterprise-grade Optane
memory is still very expensive. But Intel says
it’s still an easy sell. Organisations like Ali Bab,
IBM, Digital Ocean and more all recognise the
benefits and are keen to see the technology
rolled out. In Ali Baba’s case, a new “database
as a service” called Polar DB, and built around
Optane, is already proving to be six times
faster than a traditional MySQL database.
That’s a big deal.
Right now Optane is still kind of esoteric,
for regular end users. But within a matter
of years, the idea of having separate RAM
and storage in your device - phone, tablet,
PC whatever - might just be as obsolete as
vacuum tubes and punch-cards.
SUPPORTED BY
National Science Week
11–19 August 2018
F E S T I VA L S – A C T I V I T I E S – E V E N T S & M O R E A L L A C R O S S A U S T R A L I A !
NASA scientists and Australia in space,
festivals, music and comedy shows, panel
Australia’s lost beasts back from the dead,
discussions, film nights, open days, interactive
the doctor’s diet, the search for Australia’s next
displays, and online activities.
top junior weather presenter — and more!
It’s all part of National Science Week,
Key events include the Perth and
Sydney Science Festivals, the Festival of
with around 2000 events and activities held
Bright Ideas in Hobart, Science in ACTion,
throughout Australia — from HealthLab visiting
Adelaide’s Science Alive!, desertSMART
the Tiwi Islands, to corals in the Outback, to
EcoFair in Alice Springs and the Innovation
astronomy in the Apple Isle. Activities include
Games at Sydney Olympic Park.
ABOUT NATIONAL
SCIENCE WEEK
National Science Week is Australia’s
annual celebration of science and
technology. It’s designed for everyone,
with events and activities, talks and
shows for every age group. Thousands
of individuals get involved – from
students to scientists to chefs and
musicians – taking part in more than
1000 science events across the nation.
National Science Week provides an
opportunity to acknowledge the
contributions of Australian scientists to
the world of knowledge, and also aims
to encourage an interest in science
among the general public, and to
encourage younger people to become
fascinated by the world we live in.
National Science
Week 2018
11–19 August 2018
scienceweek.net.au
facebook.com/nationalscienceweek
twitter.com/Aus_ScienceWeek
instagram.com/nationalscienceweek
images: National Science Week; top left: Jayne Ion,
courtesy of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
FOR COMPETITIONS
& THE EVENT DIARY,
SCAN HERE!
State
of the
Art
1
Get the
Party Started
by STAN HORACZEK
3
SMART HOMES CAN MAKE
coffee, but do they know how to
party? Yes, and no. You can set up
a system like this one, which
starts a barnburner at the cry
“Alexa, let’s party,” but making
the connections among bulbs,
speakers, and virtual assistants
takes some doing. Banding your
gadgets together into a raucous
gang of party animals requires
using the app If This Then That
(IFTTT) as glue. Once that’s done,
you’re ready to rage on.
2
1 The host
Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo Dot
hears your rallying cry and sends
the signal to the rest of its party
people—er, gadgets. Using IFTTT,
your initial voice command can also
tweet out the invite to friends and
order pizza to keep ‘em fed.
Alexa relays the shindig-starting
message to the Logitech Harmony
Hub, which connects to all your
devices—from appliances to home
theatres—via Wi-Fi. The console is
what gets your lights in sync with
your speakers, and so on.
3 The mood setter
In party mode, the LIFX bulbs cycle
through 16 million colours in a pattern that makes your living room
look like a Dat Punk concert. An
end-of-night action called “party’s
over” can reset the lights to max
brightness and whiteness.
5
4 The DJ
4
Spread out as many as 32 Sonos
One Wi-Fi speakers, and they’ll
create a mesh network that kicks
out jams in every room. The smartphone-controlled gadgets are also
Alexa-friendly, so you can shout to
skip a track mid lip-cup battle.
5 The entertainment
Smart fog machines aren’t a thing
(yet!), but the D-Link Wi-Fi Plug
can ill in. Hooked into a powerpoint, the socket controls the low
of electricity to whatever it powers.
Turn on a bubble machine—or a fan
for when it’s “getting hot in here.”
18
POPULAR SCIENCE
PHOTOGRAPH BY TRAVIS RATHBONE / PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES
2 The party planner
4
State
of the
Art
Gleaming
the Cuboids
by CORINNE IOZZIO
3
1
2
20
POPULAR SCIENCE
6
PHOTOGRAPH BY TRAVIS RATHBONE / PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES
7
5
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
21
Robot Without
a Cause
by STAN HORACZEK
BEFORE ANDROIDS CAN DREAM of
electric sheep, they need humans to
do some dreaming for them. Such is
the case of Misty 1. While it started
as a project within Sphero—the company that created the BB-8 toys and
other rolling robotic critters—Misty
is no plaything. Only a few dozen
programmers will be able to buy one
of these 400-mm-tall bots in the
hope it will answer an existential
question: “What is my purpose?”
Misty’s hardware offers coders
plenty to tinker with as they work
on that puzzle. Collision-avoidance equipment helps it navigate
domestic clutter like dropped toys
and discarded clothing, and farfield microphones listen for voice
commands. It can even map and
remember its surroundings, just like
a self-driving car does. The more
skills programmers create, the closer
Misty gets to discovering a reason
for being. Imagine that.
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P O P S C I .CO M . AU
23
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ISSUE
113
INSIGHT
APRIL
2018
26
HOW NOT TO DIE OF THE
FLU (PLUS TIPS ON HOW TO
DIE OF THE FLU)
30
WHY WE NEED TO BUILD
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
WITH A BABY-LIKE BRAIN
YOU’VE GONE VIRAL!
Insight
How (Not) to Die
of Influenza
by CL AIRE MALDARELLI
T H I S Y E A R’S N O RT H E R N F L U
season is pretty scary. To try to combat and
minimise the effects, public health officials in
US are still urging anyone who hasn’t yet gotten
their flu shot to get one as soon as possible. Yet
with 36 per cent effectiveness (considered
good, the shot can’t prevent everyone from
getting infected with the notorious virus.
Unlike most common colds, strains of
the influenza virus can cause symptoms all
throughout the body. And when you’ve got
them, they can be pretty alarming. Knowledge
is power, so here’s what goes on in your body
when you come down with the flu.
ANGLE OF ATTACK
The influenza virus primarily attacks your
respiratory tract: your nose, throat, and the
tubes that lead to your lungs. So symptoms
like a runny nose, a phlegmy cough, and a sore
throat all make a lot of sense. But the flu is so
much more than that. Though other organs in
the body are not the primary target, the virus
still has an effect on them. Your muscles ache,
your head hurts, and your appetite goes down.
Ironically, almost all of these symptoms
have less to do with the virus itself than with
your immune response to them.
The virus usually enters through your
mouth, typically by way of your hands: You
touch your face more often than you think. But
it takes a few days for symptoms to set in.
Avian Influenza is a more deadly and virulent relative
of seasonal flu. The first to suffer when it breaks out
are the thousands of chickens that must be culled.
26
POPULAR SCIENCE
Once inside you, the virus makes a beeline
for your respiratory system and binds to the
cells that line those areas. The virus then
hijacks those cells’ natural mechanisms for
replicating and uses them to create even more
flu viruses in your body.
While this process might cause some harm
to your respiratory tract, it’s nothing major,
and nothing like the symptoms that typically
accompany a bad or even mild case of the flu.
The real fun starts when your immune
system begins to fight. This begins as soon as
the flu virus starts to replicate.
CTRL-C CTRL-V
Your immune system comes in two parts: the
innate system and the adaptive. The innate
immune system is essentially an all-purpose
tool. As soon as your body senses the presence
of any injury or invader, the innate immune
system launches into action by producing tiny
proteins called cytokines and chemokines. The
cytokines reproduce almost immediately and
start to attack the virus. This increase in immune
cells creates an overwhelming inflammation
throughout the body that makes you start to feel
funny. But the worst is still to come.
Simultaneously, the chemokines work with
the adaptive immune system to help create
T cells. These cells are a special type of white
blood cell that work in a much more specific
way: They find the influenza virus, identify
Insight
what’s special about it, and create a unique
molecule on their surface that finds and
destroys similar invaders.
The influenza virus has already started its
own rapid replication by the time this process
gets started, so the adaptive immune system
must generate a lot of T cells to wage a proper
war. This massive production of T cells that
infiltrate your lungs, throat, and nose cause
inflammation, swelling, and pain. In your
lungs, the mucus that accumulates from
the inflammation itself causes you to cough
constantly as your body works to clear airways.
And because your lungs are now damaged
and vulnerable, you have a greater chance of
acquiring pneumonia from an opportunistic
strain of bacteria.
FEEL THE BURN
What about the aches and pains, and especially
the lethargy that sets flu apart from a mere
cold? That’s also your immune system at work.
All those proteins—the cytokines and
chemokines—travel through the bloodstream,
which makes its way to every organ system
in the body. Once they get there, the
inflammatory proteins affect the way many
of those organ systems function, causing
symptoms of the flu.
For example, the aches and pains that
make you feel like you just rain an endurance
run, researchers believe, occur because the
cytokines induce the breakdown of muscle
proteins. Researchers think this breakdown is
likely beneficial, because many of the resulting
amino acids help to create and strengthen
parts of the immune system.
As for the awful fever and chills, you can
thank those cytokines again. And one specific
type, interleukin-1, might be the main culprit.
These cytokines are seemingly able to cross
the semipermeable network of capillaries that
connect the brain to the rest of the body (known
as the blood-brain barrier). Inside the brain the
cytokines reach the hypothalamus, your body’s
thermostat, and interfere with its functioning
to crank up the temperature. Once an increased
temperature is induced, the hypothalamus
responds by telling the body to shiver and
restricting blood vessels, as well as creating an
overall feeling of chilliness.
A fever is rare in adults with mere colds, but
almost certain in a person with the flu. This isn’t
true for young children however, especially
infants, in which at least a mild fever frequently
accompanies a cold. Researchers are still pretty
unclear on whether a higher body temperature
itself actually provides any benefit, but it’s at
least a sign that your body is fighting its invaders.
Researchers think this systemic release
of cytokines into the bloodstream directly
influences other flu symptoms, like severe
headache and a lack of appetite, though their
mechanisms aren’t as clear.
CYTOKINE STORM
Influenza can be killer (see: 1918), but mostly
its a secondary infection that does the killing.
Sure, the virus can give you pneumonia
directly, but often it just weakens you enough
to allow some other bug to take hold.
But in some cases the mere presence of flu
can cause the immune system to basically
break your blood. It’s called Cytokine Release
Syndrome (CRS), or a cytokine storm.
CRS occurs when white blood cells release
inflammatory cytokines, which in turn
28
POPULAR SCIENCE
The efficacy of drugs like Tamiflu - which chemically
interfere with the virus’ ability to reproduce - is
debated. But that doesn’t stop Tamiflu selling out
every time the media calls for a “killer flu season”.
SIDE EFFECTS
It’s strange to think that almost every awful
symptom you feel during the flu is the result of
your own body attempting to attack it.
On the other hand, consider what would
happen if your body didn’t react this way. You
wouldn’t get the nagging cough, the aches and
pains, or even the persistent fever. Instead, the
flu virus would continue to replicate and slowly
destroy the lining of the respiratory tract—or
worse, allow bacteria to cause pneumonia and
destroy it first.
And since you need your respiratory tract to
live, you might not survive to tell the tale. So if
you do end up coming down with the flu and
feel those aches and pains coming on, know
that it’s the only way to get better.
Don’t count your (non-viral) chickens yet,
though. Keep an eye out for a steady recovery
followed by a sudden downturn; that’s a
common sign of pneumonia, which is how
most flu fatalities occur.
activate more white blood cells. It’s a sort of
chain reaction, which leads to an almost
literal meltdown of the body’s ability to
manage blood oxygen properly.
The result is a cascade of increasingly
severe issues - all caused by the immune
system messing up, rather than the flu - and
it can most definitely be fatal.
Fortunately, CRS is more usually associated
with avian influenza, or bird flu. Even so it’s an
extremely serious condition that, even in a mild
form, can put you in intensive care.
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IN PROFILE / A L I S O N
G O P N I K
Insight
Building
a BabyBrained AI
A psychologist's work inspires autonomous car designers to think young.
by Bryan Gardiner
ALISON GOPNIK’S CAREER BEGAN WITH
a psychology experiment she
now considers ridiculous. Aiming
to understand how 15-montholds connect words with abstract
concepts (daddy = caregiver), she decided to visit
nine kids once a week for a year. The then Oxford
graduate student would record everything they
said as part of her dissertation. “It was absurd
for a million reasons,” says Gopnik, holed up on
a winter Friday in her office at the University of
California at Berkeley, where she is a professor of
developmental psychology. “If a child had moved
away, if there weren’t any take-aways after the year,
or any number of things, all that work would have
been gone,” she says, before adding, “I would never
allowastudentofminetodoanythinglikethattoday.”
30
POPULAR SCIENCE
Though her experiment didn’t solve
any language-acquisition mysteries, it did
overturn her assumptions about childhood
learning and intelligence—and it altered her
career path. Now her research has drawn the
interest of artificial-intelligence scientists who
want to adapt her insights to their machinelearning algorithms. What she learned about
kids’ smarts while a grad student still holds
sway—for her field and possibly theirs. “Instead
of thinking about children as these kind of
starter adults, I realised they were profoundly
different,” says Gopnik, now 62, and with
her own grown children and grandchildren.
“The way they use words, the meanings they
express, the way they express them—none of it
matched how adults think or speak.”
Today, Gopnik oversees her own cognitive
development lab at UC Berkeley, and is the
author of several books on early childhood
learning and development. She’s a TED
alum, a Wall Street Journal columnist, and
has attained that singular intellectual
Insight
inventive, and better at learning than adults.”
The reason: size and shape matter. Research shows that
the bulk and structure of a child’s brain confer cognitive
strengths and weaknesses. Same goes for adults. For
example, a developed prefrontal cortex allows grown-ups
to focus, plan, and control our impulses: valuable skills
that let us write magazine articles and avoid jail time. But
evidence suggests a developed cortex can also make it hard
to learn new or surprising concepts and can impede creative
thinking. Toddler brains, constantly abuzz with fresh neural
connections, are more plastic and adaptive. This makes
them bad at remembering to put on pants but surprisingly
good at solving abstract puzzles and extracting unlikely
principles from extremely small amounts of information.
T
Baby Talk
Kids, Gopnik tells
people, are the R&D
unit of our species.
height— crossing over into pop culture,
by appearing on shows like Good Morning
America and The Colbert Report. Gopnik’s
message: Adult cognitive primacy is an
illusion. Kids, her research shows, are not
proto-adults with fruit-fly-like attention
spans, but in fact our occasional superiors.
“Children, even very young children,” she
says, “are in many ways smarter, more
YOUR BRAIN,
FROM CRADLE TO
ROCKING CHAIR
We’re born helpless and dumb. As we mature,
experience and schooling teach us useful things,
and we get wise. Then, year by year, we slip back
into feeblemindedness. That’s the picture most
of us have of intelligence. Ironically, it’s dumb.
Research reveals that each period of cognitive
development offers learning strategies as well as
trade-offs. It’s that combo of aha and duh that
actually makes humans truly intelligent.
32
POPULAR SCIENCE
HESE ARE HANDY SKILL S. IT
turns out a lot of smart people want to think
this way—or want to build machines that
do. Artificial-intelligence researchers at
places like Google and Uber hope to use
this unique understanding of the world’s most powerful
neural-learning apparatus—the one between a toddler's
ears—to create smarter self-driving cars. Coders can create
software that beats us at board games, but it’s harder to
apply those skills to a different task—say, traffic-pattern
analysis. Kids on the other hand, are genius at this kind of
generalised learning. “It’s not just that they figure out how
one game or machine works,” says Gopnik. Once they’ve
figured out how your iPhone works, she says, they’re
able to take that information and use it to figure out the
childproof sliding lock on the front door.
Cracking the codes of these little code breakers wasn’t
Gopnik’s original career plan. As an undergrad, she
began studying life’s big problems, toiling in the field
of analytic philosophy. Back then, none of her peers
Infant
Toddler
0-18 months
2-5 years
An infant brain forms a million
new neural connections each
second, helping her to develop
emotions, motor skills,
attachments, and working
memory. At 11 months, she can
already form hypotheses about
how the world works. At 18
months, she has a sense of self.
When it comes to learning
abstract concepts, preschoolers
beat adults. At 4 years old, 66 per
cent of calories are headed to her
brain—fuel for the exploration
and creative thinking that define
this period. By the time she finishes preschool, her gray matter has
quadrupled in size.
IN PROFILE / A L I S O N
I
T M IG H T A L S O, G OP N I K HOP E S,
change outmoded ideas that we all seem to
share about intelligence. “We still tend to
think that a 35-year-old male professor is the
ultimate goal of human cognition,” she says,
“that everything else is just leading up to or
deteriorating from that cognitive peak.”
That model doesn’t make sense for a
variety of reasons. Studies from fields like
evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and
developmental psychology suggest we
simply have different cognitive strengths and
strategies at different stages of our lives.
“Children will have one set of ideas
about how people and the world work when
they’re two, and then another set when
they’re three, and another set when they’re
five,” says Gopnik. “It’s like they’re actively
trying to think up a coherent picture of the
Fields like evolutionary biology, neuroscience,
and developmental psychology suggest that
we simply have different cognitive strengths
and strategies at different stages of our lives.
world around them, and then constantly
ch a n g i n g t h a t p i c t u r e b a s e d o n t h e
observations they make.”
That frenetic hypothesis formation—and
ongoing reformation—isn’t a bug; it’s a highly
desired feature. And if we want our machines
to possess anything approximating human
intelligence, maybe we should think about
giving them a childhood too.
CO U R T E S Y T E D TA L K S/ YO U T U B E .CO M
pondered the thinking of kids. But Gopnik became
convinced kids were key to unlocking one of the oldest
epistemological queries: How do we know stuff about the
world around us? Borrowing the brain-as-computer model,
Gopnik sought to ask questions about the software
running this little human machine, allowing it to perform
complicated functions. “Kids are the ones doing more
generalised learning than anybody else,” she says, “so why
wouldn’t you want to understand why they’re so good at it?”
The advantages of installing a preschool perspective
into machines, she says, can be understood by considering
two popular, but opposing, AI strategies: bottom-up and
top-down learning. The former works the way you expect:
Say you want a computer to learn to recognize a cat. With
a bottom-up or “deep-learning” strategy, you’d feed it
50,000 photos of furry felines and let it extract statistics
from those examples. A top-down strategy, on the other
hand, requires just one example of a cat. A system using
this strategy takes that single picture, builds a model of
“catness” (whiskers, fur, vertical pupils, etc.), and then uses
it to try to identify other cats, revising its cat hypothesis as it
goes, much like a scientist would.
Children employ both methods at once. They’re good at
figuring out things and extracting statistics, says Gopnik.
And they use that data to come up with new theories and
structured pictures of the world. Successfully distilling both
knowledge-building approaches into algorithms might
produce artificial intelligence that can finally do more than
just beat us at Go and recognise animals.
G O P N I K
Bryan Gardiner is a contributing editor at Popular
Science. He last wrote about ubiquitous computing.
School-age
Adolescence
Adulthood
Senior
6-11 years
12-24 years
25-59 years
60+ years
The brain of a 6-year-old has
reached 90 per cent of its adult
size. Neural pruning ramps up as
the brain discards unused
connections. The prefrontal
cortex starts to develop more,
resulting in longer attention
spans, and an increased reliance
on language and logic to learn.
Adolescence marks a return to
the neural flexibility and plasticity
that characterised her preschool
years. But she’s not living in a
protected context. A reliance on
the amygdala—a centre for
emotions, impulses, and
instinctive behaviours—might
result in “risk-taking.”
By the time she reaches
adulthood, prefrontal control is
at its peak. A developed frontal
lobe helps her plan for the future
and control her impulses, but
there’s evidence that creativity
and cognitive flexibility takes a
big hit. Learning anything
surprising? Also a lot harder.
Bring on short-term-memory
loss, neurodegenerative
diseases, and declines in
conceptual reasoning. Still, other
cognitive abilities continue to
grow. Skills involving vocabulary,
maths, verbal comprehension—
what’s known as crystallised
intelligence—are among them.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
33
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ISSUE
113
APRIL
2018
36
46
WILL YOU BE STUMPED BY
THE SCIENCE BEHIND
THESE CLASSIC IQ TESTS?
A RARE TOUR OF THE
DEPTHS OF A QUANTUM
COMPUTING LAB
E
DE
Since the turn of the 20th century,
psychologists have tried to pin down
what it means to be smart. More than 100
years later, they’re still arguing about
the best methods to spot intelligence.
But that squishiness hasn’t stopped
organisations from NASA to Mensa from
adapting psych assessments into some
of the trickiest exams ever to meet an
HB pencil. Ready to give ’em a go? Time
starts... well, whenever you want.
R E S E A RC H BY E L E A N O R
CUMMINS AND CORINNE IOZZIO
PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN KLUTCH
ILLU STRATIONS BY TED KINYAK
1959
NASA
PROJECT MERCURY
1
In 1958, the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
launched a search for the first US spacemen. Of the 508 military candidates the
agency considered, only seven would become Mercury astronauts. In early 1959, 31 top
contenders arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to endure what’s still perhaps
the most exhaustive battery of psychological, intellectual, and physical work-ups in modern
history. Hopefuls sat in extreme heat and cold, did maths in 145-decibel rooms (normal
conversation is 60 dB), and spent hours in isolation chambers. On top of all that, candidates
took 12 intelligence tests. These exams sought to predict a wealth of unknowns: how
the men would manoeuvre spacecraft, if they could problem-solve mid-flight, and
whether they grasped the science that would keep them aloft. What follows
is a subset of those brain teasers for you to try. May John Glenn be with you.
S PAT I A L V I S UA L I Z AT I O N
INSTRUCTIONS
The first image
shows a clock in a
set position.
From that spot,
visualise the
timepiece moving
as the arrow(s)
on the sphere
alongside it
indicate. If
there are
multiple arrows,
make the turns
sequentially
(so, the clock’s
position after
move one is its
starting position
for move two).
Mark the answer
that shows how
the clock will
look once it
has finished
rotating.
What it tests:
Developed in the
late 1940s by
psychologists
J.P. Guilford and
Wayne Zimmerman,
this exam checks
how well subjects
picture objects
relative to one
another. Though
the military no
longer uses this
test, similar
ones show how
well pilots might
stay oriented
in midair.
#1
[A]
[B]
[C]
[D]
[E]
[A]
[B]
[C]
[D]
[E]
[A]
[B]
[C]
[D]
[E]
#2
#3
[PAGE 38]
1920s
H A N I C A L CO M P R E H E N S I O N
2
tests: This still-current
y exam rates a subject’s grasp of
and mechanics. It assesses how
tential pilots and other recruits
bstract concepts to practical,
rld scenarios.
EDISON
LAB
ng the reach of the above crane
ift its ————————.:
l weight
wable speed
[C]centre of gravity
[D]centre of buoyancy
THE TEST
h direction does friction act on
ier?
[C]
[D]
s the intake valve open on this
en the piston goes down?
pressure at X < air pressure at Y
pressure at Z < air pressure at X
pressure at X > air pressure at Y
ressure at Y > air pressure at Z
[1] In what US state is Pikes Peak?
[2] To what is the disease so-called
beriberi due?
[3] From what do we obtain iodine?
[4] Who wrote the story “The Murders
in the Rue Morgue?”
[5] Name the chemist who discovered
oxygen.
[6] Who built the first steamboat?
[7] How many square feet in an acre?
[8] What is 210 degrees F on the
centigrade scale?
[9] Give the approximate population of
each of the five largest cities in
the U.S., per 1920 census numbers.
[10] What countries boundary France?
[11] What city and country produce the
finest china?
[12] In what country other than
Australia are kangaroos found?
[13] Who invented logarithms?
[14] Rhode Island is the smallest state.
What is the next and the next?
[15] What is the distance between
Earth and the sun?
[16] What cereal is used in all
parts of the world?
[17] Who made The Thinker?
[18] What is copra?
[19] What is the lightest wood?
NUED ON PAGE 41
[SPRING 2018]
19 17- 19 18
U.S. ARMY
During World War I, the U.S. Army needed a system that would quickly
sort recruits into their ideal roles. Psychologist and noted eugenicist Robert
Yerkes developed several tests that, among other things, would identify those
capable of holding leadership positions, such as officers or intelligence specialists.
Literate recruits took the written Alpha test, while illiterate applicants faced the visual
Beta. Military psychiatrists evaluated individuals who struggled with the tests, often
marking those who failed as having naturally inferior intellect. In hindsight, it’s clear
that cultural background (how many people in the 1910s got to play tennis?) and the
ethnic biases baked into the questions could sway the final outcome.
3
ALPHA TEST
[1] A dealer bought
some mules for $1,200.
He sold them for
$1,500, making $50 on
each mule. How many
mules were there?
[2] A machine gun
is deadlier than a
rifle, because it:
A. Was invented more
recently
B. Fires more rapidly
C. Can be used with
less training
[3] Unscramble the
words to form a
sentence. Is that
sentence true or false?
happy is man sick
always a
[4] Identify the next
two numbers in the
sequence.
3 4 5 6 7 8 —— ——
[5] Select the
appropriate word to
complete the analogy.
shoe — foot. hat — ———
A. Kitten
B. Head
C. Knife
D. Penny
[6] Select the
appropriate word
to complete the
sentence.
The apple grows
on a ——————
A. Shrub
B. Vine
C. Bush
D. Tree
BETA TEST
INSTRUCTIONS
[1]
[2]
[5]
[3]
[4]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[PAGE 40]
To be read aloud:
Study the
everyday objects
in the nine line
drawings to the
left. There’s a
key piece
missing in each
illustration.
Identify it.
C T MERCURY (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 39)
HIDDEN FIGURES
INSTRUCTIONS
are five simple shapes,
ed A through E, followed
e complex drawings,
ons 7 through 15. Locate
the shapes in each
ng. The polygons will
always take the same size and
orientation as the original.
Answers may be repeated.
What it tests: Although there
have been many adaptations of
German psychologist Kurt
Gottschaldt’s original 1926
test, every version (including
the one adapted here) endeavoured to assess the same trait:
field independence, or the
ability to isolate simple forms
in complex ones. Those who spot
the shapes might be less likely
to get distracted by irrelevant
details in a scene.
PLE
A
B
C
D
E
MPLEX
SHAPE__________________________
#8: SHAPE__________________________
#9: SHAPE__________________________
SHAPE________________________
#11: SHAPE________________________
#12: SHAPE________________________
SHAPE________________________
#14: SHAPE________________________
#15: SHAPE________________________
CONTINUED ON PAGE 42
[SPRING 2018]
PROJEC T MERCURY (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 41)
#16
P R O G R E SS I V E M AT R I C E S
INSTRUCTIONS
Each question
to the right
contains three
rows of images.
The first two
establish a
pattern, but the
last item in the
third row is
missing. From the
eight choices,
select the image
that completes
the pattern.
What it tests:
Psychologist J.C.
Raven developed
this simple,
nonverbal exam to
measure so-called
eductive ability—
the facility to
make sense of
complex data.
Unlike many early
assessments, this
1936 exercise in
pattern recognition has no known
cultural or
linguistic
biases. Today,
the matrices are
still among the
most common
question types to
appear on intelligence tests.
A
E
B
F
C
D
G
H
19 14
THE MAZE
4
MENTAL
ASYLUM
Instructions: Place your pencil at the
“S.” Without pausing or backtracking,
trace a line to exit the maze. If you get
stuck, return to the S and try again.
[PAGE 42]
#18
B
C
D
A
B
C
D
F
G
H
E
F
G
H
CONTINUED ON PAGE 44
8
IBM
5
] Adrian buys
cooter for
,600 and
nds $500 on
airing it.
he sells the
oter for
,000, what
his profit
rgin?
6 percent
21 percent
18 percent
7 percent
[2] Present ages
of John and Mandy
are in the ratio
of 7:5 respectively. Four
years later, the
ratio of their
ages will become
15:11. What is
John’s present
age in years?
A. 52 years
B. 14 years
C. 56 years
D. 63 years
[3] In a lottery,
tickets numbered
1 to 20 are
balloted. What
is the probability that the
ticket drawn has
a number that is
a multiple of 3
or 5?
A. 0.7
B. 0.25
C. 0.82
D. 0.45
[SPRING 2018]
Questions 4-6:
Select the
number that best
completes the
sequence.
[4] 4, 2, -4, -8,
32, 26, -15, ?
A. -3
B. -42
C. -32
D. -23
[5] 2, 9, 5, 49,
11, 169, ?
A. 29
B. 21
C. 17
D. 19
[6] 2, 13, 2, 4,
8, 3, 8, 3, 5,
16, ?
A. 3
B. -2
C. -1
D. 4
PROJEC T MERCURY (CONT ’D FROM PAGE 43)
1 9 46 –2 01 8
MENSA
A N A LO G I E S
6
INSTRUCTIONS
In the analogies
below, one colon
(:) means “is to,”
and a double colon
(::) means “as.”
Using this logic,
select the word
from the choices
provided that
best completes
each analogy.
What it tests:
This challenge
checks a person’s
analytical
thinking by
identifying their
ability to parse
relationships
between concepts.
Its broad-ranging
vocabulary might
present problems
for those not
equally versed in,
say, grammar and
chemistry. Though
they’re an imperfect marker of
inherent intelligence, the analogies are a mainstay
of tests that value
both logical
reasoning and
broad knowledge—
like grad-school
admissions exams.
[QUESTION 19]
Metabolism : (A. Engine B. Train C. Human
D. Anabolism) :: Combustion : Locomotive
[QUESTION 20]
Adolescence : (A. Asylum B. Youth
C. Orphanage D. High School) :: Infancy :
Nursery
[QUESTION 21]
Objective : Subjective :: Science :
(A. Physics B. Standard C. Genuine
D. Literature)
[QUESTION 22]
Chess : Golf :: (A. Pawn B. Game C. Mate
D. Ball) : Niblick
ANSWERS
NASA Project Mercury
1. B 2. C 3. C 4. C 5. D 6. C
7. B
8. D
9. A
[QUESTION 23]
Parallelogram : Octagon :: (A. Four
B. Biped C. Eight D. Animal) : Quadruped
[QUESTION 24]
Antisepsis : Circulation :: Pasteur : (A.
Scientist B. Harvey C. Galen D. Smallpox)
10. E
11. E
13. D
14. C
12. A
[QUESTION 25]
Irrigate : Land :: Dessicate : (A. Fruit
B. Sabbath C. Truth D. Angles)
[QUESTION 26]
Amphibia : Tadpole :: Lepidoptera : (A.
Frogs B. Caterpillar C. Leopards D. Ants)
[QUESTION 27]
Achromatic : (A. Music B. Blue C. Grey
D. Complex) :: Chromatic : Red
15. B
16. D 17. F 18. D 19. C 20. D 21. D 22. A
23. B 24. B 25. A 26. B 27. C
[PAGE 44]
steers
e land, he
recked; if
toward the
he will be
But he must
her toward
or toward
Therefore,
orrect:
3 inches high?
A. 60
B. 23
C. 12
D. 100
[2] How many 1-inch
cubes can be placed
in a box 5 inches long,
4 inches wide, and
[3] Which word below
means the same or
about the same as
“caprice”?
A
Lab
rado 2.
vitamins
ody
eed and
iodine
4. Edgar
e 5.
Priestley
rt Fulton
60 8. 98.9
C 9. New
.6 milhicago
llion),
lphia (1.8
), Detroit
8),
nd
1) 10.
ndorra,
Italy,
land,
,
A.
B.
C.
D.
A. He should head
for the sea.
B. The coast is
dangerous for ships.
C. He will be wrecked.
Luxembourg,
Belgium 11.
Limoges, France;
Sevres, France;
Dresden, Germany;
or Copenhagen,
Denmark 12.
New Guinea
13. John Napier
14. Delaware,
Connecticut 15.
92,900,000 miles
16. No cereal is
used in all parts
of the world.
Wheat is used
most extensively,
with rice and
corn next.
17. Auguste Rodin
18. The dried
kernel of the
coconut 19. Balsa
B
U.S. Army —
Alpha Test
1. 6 mules 2. B
3. False: A sick
man is always
happy. (Ed: or “A
happy man is
always sick.”)
4. 9, 10 5. B 6. D
U.S. Army —
Beta Test
1. Chimney
2. Ear
3. Filament
4. Return address
(Ed: or “Stamp”)
5. Strings
6. Corkscrew
7. Trigger
8. Ball
9. Net
[SPRING 2018]
Whim
Action
Capture
Tact
[4] Identify the
drawing below that is
a different view of
the object in the
drawing at the left.
C
D
Mental Asylum
IBM
1. C 2. C 3. D
4. D 5. C 6. B
Mensa
1. C 2. A 3. A 4. A
Tests Courtesy: Mechanical comprehension,
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB);
hidden figures (modified), Educational Testing Services;
matrices and analogies, Pearson; Edison Lab, National
Parks Service; Alpha and Beta, ASVAB; maze
(modified), Stoelting Co.; IBM, Master IBM IPAT;
Mensa, American Mensa
NEITHER
N EITHER
HERE
HHER
NOR
N OR
THER E
T THER
INSIDE THE LAB
WHERE COMPUTING MAKES
A QUANTUM LEAP
BY C O R I N N E I O Z Z I O
PHOTOGRAPHS BY
SPENCER LOWELL
46
POPULAR SCIENCE
FOR DECADES, THE PROMISE OF QUANTUM
computing has tickled the neurons of drug-makers, spies,
and tech CEOs. Such a machine, if perfected, would speed
up drug discoveries, decode ciphers, and help AIs parse our
digital data. This new brain hinges on the bendy concept of
superposition, the idea that an object can be in two states
at once—a coin spinning so fast, it’s both heads and tails.
48
POPULAR SCIENCE
Conventional computer chips, whether in your phone
or a supercomputer, hold transistors that process information as binary code: Everything is either a 0 or a 1. Quantum
computers use qubits ( “cue-bits”), which can be both a 0 and
a 1. The machines they inhabit can crack problems faster.
But there’s a rub: Qubits are fragile. Any interference can
muddy computations. Yale University applied physicists
Robert Schoelkopf and Michel Devoret pioneered a way
to stabilise them. By building qubits out of superconductors—materials with no resistance to electrical current
at extremely low temperatures—they create a space
in which quantum algorithms can flow undisturbed.
As a look inside their lab reveals, it takes a huge operation—
and a very cold fridge—to help these tiny wafers think big.
Think Tank
Mr. Freeze
Qubits rely on many components. A
wall of microwave generators
(previous spread) create electromagnetic pulses that travel through a
maze of coaxial cables (image at left)
and send the qubits—deep in the 1.5
metre tall blue fridge—into action.
To create a climate colder than outer
space, external pumps drive helium-3
refrigerant into copper tubing (above).
As the helium circulates, it compresses, liquefies, and chills. It takes a day
to hit the lowest low: 0.01 degrees
Kelvin, or minus 272 degrees C.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
49
Not a Chip
Behold the qubit,
the cold and elegant
heart of quantum
computing. This
25mm-long wafer is
made of synthetic
sapphire topped with a
100-nanometre-thin
layer of printed
aluminium. At insanely
low temperatures,
microwave photons
send the junction point
of the Y into superposition. The wavy
strips below transmit
the qubit’s results.
50
POPULAR SCIENCE
Meet-Up
It takes groups of
qubits to puzzle out
anything more complex
than a coin-flip.
Modules like this one
connect them. The Yale
team designs these
units for specific
purposes. Some
process data, some
read it, others amplify
it. Mastering this
scalable, Lego-like
approach could be
more vital to perfecting
quantum computers
than piling on qubits.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
51
Shhhh
Ground Control
It’s quiet inside the fridge. Any static
can incite computing errors, so
scientists must protect the qubits. A
one-way valve, called a circulator (the
four rectangles seen midframe, opposite page), filters out interference,
such as ambient lab noise.
Not all work happens in the cooler.
A network analyser (foreground)
ensures that the microwave cabling
needed to transmit signals is working
properly. The tall grey cabinet directly
behind it manages the refrigeration
pumps and valves.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
53
54
POPULAR SCIENCE
Tear-Down
Graduate students
and postdocs are
constantly building
custom configurations
to accomplish specific
experiments. That can
require piecing
together dozens of
qubits and qubitnesting modules for
new functions. Here,
older modules (bottom
left and middle right)
sit among coaxial wires
and signal filters.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
55
Tall Boy
Old quants work less.
At 15 years old, this
2.7-m-tall fridge is one
of the lab’s elders. It
doesn’t get the
attention younger kids
do. The narrow frame
makes wiring it tricky,
and chilling it requires
lifting a huge cooling
vat from a manhole in
the floor. Still, if there’s
no vacancy in the
newer setups, students
will pull this out for
quick research.
56
POPULAR SCIENCE
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
57
CHARTED
KNOW-IT-ALL
How Big Is
Humanity’s
Knowledge?
CANON OF
MEDICINE
7.5 MB
NO ONE CAN KNOW
everything all the
time—but we humans
sure like to pretend
w e d o . S o i t ’s n o
wonder our species
has a long-standing
tendency to compile
information. What
started with some old
dudes writing down
their own observations
morphed through the
years into compendia,
libraries, and now vast
repositories of digitally
gathered knowledge.
H e r e’s h o w m u ch
space our worldly
understanding took
up, in bits and bytes, as
we chewed off bigger
and bigger chunks.
NATURAL
HISTORY
3.06 MB
Over 37 volumes,
Pliny chronicled
the natural world,
including quite a
few fundamental
misunderstandings. Did you know
that fennel root
somehow helps
snakes shed their
skin? It doesn’t.
Sorry, Pliny.
ORIGINAL
ENCYCLOPEDIA
BRITANNICA
Persian Polymath
Avicenna’s
compendium
served as the
definitive medical
textbook from its
publication in 1025
all the way through
the beginning of
the 18th century.
3.59 MB
The first edition,
published in 1768,
comprised just
three volumes,
released in weekly
instalments. It
included such
scintillating
six-word articles
as “Woman: the
female of man,
see homo.”
ENCARTA
1,600 MB
Microsoft’s brush
with CD-ROM
encyclopedias
lasted from 1993
to 2009, but ironic
cyber-hipsters can
still buy the full set
of compact discs
on eBay.
WIKIPEDIA (ENGLISH)
27,000 MB
The internet’s proverbial
monkeys have tapped out more
than 5.5 million articles in QE2’s
native tongue alone, showing no
signs of stopping.
THE INTERNET (IN 2014)
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 MB
We can only estimate the Web’s total size, and it’s growing too fast to keep up. But some experts think it’s zipping along at about 1.1 zettabytes
(1,100,000,000,000,000 MB) per year. A 2015 study estimated it would take two per cent of the Amazon rainforest to print out the whole thing.
58
POPULAR SCIENCE
by Sara Chodosh / infographic by Pete Sucheski
WHEN COMPUTERS TRY TO IMITATE HUMANS, THEY OFTEN GET
LIGHT BYTES
Just Add A
Dash Of Data
Charted
confused. But simulated brain cells in so-called neural networks can
mimic our problem-solving skills. An AI will look at a dataset, igure
out its governing rules, and use those instructions to make something new. We already employ these bots to recognise faces, drive
cars, and caption images for the blind. But can a computer cook? I
fed a neural network thousands of recipes and asked it to whip up
something of its own. It spat out an...interesting dish.
CHO COLATE BUTT ERBR OTH BLAC K PUDD ING
cheese/eg
1
4 oz cocoa; finely ground
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup rice cream, chopped
1 lb cream
2
1 sesame peel
3
----DATE HOLY---1 large egg
1 powdered sugar serving barme
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
Brown sugar, chocolate; baking powd beer, lemon juice and
salt in chunk in greased 9 x 2 inch cak 4. Chill until
il golden
ld b
brown
and
d bubbly.
b bbl Pl
Place serve garlic
li h
half
lf b
by pieoun
i
on top
t tto make
k
more use bay. Place in frying pan in preheated oven. Sprinkle
with fresh parsley for cooking. Eating dish to hect in pot of the
oil, pull over half-and half. Place in a bowl. Pat thetings on a
strip of calaparo and wanned cooking in butter by cooking the
seasoning. Sprinkle with onions. & Pull when bubbles and carrot
is cooked, about 5 minutes. On a 15 inch hour a blender or
5
paper mix to by dried roughes to boil ((which
h is discovered.)
d
Yield: 1 cak 6
The Popular Science recipe card library
©Copyright 2018 by Bonnier. All Rights Reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.
1 Amnesiac AI
2 Word salad
3 Date holy
4 Sweet defeat
5 Feedback
6 Yum?
To keep processing
fast, the network
recalls only 65
characters at a time.
It adds cocoa just
before it would otherwise forget we’re
making “chocolate.”
Hopefully it forgets
that black puddings
usually feature blood.
Title, category, ingredients, directions.
It gets this format
every time because of
consistency across all
the recipes we pulled
from. But my AI
hasn’t seen as many
examples of how to
use rare ingredients
like sesame.
Sounds like frosting!
We’re staying in
dessert territory.
But what’s with the
name? Capital letters
are tough; they’re
treated as unrelated
to lowercase. A neural net has to learn
these from scratch
with few examples.
The ingredient list is
already forgotten.
Chocolate is just a
lucky guess pulled from
an average cookbook.
“Until golden brown”
could mean sweet or
savoury, and
ambiguity confuses
the network. Garlic?
Game over.
The confused network is spitting out
random words—creating more confusion,
leading to more
random words. But
it remembered to
close its parenthesis.
There’s probably a
neuron solely devoted
to parentheses.
Words like “frost”
or “serve” can cue
a network to inish;
many recipes in our
dataset end this way.
Ours just happened
to give up—it could
have kept going
forever. We were
making cake, right?
Let’s say it’s cake.
24,044
INTERNET RECIPES
by Janelle Shane / illustration by eboy
Number of recipes that
begin with “chocolate”:
647
Number of recipes
containing blood:
TRAINING TIME:
ro
EIGHT
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
59
PERCHANCE “TO BE”
Could Infinite
Monkeys
Really Write
Shakespeare?
YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD THAT
if you were to unleash an infinite number
of monkeys on an equal abundance of
typewriters, they would eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare.
This famous thought experiment doesn’t
mean to suggest the Bard was no better than a busy capuchin; it’s designed
to show a mathematical truism about
the concept of infinity (and how it’s,
like, literally infinite). Once we stopped
trying to wrap our heads around an
ever- expanding universe crammed with
endlessly replicating mandrills and marmosets, we decided to crunch the numbers. What are the odds of mimicking
acts of genius by totally random chance?
ALL LIKELIHOODS
1 in 58
1 in 14,000,000
SEPTILLION
(OR 58 x 1024)
1in518
OCTILLION
(OR 518 x 1027)
LEFT TO RIGHT: GUVENDEMIR/GETTY IMAGES; JANA LEON/GETTY IMAGES
“To be” is a lot easier. Randomly
writing Shakespeare takes time, okay?
Programmers once mirrored his works
in mere months using millions of bots,
but they saved each little fragment as
it appeared—in no particular order—
which is definitely cheating.
The odds of randomly
typing “To be or not to
be.” A 2003 experiment aimed at testing
the theory suggests
it might help to start
by teaching the
monkeys not to pee
on their keyboards.
1 in 521 NOVEMVIGINTILLION
Skipped out on studying? You have an infinitesimal chance (1-in-521 x 1090)
of correctly guessing all 154 multiple choice questions on the SAT. Maybe
you’ll score bonus points for using “novemvigintillion” in the essay.
The New York Times’
mini crossword puzzle
has about 21 squares.
Since each puzzle is
available online for
only 24 hours, you’d
have to try 21 octillion
letters per hour in
each spot to crack it.
1 in 9.2
QUINTILLION
(OR 9.2 x 1018)
51 100
in
Nothing more random than a coin flip, right? One
study found that a toss is actually slightly biased
in favor of whichever side you start out on.
60
POPULAR SCIENCE
The SAT makes
randomlyfilling out a
perfect bracket for
March Madness, the
63-game basketball
championship, look
easy. But it couldn’t
hurt to up your odds by
following the sport.
1 in 1,083,000
Want to win the Powerball?
You’re 270 times as likely to
get hit by lightning. This year.
by Amal Ahmed / illustrations by Hubert Tereszkiewicz
YOU MIGHT THINK YOUR INFORMATION IS SAFE, BUT YOU’RE PROBABLY
E A S Y A S 1, 2, 3
wrong. Your password is pitted against malevolent computers capable of
crunchingbillionsofcharacterconigurationsaminute.Andwhatusedto
bethebesttricksarenowsocommonlyused,they’reuseless.Mom’sname
followedbydigitsanddollarsigns?That’ssoturn-of-the-century.Youcan’t
beat every potential hack, but these tips will help ight of four common
methods of attack—as long as you never use the same code twice.
Your
Password
Sucks
EASY TO GUESS
smart
IT’S PERSONAL
Guessing: the original
hack. If someone
knows certain things
about you—your date
of birth, your dog’s
name, your hometown—cracking your
codes can be
criminally simple.
popsci01
lol
SIZE MATTERS
tfm105010535100
sciencesince1872!
TOO COMMON
PASSWORD
PERFECTION
Intelligence01
SmartSecurity99
SERIOUSLY?
Common words are
like a welcome mat
for hackers. Malicious
programs can quickly
cycle through
everyday English
vocab until they find a
match. Just one more
reason why your
password should
never be “password.”
Science
Magazine
SMASHED BY BRUTE FORCE
ILoveLaika
In a brute-force
attack, computers will
process every possible
character combo in
the English language
(aa, ab, ac) until they
hit your jackpot. You’re
especially vulnerable
to this if you pick
something short.
1O$W0RDZ
A slightly slower
method involves ol’
Merriam-Webster.
From aardvark all the
way to zyzzogeton, a
cybersleuth can work
through every word in
the dictionary. Tacking
digits to the end won’t
help—hackers caught
on to this long ago.
Love!
Charted
Aardvark420
THE TWO OPTIONS TO THE RIGHT AREN’T INDESTRUCTIBLE,
but certain characteristics make them hard to crack. Sprinkling numbers
and capital letters throughout ensures the first option is somewhat
secured. Our second pick uses three or more uncommon words—
unrelated to our lives!—for a solid, simple Plan B. Ridley Scott fans who
study bug faeces for a living will obviously need to workshop other options.
by Eleanor Cummins / illustration by Hubert Tereszkiewicz
PHOTOGRAPH BY THE VOORHES
DICTIONARY DISASTER
Password:
popUlar1872SCIence!
PoopButterflyPrometheus
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
61
HEAD TRIP
DOOR PRIZE
FROM THE 1960S TO THE ’80S, MONTY
When Should
You Change
Your Mind?
1
62
2
POPULAR SCIENCE
3
Hall, host of Let’s Make a Deal, presented this
puzzle: Players had to choose among three
doors. Two hid a gag gift (like a goat); the third,
a prize (say, a car). Simple, but the game preys
on how we handle predictions and outcomes.
After the contestant chooses a door—say,
door one—the all-knowing host would often
open a remaining door. Say he picks #2: a goat.
Then he asks: Would you like to switch?
What most folks don’t realise is that Hall’s
meddling swayed the odds: You now have a
better chance of victory if you switch to door
three. Each portal started with an equal, 1-in-3
shot. Door one, with no tampering, retains
real world
westworld
that chance. Monty knows what’s behind
the other two, and he wouldn’t reveal the
car. So by knowingly choosing door two, he
destroys that doors’ one-third chance. Door
three now takes on door two’s odds, creating
a two-thirds probability the car is there.
Math or no math, people don’t switch.
John Petrocelli, a psychologist at Wake Forest
University, had subjects repeat the game hundreds of times. On recall, they remembered
when they switched and lost more strongly
than when they switched and won. It’s not
about math, he says. The emotional angst that
almost winning incites is just too painful. So
they stay put, and lose two-thirds of the time.
by Claire Maldarelli / photograph by Brian Klutch
ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES/ABC VIA GETTY IMAGES
trip
meter
EYE GOT IT
P/S
SCI
6:55 PM
Messag
es
Pete
89%
Details
Hey, an
yw
meet ea ay we can
rleir? I'm
and wn
starving
at food
befroe th
moviie
e
s? Sreu
oisly?
Delivered
iMessag
e
real world
Domino
westworld
HUMANS ARE SMEARTR THAN THEY TNHIK.
Since the early aughts, Internet memes have hyped the
notion that the order of letters in a word doesn’t matter as
long as the first and last ones are correctly placed. It’s true:
We are keen enough to decipher jumbled words.
But it comes at a cost, warns Rebecca Johnson, a psychologist at Skidmore College. In a 2006 study, Johnson used an eye tracker to measure participants’ reading
speeds. A paragraph with fully scrambled words took folks
40 per cent longer to read than the original. Muddling just
the middle letters still held them up, but only by 11 per cent.
Johnson and others posit that the bookends have more
importance than just their placement. The first letter often
corresponds with the word’s sound, which plays a key role
in how our brains identify written terms. A blank space usually follows the last letter, making it visually stand out.
In modern life, this means we have a better chance at
reading a hastily typed, scrambled text message than an
autocorrected one. We can decipher “I dn’ot” as “I don’t”
far easier than when the phone changes it to “idiot.”
trip
meter
I can pro
b
seomhtn ably do
ig
pziza. C quick, like
ould mk
ae it
there a
half huo
r early
Perfect.
Movie s
ta
8, so le
t's meet rts at
at domn
at 7:30
ios
Reading Isn’t Always
Straightforward
by Mary Beth Griggs / illustration by John Kuehn
SEARCH PARTY
The Lost Words
COUNT THE F ’S IN THE SENTENCE ON THE RIGHT.
Spot three? There are six. Don’t worry. Even David Rapp, a cognitive expert at Northwestern University, couldn’t spot them all. Our
brains decipher more than we are aware of.
Brains that have mastered reading don’t necessarily read sentences in a linear way, stopping at every word. Instead, our eyes
bounce through, skipping some terms and landing hard on others.
When scanning a sentence, we’ll skip high-frequency words
like “of,” “and,” or “the.” Linguists call these function words;
they have little meaning or importance, and require less processing time for our grey matter. Ignoring them frees our noggins to
spend more time crunching so-called content words—terms like
“files” or “scientific”—which are better indicators of what this
sentence is about.
No amount of repetition would help us catch all those elusive
F’s. Perhaps the only way you might have found all six, Rapp
says, is if something forced you to read in a way that wasn’t routine. For example, if someone promised you a dollar—or 20—for
every F you found, that could shift your focus, and you might
earn yourself some cash. (Or if you were a sub-editor, because
we never mis a mistake.)
trip
meter
real world
by Sara Kiley Watson
westworld
FINISHED
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ISSUE
113
HOW 2.0
APRIL
2018
How 2.
A Tiny
Gaming
PC... Aga
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
T
here are two types of gamer in this
world. PC gamers, and everyone els
Despite billions in investment by Microso
Xbox), Sony (on PlayStation), and Ninte
(the Switch and 3DS), console gaming h
always been... just a bit more limited.
It’s not that PC necessarily has the mo
technically impressive games, or the big
multiplayer communities. It’s more than
has endless variety, almost total compa
with its own back catalogue, and of cour
role as testbench and pioneering platfor
revolutionary new kinds of games. Plus y
can do non-gaming stuff, if you want.
Indeed, a decent gaming PC can do
everything... except play games on the go
an ultrabook-class notebook has to be
balanced awkwardly on the lap as you gr
with a controller, or flail at the trackpad.
But recently, Intel’s latest system-onpackages, which combine a powerful CP
with decent 3D graphics, are helping PC
down that final barrier, and become a m
gaming powerhouse, too.
PC Master Race
Whether or not a PC game is “better” th
Xbox game is a matter of opinion, espec
since high profile titles are available on b
platforms these days.
That a PC game is better than the ave
mobile game though, is less contentious
Mobile games, delivered via dedicated a
are mostly pretty basic, or unduly focuse
extracting endless cash from the player v
insidious microtransactions.
68
POPULAR SCIENCE
The secret weapon:
a full-spec USB -C
port that charges
the unit and can
send 4K video at
30Hz to a full
sized monitor.
Enthusiast devices
simply must have a
microSD card slot.
We suspect most
owners never use it.
mini-HDMI out means
sy connection to a TV
or cheap monitor.
No headphone jack
controversy here.
Gamers love
headphones.
A full-sized USB-A port
looks awkward in this tiny
package, but it provides
huge utility. Being able to
plug a normal thumbdrive
straight in is something
many high end notebooks
no longer support.
GPD Win
e GPD Win underwent
series of hardware
visions after release,
cluding a slightly faster
CPU, and a metal lid.
Materials and specs: Plastic body,
aluminium lid. 5.5-inch 1280x720
touchscreen. Gaming controls.
QWERTY keyboard. Intel Atom
x7-Z8750, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage,
802.11ac Wi-Fi, USB-C, 155mm x 97mm
Awesome Factor:
Price: $500
More info: www.gearbest.com
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
69
How 2.0
Nintendo’s 3DS clamshell-style handheld
games console is a robust alternative with a
huge catalogue of excellent games. But its
low price means it has to go easy on the high
tech. Graphics and sound are basic, and only
the bottom screen has touch capability.
Sony’s PlayStation Vita is essentially
abandoned, and the Nintendo Switch also
lags behind modern consoles when it comes
to graphics - though not by much.
Indeed it’s the Switch that inspired Hong
Kong outfit Gamepad Digital to take the
latest ultracompact PC components and jam
them into a teeny tiny case.
The company’s first result, the GPD Win
(main image previous spread), is only a little
fatter and about the same weight as the
Nintendo Switch. But its clamshell design,
with a folding 5.5-inch display, makes it much
more compact and pocketable than
Nintendo’s latest indulgence.
Like the Switch, the display resolution is
1280x720. That’s low compared to a hardcore
gamer’s preferred 2560x1440 or 4K monitor,
but tiny pixels mean excellent image clarity.
Unlike the Switch, and a mobile phone (and
many full-size notebook PCs come to think of
it) the GPD Win has a serious collection of
ports on the back.
There’s a full USB-A port, mini HDMI out, a
stereo headphone jack, microSD card slot, and
even a USB-C port.
This last is what really separates the GPD
Win from a games console. Plug the Win into a
monitor that supports power and video over
USB-C, and this tiny PC becomes a full
Windows 10 desktop, outputting 4K at 30Hz.
So what makes it a gaming device rather
than just a really tiny PC? The integrated
controller. Two thumbsticks, four face buttons,
a direction-pad and four shoulder buttons on
the back take care of most games.
Extra buttons next to the keyboard take
care of the rest, including substitutes for
clicking the thumbsticks (a function on all PC
gamepads), start/select, and more.
Oh the technical specs? You want to know
how powerful the GPD Win is? Yeah... we were
kind of avoiding that.
Good Idea But...
There’s no point trying to claim the GPD Win is
something it isn’t. GPD itself admits this first
GPD Win 2
Materials and specs: Aluminium
and plastic. 6.0-inch 1280x720
touchscreen. Gaming controls.
QWERTY keyboard. Intel Core
m3-7y30, 8GB RAM, 128GB
upgradeable storage, 802.11ac
Wi-Fi, USB-C, 162mm x 99mm
Awesome Factor:
Price: $1200
More info: www.gearbest.com
70
POPULAR SCIENCE
The GPD Win 2 gets
a bigger display,
and more carefully
thought out
ergonomics.
version of its visionary device “had limitations”.
The cooling fan is too loud. The position of the
speaker grilles gets blocked by your hands when
you hold it. The shoulder buttons aren’t
amazing, quality-wise.
Worst of all, GPD’s chosen price point - the
GPD Win costs less than $500 these days means having to use an Intel Atom CPU,
specifically the x7-Z7850.
In a device like the base model Microsoft
Surface 3, the Atom is fantastic, and it sips
power. When it comes to gaming though, the
included Intel HD 405 graphics processor just
can’t handle modern 3D games.
There’s also only 4GB of RAM, which is tough
when the machine has to run a full version of
Windows 10 Home at the same time.
Games with 2D graphics, and of course every
retro-style title or any actual retro game from
the last thirty years, these all run perfectly.
The real party piece is using the GPD as a
home streamer for the PC’s digital distribution
service for games, Steam.
If you have a powerful gaming PC, Steam
makes it do the actual number crunching,
while you play on the GPD Win. Steam
sends graphics over WiFi, and the GPD
Win sends your control input in return. If
you have a decent Wi-Fi setup - 802.11ac
ideally - it’s uncanny to seeing, say, the
Witcher 3 running on a handheld device
with full graphics.
Meanwhile in the Future
So if the GPD Win is too slow to actually run the
kinds of PC games that showcase PC’s
advantage over other gaming platforms, what
are we even talking about here?
The answer: the GPD Win 2 (images this
spread). Regardless of the original’s
shortcomings, GPD is pressing onward with its
vision for a powerful, pocketable gaming PC
Indeed, the GPD Win 2 has just finished an
extraordinarily successful Indiegogo campaign,
raising US$2.6 million and selling over 4000 units.
The GPD Win 2 is a more serious machine by
far. It uses Intel’s new Core M3-7Y30 running at
up to 2.6GHz, which packages HD 615 graphics
onboard. There’s 8GB of RAM now, and a fast
128GB SSD (the GPD Win only had 64GB).
It also has dual batteries - 4900mAh lithium
Former BlackBerry users remember the
advantages of a proper hardware keyboard
polymer cells with fast-charge capability.
GamePad Digital claims a gaming time of six
hours. That might not sound like much, but the
Switch struggles to do four hours. Even mobile
games will chew your phone’s battery like
nothing else. Gaming is very energy intensive.
The Win 2’s display is 6.0 inches, and still has
full 10-point capacitive touch, and since it’s still
under 9-inches, that means Windows 10 Home
is still included for free.
GamePad Digital claims it brought outside
designers in to improve the ergonomics especially for the shoulder buttons - and the
whole package will hopefully be able to run most
of the latest games (albeit at lower graphics
settings). And yes, you can browse the web and
watch Netflix and do anything else you want.
The catch? This ain’t a $500 PC anymore.
Indiegogo early birds were able to secure a GPD
Win 2 for US$649, but the retail version will be
US$899. We’ve seen pre-orders priced at about
AUD$1200. That’s proper laptop money.
Still, anyone who buys a genuinely pocket-sized
gaming PC right now is still a pioneer, suffering
the limitations of the present for a taste of the
future. The GPD Win 2 is about potential.
Intel has already hinted it will soon be
building CPUs with integrated third party,
gaming-grade graphics. And its Optane
memory technology is blurring the line between
RAM and storage (see p.14).
For older PC gamers, sitting in front of a
keyboard and monitor for hours isn’t as appealing
as it once was. Relaxing on the couch (or in bed)
with a proper, hardcore PC strategy game or RPG
though? Sounds like gaming heaven.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
71
TALES
FIELD
F R O M
T H E
NO PHONE HOME
Looking for Life in All
The Wrong Places
J I L L TA R T E R , A S T R O N O M E R A N D B E R N A R D
M . O L I V E R C H A I R AT T H E S E T I I N S T I T U T E
READ MY MIND
Proving
Precognition
DA RY L B E M, P R O F E S S O R E M E R I T U S
AT C O R N E L L U N I V E R S I T Y
As a social psychologist for more than 50 years, I’ve studied topics
including sexual orientation and personality theory. But I became
known for my work on precognition, anticipating the future. I got
hooked on this stuff as a kid when I saw a “mind reader” named Joseph
Dunninger on TV. In high school, I started performing my own
mentalism shows. When I became a professor, I showed my students
the same tricks to demonstrate why witnesses make mistakes.
In 1985, the Parapsychological Association, researchers who study
extrasensory perception, asked me to perform at a conference. On
stage, I correctly listed the contents of a packed box without opening it.
It was pure swindle, but the point was not to demonstrate that I could
read minds; it was to show how easily fraud could ruin their tests.
One of the scientists asked me to make his lab’s telepathy experiments
cheat-proof. He got real results—unexplained communication between
subjects in separate rooms—so I helped him get published in an academic
journal. But he died nine days before our write-up was accepted.
Suddenly, I was known for paranormal research.
Starting in 2000, I’d found existence of precognition in nine
experiments, by reversing the chronology of psychological tests. In one
classic study, people take longer to recognise an image as pleasant when
the word “ugly” flashes by before it. I flipped the order of events, so
subjects viewed the image before seeing the subliminal word. I still found
the same effect, showing they could “feel” the future. Eight of my
experiments are replicable, and I’m redesigning the ninth one so everyone
can get results from it too. In a way, I’m betting my career on it.
72
POPULAR SCIENCE
as told to Amy Schellenbaum
Since the 1970s, I’ve been pointing optical and radio
telescopes at the sky to look for engineered signals
from other planets—signs of extraterrestrial
intelligence. In 1984, I broadened that search when I
helped found the SETI Institute.
At SETI, we built tools to look for signals we don’t
think nature can produce. One time, in 1997, at West
Virginia’s Green Bank Observatory, my team noticed
a strange signal from a distant star. On a graph of
frequencies over time, it looked like a picket fence:
spikes with equal spacing between each one.
It was such an adrenaline rush. When you think
you’ve found an alien transmission, it’s heart-stopping. I wrote a computer program to take another look
at the data—but I didn’t take the time toformat it
properly. Because of that, I misinterpreted the results.
Hours later, we realised our telescope was picking up
transmissions from the European Solar and
Heliospheric Observatory passing in front of the sun. If
I had been more level-headed and read the output
correctly, I could have saved all that time and
frustration. A BBC crew was filming us that day, and I
think they were more crushed than we were.
To make it worse, we had alerted
some colleagues in California to watch that same
star. We had gone off to bed after we sussed out it
wasn’t a signal. But we forgot to tell them! They
called back at 2 a.m., and they didn’t think it was
funny at all when we told them it was a false positive.
I had a number of fences to mend.
as told to Mary Beth Griggs / illustrations by Peter Oumanski
Learning
Writing
To train a neural network
that writes text one
letter at a time, Goodwin
fed it nearly 1,000 sci-fi
scripts, including The
X-Files and Blade Runner.
Benjamin churned out a
jabberwocky of a script.
Although it contained no
character information,
the actors interpreted the
tale as a love triangle.
1
2
THE BENJAMIN BUTTON
How to Program a Screenwriter
O S C A R S H A R P, D I R E C T O R ; R O S S G O O D W I N , T E C H N O L O G I S T
When director Oscar Sharp entered Sci-Fi-London’s 48 Hours Film Challenge in 2016, he
had to write, shoot, and edit a movie in two days. To up his creative game, Sharp enlisted
technologist Ross Goodwin to build what might be the first script-writing artificial intelligence. This recurrent neural network, which eventually named itself Benjamin, spat out the
four-page screenplay that became the seven-minute Sunspring. Then things got weird.
3
4
5
Staging
Screening
Walking and talking
Sharp needed to make sense
of some very odd actions:
For a character “taking
his eyes from his mouth,”
the director had the actor
spit out a prop eyeball.
Audiences loved that an AI
had written the script—
though some considered it
mere word salad. Out of
more than 100 competitors,
Sunspring made the top 10.
For Sharp’s next project,
Goodwin trained Benjamin
to write like screenwriter
Aaron Sorkin. Its latest
line: “The president wants
to do it for me.”
as told to Jason Lederman / illustration by Peter Oumanski
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
73
POPULAR SCIENCE - APRIL 1948 - PAGE 163
APRIL
1948
From The
Archives
The Ultimate
Post-War Tech
Feature?
THE HEADLINE OF THIS ARTICLE
jumped out during the monthly visit to the
(vast) PopSci archives, but as we read deeper
we realised this seemingly dry piece on how
scientists measure microseconds is actually
something a bit special.
In a scant 1500 words, writer Carl Dreher
name-checks pretty much every major
technology of the 20th century - radar,
X-rays, computing, “atomic” power, radio
broadcasting, navigation, communications
in general, and photography.
It’s astonishing to think it was written just
three years after the end of World War II.
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
Measuring the split flashes of time that are
microseconds makes possible many modern
miracles of science.
By Carl Dreher
I
T TOOK you about one second, or 1,000,000 microseconds, to
read the title of this article. On that basis one microsecond may
seem short enough to satisfy everyone, but to the modem
electronics engineer it is a fairly long time. Describing a new
electronic gadget, its inventor informs us that each dial division
corresponds to 0.0132 microseconds; in other words, he is measuring
down to a ten-thousandth of a millionth of a second.
That’s slicing it rather fine, but if it is worth a few dollars to you, you
can buy a pulse generator that will deliver bursts of power adjustable
down to 0.1 microsecond. You can order it from an advertisement—
nothing special about it—plug it into a wall socket like an electric iron,
and you’re a member of the microsecond-splitting fraternity yourself.
It’s economical to operate, too—consumes only 40 watts.
Is all this just a scientific stunt? Hardly, unless the major part of
radio and electronic development during the last war and be-tween
the two wars is to be so regarded. Actually it represents a major
technological revolution. If some Rip Van Winkle radio engineer
awoke today he would hardly recognize the science he pioneered.
Where he figured mainly in kilocycles, he would hear his younger
colleagues talking megacycles and thousands of megacycles. Where
he was concerned with the production of continuous waves, he would
find bursts or pulses of energy playing as important a role.
The technique of producing these pulses would seem especially odd
to him, for if he worked with vacuum tubes before his long sleep he
would remember that the first rule was to avoid overloading and
This has to be some
kind of parody, right?
APRIL 1948
In the late 1940s, the US economy was still shifting over from a
war-footing and just gearing up for the great boom of consumer
spending in the 1950s and on. That meant people still had to be
thrifty and “clever” Such as by turning their homes into horrible
rat-mazes just so they could say they had an extra bedroom.
Want to know why so many postwar renovation projects involve
knocking out crappy, non-load-bearing walls? This is why.
74
POPULAR SCIENCE
Used in Navigation Aids
consequent distortion. Many circui
ry
names—clipping, blocking, slicing, li
ave,
etc.—show that they are designed to
r than
to preserve them. Finally, he would d
contours
manipulated with a split-microse
own in his
time. The most important practical
techniques
is radar. We usually think of radar
nd bombing or
obstacle detection. Basically radar
me measurement
of exquisite precision, and wh
he scope is only a
derivative of what we measure
onds. We send out
square-shaped pulses, usually of
econd duration, pick up
the reflection from a target, mea
lapsed time electronically
and automatically, convert it in
nce, dis-play the result on a
tube, and that’s radar.
Another application of microsecond technique is the Loran
navigation system (PS, Feb. ‘48, p. 78). Like radar, it uses
rectangular pulses, but they are transmitted on a comparatively long
wave length from a number of widely separated locations. Thus they
cover a much greater range than radar, which, like television, is
limited to the optical horizon. The method is to measure the time of
transmission from each transmitter and thus to obtain a fix by
triangulation. The individual pulses are relatively long—about 40
microseconds—but it is a split-microsecond technique, for the
transmitters are synchronized to within 0.5 microsecond.
Another field for pulse-transmitting devices lies in guided-missile
control. The problem here is to feed data to a built-in radio receiver,
which will guide the missile to a target. Continuous waves may be
used for this purpose, but pulse control offers the advantage of
coding, so that the receiver will respond only to friendly emissions
and the enemy will be unable to take over control of the missile for
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
75
APRIL
194
Fro
A
his own ends.
Guided-missile applications are only in the experimental stage,
but another field, that of industrial controls, was already highly
developed before the war and now stands to benefit by the advances
of radar and allied techniques. The devices used are manifold, but
their common purpose is to supply self-correcting means in
industrial processing in place of imperfect manual controls.
A typical problem is automatic register control in the printing
industry. One solution involves the use of a phototube that detects
any misregister and promptly triggers a square-wav ircuit, which
in turn operates a correcting motor. One of these d ices will
control a large printing press at any speed between 300 an 000
feet a minute, and maintain register to within a thousandth
inch at all times.
High-speed photography is also a field in w h microsecond
timing is required. One system uses microflash bul
a
control circuit with a period of about two micro-seconds. This
the lower limit: the GE General Engineering and Consulting
Laboratory is reported to have a fully automatic
camera, with a speed of one micro ec
,
p
finished transparency within 30 seconds; the Navy has anoth
type, utilizing a Kerr cell as the shutter, for which a speed of
microsecond is claimed.
In the development of the atomic bomb, X-ray pho graphs were
made using high-voltage pulses to create peak currents as high a
2,000 amperes, but lasting only a microsecond or so. These devi
are used for observation of machinery in motion, the passag of
bullets through gun barrels, and for the study of motion that n be
re-corded only by microsecond techniques.
Particle accelerators used in atomic research may in o e respect
be considered microsecond devices. Whether the particles move in
linear or closed paths, they must be kicked ahead electrically at the
right in-tervals. At the high speeds at which they move, this
normally involves microsecond timing. In the FM cyclotron, for
example, the particles circle the chamber at the rate of 0.1
76
POPULAR SCIENCE
d for a single revolution, and the timing of the
g impulses must be of the same order.
example takes us back into the field of radio
nication. It is the system of multiplexing, or sending
l messages simultaneously over a single circuit. Its
plexity is one of its advantages. In military use, for which it
was originally developed, it affords a high order of security
precisely because it involves a complex interlacing of pulses on
which it is difficult to eavesdrop.
The underlying principle, however, is simple. Even the shortest
single sound of speech or music is comparatively long. It lasts for
thousands of microseconds. Why, then, once we have learned how
to divide time into microsecond slices, must we send all of a given
sound over a circuit on which time represents money?
Sampling Sections of Sound
All we eed to do is to isten to small sections of the sound for a
fraction a microsecond, and all the information in the original
wave wi e retaine Moreover, by that method we can sample a
number
onversa ns or musical r nditions and send them over
e sam
cuit si ltaneously.
he m ary
on of thi genious system was developed by
ri
h
. Arm
nal Corps, RCA, and Bell Telephone
Laboratories. It has eight two-way telephone channels that can also
serve as telegraph or facsimile channels. Bell is now using this type
of equipment in several civilian installations, such as the one linking
Catalina Island to the California mainland.
A similar system developed by International Telephone and
Telegraph is capable of accommodating eight broadcast channels
on a single frequency, with only one transmitting and one receiving
antenna. Such microsecond technique may provide economical
radio reception in hotels and institutions.
How do they split seconds into a million or more pieces? For
transmission and control it is done by means of pulse-generating
circuits. Some of these generate square or peaked waves directly,
while others start with a standard vacuum-tube oscillator producing
the conventional sine wave and distort it into a series of squareshaped pulses. This is done by overloading the tubes, and is called
the brute-force method. Using crystal-control, such circuits can be
stabilized with microsecond accuracy.
For reception and measurement, cathode-ray oscilloscopes are
used. In a cathode-ray tube electrons fly out of the cathode and are
focused into a beam that makes a spot of light on a fluorescent
screen. Deflecting apparatus in the throat bends the beam when a
suitable voltage is applied. Amplitude (voltage or current) is
represented on the face of the tube by vertical distances, time by
horizontal distances. The voltage that produces the horizontal
movement is called a time base ant the circuit that produces the
voltage is called a sweep circuit. A cathode-ray ‘scope may have a
sweep of 20 inches per microsecond.
Accuracy depends largely on the frequency standards available.
The Bureau of Standards has a number of transmitters constantly
on the air to provide a check. Its primary frequency standards are
accurate to better than one part in ten million. Its broadcast time
signals are constantly compared with absolute time data from the U.
S. Naval Observatory. Some of its equipment will measure a rate of
change equivalent to one second in 50 years. This remarkable
accuracy can be plucked out of the air for nothing.
END
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TOP 4: AUTO INNOVATIONS OF 1948
Think space-savers are bad? Imagine being forced to bolt part of a
spare wheel to your car, just to get home. Think people don’t use their
indicators enough? Imagine a light that says “Okay Pass” and when
you pass, it’s right into an oncoming truck. Innovations!
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
77
Paying the Iron Price
The Iron Lung is a truly terrifying thing. A great chunk of primitive technology that
traps you, but on which you depend totally for survival. The worst part? It works.
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE MEDICALemergency-based, full-on existential-dreadinspiring, total-body-horror nightmare? All
over body third degree burns, of course, but
right behind that has to be something that robs
you of your ability to breathe for yourself.
Today, tracheotomies and intubation are
pretty scary, but it could be worse. You could
have had polio in the 1950s and ended up in one
of these things: an iron lung.
While there are bunch of pathogens and
poisons that can cause respiratory paralysis, the
most “popular” way to wind up in an iron lung
was via a disease called poliomyelitis.
This is the cause of the infamous polioparalysis which left so many kids with limited
mobility. Future US President Franklin D
Roosevelt was also a victim... or at least, that’s
what his doctors thought at the time, though
subsequent research has suggested he probably
had the autoimmune condition Guillian-Barre
Syndrome. But that’s another story.
Anyway, losing the ability to walk thanks to
polio is pretty terrible, but losing control of your
diaphragm is probably worse. Unable to draw
breath, victims would simply suffocate.
Today we mainly use “positive pressure
ventilation”. We intubate the patient, and then
push air into their lungs. After each pump, the
lungs deflate naturally...
...except that’s not actually how human
respiration works. We don’t force air into our
lungs, we force it out, then open up the lungs
again. With less air inside, they are at a lower
pressure than the surrounding atmosphere,
and so air rushes in.
This is called negative pressure breathing,
and it’s also how an iron lung works.
AND EXHALE
The earliest example of the idea of assisted
negative pressure breathing comes from as far
back as 1670. English scientist John Mayvow
built a fairly terrifying model with bellows and
bladders as part of his general obsession with
trying to figure out how respiration worked.
But this was just to demonstrate the idea of
negative pressure breathing.
Actual use of such devices as medical
therapy, didn’t start until the 1830s, and the
first mass production of a machine we’d
recognise as an iron lung came along in 1928.
Invented - and patented - by US Harvard
professor of industrial hygiene (actual title)
Philip Drinker, it was powered by pumps from
vacuum cleaners and an electric motor.
The idea is straightforward. The iron
lung is an airtight chamber in which
the patient lies, with their head
sticking out one end. An airtight
scary rubber seal goes
around their neck, and
then air is pumped out
of the chamber.
This causes the
patient’s chest to rise, the
lungs to expand, and air
from outside the chamber to
The iron lung was refined over the years, to give doctors finer control of air pressure and to make it
more comfortable (or at least, less uncomfortable) for patients. A few people in the US still use them.
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POPULAR SCIENCE
Iron lungs saved many children
during polio outbreaks. Most only
had to spend days or a few weeks in
the lung, until the paralysis passed.
however, and so US inventor John Emerson
came up with a cheaper version. Harvard
University sued him, saying he’d infringed on
Drinker’s patents. Emerson argued that life
saving devices should be freely available to all.
This didn’t seem to impress the mercenary
US legal system, but Emerson had also
demonstrated that every aspect of Drinker’s
device had been used or published earlier by
researchers and inventors going all the way back
to, as mentioned, 1670. Drinker’s iron lung was
ruled “not novel” and his patents invalidated.
be drawn into the lungs. Then the pressure in the
chamber is ramped up, the chest compresses,
and the air rushes out again. Simple!
The Drinker Respirator was very expensive,
CHEAPER TUBES
Meanwhile in Australia, a brutal polio epidemic
in 1937 saw demand for the iron lung sky-rocket.
The Drinker lung was huge and expensive. So
The Both Respirator is a proud
Aussie invention that, while still
an “iron lung” is actually made
of wood. Cheaper, and quicker to
build, it was a vital, and effective,
weapon in the fight against polio.
South Australia’s Health Department asked
biomedical engineer Edward Both to come up
with something cheaper.
He invented a wooden version called a
cabinet respirator (and eventually, a Both
Respirator) that worked so well and was so cheap
to make, patients could find themselves shoved
into one mere hours after it had been built.
By the 1950s, iron lungs were anything but
uncommon. Hospitals wards were filled with
the things. Some patients only had to spend a
few hours a day inside, others were pretty much
suck in there permanently.
Because of the way the iron lung traps the
body, and because of the cost and bulk of the
machines, and most of all because the polio
vaccine has massively reduced the number of
poliomyelitis cases each year, these devices
aren’t used much anymore.
More than all of these though, is that positive
pressure ventilation has become the go-to
solution for patients who can’t breathe for
themselves. Mouth-to-mouth, bag valve masks,
positive airway pressure ventilators, intubation
and more are now universal and effective.
The irony though? Despite its “medieval
torture device” look, negative pressure
ventilation is actually better at replicating
normal air flow through the lungs. It makes
sense: that’s how we breathe. We don’t force
air into our bodies, we let it flow in there
thanks to air pressure.
Modern ventilation reverses the process: it
forces air in, and lets it just waft out passively.
It’s not ideal, but on the plus side a hospital
can have a cabinet full of hundreds of tubes
and masks, and of course if you have to stay on
ventilation for days or weeks, you don’t need
to be sealed inside a giant metal can.
That’s probably the worst aspect of the iron
lung, this obsolete piece of medical ingenuity
that looks so awful yet saved countless
thousands of lives. It works really, really well.
AUSSIE RECORD HOLDER!
Because Australians are the best at everything, it should come as
no surprise that an Australian woman holds the world record for
time spent in an iron lung. June Middleton was unlucky enough to
get polio at 22. She first used an iron lung on 5th April 1949, and kept
using the device for the next 60 years, until her death at in 2009.
She lived in Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne for over 40 years,
spending 21 hours a day in the iron lung. However, she was able to
spend her final years at home, thanks to the Yooralla Ventilator
Accommodation Support Service. Guinness World Records put her
in the book in 2006. Go Aussie.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
79
L A B R AT S
In Defence of the Coma
There are worse ways to get a year off, all expenses paid
WHEN I WAKE UP I DON’T ASK “WHERE AM I?”
because it’s obvious I’m in hospital, and also there’s a
tube down my throat. After a bunch of spluttering and
convulsing, and beeping, and nurses rushing around,
and doctors explaining things that I don’t understand
or, in my analgesically- bluntened state, care about,
everything eventually falls into place.
One of the good things about a “medicallyinduced” coma is that no matter what anyone says, it’s
fundamentally not your fault. Sure, whatever you did
that meant the doctors had to put you into a medicallyinduced coma might be your fault, but the coma itself is
not. It is, as they say, medically-induced.
I lie in the hospital and think about this. Then I think
about how much my throat hurts, you know, from the
tube. Then I think about how hospitals have to feed you,
like, several times a day and I feel pretty happy.
When you’re an itinerate scientific test subject
working for $125 (ish) a weak, the constant barrage
of allergenic chemicals, random toxins, and the
occasional barcore tattoo, make it very hard to augment
your meagre income, in any way. So you have to make
adjustments. Like adjusting to the idea that not everyone
can afford more than one meal a day.
Eventually after just the right amount of anticipation,
a nurse brings me a tray full of coloured materials that
don’t resemble any food I can remember, but after a
year in a medically-induced coma, everything tastes
absolutely amazing.
The nurse seems somewhat surprised when she
returns four and a half minutes later and see my tray is
completely empty. I reach out to grab her arm and she
flinches away. She raises an admonishing finger.
“Please,” I say. “Why was my coma medicallyinduced?” She puts the finger away, looks aside, seems
embarrassed or ashamed or something. She opens her
mouth, closes it again, opens it, seems to reconsider,
opens it, and with the swiftness of years of practice,
suddenly injects me with a powerful sedative.
When I wake up again, my agent Curt “Definitely
a C” Blockade is sitting on my bed and looking at all
the life support equipment in a way that suggests he’s
trying to figure out how much he could get for it at Cash
Converters. He notices me twitch.
“Maaaate!” he says, in the way he does. “What’s going
on mate? Here you are all sitting up like jacky, and it’s
only March mate. What’s the story?”
“Well first,” I rasp, “that expression is actually racist.
And second, what are you talking about?”
Blockade looks confused, a subtly different
expression from the look of bafflement that sits on his
dough-like face at all other times. “Mate?” he asks. “I’m
talking about the deal mate, the plan. The agreement.
The ‘experiment’, you know?” He puts air quotes
80
POPULAR SCIENCE
around “experiment” in a way that’s either ominously
conspiratorial, or an indication that he doesn’t really
know what the word means.
“I uh...” I say and Blockade grins with relief. “That’s
right mate,” he says. “Eier Labs, the Big Egg, the Whole
Omelette, the Fry-up from Hell, the -” He trails off,
seemingly transfixed by the CTG monitor next to my
bedside. Then he blinks. “Anyway, good job, keep it up.
Having a break mate, I get it, having a break is good.
Here, the goodies so far,” he hands me an envelope.
“Minus my cut, of course.” Then he climbs out the
window, but that’s nothing especially unusual.
I look at the envelope. It has a vaguely egg-shaped
logo in the corner, with EIER LABS written underneath.
The envelope contains approximately four thousand
dollars. As far as I can tell anyway, I’m not really used to
counting that much money.
“What the f--” I begin, and then a clipped German
voice from the other side of the bed says: “We trust the
retainer is still to your satisfaction?”
“Blargh!” I say and flinch away while turning to see
who it is, which gets my cords tangled up. Things are
starting to fade to black until I realise a man in a dark
suit is tut-tutting and untangling them. The cords I
mean. The world comes back. “You really must take
more care,” the man is saying. “You are a considerable
investment. Well, not considerable, but an investment.
Well, not an investment but we at Eier Labs cannot abide
waste.” He has very short blonde hair, very bright blue
eyes, and a very thin mouth.
“Okay,” I say, and then the nurse who’d injected me
with the sedative bursts into the room with a panickylooking doctor. “Oh NO!” cries the doctor, then covers
his mouth, then looks at the nurse who is shaking her
head. She pulls an ampoule out of her pocket, looks at
it, then claps her hand to her forehead and shows the
ampoule to the doctor. He glares at her and winds up like
he’s going to punch her out, but then they both freeze,
turn and look at the German guy, look at each other,
and then run for it. As they go, another nurse comes in
wheeling a gurney and whistling.
“Alright!” he says, smiling. “Just here to pick up the
body, isn’t it?” He stops, sees me staring at him wildeyed, and the German guy staring at him with a raised
eyebrow. Then he smoothly wheels the gurney out
again. I hear him go whistling up the corridor.
The German guy blinks. “Clearly, our protocols have
developed an unfortunate permeability,” he says. He
snatches the envelope from my hand, peels off what
looks depressingly like $125, and drops it in my lap.
“Good luck with...” he waves one manicured hand.
“Whatever it is that will next happen, to you.”
Then he leaves and I’m left wondering which one of
these machines can put me back into that coma.
BY
SUBJECT
ZERO
“She opens
her mouth,
closes it
again, opens
it, seems to
reconsider,
opens it,
and with the
swiftness
of years of
practice,
suddenly
injects
me with a
powerful
sedative.”
9 771320 745018
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PLUS!
How to be a digital whistleblower
What’s SETI up to these days?
Are smartphones getting stupid?
Futuristic musical instruments
Spytech for the rest of us
Fly a private jet
+ HEAPS MORE!
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