close

Вход

Забыли?

вход по аккаунту

?

Popular Science Australia - May 2018

код для вставкиСкачать
EVERY FRONT ROW SEAT: Intel's VR future for
BE A
SPY
KIT TO GIVE
YOU THE EDGE
AMBITIOUS NEW PLANS TO SAIL
OTHER OCEANS
MAY ISSN
2018 $9.99
NZ $10.99
1835-9876
05
9 771835 987002
* Further purchase required
SMOG:
THE NEW LEAD
LANE
CHANGE
3D PRINT
YOUR KICKS
Has the danger of
air pollution been
forgotten?
Why autonomous
cars need to get
smarter
Nike's hardcore
runners, made
to order
ANY TUNE. ANY ROOM. WIRELESSLY.
The HEOS Bar delivers exceptional performance
HEOS PLAYS
to enhance the sound from a TV or Blu-ray player,
while retaining the elegance of a slimline soundbar –
and the ability to act as an audio streaming solution.
4x Better Than CD
You can also extend your home theatre to wireless
5.1 surround sound or add HEOS speakers for
Play & Share
music anywhere in your home.’
www.heos.com.au
USB Music Anywhere
I S S U E # 1 1 4 , M AY 2 0 1 8
EDITORIAL
Editor Anthony Fordham afordham@nextmedia.com.au
DESIGN
Group Art Director Malcolm Campbell
Art Director Danny McGonigle Designer DJ Williams
ADVERTISING
Advertising Sales
Lewis Preece lpreece@nextmedia.com.au
Advertising Traffic
Diane Preece dpreece@nextmedia.com.au
Division General Manager
Jim Preece jpreece@nextmedia.com.au
Production Manager Peter Ryman
Circulation Director Carole Jones
US EDITION
Editor in Chief Joe Brown
Articles Editor Kevin Gray
Managing Editor Jill C. Shomer
Senior Editor Sophie Bushwick
Technology Editor Xavier Harding
ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Acting Design Director Chris Mueller
Photo Director Thomas Payne
Digital Associate Art Director Michael Moreno
Associate Art Director Russ Smith
Acting Production Manager Paul Catalano
POPSCI.COM
Online Director Carl Franzen
BONNIER’S TECHNOLOGY GROUP
Group Editorial Director Anthony Licata
Group Publisher Gregory D Gatto
BONNIER
Chairman Tomas Franzen
Chief Executive Officer Eric Zinczenko
Chief Content Officer David Ritchie
Chief Operating Officer Lisa Earlywine
Senior Vice President, Digital Bruno Sousa
Vice President, Consumer Marketing John Reese
Chief Executive Officer David Gardiner
Commercial Director Bruce Duncan
Popular Science is published 12 times a year by
nextmedia Pty Ltd ACN: 128 805 970
Building A, 207 Pacific Highway
St Leonards, NSW 2065
Under license from Bonnier International Magazines. © 2018 Bonnier
Corporation and nextmedia Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in
whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Popular Science is
a trademark of Bonnier Corporation and is used under limited license.
The Australian edition contains material originally published in the US
edition reprinted with permission of Bonnier Corporation. Articles express
the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Publisher,
Editor or nextmedia Pty Ltd. ISSN 1835-9876.
Privacy Notice
We value the integrity of your personal information. If you provide personal
information through your participation in any competitions, surveys or offers
featured in this issue of Popular Science, this will be used to provide the
products or services that you have requested and to improve the content of
our magazines. Your details may be provided to third parties who assist us
in this purpose. In the event of organisations providing prizes or offers to our
readers, we may pass your details on to them. From time to time, we may
use the information you provide us to inform you of other products, services
and events our company has to offer. We may also give your information to
other organisations which may use it to inform you about their products,
services and events, unless you tell us not to do so. You are welcome to
access the information that we hold about you by getting in touch with our
privacy officer, who can be contacted at nextmedia, Locked Bag 5555,
St Leonards, NSW 1590
www.popsci.com.au
To subscribe, call 1300 361 146
or visit www.mymagazines.com.au
A Future of EverIncreasing Weirdness
For most of human history, if you didn’t like the way the world
worked, at least you could understand why the bad thing might, to
bad people, seem necessary. There was a sort of bent logic to the way
technology and society functioned. That might not last.
As we hurtle faster into the future on
what appears to be an increasingly
parabolic curve, it’s getting harder to
understand why things have to be the
way they apparently are.
The fundamental reason for this
is simple enough: we’re starting
to decouple completely from our
subsistence past. Having suicient
food, shelter and safety (at least for
the richest, say, 10% of the global
population) is taken essentially for
grant. We now struggle and strive for
more ephemeral things. Like politics.
Not that food and shelter can’t be
taken away from you, the individual,
in the amount of time it takes you to
seriously screw up at work and alienate
your family. But as a society, keeping
(almost) everyone fed and the lights on
(almost) all of the time is considered
to be a bare minimum, rather than an
amazing civilisation-wide achievement.
Oh sure, look beneath the surface
and you’ll see thousands of moving,
interlocking parts. Industries
serving other industries, multiple
dependencies, all whirring away 24/7
making the world work. It could ly
apart with a few well placed nuclear
detonations and a pandemic or two. But
so far, it hasn’t.
As our science and technology
continues to become more advanced,
it’s also becoming more esoteric. Four
hundred years ago, ordinary people
could see how a water-mill worked,
even if they didn’t have the skills or
money or suicient lack of crippled
limbs to make one.
Today, even people without food
security in developing nations have
mobile phones. And yet nobody knows
how their mobile works. Not really. Oh
don’t pretend you do, there’s so much
more to it than “uh it uh connects to the
uh tower which uh then uh...”
After the fall of the Roman Empire,
and the retreat of same from various
provinces, especially Britain, the people
who were left behind found themselves
in possession of high-tech (for the
time) Roman houses, roads, water and
sewerage systems, and bridges.
In 5th century Britain, no British
person knew how to build a stone
bridge. They built bridges out of wood.
But they still used the Roman bridges,
trusting in that superior technology,
even though they didn’t know how to
use it, or even repair it.
This is something we’ve never
experienced, as a culture. Every new
piece of technology we encounter
is just that: wholly new. It isn’t a
rediscovery of the lost knowledge of a
more advanced culture that died out
centuries ago. But to many of us, maybe
even the majority of us, it might as well
be alien tech, for all we understand it.
Because like the Britons and
those stone bridges, we too trust in
technological infrastructure that we
have no idea how to build or repair. And
yet, we built this stuf. Or at least our
contemporaries did. Most of the people
who invented the highest of the high
tech are still alive.
It’s confusing, and even a little
contradictory. And we shouldn’t expect
it to get any better. In fact, it’s probably
going to get a lot worse.
ANTHONY FORDHAM
afordham@nextmedia.com.au
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
3
MAY 2018
38
Beneath
Distant
Seas
Saturn’s moon Titan is the only other
place in the Solar System with large
bodies of liquid on the surface. Sure it’s
not water, but that never stopped a truly
dedicated sailor...
4
POPULAR SCIENCE
14
Update
Events of Interest
06 A really really big aeroplane
08 Graphene by the metre
09 Hyperloop kicks off
26
State of the Art
Your guide to everything
14
16
18
19
20
Insight
28
46
Intel’s tiny little beast
Take yoga up a notch
Be a high-tech spy
Music instruments, future-style
Speak without speaking
Important stuff for futurists
26
28
30
32
Crash testing aircraft
Mining computers from landfill.
Night owls need a break
We owe it all to Teflon.
Features
Read, think, read some more
44 Autonomous cars get smarter
46 Smog can still kill you
Charted
Data in digestible form
66
52 Recognising genius
54 How to be a whistleblower
56 SETI: A situation update
How 2.0
Made for you, by you
62 Nike 3D printed sneakers?
66 NASA’s little telescope
69 Please invent!
The Other Stuf
Bonus Extra Material!
03
70
72
78
80
Our Editor Rants
Tales From the Field
From the Archives
Retro Invention
Lab Rats
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
5
UPDATE
All the science and
tech news that’s worth
reallocating to your
forebrain or whatever.
Compiled by Jessica Boddy,
Anthony Fordham and Staff Writers.
Ready to Go
Stratospheric
The world’s largest aeroplane (by wingspan) ramps up testing
ahead of its first flight
S
tratolaunch Systems is increasing the
number of taxiing tests of its massive
carrier aircraft, with the aim of
conducting the first flight tests later this year.
The huge twin-fuselage aircraft offers an
alternative to launching rockets from the
ground into orbit.
A spaceship hangs between the two hulls,
and Stratolaunch takes the spaceship up to
high altitude. This allows for easier - and
hopefully cheaper - access to space for a
variety of missions.
The plane is a much larger version of
White Knight One and White Knight Two,
similarly twin-hulled planes that carried
the X-prize winning SpaceShipOne and
SpaceShipTwo on their test flights.
Unlike the White Knights, which are
intended to support space tourism,
Stratolaunch is large enough to carry
Update
vehicles capable of reaching true orbit.
The company, which is backed by
Microsoft founder Paul Allen and famous
aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, initially
proposed carrying a scaled-down version of
NASA’s next-generation spaceplane called
Dream Chaser. But this year the company
also announced development of its own
spaceplane, which it claims will be as big as
the Space Shuttle, called Black Ice.
The innovative launch system has been
in development since 2010, and relied
on SpaceX for engine development for
the spacecraft component, until the two
companies parted ways in 2012.
Stratolaunch hopes its massive aircraft
will eventually be rated to launch up to three
spacecraft per flight.
But before that milestone, the company
must prove the plane is airworthy and pass
stringent regulatory tests. They aim to be
flying by 2020.
117
Wingspan, in metres, of the Stratolaunch
carrier aircraft, making it the largest aeroplane
(by wingspan) ever. It’s 73 metre length isn’t
record-breaking, but still big. To save
development costs, the aircraft uses six
engines, avionics, flight deck, landing gear and
more, from two cannibalised Boeing 747-400s.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
7
The Business World
is Shifting to
Greener Technology
Epson’s NEW
WorkForce
Enterprise range
leads the way
*
87% 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 WF-C20590 max power consumption of 320W, and comparable speed model Fuji Xerox
(WLVZ7VY[=***TH_WV^LYJVUZ\TW[PVUVM>IHZLKVUTHU\MHJ[\YLYZV^UZWLJPÄJH[PVUZ
ROLL OUT THE
GRAPHENE
Graphene, a special form of
carbon with many promising
industrial applications, has always
been difficult and expensive to
make, which limits its usefulness.
But now researchers at MIT have
designed a process that creates
long rolls of graphene, at a rate of
five centimetres a minute.
Edible
Six-pack
Saves Lives
Ocean life suffers disproportionately
from the effects of plastic waste,
especially because many plastic
products look like tasty jellyfish to a
bleary-eyed turtle or fish.
The SaltWater Brewery in Florida is
rolling out biodegradable six-pack
rings, replacing the plastic rings used
elsewhere in the US. The rings are make
from wheat and barley and break down
quickly in landfill.
More importantly though, the material is
non-toxic and easily digested by marine
life. Any curious nibblers just get a free
feed, rather than a death sentence.
Microsoft Puts anONAI
A
cr
t
on the
ar
Translator On Your
hiv ne
The latest generation smartphone from
Apple, Huawei, Google and more, now
boast of having “AI chips” - so-called neural
processing units or neural engines. What
for? Well, for a start, apps like Microsoft’s
Translator, which has been updated to offer
offline translation services.
So a compatible phone can use a language
pack and its AI chip to do translations in real
time, without needing to harness the power
of a cloud translation service. This makes
10
POPULAR SCIENCE
Shippingport, Pa.,
smartphone
stands
a majortranslation
triumph apps far more useful
places
where
you probably
most need
ofin
the
Western
World
—
them: way
offfull-scale
the beaten track.
America’s
first
Phones
without
these specialised chips
nuc
ear power
plant.
probably
have
the necessary processing
There,
onlywon’t
15 years
after
power
crunch
though dictionaries and
the
firstto
chain
reaction
grammar
rule-sets
fast enough to hold a
in
the historic
Chicago
(stilted)
conversation.
squash court,
atoms
It certainly
shows
silently
splitting
in athe shape of things to
come.
Surelydustless
it can’t be long before we’re just
smokeless,
sticking a fish-shaped AI-bud in our ear?
Update
Elon Musk
Still Fears
Super AI
FACEBOOK
WANTS TO
MAKE CHIPS?
Online stickybeaks
have spotted intriguing
employment ads popping
up in relation to Facebook.
The company seems to
be looking for experts in
FPGA and ASIC design,
two chip technologies
heavily associated with AI
and machine learning.
In a new documentary from filmmaker Chris
Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?), called Do
You Trust This Computer? noted AI-sceptic
(if not straight-up AI-phobe) Elon Musk has
once again held court on the looming danger
of artificial minds. Especially the type artificial
intelligence prognosticators call “weakly
superhuman” AIs - machines that think much
faster, and smarter, than us.
This time, Musk makes the point that AI is
essentially immortal, and if a sophisticated AI
somehow took over the world, it would be like
having a dictator who never dies.
“The least scary future I can think of is one
where we have at least democratised AI because
if one company or small group of people manages
to develop godlike digital super-intelligence,
they could take over the world,” Musk says in
the documentary. “At least when there’s an evil
dictator, that human is going to die. But for an
AI, there would be no death. It would live forever.
And then you’d have an immortal dictator from
which we can never escape.”
HYPERLOOP IS HAPPENING
CHILL ROBOTS
ASSEMBLE CHAIR
To demonstrate how
off-the-shelf robot arms
can be programmed to
do jobs that require fine
control, researchers from
Nanyang Technological
University, Singapore,
used them to build an
ordinary IKEA chair.
While the robots
were successful, the
researchers hope AI could
make the process faster
and more human-like.
Hyperloop Transport Technologies is well on the way to making its radical tubular train
a reality. Construction has begun on a new test track in France, and now Hyperloop TT
has a deal in the UAE. Working with an Abu Dhabi real estate developer, they’ll build a
full commercial hyperloop system, hopefully by 2020.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
11
Update
AMD is Back On the CPU
Leaderboard
While AMD CPUs have always been a budget
alternative for PC builders, the last few years
have seen Intel as the only real choice for
those who demand top-tier performance.
With the launch of its second-generation
Ryzen CPUs (which somewhat confusingly
include Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 7 chips)
AMD is back as a serious contender for
gamers and creative professionals alike.
AMD has focused development on
multi-core performance, offering more
cores for the same price. Intel CPUs
12
POPULAR SCIENCE
still have a single-thread performance
advantage, although less so than it has
been for several generations.
The Ryzen 7 2700X is at the top of the
new range and goes up against Intel’s
Core i7-8700K. Both CPUs run at 3.7GHz,
although the Intel chip can overlock
dynamically to 4.7GHz while the Ryzen only
bumps itself to 4.3. Not that pure clock speed
is as important as it once was.
More importantly to end users, the AMD
CPU is $30-$40 cheaper than Intel’s, and it
comes bundled with a good quality cooling
fan, called a Wraith Prism RGB cooler (it has
LED lighting). Intel’s K-series chips, which
are preferred by overclockers, don’t come
with any cooler at all.
AMD used to be the “gamer’s choice”
when it came to CPU architecture, back
around the turn of the millennium. Now the
company is back, and promising a CPU built
on the fabled 7nm process as early as 2019.
The CPU wars are heating up again at last.
And the winners are always us.
Malaria
Smells
Good to
Mosquitos
For a disease that, by some estimates, is
responsible for nearly half of all human
deaths since the Stone Age, malaria is
relatively difficult to catch.
It can’t spread person-to-person except
via a particular type of blood transfusion
that’s very rare. A malaria-sufferer needs
to be bitten by a mosquito to first transfer
the malaria parasite’s gametocytes into
the insect’s gut. Then, after maturing and
making their way into the mozzie’s salivary
glands, you need to be bitten by that infected
mosquito to get the disease.
Yet malaria spreads very effectively in
regions where mosquitos and humans
are exposed to the parasite. And recent
research suggests that malaria actually
alters a person’s odour to make us more
attractive to mozzies.
This works so well, researchers were able
to use the dirty socks of schoolchildren to
demonstrate mosquitos prefer the smell
of the infected, even as long as three weeks
after the socks had been taken off.
Scientists hope to use this knowledge to
reverse-engineer the effect, and improve
mosquito repellents.
120
seconds
Length of full colour video that can be taken in
one shot by the VividX2 satellite. Operated by
British company Earth-i, VividX2 provides the
first commercially-available colour video from
space. It weighs just 100 kg, is a cubic metre in
size, and orbits at an altitude of 505 km. So
much for privacy!
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
13
State
of the
Art
A Tiny PC For
the Big Game
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
FOR PC GAMERS, IT’S universa
that if you want cutting-edge high
hardware, you need a full-sized “tower”
The ATX format is venerable inde
provided a backbone for hardware inno
to push the limits of what’s possible
to personal computing. The most p
absolute terms, is always the size of ca
Not that efforts to bring serious com
to a slimmer form-factor aren’t still be
itself has championed its “New Unit o
or NUC, for several years now.
A NUC is best described as a lap
keyboard or a screen, and - free from t
of needing to be light and thin - a more
cooling system. This has, over time, all
surprisingly beefy little beasts.
Intel’s latest iteration of the NU
its exciting-sounding Hades Canyon
CPUs, aims to address the last lingeri
tiny form-factor enthusiast PCs: tole
performance in the latest games.
A real gamer’s PC has a gigan
or Graphics Processing Unit plu
motherboard. This allows the PC to r
graphics at high framerates, but at
bulk, cooling-requirements, and po
most powerful GPUs on the market
draw more power than an entire lapt
Intel has been packaging graphics
into its CPUs for a while now, bu
generation is different. It include
Radeon Vega M GPU, not as a se
board, but integrated right into the C
Yes, a dedicated ATX PC with m
graphics cards will still be more po
but this latest NUC will at least run all
games, at a level that’s playable.
Rather than videogaming though, I
NUC 8 family to push a different kind
maker has created a multi-viewpoint r
encoding system it calls True VR.
Consisting of an odd-looking semi-c
pod, a lot of fibre optics, and a bunc
leading US sports (so far), True VR
watch “the game” from almost any a
With a stereoscopic headset simil
Rift or HTC Vive plugged into a NUC
full-sized PC), a sport fan can virtual
the arena as a basketball game is und
Some venues in the US are ri
14
POPULAR SCIENCE
NUCLING UNDER
What exactly does this diminutive PC have
to do with VR again? Well, the NUC 8 has
been specifically designed to make developing new applications for VR easier. It’s absolutely encrusted with ports, including multiple Thunderbolt ports for fast data transfer,
and dual Ethernet ports for networking
flexibility. A simple but neat touch: there’s a
full-sized HDMI port on the front of the box,
so users can plug-in a VR headset and keep
all the cabling tidy.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
15
Mat
The Jade Harmony pad
uses a layer of natural
rubber on top to soak up
slippery perspiration and
improve traction. At a
little under ie millimetres
thick, it’s the perfect
Goldilocks depth — comfortably squishy without
sacriicing stability.
Hit the
Mat
by CL AIRE MALDARELLI
YOGA’S ORIGINAL SOUTH
Asian practitioners realised
what the regimen can do for
the mind millennia ago. In
modern life, studies how that
the practice boosts attention
and focus, reduces stress, and
helps curb anxiety. (It’s okay that
weightlifters and linebackers
use it to build strength and
increase flexibility too.) No
matter why you’re there, the
mat can give you a short break
from your smartphone and
its continuous flow of push
notifications. Use these
four essentials to help
it all fade away.
Garment
The Lululemon women’s
In Movement Tights have
an inner, nylon-based
fabric layer that spreads
out sweat for rapid evaporation. It pulls moisture
away from the skin to a
quick-drying outer layer.
Block
Wheel
Yoga should stretch, not
strain, your muscles. The
Yoga Design Labs Block
acts like a spotter to help
you into poses outside
your range. It has a
textured surface for grip,
and offers 100, 150, or
220 m of assistance
Hunching over a
keyboard can leave
you too stiff to achieve
basic poses. Rolling
the 330mm Gaiam
Cork Yoga Wheel on
the loor beneath your
back eases your creaky
muscles into place
PHOTOGRAPH BY TRAVIS RATHBONE / PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES
State
of the
Art
1
PHOTOGRAPH BY TRAVIS RATHBONE PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES
3
2
4
State
of the
Art
Become
a DIY Spy
by STAN HORACZEK
YOU DON’T NEED Q CRANKING OUT BOND-READY WATCH-LASERS OR
retrofit an Aston Martin with rocket launchers, to dabble in some small-scale espionage. Whether you’re out to nab the family snack burglar who’s been swiping your
Cheez-Its, or want to ensure your Airbnb host doesn’t turn you into an unwilling internet video star, these spy tools will help you dig up the dirt you desire. But please: Check
federal, state, and local laws before going all 007 with this gear.
1
Get superhearing
2
Spot peeping Toms
3
Track your stuff
4
See in the dark
Point the 200-mm dish on the
Scientiic Explorer Bionic Ear
toward what you want to hear,
and it’ll gather and amplify
sound waves by funnelling them
into a central microphone. The
ray-gun-style gadget can pick
up audio from sources up to 100
metres away, whether it’s an
opposing cricket team crating
their strategy or a songbird
singing across the park.
While most house- and
apartment-share proprietors
are upstanding citizens, some
major creepsters do plant small,
hidden cameras in their rented
abodes. The KJB Camera Finder
can sweep the space for spies.
The beeper-size gizmo shines
focused LEDs into the room,
causing lenses to appear as
bright glints when spied through
the red-tinted eyepiece.
If you’re worried about someone
grabbing your duffel bag from
your gym locker, consider a
BrickHouse Security Spark
Nano 5.0 GPS Tracker. This
battery-powered device will emit
a signal for up to two weeks on a
single charge. Monitor it via
Google Maps, or watch for a text
if it moves outside a designated
area—just remember, trailing
people covertly is a no-no.
The smartphone-powered
Flir One camera captures what’s
normally invisible to the naked
eye: infrared light emitted by
heat. In short, it lets you see like
a rattlesnake—or the Predator.
Use it to catch thieving roommates swiping your food under
cover of darkness. Then, once
you’re done spying, check your
windows for draughty spots
that need insulating.
18
POPULAR SCIENCE
+RZZLOO\RXVFLHQFH
WKLV1DWLRQDO6FLHQFH:HHN"
11–19 AUGUST 2018
)LQGHYHQWVQHDU\RXDWVFLHQFHZHHNQHWDX
1
State
of the
Art
Music
teachers
by MALLORY JOHNS
HEARING MUSIC CAN MAKE US DANCE, L AUGH, OR CRY; IT HAS
the power to excite us or give us goosebumps. Playing music, on the flipside, can
make you smarter. Learning an instrument improves your brain’s executive function—
the ability to manage resources and achieve goals. In doing so, being musical also
strengthens your capacity to consider multiple concepts at once, a key facet of
creative thinking. Instruments with baked-in teaching tools might be no replacement
for an experienced human instructor, but they’re easy, at-home ways to help start
the process. Bonus: They won’t get on your case about practicing your scales.
20
POPULAR SCIENCE
1
Strum the strings
A group of red LEDs below the
Fretlight FG-621 guitar’s translucent
polymer fretboard show your ingers
where to hold the strings to crat
chords. Compatible smartphone
apps, such as Guitar Tunes and
MyJam, wirelessly send signals to
those lights to guide you through
ingerings, scales, and power chords.
You can slow down or speed up the
lessons to match your skill level. Once
you’ve mastered the basics, turn off
the lights and rock out on your legit
electric axe until your ingers bleed
from too much shredding.
SOME
MORE
NOTES
3
Drop the beat
PHOTOGRAPH BY TRAVIS RATHBONE / PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES
2
2
Slap the skins
A beginning percussionist’s practice
sessions can sound like an elephant
charging through the local hardware
store, so there’s good reason to be
thankful for the volume-controllable
rubber drums on Yamaha’s DTX 400
electronic setup. Each kit includes pads
to represent the toms, snare, kick, and
cymbals that you’d ind in a standard
set. Its built-in training mode plays examples of the most common patterns
and rhythms in genres like rock and
jazz. Groove along at increasing tempos until you’re pounding out rhythms
like Neil Peart.
3
Roli’s Beatmaker Kit
employs a grid
of LED-lit, touchsensitive pads
mapped to instruments, like drums or
synths, to simplify
electronic music creation. Tapping and
dragging squares
controls the sounds.
Tune your pipes
The Vanido Personal
Singing Coach app
determines your
voice’s range, then
guides you through
daily pitch-matching
exercises. It’ll even
play back your own
tracks, to develop
your ears, as well as
your pipes.
Tickle the keys
With 61 full-size keys, optional
battery power, and 400 selectable instrument sounds, the Casio
LK-260 is a familiar sight in music
classrooms, but it can teach you to
tap out tunes all on its own. The keys
light up in sequence to show you the
notes for simple scales to complex
compositions. The onboard teaching
system guides you through a gradual
learning process: First you listen,
then watch, then jam along. You can
speed up the beat as you progress
and review your performances via a
built-in digital recorder.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
21
COURTESY SPHERO
State
of the
Art
Speak Without
Words
by ROB VERGER
STUDENTS FROM MIT HAVE CREATED A PROTOtype device, dubbed AlterEgo, that can understand
what you say when you’re talking to yourself, and carry
out instructions based on what you ‘say’.
Arnav Kapur, a masters student at the MIT Media
Lab — a division of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology that focuses on the intersection of people
and technology — and creator of the device, stresses
that the AlterEgo doesn’t read thoughts. Instead it
can detect and understand subvocalisations.
“You’re completely silent, but talking to yourself,”
he says. “It’s neither thinking nor speaking. It’s a
sweet spot in between, which is voluntary but also
private. We capture that.”
Stuck to Kapur’s chin here, are a handful of electrodes which pick up the minuscule electrical signals
generated by the subtle internal muscle motions that
occur when he talks to himself. Software interprets
these signals as language.
The goal? To further “combine humans and
computers,” Kapur says. The more tightly we interact
with computers, the more we can take advantage of
their strengths — like quickly getting help with a math
problem or a translation — without having to look up
from your work and click, tap, or type.
Still in the early stages, the system yet can’t understand every word a person says — just the ones it
has been taught. Talking to yourself deliberately, but
not saying anything out loud, is a surprisingly easy
practice to learn, Kapur says.
When training someone to use it, Kapur starts by
asking them to read a passage aloud. “After that,
we ask them to not voice the words” as they read, he
says. “It’s more comfortable than speaking out loud.”
To build the system, Kapur used an artificial intelligence technique called a neural network, which can
learn from data inputs. Kapur and his team trained
the neural network to recognise how different electrical signals correspond to the different words.
While it’s easy to see military applications of a silent communication device, Kapur says human-to-human communication isn’t the priority here.
“This is more about how we could bridge the gap
between computers and humans,” he says. The ideal
scenario is one in which people can augment themselves with the smarts of an artificial intelligence
system smoothly, and in real time.
The next step: work on the device’s form, so it’s
a bit “more invisible.” It’s all about that seamless
integration — so ideally future versions won’t look like
a taped-on telemarketer’s headset.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
23
fine mechanical watchmaking, from japan.
Trimatic symbolises three Seiko inventions
that ensure the highest levels of reliability
and durability in its mechanical watches.
seiko.com.au
ISSUE
114
INSIGHT
MAY
2018
26
28
30
32
34
THE COMPLICATED BUSINESS OF
CRASH-TESTING
AIRCRAFT
CAN WE MINE
OLD COMPUTERS FOR VITAL
RESOURCES?
NIGHT OWLS
SHOULDN’T LET
SOCIETY DICTATE
THEIR BEDTIME
A CELEBRATION
OF THE MANY
BENEFITS OF
TEFLON
IS FASTING EVERY
OTHER DAY
BETTER THAN
REGULAR MEALS?
TEST BENCH
It’s Not the Fall
that Kills You
Research Centre, engineers put aircraft through what they call “seInsight ngley
by ROB VERGER
vere but survivable” crashes. The can dro a section of an air lane strai ht down
At NASA’s Langley Research Centre, engineers put aircraft through what they
call “severe but survivable” crashes. They can drop a section of an airplane
straight down, swing a small plane into the ground, crash a helicopter fuselage, or let a test version of a space capsule plunge into a six-metre deep pool.
INSIDE THESE DOOMED CRAFT SIT
crash-test dummies, wired with sensors to measure how the forces of impact cause injury.
In doing these tests, the space agency wants to
understand “how the airframes behave in a crash
environment—how they collapse, the damage that
occurs, [and] how much load is transferred into
the occupants,” says Martin Annett, a structural
impact dynamics engineer at the facility. They’ll
drop the test vehicles from as high as 25 metres.
The dummy passengers are made of rubber,
plastic, and metal in the shape of humans. Each
one contains sensors that measure variables like
g-forces, how much the head and neck move or
twist in a crash, and compression of the lower
back. The sensors include accelerometers, as well
as “load cells” that detect spinal compression.
While the dummies have arms and legs, their
hands and feet don’t contain sensors. Instead,
the measuring instruments are in locations like
the pelvis and neck.
The setup is similar to crash-test dummies in
cars, but different forces require tweaks to the
arrangement. For instance, compression forces
in the lower back are more important when studying plane crashes, thanks to those hard vertical
hits into the terrain below.
The forces that cause injury happen fast. The
key data that Annett is interested in is generated
in a micro-moment after impact — the first 0.1 to
0.4 of a second. And all that data needs to make
its way off the aircraft for analysis.
“We’ll have a whole run of cables coming out
of each of those dummies,” Annett says. “We
bundle those together and then we tie them together into a data acquisition system.”
That rugged, battery-powered data gathering
node is located near the dummies, onboard the
crash-ready rigs. The engineers will then download all the valuable data from that onboard
system to a laptop for analysis after it has had its
rough rendezvous with the ground.
Many of the tests deal not with catastrophic
crashes, but hard landings, collapsing landing gear,
26
POPULAR SCIENCE
or sudden final drops that damage, not destroy, the
aircraft. Survivable injuries, in other words.
Two factors that can influence the likelihood
of injury are the velocity before impact and the
time over which that impact occurs “The change
in the velocity is really what gives you your gees,”
he says. The goal is to “prevent a very high-g,
short-duration loading.” Those are the wrecks
that can cause neck or head injuries.
Striking something inside the cabin is very unkind to your body, too, for obvious reasons. Annett recalls a test with dummies representing a
pilot and co-pilot.
“The pilot was in a restraint that gave way, and
it [the dummy] struck the dash,” he says. “The
other one had a restraint that held it back.” The
g-forces, and thus the injury, were much higher
on the dummy that hit the dash.
While they’ve dropped a short cross-section of
a regional jet (see above), Annett says they have
their eyes on a bigger chunk. “We’d like to crash
this full aircraft that we have here, which is about
a commuter-sized jet,” he says.
“If everything goes well, we may put 30 to 40
crash test dummies in there — we would have
a combination of dummies, anywhere from a
3-year-old, to 6-year-old, to small female, to
large males.” A range of dummies that would represent the crowd on a typical commercial flight.
“We can get a wealth of information over one
test,” he adds. “We try to populate as much as we
can since you really only have one shot.”
Worst Commute Ever
Even a short, sharp drop at the end of a
flight could cause serious injury.
Researchers want to repeat this test with
a full-scale commuter jet.
Wired for Misfortune
One of the challenges of this work is in
wiring the dummies so their data can
escape the wreck intact, even if the
dummies themselves are doomed.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
27
UNCONSIDERED TRIFLES
Insight
Down the Computer
Mine
by MARY BETH GRIGGS
From your water-logged phone to your smashed
smart TV, those personal electronics headed for the
landfill are a potential goldmine. Or copper mine.
Or even, one day, a lithium mine.
Economists already knew that along with the
swelling 44.7 million metric tons of electronic
waste tossed each year we were throwing out
billions of dollars in resources.
But quantifying all the gold, copper, iron,
plastic, and rare-earths languishing in our
landfills and recycling centres is only part of
the challenge.
Recycling electronics by hand can be
difficult, because many components are
impossible to separate.
28
POPULAR SCIENCE
The bigger issue is figuring out whether it’s
worthwhile, financially speaking, to sift those
resources out of the rubble, or just continue to
extract them from traditional mines.
A first step: recent research suggests that
‘urban mining’ of electronic waste for copper
and gold in China, may be more cost-effective
than digging those metals out of the ground.
“Most articles on waste-disposal frame
the issue as a moral dilemma: how to enjoy
more gadgets without drowning in waste.
We reframe the issue in our article is one
of economics—how to comprehend that
technologies now exist allowing companies
to profitably extract valuable material from
growing waste streams,” says study co-author
John Matthews.
In China, he says, this is called the “circular
economy.” And he and his colleagues believe
it’s the only real solution to the mounting
problems posed by e-waste disposal.
PLAY IT AGAIN
Recycling electronics has been an option for
some time, but data comparing the cost of a
recycled ingot of gold with a mined ingot of gold
weren’t available. By looking at information
from eight recycling plants in China they found
that factoring in subsidies provided by the
government, it was about 13 times cheaper to
extract metals from waste than to mine them.
And even without the subsidies, the ‘urban
mining’ stayed more profitable.
That’s a hopeful sign, as accessible mineral
deposits — including gold — become rarer
and technological requirements of electronics
make recycling gold more feasible.
Co-author Xianlai Zeng points out that huge
amounts of resources have been extracted from
underground deposits and made into all kinds
of manufactured products above the ground, a
process that isn’t sustainable in the long term.
“Urban mining for resource supply is
the vital for future resource sustainability.
Meanwhile, urban mining is als o an
increasingly environmental issue to solve the
e-waste problem,” Zeng says.
UNMAKING CHALLENGE
Of course, plenty of challenges remain. For
one, it’s not easy to take apart a lot of modern
electronics, and breaking them down into
their constituent parts can be difficult. Then
there’s also the fact that mineral extraction
from typical mines is an established part of
the supply chain, and entrenched patterns
can be hard to break.
“The challenge for widespread adoption
of urban mining is overcoming the inertia of
existing practices,” Matthews says. “What
breaks inertia is incursions by new companies
with fresh business plans.”
Matthews thinks that the first places to
embrace urban mining of electronic waste
will likely be countries like Japan, Germany,
and China, which have large amounts of
electronic waste.
“Early urban mining is likely to focus on
high-value materials like gold and silver as
well as copper. Longer term there will be great
scope for lithium [from batteries] and rare
earths,” Matthews says. “Ultimately we see
all e-waste as being subject to urban mining,
and all materials utilized in manufacturing of
e-products to come from urban mining.”
There are some signs of progress towards
that more circular future. Urban mining
supplies raw materials for everything from
some high- end jewellery designers to
additional electronic devices.
Europe is assembling a database tracking
resources through the entire production
cycle. If these green trends catch on in
business—and stay cost-effective—there’s a
chance we could have our smartphones, and
responsibly reuse them too.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
29
MIND HACKING
Insight
Night Owls: Embrace
Your Early Death
by NEEL V PATEL
Research has suggested for some time now that people who sit
up late and sleep in even later, suffer various health issues and
may even die earlier. But being a night owl may not, in itself,
be bad. It’s just modern civilisation that turns this natural
“chronotype” into a health-hazard.
A NEW PAPER BY RESEARCHER S
from Northwestern University and the
University of Surrey in the UK doubles down
on the findings that night owls are more likely
to suffer from a host of different diseases
and disorders — diabetes, mental illnesses,
neurological problems, gastrointestinal issues,
and heart disease, to name a few.
It also concludes, for the first time, that
night owls had a 10 per cent increased risk of
dying (in the time period used in the study)
compared to those who are early to rise and
early to sleep.
“I think it’s really impor tant to get
this message out to people who are night
owls,” says lead author Kristen Knutson,
a n a s s o c i ate p ro fes s o r o f n eu rolo g y
at Nor thwestern’s Feinberg S chool of
Medicine. “There may be some compelling
consequences associated with these habits,
and they might need to be more vigilant in
maintaining a healthier lifestyle.”
Published in the latest issu e of the
journal Chronobiology International,
the paper analysed 433,268 individuals
who participated in the UK Biobank, a
massive cohort study run from 2006 to
2010 aimed at investigating the role of
genetic predisposition and environmental
contributions to disease prevalence.
“We think,” says Knutson, “it is at least
partly due to our biological clocks. We think
the problem is that the night owls are forced
to live in a more ‘lark’ world, where you have
to get up early for work and start the day than
their internal clocks want to. So it’s a mismatch
between the internal clock and the external
world, and it’s a problem in the long run.”
Messing with your preferred sleep schedule
can drastically disrupt your circadian rhythms,
which in turn can have severe, negative effects
on your health. We’re all feeling the effects of
this, to some extent, no matter when we like
to go to sleep; research indicates that modern
humans are sleeping poorly thanks to artificial
light, warmer temperatures, and stress, and
scientists are working to understand what kind
of impact this has on our health.
30
POPULAR SCIENCE
CLOCK-LOCKED
To some extent, you just
have to live by the chronotype
you’re born with. Genes play a
significant role in governing your
internal clock, so if you’re naturally
attuned to sleeping at 0300h and waking
up at 1100h, your best bet would be to find a
career and lifestyle where this is okay.
Of course, being a creature of the night isn’t
all bad. Other studies have shown that the
whole morning versus night person debate
is really more of a proxy battle between
organised and meticulous, or being expressive
and imaginative: day-dwellers might be
more focused on achieving goals and paying
attention to details, but all-nighters tend to be
more creative and open to new experiences.
If you’re a night owl, don’t be too rash to
think you should change yourself. Maybe you
just need a career that harnesses your artistic
side — and lets you sleep in a little (or a lot).
Chronotype aside, unlike
owls, humans cannot
adapt to a true nocturnal
lifestyle without suffering
serious side effects.
Photograph by Peter Eastway, G.M. Photog.
Tools transform.
Artistry remains.
The Cintiq® 27QHD and Cintiq® 27QHD Touch creative
pen displays set a new standard in colour, resolution and
productivity. The Cintiq® 27QHD displays 1.07 billion
colours and a full 97% Adobe® RGB colour gamut and
therefore is the creative tool of choice when it comes to
any high-end creative production in art, design, image
editing, or media from print to 3D animation.
For more information visit www.wacom.com
ANNIVERSARIES
80 Years of Teflon
Insight
by SARAH CHODOSH
ROY PLUNKETT NEVER THOUGHT
of himself as a man destined for greatness. But when he accidentally created the technological marvel that
is Teflon, Plunkett had greatness
thrust upon him.
As an engineer at DuPont, Plunkett was
tasked with making a new refrigerant. His
experiments with tetrafluoroethylene gas hit a
small snag when the pressurised gas solidified
into a plastic material inside the bottle.
When Plunkett cut open the canister
to throw this failed experiment away, he
realized something: this stuff was super
slippery. And slippery stuff is useful.
Thus began the story of Teflon. And 2018
marks 80 years since Plunkett made his
happy discovery.
“Why can’t a gecko stick to teflon?” might
sound like a (possibly filthy) joke, but it’s a
serious question of physics. Geckos are able
to stick to almost everything because their
feet take advantage of van der Waals forces,
which are the tiny attractive forces between
atoms and molecules.
Van der Waals forces are pretty much
everywhere, and so geckos can stick
pretty much everywhere. But not to
polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), the material
DuPont would eventually brand “Teflon”.
Teflon doesn’t get those forces because of its
chemical structure.
Teflon is basically composed of long
strands of carbon atoms coated in fluorine
molecules, a bit like a wire with a protective
layer on the outside.
32
POPULAR SCIENCE
Fluorine is an extremely electronegative
element, meaning it attracts and holds
electrons strongly. When bound to carbon,
this means that some of the electrons
surrounding the carbon atom are drawn out
toward the surrounding fluorines.
In fact, they’re drawn so strongly that they
pretty much stay over near the fluorines,
creating a strong negative charge all along
the outside of the molecule. Van der Waals
forces depend on being able to induce a
positive and negative end of a molecule or
atom, but the layer of fluorines in Teflon
just have this permanent negative charge to
them. The electrons stay in one place.
NO FLIES ON ME
The chemical structure is also why it’s so
non-reactive. Carbon normally reacts with
just about everything, but when it’s encased
in fluorine molecules it can’t physically
access any other atoms in order to react.
All this means that gecko feet aren’t able to
physically get a grip on Teflon, just the same
way water and oil can’t adhere to the coatin
Polar and non-polar molecules alike can’t
attach if there’s a consistent negative charge
all across the surface.
Incidentally, ants also can’t climb on
Teflon, which makes it quite useful for
researchers who study them. Just spray some
Teflon onto the edges of the ant habitat and
you can leave the box open all day—they’ll
never be able to escape.
And Teflon’s incredible inertness makes it
useful in a lot of other ways. The Manhattan
Project took advantage by sealing gaskets
with it in order to contain the uranium they
were working with.
Telfon is non-reactive, resistant to
corrosion, and super-low friction. Coat a pipe
in it and you can pump any gas through—
even super-reactive fluorine gas — with little
fear of a cross-reaction. Liquids slide right
through, even corrosive ones.
Because it’s hydrophobic, you can also
spray Teflon on clothing that needs to stand
up to lots of spills and resist stains. Some
school uniform companies use it for that
reason. Make a thin sheet of Teflon, stretch
it a bit to form tiny pores, and you have a
lightweight, breathable layer for a waterproof
jacket—otherwise known as Gore-Tex.
Powder Teflon and you can spray it on
anything as a lubricant. The Rubik’s cube
speed-solver’s wiki recommends several
PTFE-based sprays that you can use to “lube
your cube” for faster twisting.
Dentists coat their tools in Teflon so they
don’t stick to filling materials, and sometimes
use it to cover up surrounding teeth lest they
get covered in filling goop.
Some ski bindings—the bits that attach
your boots to your skis—have Teflon coating
so shoes slide out easily upon release. It’s
even in some nail polish to give it a nice
smooth, even finish.
CARBON NORMALLY
REACTS WITH JUST
ABOUT EVERYTHING,
BUT WHEN IT’S
ENCASED IN FLUORINE
MOLECULES IT CAN’T
PHYSICALLY ACCESS
ANY OTHER ATOMS
IN ORDER TO REACT.
A MILLION USES
Pretty much anywhere you want to remove
friction, you can find Teflon. It can lube up any
machine, line any hose, and seal any gasket.
It’s about as close to magic as you can get.
And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t
give you cancer. There is a certain class of
molecules, called perfluorooctanoic acids
(PFOAs), that used to be involved in the
production of Teflon and that might be
carcinogenic.
But studies found there were only
minuscule quantities of PFOAs in non-stick
pans themselves — nowhere near the amount
shown to cause cancer in rats.
PFOAs are an environmental hazard,
though, which is why governments now
regulate them. You just don’t need to worry
about your non-stick pan unless it starts flaking.
The flakes won’t kill you, but it’s generally
inadvisable to eat chunks of Teflon. The
cost of a new pan will be worth it.
So go ahead and cook your egg
stick- and worry-free. Teflon is a
beautiful thing.
Feet Defeat
Geckos can climb almost
any smooth surface,
thanks to the way their
feet exploit van der Waals
forces. But teflon, which
suppresses the effect,
sends these lizards sliding.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
33
YOU 2.0
Insight
Don’t Eat Yourself Thin,
Sometimes
by CL AIRE MALDARELLI
Fad diets come and go, but not eating anything at all is as old as
famine itself. Fasting is only for the hardcore, but intermittent
fasting has become super trendy. Does it actually work?
YOU KNOW YOU’RE ON A REALLY
proper fast when you see the light and
the angels tell you to walk into the light
because there’s a cheeseburger in the
light. Fasting is best for those seeking a
transcendental experience and those who
unwisely left their car after breaking down
on the Birdsville Track. Yet “not eating”
is a pretty foolproof way to lose weight.
Which is why the gentler alternative,
intermittent fasting, is so hot right now.
Unlike a fast, where you don’t eat
anything for a set block of time, as a sort
of dieting event, intermittent fasting just
means keeping a regular schedule of short
periods of deliberately not eating.
By that definition, pretty much all of us
practice it; there’s a reason we call the first
meal of the day breakfast. In fact, looking
at the physiological changes that occur
from just that overnight fast, you can see
why doctors often ask you to fast for eight
to 12 hours before a blood test.
34
POPULAR SCIENCE
That abstinence period gives your
body time to reach a state where it’s not
influenced by food.
The obvious question, then, is whether
doing that more often can positively
benefit our health.
The bad news: There’s no proof that
intermittent fasting can result in more
weight loss or superior health metrics
compared to plain old continuous caloric
restriction, which is simply eating fewer
calories for an extended period of time.
OLD SCHOOL
While people have been practicing
intermittent fasting for thousands of
years (not always voluntarily), it’s only in
the past two decades that scientists began
to investigate the practice. Preliminary
studies on mice and observational ones
in humans suggest that skipping out on
eating might translate to weight loss
and, at least in some cases, improved
metabolic health.
Here’s the good news: According
to recent studies, nearly all types of
intermittent fasting are physically and
mentally harmless. And nearly all of them
can result in some weight loss.
ON THE CLOCK
But there’s another type of fasting (sort of )
that’s worth mentioning: time restrictive
eating. A person fasts for anywhere
between 12 and 21 hours per day, and only
consumes food in the time between.
This is based on the idea that all
organisms, humans included, have
circadian clocks that regulate how their
bodies function, down to every organ
and organ system.
As such, there are times at which various
bodily functions perform best, including
the organs and systems involved in diet,
like the liver, the endocrine system, and
the digestive tract.
Your pancreas produces the majority
of its insulin in the morning, and that
amount steadily decreases throughout
the day. Insulin helps turn the glucose
in food into energy. Without the proper
amount of insulin, glucose levels build
up in the blood.
So it makes sense to eat the biggest
meal when we have the most insulin to
deal with the sugar intake. If you give
a person the same meal, once in the
morning and once 12 hours later, the
meal eaten later in the day will produce a
bigger blood sugar spike.
The bottom line here is that there’s
strong evidence to suggest eating the
majority of your calories earlier in the day
could be better for your health.
So extending that natural fasting period
at night by eating dinner earlier and
avoiding evening snacks, could be an easy
and worthwhile diet hack.
2018
OCTOBER 19TH – 21ST 2018, THE COMO MELBOURNE
THE ORIGINAL AND
BEST HI-FI SHOW IN
AUSTRALIA
Quality Australian Hi Fi & AV show 7 years on and
still going strong. Showcasing the best Hi Fi & AV
from Australia and around the world
TICKET OFFER!
FANTASTIC 2 FOR 1 /AUS
TRALIANHIFIAVSHOW/2018
BUY NOW AT WWW.CHESTERGROUP.ORG
More than 100 top brands · Live musical performances · Great and
convenient location · World class guest speakers · Prizes galore
twitter.com/OzAudioShow
facebook.com/AustralianAudioShow
chestergroup.org
FEATURES
ISSUE
114
38
44
46
FORGET FLYBYS, IT’S TIME
TO SEND PROBES INTO THE
SEAS OF OTHER WORLDS
AUTONOMOUS CARS NEED
TO GET SMARTER. HERE’S
THE LATEST TECH
HAVE WE BEEN IGNORING
THE LONG TERM EFFECTS
OF AIR POLLUTION?
MAY
2018
Since the discovery of hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, and growing evidence Europa has a
vast ocean under its icy surface, scientists have been itching to get their feet wet in these
unearthly seas. Sailing these other oceans might be impossible, but the real discoveries
could be made in what lies...
BENEATH
DISTANT
SEAS
BY K AT E BAG G A L EY
38
POPULAR SCIENCE
SPACE SUBS
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
39
arth is the blue planet, but it’s not the only
ocean world in our solar system. Oceans
may be concealed beneath thick crusts of
ice on moons orbiting Jupiter, Saturn, and
Neptune, and on the dwarf planets Pluto
and Eris. Saturn’s moon Titan even has liquid right on its
surface, although those lakes and seas are filled with hydrocarbons, rather than water.
If anywhere else in our solar system holds signs of life, it is
likely to be these worlds.
Scientists are determined to explore the distant seas of Titan and Jupiter’s moon Europa, and are designing ice-gripping rovers and submarines to take the plunge into their
mysterious depths. They will have to contend with bitter
cold, liquids that behave differently than the water we are
used to on Earth, and other hostile conditions.
Here’s how these hardy robots will explore two very different types of alien seas.
CRUISING GASSY SEAS
Titan is the only other
object in the Solar
System with liquid on
its surface
Simple buoy-style
probes will be able to
gather data about
surface conditions. But
the real exploration will
need to be done by
semi-autonomous
submersibles
40
POPULAR SCIENCE
Over the course of its mission to explore Saturn and its
moons, the Cassini spacecraft discovered hundreds of small
lakes on Titan, as well as three seas similar to North America’s Great Lakes in size and depth. (On a world as small as
Titan, they count as seas.)
Titan also has water ice on its surface and a water ocean
likely buried beneath its crust. But its seas - a mix of ethane,
methane and dissolved nitrogen - are intriguing because
they are part of a process that resembles the water cycle we
have here on Earth.
As on our own planet, liquid on Titan evaporates
from the seas, forms clouds, and rains back down.
Researchers would like to find out more about how this
hydrocarbon cycle works.
What’s more, carbon and nitrogen compounds that
could support life are plentiful on Titan; scientists hope
to investigate whether some form of life could have
evolved to depend on liquid ethane the way terrestrial
life depends on water.
NASA has considered sending a buoy to drift through Titan’s seas. One drawback is that this capsule would be at the
mercy of winds and currents.
“Most likely a buoy encountering [the] shore would
just get beached and might be refloated with the tide,”
Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, said
in an email. There are no guarantees that it would make
it back to sea, though.
A submarine, on the other hand, could set its own course
and would be able to explore beneath the sea surface and
sample sediments on the sea-floor.
NASA hopes to send a submarine to Titan in the next 20
years. Its generator — which would be powered by heat from
SPACE SUBS
Europa’s liquid ocean could be larger than
Earth’s. We just have to drill our waythrough
a 25-km thick crust of ice. But fissures just
below the surface may provide a way in.
the decay of radioactive materials such as plutonium — will
be key to keeping the submarine’s electronics toasty in Titan’s seas, which are roughly -180 degrees Celsius.
Dealing with the cryogenic conditions on Titan “needs
careful engineering, but no physical miracles,” says Lorenz,
who is the submarine’s lead designer. “The waste heat from
a radioisotope power source is an essential part of that, together with… some judicious choices of foam insulation.”
Another challenge is that we don’t know the exact chemical makeup of Titan’s seas. Some are mainly ethane and a
smaller amount of liquid methane and dissolved nitrogen
gas. Others are an even mix of methane, ethane and nitrogen. Some are mostly methane. The exact ratio in which
these ingredients appear isn’t clear, and may vary quite a bit
between Titan’s seas. So the project is designing a submarine that can navigate a liquid expanse whose density and
viscosity are not yet firmly established.
STILL WATERS FIZZ DEEP
Engineers are particularly concerned about the nitrogen in
Titan’s seas, which could form bubbles that would interfere
with the submarine’s navigation. This might happen when
some of the waste heat from the vessel’s generator seeps into
the environment.
“That heat is not enough to boil the surrounding liquid,
but we believe it’s enough to cause that dissolved nitrogen
that’s in the liquid to come out,” says Jason Hartwig, a
cryogenic propulsion engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research
Centre in Cleveland.
The propeller itself could also create effervescence as it
slices through the liquid. Behind each blade is a little void,
Hartwig says. This drop in pressure can give bubbles an
NASA and other agencies are already
testing underwater drones and probes
here on Earth. These machines will need to
endure much harsher conditions in space.
opportunity to form, similar to how a can of soft drink fizzes
when you open it.
All those tiny bubbles could cause two big problems. Firstly,
they might get in the way of the submarine’s scientific equipment, making it more difficult to measure depth and other
conditions. Even more worrying, the bubbles might prevent the
submarine’s propellers from working properly.
“If we’re trying to move from one location in
the seas to another, are all those bubbles
going to coalesce at the back end of
THEY WILL
the submarine?” Hartwig says.
“You try to spin the propellers
HAVE TO CONTEND
and the vehicle won’t move, it
will just sit and spin.
WITH BITTER COLD, LIQ“This whole effervescence
issue is a non-factor for subUIDS THAT BEHAVE DIFFERmersibles on Earth because
the amount of air that can get ENTLY THAN THE WATER WE
dissolved in water is very, very
low,” Hartwig continues. “The
ARE USED TO ON EARTH,
pressure is higher on Titan and
because the liquid is colder more
AND OTHER HOSTILE
gas is dissolved in the liquid, which
means more gas can come out.”
CONDITIONS.
Since we don’t know the exact chemical composition of Titan’s seas, it’s not certain
how much nitrogen they hold. To get a better sense of what a
submarine might encounter, Hartwig and his colleagues at
Washington State University have recreated Titan’s seas here
on Earth. They filled a test chamber with different mixtures of
methane, ethane, and dissolved nitrogen at temperatures and
pressures similar to those on Titan, then added a little heater in
to mimic the heat that would radiate from an actual submarine.
THE PATHFINDER
The good news: if a submarine has stopped moving in order
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
41
to collect samples, it might not have to worry. It probably
wouldn’t emit enough heat to create the amount of fizz
needed to stymie its instruments, the team reported in
February in the journal Fluid Phase Equilibria. However, “We
still haven’t ruled out the propeller issue,” Hartwig says. He
intends to repeat the experiment with a propeller instead of a
heater to find out how much bubbling the vessel might face as
it journeys through Titan’s seas.
The submarine we send to Titan
could have the same long, slender
IT WOULD
shape we are used to seeing on
Earth. This kind of vehicle
ALSO HAVE TO WAIT
would weigh around 1200
UNTIL THE 2040S TO ARRIVE, kilograms and be about
six metres long, Hartwig
says. However, it would
WHEN EARTH WILL BE HIGH
have to return to the sea
ENOUGH ABOVE TITAN’S HORI- surface in order to communicate with Earth.
ZON TO GIVE THE SUBMARINE A
It would also have
to wait until the 2040s
DIRECT LINE OF SIGHT (AND
to arrive, when Earth
will be high enough above
COMMUNICATION) BACK Titan’s horizon to give the
submarine a direct line of
TO OUR PLANET.
sight (and communication) back
to our planet.
NASA is also considering sending a
smaller, turtle-shaped submarine. This “Titan Turtle”
would be paired with an orbiter to relay information to Earth.
It could communicate while submerged and could potentially
launch a few years earlier because it wouldn’t need to rely on
Earth’s position in the sky.
Titan is unique among ocean worlds, Hartwig says. Nowhere
A submarine for
else in the solar system are liquid seas so easy to reach. But a TiTitan looks pretty odd,
tan submarine could inspire designs for future vessels that will
because this ‘water’ is
explore seas hidden beneath the ice crust on other bodies. “I’ve
actually a mix of
methane and ethane.
always looked at Titan as a pathfinder,” Hartwig says.
42
POPULAR SCIENCE
UNDER THE ICE
One of these less accessible seas can be found on Europa.
While the moon’s surface is lashed with radiation from Jupiter’s magnetic field and is a barely-any-warmer-than-Titan
-173 degrees, the ocean underneath is protected by a crust of
ice that averages 19 to 25 kilometres thick.
Because this ocean is made of water, it’s a tantalising place
look for life, and study what chemical conditions might be
needed for life to form.
To get through Europa’s icy tamper-proof seal, scientists
are testing robots that would melt or cut their way down to
the ocean. These robots could carry submarines, rovers to
drive along the underside of the ice, or even landers that
would sink to the seafloor.
Once they hit the water, these probes would likely encounter balmy temperatures around freezing, or zero degrees.
“It’s actually a fairly comfortable environment for our
electronics,” says Andy Klesh, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “What is a little
bit more troublesome is the saltwater.”
Europa’s seas could be as briny as or own and may even be
significantly saltier, says Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist at
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “As an added challenge, there
is likely some sulfuric acid in the mix,” he says.
This means a probe’s electronics will be in danger of
corrosion. The robot would also face formidable pressures
as it ventured deeper into the ocean. On the seafloor, the
pressure would be akin to that at the bottom of the Mariana
Trench on Earth.
All in all, a journey to Europa’s seas is going to be a pretty
rough ride for even the toughest machine.
“We have the challenges of deep space exploration along
with the challenges of deep ocean exploration,” Klesh says.
“We have a vacuum in space; we have high pressure under
the ice. And we have radiation on the way out there… we’re
protected from that underneath the ice but then the environment’s trying to corrode us along the way.”
So this voyage of discovery will have to be done in stages.
SPACE SUBS
BRUIE is designed to explore
just beneath the ice of Europa.
It uses its wheels to crawl
along the ice ‘ceiling’.
DIPPING A TOE
Titan’s lakes and seas
come and go with the
moon’s seasons. We
still have much to learn.
The easiest place to visit will be the underside of Europa’s ice
shelf, he says. Klesh, Hand, and their colleagues are working
on a rover that would drive around on the bottom of the ice.
A rover or deep-sea probe wouldn’t be buffeted by
currents, as would likely happen with a submarine.
“These rovers [and] these landers may be the best way to
explore in a very controlled matter and not be tossed about
or knocked into other things,” Klesh says.
The underside of the ice is also a particularly good place to
search for life. On Earth, algae and microbes like to anchor
themselves beneath the ice. If life exists on Europa, it may be
drawn to this kind of terrain as well.
Klesh and his team are eager to begin the hunt. They’ve
been testing their rover—currently known as BRUIE (Buoyant
Rover for Under-Ice Exploration)—in Alaska’s freezing lakes.
Its wheels sport both circular sawblades and little panels
that act like snowshoes, distributing the rover’s weight
across the ice. This prevents BRUIE from cutting into the ice
and getting stuck in place.
The version of BRUIE that will eventually visit Europa will
likely be carried through the ice by the robot responsible for
digging down to the sea.
That means it has to be pretty small, likely 45 cm or less
in length, Klesh says. He’s testing collapsible wheels on
BRUIE, which would allow it to become more compact and
portable. The team also hopes to send BRUIE on its most
ambitious mission yet—a trip nearly 300 metres beneath
sea ice, without a tether.
Ideally, a rover on Europa would also be untethered. “We
have had a tendency to end up slicing the tether at least once
during almost every trip when we’ve been out there,” Klesh
says. But despite the risk of tangling it represents, a cord
may be needed to provide power and communicate with
NASA’s Europe Clipper
mission will launch in the
2020s, and provide vital data
for a later sub mission.
equipment on the surface.
Klesh and his team are also looking for easier ways to
reach the ocean. They have used submersibles to explore
moulins — steep, flooded shafts that form inside glaciers
— in Alaska. Last summer, their robot travelled more than
50 metres beneath the ice, and was able to find connecting
points between different tunnels.
It’s possible that Europa also has moulins in its ice shell
that a rover or submersible could use to travel part of the way
down to the water.
ICY FUTURE
There’s still a long way to go before a rover is ready to make
the jaunt to Jupiter’s moons or beyond. Hopefully, Klesh
says, the planned Europa Clipper and Europa Lander missions will pave the way for a probe to be sent beneath the ice.
In the meantime, the rovers that will one day explore
Europa could teach us a few things about our own planet.
BRUIE is already being used to scope out how thawing permafrost is releasing methane in Arctic lakes. And later in
2018, the intrepid rover will take a three or four-month-long
sojourn in those chilly waters.
“The scientific goal is to leave the rover underneath the
lake ice to watch the seasonal changes as the ice forms and
thickens above these methane-rich lakes as the sun sets and
the winter goes dark,” Hand says.
This could reveal how a rover might become frozen in
place as the ice around it thickens. It’s also a chance to learn
more about an environment too punishing for humans to observe on our own.
“The largest ocean world of all is right here on Earth,”
Klesh says. “The techniques we’re using to start to look at exploring Europa, we’re applying here to explore… regions we
have never been able to go to before.”
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
43
TURN SIGNALS
Light Reading
Signals dotted through the
environment offer the car’s robot
brain important clues. Using an AI
strategy called deep learning, a
drive.ai vehicle can figure out that
a car stopped at a green light
might be stalled, while one that
doesn’t proceed during a red light
is just going with the flow.
Algorithms can also conclude that
flashing hazard lights on a vehicle
ahead mean that it probably isn’t
going anywhere anytime soon.
Know the Road
NuTonomy, whose self-driving
cars have cruised Singapore and
Boston, taps into city-specific
knowledge. For example, a truck
stopped in a place nuTonomy
knows deliveries are likely might tilt
their car’s decision in favor of
passing. When in doubt, the cars
consider a stationary vehicle to be
paused only momentarily and will
wait behind it. That conservative
approach is typical in the industry.
44
POPULAR SCIENCE
Street Sharing
An autonomous car can slam the
brakes if someone carelessly steps
into traffic. And Waymo cars give
bicyclists a wide berth by default.
Onboard cameras scan the
streetscape around the vehicle,
while its spinning laser—a tool
called lidar—measures the
distance between the car and
other objects. Radar readings help
it calculate the speed of other
nearby vehicles.
Changing lanes is simple for human drivers. Not so for autonomous cars. Instead of grey matter and muscle
memory, self-driving vehicles make decisions using programming, artificial intelligence, and onboard perception
systems such as lasers, cameras, and radar. We asked four companies—drive.ai, a startup out of Stanford;
nuTonomy, born from MIT; Uber; and Waymo—what their cars consider when deciding whether to veer left.
Spillover Spoter
Cars and delivery trucks
standing at the curb frequently
protrude into traffic in crowded
urban environments. For self-driving cars, a stopped vehicle that’s
only partially in the lane is a clue it
might be there a while. Intelligent
cars from nuTonomy and drive.ai
factor this in when deciding
whether to pass. If the vehicle
ahead is closer to the curb than
to the road’s center, the robot car
might opt to go around.
Down in Front
Ready to Route
Navigation—to make a left turn,
for example—is one of the best
reasons for a self-driving vehicle to
risk changing lanes. Uber’s
Advanced Technologies Group
programs a car to check that there’s
sufficient distance between it and
other autos before the maneuver.
Essentially, its computer performs a
version of a driver’s ed followingdistance guideline called the
“two-second rule.” The calculations
also consider the riders’ comfort:
Cars won’t gun it and scare them.
A tall vehicle can block the view for
humans and robot roadsters alike,
so an autonomous car squarely
behind a semi might stay put unless
a human intervenes. However, if the
stalled vehicle is pulled over, or has
blinkers on, the self-driver will likely
try to pass. Eventually, engineers
anticipate that vehicles will be able
to communicate with one other;
that way, a stopped truck could
share its status (seen here as blue
waveforms) with nearby cars.
BY RO B V E RG E R
ILLUSTRATION
BY SINELAB
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
45
BY N I C O L E W E T S M A N
46
POPULAR SCIENCE
SMOG STILL SUCKS
SOMETIMES AIR POLLUTION IS EASY TO SEE.
It billows off the top of smoke stacks, and out the tailpipes
of cars zooming down the highway. Misty smog hangs in
the air in cities like Delhi, Beijing, and Los Angeles, fracturing sunlight into a muted haze.
Most of the time, though, dirty air just looks like air.
About 92 per cent of the world’s population now lives in
areas with unhealthy air quality.
For from being a forgotten issue, the World Health Organisation calls air pollution the world’s “largest single
environmental health risk,” and says it leads to the premature deaths of millions annually.
It’s a major public health problem for reasons you might
expect: breathing in dirty air isn’t good for your lungs, and
the the connection between the lungs and the cardiovascular system means it puts pressure on your heart, too.
But it’s increasingly clear that the effects of air pollution
aren’t constrained to body parts below the shoulders —
they can hurt the brain in a whole host of ways, many of
which researchers are still trying to understand. One major area of interest? The way exposure to polluted air can
affect the cognitive development of babies and children.
Researchers aren’t shocked to find that an environmental
toxin could harm young brains, because they’ve seen it
happen before.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
47
HEAVY DUTY
POLLUTION ON THE BRAIN
“To me, air pollution is kind of the next lead,
in a way,” says Deborah Cory-Slechta, a
professor of environmental medicine at the
University of Rochester.
Lead was everywhere throughout the start of
the 20th century, readily used to make vacuums
and paint and included as an ingredient
in gasoline. It was known to be toxic, and
concern over its health effects spurred fights
for regulation, but it wasn’t until the 1980s
that researchers linked even low levels of lead
exposure to an increased risk for cognitive
and behavioral problems in children, just as
scientists are starting to do for air pollution now.
The parallel isn’t exact, but like lead, air
pollution also disproportionately affects low
income and minority communities. Like lead,
air pollution is easy to put into the environment,
and much harder to take out. “The more I do in
this area, the bigger the problem seems to me,”
Cory-Slechta says.
Cory-Slechta actually started out studying
the effects of lead exposure, and she was
skeptical when she first heard air pollution
might pose similar dangers.
Bu t w h e n a re s e a rch g ro u p at h e r
university, which was studying air pollution
and lung development, asked if she was
interested in taking a look at the brains of the
mice used in their studies, she figured she
might as well take a look.
She was shocked to find evidence of
inflammation and damage in pretty much every
area of the mouse brains. “And this was a full
two months after the exposure to air pollution
had ended,” Cory-Slechta says.
Living in areas with high air pollution has
been linked to poorer memory, attention and
vocabulary; to below-average performance on
intelligence tests; and to delinquent behavior.
Air pollution has also been implicated in
developmental disorders ranging from
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to
autism spectrum disorders.
Animal studies, where researchers can
more strictly control the pollution exposure,
back up the results from those human reports.
They show that air pollution causes changes
in behavior in rodents, and changes in their
brains, like imbalances in the levels of certain
molecules, hyperactivity in brain regions,
and damage to neurons—many of which
correspond to the way neurodevelopmental
diseases look in these animals.
THE MORE I DO
IN THIS AREA,
THE BIGGER THE
PROBLEM SEEMS
TO ME.
The widespread inflammation seen in
mouse brains after air pollution exposure,
like Cory-Slechta observed in her initial
studies, can damage neurons, and, during
development , prevent the brain from
organising itself properly.
Although the research isn’t far enough along
to draw an explicit, causative link between
air pollution and developmental changes in
humans, there’s a strong association between
the two, strengthened by the accompanying
Beijing has a seemingly
intractable air-quality problem, with
smog levels as high as 500ppm. The
government occasionally uses these
LED billboards to project sunrises
and blue skies, interspersed with
messages like: “protecting
atmospheric environment is
everyone’s responsibility”.
48
POPULAR SCIENCE
SMOG STILL SUCKS
research on animals. “We have a pretty good
correspondence between the epidemiology
studies in humans and the animal studies,”
Cory-Slechta says.
THE TOXICITY
IS DIFFERENT
DEPENDING ON
THE PARTICULAR
SOUP YOU’RE IN.
WHAT GOES OUT, MUST COME IN
The particles in the air get into the body and
into the brain through a few different pathways:
they can pass through the lungs and into the
bloodstream, where they can travel up to the
brain directly, or cause changes in the body’s
immune response that trigger damaging
inflammation.
There’s also only a thin barrier between the
nasal cavity and the brain, and tiny particles of
air pollution can pass directly through.
Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about the
mechanisms behind the effects of air pollution.
It’s a slurry of different types of particles, of
different sizes and from different sources.
Some of the largest are about a tenth of
the width of a human hair. That’ big, on a
microscopic scale, but still small enough to
travel into the lungs.
Others, known as ultrafine particles, are
on the nanoscale. Pollution is mostly made of
nitrogen dioxide and ozone, but it might also
have microscopic pieces of metals like zinc,
tin, or even lead. The composition can change
neighbourhood to neighbourhood, block to
block, and hour to hour.
“The toxicity is different depending on the
particular soup that you’re in,” says Rosalind
Wright, who studies environmental medicine
and public health at Mount Sinai.
One of the main challenges faced by air
pollution researchers, then, is untangling
the types of particles that could be the most
dangerous from those that might be more
benign. “Any step in that direction, looking at
some components versus others, is going to be
valuable,” Wright says.
SMOGGY BABIES
We also don’t know much about the windows
during development when the effects of air
pollution might have the greatest impact.
Maternal exposure to air pollution can affect
foetal development, for example, and exposure
during infancy and the first few years of life can
harm children as well. But it’s not clear when
the most damage actually occurs.
Then there’s the question of dosage. Air
pollution shifts around, and exposure can spike
when people enter different environments,
such as driving through a tunnel on the highway.
The difference between that type of extreme,
temporary exposure, and long term, ambient
exposure, is still muddled, as well.
The Environmental Influences on Child
Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, run
through the US National Institutes of Health,
will hopefully produce new, robust data to help
answer those questions, Wright says.
The program aims to enrol 50,000
children and track neurodevelopment and
environmental exposures.
“That initiative will take a big step forward
Children in northern China play
on, in defiance of air quality.
Authorities often advise parents to
keep children at home.
Elsewhere in China, brightly-lit
high rise pokes through the fog.
Once, this would just have been
mist, but now even the dew
condenses around polluting
particles, rather than on grass.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
49
in this area,” she says. “Hopefully, it will drive
policy in the long run.”
PREVENTING DAMAGE
One thing we do know about air pollution is that
there’s more of it in low income communities
and in certain ethnic communities. For
instance, racial and ethnic minority children
in the United States are more likely to attend
schools in highly polluted areas, and across
the world, low income areas have higher
concentrations of air pollutants.
Racial and ethnic minority children, and
children in low-income areas, may also be
more strongly affected by the air pollution that
they’re exposed to.
That’s because dealing with social stressors,
like food insecurity or institutionalised racism,
might compound the effects of environmental
stressors like air pollution on their neurological
and cognitive development.
“Studies show that if you don’t have stress
concurrently with air pollution, you won’t
necessarily see strong effects,” Wright says.
That means, she says, that tackling some of
those social problems might be one way to
mitigate the harmful effects of toxic air. “It’d be
interventions short of saying, change the air.”
The same patterns hold true for lead
exposure, which disproportionately affects
minority and low income communities, and is
exacerbated by stress. Similarly, an enriched,
non-stressful environment, can protect
against lead-driven damage. Unlike lead,
though, knocking out the root of the problem
isn’t as simple as removing one ingredient
from paint and petrol.
The problem with air pollution, Wright
says, is that it’s so ubiquitous. Air quality is
improving across the developed world, even
while in poor cities around the world, pollution
levels are going up.
But we still don’t know how low pollution
actually needs to be to stave off developmental
effects, Wright says. “Even at the cutoff levels
where we have regulations on the quality of air,
it can still be toxic.”
The United States, under the Clean Air Act,
also only measures certain types of particles
found in air pollution—the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), for example, does
not have standards for the levels of ultrafine
particles, which may have their own unique host
of health effects.
Improvement on only the measures that
we can see, Cory-Slechta says, doesn’t
necessarily mean we’re making progress on
all types of air pollution.
MEANWHILE IN AMERICA
US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has
taken steps to weaken or remove existing
regulations around air pollution in the US,
over the past year.
Pruitt is also restructuring the way that the
EPA uses scientific evidence to form policy. For
example, the agency will no longer consider
research that was done with confidential data.
A significant body of air pollution research
us es medical records (which remain
confidential under ethical guidelines) including
studies on childhood development. That
decision would help justify any EPA decisions
to ease regulations on emissions from chemical
plants or factories, and they would be able to
disregard evidence showing that it harms kids.
Lead research bumped up against similar
challenges from various industries that used
the metal in their products, who fought against
regulations and attempted to cast doubt on the
scientific research.
Despite the challenges, the path forward in
the fight against air pollution is made easier by
the precedent set by lead.
EVEN AT THE CUTOFF
LEVELS WHERE WE HAVE
REGULATIONS ON THE
QUALITY OF AIR, IT CAN
STILL BE TOXIC.
“The struggle over lead was the poster
child for these issues, and it broke down some
barrier,” Cory-Slechta says. “At that point in
time, early on, there was study after study just to
try and get people to believe that lead exposure
was associated with changes in IQ.”
It’s common knowledge today, but when the
research was ratcheting up in the 1990s, people
were reluctant to acknowledge that it was a
neurotoxin, she says.
“A lot of those fights got fought over lead,”
Cory-Slechta says. “Now, when you say that
there are behavioural effects of air pollution, no
one questions it. So we’re able to move faster,
and we’re a lot further along.”
Second hand smog? Korea sits in
the path of pollution drifting from
China to the west. While adding its
share to the problem, of course.
50
POPULAR SCIENCE
We know air pollution can reach truly catastrophic levels, because
it’s already happened. Take London, in 1952, as just one terrifying
example. From Friday 5th December to Tuesday 9th December 1952,
the city was blanketed in a thick, foul smog that went far beyond
the typical pea-souper that had been a feature of life in London for
hundreds of years.
Air-quality in London had been problematic since at least the 1200s.
Various kings issued proclamations against the burning of “sea coal”,
but Londoners persisted in wanting to heat their homes.
Things went from bad to worse from the 1600s, and the arrival of
the industrial revolution exacerbated the problem further. Eventually,
London had over two million fireplaces, in offices and private homes,
burning coal and spewing pollutants into the immediate area. Worse,
the coal used had high amounts of sulphur, which became sulphur di-
oxide when the coal was burned.
In late 1952, a cold winter meant Londoners were already making
heavy use of their fireplaces. Then an
n anticyclone settled over the city,
causing a temperature inversion an
nd trapping cold, still air near the
ground. Smog from five coal-fired power stations, millions of chimneys, and a little extra dash of nasty from car exhausts, combined into
an estimated 1000 tonnes of particless, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid,
14 tonnes of fluorines and 370 tonness of sulphur dioxide... per day.
The effect was devastating. The citty was paralysed. Public transport
stopped, along with ambulance serviices. Outdoor visibility was as low
as one metre. Up to 4000 people died
d.
Afterwards, the UK governmentt signed the Clean Air Act which
gave incentives to homeowners to sw
witch to other sources of heat, and
regulated emissions.
FOR A BUNCH OF SMARTIES, THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD
NICE WORK, GENIUS
Charted
FIELD
Credit where
it’s overdue
isn’t always quick to recognise genius. Take Louis Pasteur,
mocked for concluding that microbes—like the ones he had
already discovered could sour wine and beer—were the
source rather than symptoms of disease. We now appreciate
that Pasteur proved germ theory. Rosalind Franklin led the lab
that first visualised DNA’s structure—only to have colleagues
SCIENTIST
1800
1810
1820
1830
1840
1850
Alice Augusta Ball 1892-1916
MEDICINE
DISCOVERY: The first woman (and African-American) to get
a master’s from the University of Hawaii, she developed an
injectable leprosy treatment using chaulmoogra oil.
WHAT HAPPENED: After Ball died, university head Arthur L.
Dean published her work—and passed it off as his own.
Yamagiwa Katsusaburo 1863-1930
PATHOLOGY
DISCOVERY: By applying coal tar to rabbits’ ears, he proved
chemicals can cause cancer.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Nobel committee instead awarded
someone who thought parasites were the culprit behind
cancer. This has since been debunked.
Alice Catherine Evans 1881-1975
DISCOVERY: While working as a microbiologist at the USDA
MEDICINE
in 1917, she found that raw milk contained dangerous germs.
WHAT HAPPENED: The scientific community ignored the
troubling results (at least in part because Evans was a woman without a doctorate degree) until others confirmed them.
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin 1900-1979
DISCOVERY: Her 1925 doctoral thesis correctly concluded
ASTRONOMY
that the sun was made mostly of hydrogen.
WHAT HAPPENED: Her thesis reviewer told her to walk back
the findings because they bucked conventional wisdom. Of
course, he later got the same results—because she was right.
Barbara McClintock 1902-1992
DISCOVERY: She identified transposons—segments of DNA
GENETICS
that can jump around the genome, causing mutations.
WHAT HAPPENED: The research community did not
understand her work. So many colleagues responded with
hostility that she stopped publishing on the topic altogether.
Lynn Margulis 1938-2011
BIOLOGY
DISCOVERY: She came up with endosymbiosis: Bits of our
cells were once independent bacteria, but larger single-celled
organisms picked them up in a symbiotic partnership.
WHAT HAPPENED: Fifteen scientific journals rejected her
1967 paper on the subject, and the idea was largely ignored.
Charles Drew 1904-1950
MEDICINE
52
POPULAR SCIENCE
DISCOVERY: He figured out how to stabilise plasma, making
it possible to store blood and create a national bank.
WHAT HAPPENED: Drew later resigned as medical director of
the American Red Cross in protest of the organisation’s policy
of segregating blood from black people.
PASTEURISATION
In 1928, the Society of American
Bacteriologists elected Evans its first
female president. Two years later, the
US required milk pasteurisation.
HER HARVARD TRIUMPH
She was proved correct, and went on to
become Harvard’s first female tenured
professor—and, in 1956, its first female
department head.
NO-DUH, NOBEL
When the rest of the science world
caught up, McClintock became the
first woman to win an unshared Nobel
Prize for medicine in 1983.
1860
James Watson and Francis Crick crib her notes and take credit for
confirming the double helix. She died young, while the two men
went on to share a Nobel Prize. She didn’t even get a mention in
their acceptance speeches. Now that the scientific community
(mostly) recognises Franklin’s integral eforts, she’s become something of a patron saint for victims of research misconduct. But not
every maligned genius got such a clear redemptive arc.
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
THE KEY
= LIFE SPAN
= YEAR OF DISCOVERY
= YEAR OF VALIDATION
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
LIFESAVING LEGACY
The treatment improved the lives of
thousands. Dean came clean, and in
2000, the University honored Ball with a
plaque—on a campus chaulmoogra tree.
A NOBLE EFFORT
The Nobel committee never did give
him a call, but he won the Japan
Academy Prize in 1919—and gets
credit in many modern textbooks.
CELLULAR POWERHOUSE
Her theories were controversial until
two other scientists proved them in
1978. Five years later, she was elected
to the National Academy of Sciences.
BANK ON IT
The Red Cross changed its policy the
same year Drew died. Since the 1960s,
nearly two dozen schools and medical
centres have been named in his honour.
by Nick Stockton / icons by John Kuehn
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
53
BUSTED OR BRILLIANT?
Whistleblow While You Work
I HAVE A
DIGITAL SECRET.
I HAVE A
PAPER SECRET.
Screenshot the
information and
rename the image.
Take a picture of
the piece of paper
with your phone.
Busted—your
target might
monitor activity
on their network.
Buy a cheap laptop
at Best Buy. Pay
cash to be cautious.
Connect to
the internet
at home.
Busted—sleuths can
track your personal
Wi-Fi’s identifiyng
information back
to you.
Copy it in black-andwhite; color copiers
leave traceable marks.
Call them
from your
cellphone.
Replace the original
and leave the office.
Transfer to
an encrypted
flash drive.
Send it to
yourself, using
your own email.
I HAVE A
SECRET TO TELL.
Use the
Wi-Fi at
Starbucks.
Download Tor,
the anonymous
Web browser.
Copy the copy at
Kinkos.
Wear a disguise.
Pay cash.
Put it in an
envelope
without a
return address.
Busted—an
investigation
could uncover
your phone
records.
Head to a
distant public
mailbox.
Mail it
from a
local
mailbox.
Mail your
secret.
Make a new email account
using an encrypted service.
We suggest not using
“jamesbond@gmail.com.”
Email
your secret.
54
POPULAR SCIENCE
Upload your secret
to a media outlet’s
secure drop site.
Busted—the
postmark shows
what town it
came from.
Who you
gonna call?
Use a secure
messaging app
like Signal.
Be cautious—
Signal encrypts
texts but doesn’t
anonymise them.
Pay cash for a burner
phone and SIM card
to make contact.
Call or text your
contact and arrange
a safe place to meet:
a parking garage or a
mall an hour away.
Tell your
secret.
Charted
by Nicole Wetsman / illustrations by Goran Factory
T H AT U NA S S U M I N G S E A R C H B A R O F F E R S T H E
Let Me
that
Charted Google
for You
by Sara Chodosh
PEOPLE ARE
LEFT- OR
RIGHTBRAINED
YOU CAN SEE
THE GREAT
WALL FROM
SPACE
THERE’S
AN ALPHA
WOLF IN
EVERY PACK
YOUR MUCUS
COLOUR REVEALS YOUR
INFECTION
POINSETTIAS
ARE TOXIC
TO HUMANS
AND CATS
HUMANS
HAVE ONLY
FIVE
SENSES
GLASS IS
A VERY
VISCOUS
LIQUID
28,540
30,600
30,600
32,340
Research based on
captive animals’ social
structures produced the
concept of a steadfast
alpha, but biologists
disproved that notion in
the ’90s. Wild wolf packs,
in fact, resemble families,
not monarchies.
42,920
58,610
THERE IS A
GENE FOR
(INSERT TRAIT
HERE)
Patients with their brains
split in half made it seem
to doctors as if the left
hemisphere handled most
logic and the right dealt
in artistry. But both
creativity and reason are
found throughout the
organ—in all of us.
Bridges, city lights, and
airports make the list
of actual man-made
objects that astronauts
on the International
Space Station can see
unassisted. The Great
Wall, however, actually
blends in too much.
JOECICAK/GETTY IMAGES
PEOPLE
LEARN BEST
IN A CERTAIN
STYLE
Headlines often reference
genes that influence our
health and personality,
among other things. But
genes encode recipes for
proteins—not traits. It
(usually) takes more
than one hereditary unit
to do anything.
148,010
164,020
Many teachers believe
each of us has an optimal
learning style (visual,
auditory, etc.), but
neuroscientists disagree.
Preferences exist, but
you don’t absorb less
information just because
you dislike the delivery.
47,820
231,060
WELL, ACTUALLY...
answers to so many questions, all without the judgment we risk
when asking our know-it-all friends. As such, we unwittingly
confess our deepest misunderstandings to the omniscient
engine almost every day. Don’t worry: You are not alone in
your ignorance. We mined the internet to find those truisms
so many of us are embarrassed to learn are false, then dug up
counts on corresponding Google searches. These are our greatest myths, verified by the volumes of compatriots who also seek
an answer to that eternal question: Does a duck’s quack echo?
OSTRICHES
STICK THEIR
HEADS IN
THE SAND
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
55
Start simple
Life doesn’t have to be
intelligent. By looking
for planets with
out-of-whack
atmospheres (like
ours, with its
imbalance of oxygen
and methane), we
could figure out what
worlds may have
developed life. That
narrows the search for
interstellar smarties.
Don’t blink
To keep an eye out for
distant lasers that
could head toward our
neighborhood, we
have to watch the
entire sky. SETI plans
to put 96 cameras at
12 sites across the
world to monitor for
flashes as brief as a
millisecond or less.
Shine on, aliens.
“Laser”
If aliens use lightpropelled spacecraft—
like those proposed by
the Breakthrough
Starshot program—
we might spot flashes
from across the
galaxy. We could also
shine a laser of our
own, hoping to strike
where an alien is
paying attention.
Radio nowhere
You can make a radio
outburst travel
farther by narrowing
its beam. Radio
telescopes send out
pointed broadcasts
that should persist
halfway to the centre
of the galaxy (we’re
near the edge) before
blending into the noise
of cosmic radiation.
“We joke that the first
message extraterrestrials will pick up is
I Love Lucy,” says SETI’s
Jill Tarter—it was
among the first big
broadcasts. But Lucy’s
light-speed antics are
pretty garbled by now.
If whatever signal
remains has reached
anyone, it clearly
hasn’t inspired a reply.
ET TU, E.T.?
All You
Have to
Do is Call
Charted
56
POPULAR SCIENCE
E V E R W I S H E .T. WO U L D P H O N E YO U R H O M E ? T H E
scientists at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute
do. They seek unnatural variations in light and radio waves that may indicate alien civilisations. Some scientists even hope to send signals of our
own out to the black, but it’s not easy to be seen and heard over all the
stars, asteroids, and interstellar dust. We don’t have beacons powerful
enough to reach the whole universe, nor receivers capable of monitoring
the entire expanse. Other civilisations might, but there’s no way to tell
until they finally hail us. All we know is how far our strongest signals could
travel. Here’s where we’re searching—and where we fall short.
by Mary Beth Griggs / illustration by John Kuehn
COURTESY NASA (3)
We are here
1
2
Charted
3
4
5
1
2
6
3
YE OF LITTLE BRAIN
Size Isn’t
Everything
Researchers used
to think brain-tobody-size ratio
revealed intelligence
because it showed
how a species
devoted energyto its
cranium.Theywere
utterlywrong. Other
ratios better predict
smarts, but there’s
still no perfect metric.
This ranking, bybrainto-bodyratio, shows
just how little we
know about, well,
knowing stuff.
by Rachel Feltman / illustration by Radio
ANTS
TREE SHREWS
HUMANS
1:7
1:10
1:40
There’s a reason ants think as a
group. With just 250,000 brain
cells per soldier, it takes a
colony to rival the total neurons
found in one human. Like all
tiny critters, their noggins are
enormous only when compared
with their itty-bitty bodies.
Brains can be only so small and
still function.
Lest you think this metric falls
apart only in the insect world,
the noble tree shrew has the
highest brain-to-body ratio
of any mammal despite its
puny size. Ten per cent of its
body weight is brain matter.
But if these rodents are
smarter than people, they sure
keep quiet about it.
As part of the ongoing effort
to put human intellect on top,
some scientists argue we
should ditch brain-to-body in
favor of “encephalisation
quotient,” or EQ, which
quantifies brain mass relative
to the average for animals of
that type and size. Ours are 7.4
times larger than expected.
4
5
6
DOLPHINS
DOGS
GREAT WHITES
1:78
1:125
1:2,500
Bottlenose dolphins’ ratio isn’t
much to squeak about. They
do better with EQ, clocking in
around four or five times larger
than average for their ilk. Their
smarts might be due in part to
spindle cells—large neurons
thought to enable complex
behaviours in great apes and a
select few other species.
If man’s best friend seems
dimmer than his wild cousins, it
might be because a wolf-size
dog has a significantly smaller
brain. We’ve bred them to a
state of eternal puppy-dom, so
while one can hunt for itself, the
other gets treats by being a
very good boy. Who can say
which species came out ahead?
Egad. Oft maligned as having
a walnut-size brain, the great
white actually has a larger,
decentralised organ, Y-shaped
and 2 feet long. Humans have
around 62.5 times more brain
mass per kilo of flesh, but a
shark’s grey matter seems
focused on specific skills—like
sniffing out seal blood.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
57
• HUGE SAVINGS on the cover price
• FREE delivery to your door
• NEVER miss an issue
mymagazines.com.au
Australia-wide 1300 361 146
OR CALL Sydney metro (02) 9901 6111
(02) 9901 6110
OR FAX
Locked Bag 3355
St Leonards, NSW 1590
OR MAIL
GREAT
GIFT
IDEA!
Please send me a subscription to
24 ISSUES (2 years) ONLY $165
SAVE OVER $74!
12 ISSUES (1 year) ONLY $89
SAVE OVER $30!
6 ISSUES (6 months) ONLY $47
SAVE OVER $12!
New Subscription
Gift Subscription
Renewal
MY DETAILS:
Name: Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms
Address:
Postcode:
Daytime phone:
E-mail address:
Please provide phone or email in case of delivery issues
PAYMENT:
I enclose cheque/money order for $____ payable to nextmedia Pty Ltd
OR please charge my
MasterCard
Visa
American Express
No.
Expiry:
/
CVV:
Name on card:
Cardholder’s signature:
GIFT RECIPIENT’S DETAILS:
Name: Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms
Address:
Postcode:
Daytime phone:
E-mail address:
Price offer available to Aust and NZ residents only ending 30/05/18, inc GST. Savings based on
cover price. Overseas: 2yrs/24 issues A$299, 1yr/12 issues A$150. Subscriptions commence with
the next issue to be mailed, please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery of your first magazine. This form
may be used as a Tax Invoice; nextmedia P/L (ABN 84 128 805 970). Comp open to new, renewing
or extending Aust and NZ residents 18+ subscribing to any print magazines participating in this
promotion for a minimum of one year between 1/4/18 12:01AM and 30/6/18 11:59PM. Winner drawn
3/7/18 at 11AM at Promoter’s premises, 207 Pacific Hwy, St Leonards NSW 2065. Total prize pool
valued at $4,258 inc GST. Winner notified by email and published online at mymagazines.com.au
from 5/7/18 for 28 days. Full competition terms at mymagazines.com.au. The Promoter is nextmedia
P/L. Authorised under: NSW Permit LTPS/18/02824. ACT Permit No. TP 18/00337. Please tick if you
do not wish to receive special offers or information from nextmedia or its partners via [ ] mail [ ]
email or [ ] phone. Our Privacy Notice can be found at nextmedia.com.au. If you prefer to receive
communication electronically, please ensure we have your current email address.
MA/PS114
HOW TO ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN:
„
Visit mymagazines.com.au
„
Call 1300 361 146
„
Complete and return the subscription coupon
a trip for 2 spending 7 nights on the beautiful Sunshine Coast!
va ue a
$
4,258
The Sunshine Coast is a place that has it all. The rich diversity of
enviable beachside culture, wonders of nature, fresh local food,
immersive encounters and world-class events are all in abundance.
Come to life on the Sunshine Coast and make your story a reality.
THIS INCREDIBLE PRIZE INCLUDES:
„ Seven nights’ accommodation for two staying in a
two-bedroom luxury apartment at Pumicestone
Blue Resort, Caloundra.
„ Eight-day car hire with AVIS Australia.
„ Two full day passes to Australia Zoo including a Giraffe
Encounter Experience.
„ Two full day passes to SEA LIFE including two seal swims.
„ Two full day passes to the ‘H30 - 3 waterfalls 1 day’
tour with Experientia Sunshine Coast.
„ Noosa River Adventure flights for two with
Paradise Seaplanes.
„ Full day tour for two with Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours.
„ Cooking class for two at the award-winning Spirit
House Restaurant.
* Operator terms and conditions apply
USE NEW TECH!
To read about new science and tech!
GET SMART: Does Brain Training Even Work?
Reeeee! Can Electr
p Secret Military Satellite?
RAD
DICAL
ROB
BOTS
H O N DA
A'S V I S I O N
F O R A B E T T E R YO U
SPACE
WEATHER
PLUS
A N D H OW I T CA N
R U I N YO U R DAY
BIRD BRAIN
Why crow intelligence
is so important
DIY
POWERGLOVE
Retro-future
control!
HACK THE
POWER GRID
The endless war
to keep the lights on
ELECTRIC
BIKES
Faster (and coole
than everr
THE FUTURE OF
PO
Technology, Polit
FAT ASTRON
TALES FROM
THE FIELD
In space, every
watches what y
Being a scientist
is WEIRD
AUTOPILOT ONLY
REWIRING
NEW YORK
The first car...
with no steering
wheel
What the NBN
could have been
DEADLY
MINDS
The frightening
history of cruise
missiles
A.I.versus
HAWAII'S
QUEST TO
GO 100%
RENEWABLE
How algorithms will keep the intern
ON
SALE
NOW!
r URBAN WARFARE
THE TECH
THE TACTICS
THE THREAT
That’s right, you heard right, the Australian Popular Science app is out now!
Plus, you can check out our other great science title Australian Science Illustrated.
WHY GO APP?
Save time! Receive alerts when the next issue is out!
Save money! Subscribe for even greater savings!
Use your expensive tablet for something more enriching than tweets and recipes!
AVAILABLE NOW ON APPLE NEWSSTAND.
Load the Newsstand store and search for POPULAR SCIENCE and SCIENCE ILLUSTRATED
HOW 2.0
ISSUE
114
MAY
2018
62
66
69
70
71
NIKE HACKED A 3D
PRINTER TO CREATE
THESE FLY KICKS
NASA’S NEW ‘SCOPE
IS A LEAN, MEAN,
PLANT-HUNTER
WE ASK ENGINEERS
TO PLEASE INVENT
THE FOLLOWING...
BRAIN BANKING AND
TRYING TO TRICK A
BUNCH OF BABIES
SPYING ON SPY
SATELLITES AND
ESCAPING ROOMS
How 2.0
3D Printed
Sneakers
by STAN HORACZEK
W
hen we talk about sneaker
technology, the focus typically lands
on the soles of the shoes. It’s where sneaker
companies go to great lengths to protect the
delicate bones in your feet and propel you
along with bouncy materials.
It’s also where they tend to use 3D printing
tech. The Adidas FutureCraft uses a 3D
printed sole, and the Under Armour Futurist
has a mid-sole made of 3D printed lattice.
Nike’s new Flyprint sneaker, however, puts
the focus on the upper, for which it’s using a
3D printer to build an intricate web that
replaces typical textiles.
Nike debuted the new Zoom Vaporfly Elite
Flyprint sneaker on the feet of marathon
record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, who was the key
athlete in last year’s attempt to run a full
marathon in less than two hours. He clocked in
at 2:00:25, down from his previous best of
2:03:05.
The sneaker Kipchoge wore for that
attempt was the Zoom Vaporfly Elite 4% and
its new sole, which had reduced weight and a
carbon fibre plate in the midsole to increase
the amount of spring he’d get with each step.
But, at this ultra-elite level of competition,
even small details can lead to big shifts in
pace, especially when the elements come into
play. Reducing weight is important, but it’s not
the only factor.
62
POPULAR SCIENCE
Specs
Materials: Thermoplastic polyurethane
Innovation: Custom 3D-printed upper
Awesome Factor:
Price: US$600
More info: www.nike.com
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
63
How 2.0
Soggy shoes
According to Nike, the inspiration for Flyprint
came after a particularly wet Berlin marathon.
“The rain was coming down and it was 100
per cent humidity,” says Roger Chen, Nike’s
senior director of digital innovation. “The shoe
was absorbing all the water.”
Wet shoes are uncomfortable and heavy.
64
POPULAR SCIENCE
So, Nike’s solution was to employ a new
material that wouldn’t absorb the moisture,
and built a foot cage with lots of room for
water to escape.
The Flyprint process uses a composite
made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
Nike won’t disclose the specific blend it uses
for Flyprint, of course, but the resulting fabric
is extremely flexible, unlike some harder
versions of TPU, sometimes found in the
outsoles of sneakers.
Right out of the box, the Flyprint upper is 11
grams — or six per cent — lighter than the
original Zoom Vaporfly Elite. That shoe was
already ultralight, and had an upper made of
Flyknit. A weight saving of six per cent might
not sound like much, but those grams add up
over the course of a marathon.
Nike says Flyprint cuts down on moisture
retention in two ways. The first is that TPU
doesn’t absorb water, because it’s plastic.
“From the start of the race to the finish, if it’s
wet, your shoe is going to be heavier,” says
Brett Holts, Nike’s vice president of running
footwear. “You could run that same [Berlin]
race in the same conditions, and it will weigh
the same at the end.”
At the same time, the structure of the shoe’s
upper itself allows water to easily exit the shoe.
To look at it from the side, the Flyprint sneaker
has a surprising number of tiny holes within the
mesh of the material.
So, while it lets water in, it also gives it lots of
room to escape. “Everyone still wears socks
during a marathon,” says Chen. “The water can
wick out and the pressure from your foot during
a run will push the water out.”
Wicks and lattices
Look closely at the structure of the material
and you’ll notice a few distinct patterns within
the textile. The front of the shoe uses a typical
lattice shape, while the sides of the shoe have a
wave-like structure.
According to Chen, this adds stiffness for
support, but more importantly, it also increases
ventilation around the foot.
“We have control over every single line,” says
Chen. “If someone says, ‘hey, it’s too loose in the
toe box,’ then I can go and add some additional
lines without having to redraw the whole thing.”
The sneakers exist as digital models and each
strand of filament can move independently.
Designers can add or take away material in
different spots and algorithms will inform them
on how it might affect performance. Then
athlete testing paints the rest of the picture.
This tech also helps sneakers scale in size
without affecting the fit. If you start with a size
10 Flyprint sneaker and simply scale it down to
a size 6, the weave is too tight on the sides and
the shoe is too stiff. If you were to scale it up to
a size 16, the relatively open structure on the
sides would leave almost no material and suffer
in terms of support.
With this Flyprint program, however,
algorithms help decide how to maintain
performance as it scales.
Price of freedom
Only 100 consumers had a shot at the first run
of commercially available Flyprint shoes when
they launched at the London marathon in April
(oh and each pair cost US$600 - about $770),
but Nike sees this as a stepping stone on the
path to fast, totally custom sneakers.
Right now, the Flyprint sneaker also
integrates some of Nike’s typical material on
the top of the foot because it’s softer and more
forgiving over the course of a long run.
But, Holts says it’s possible that Nike will one
day totally 3D print uppers on demand.
At the shoe shop even? Why not: amateur
athletes could even carb-load with a burrito
while they watch their new sneakers print.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
65
How 2.0
Kepler is Out
and TESS is In
by MARY BETH GRIGGS
As the James Webb Space
Telescope continues its
protracted development, NASA
has another planet-hunting ace
up its sleeve
T
imes are tough for space telescopes right
now. First we learned that Kepler is running
out of fuel, signalling the end of its second life as
an exoplanet hunter. Then we got word that the
much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope
faces yet another delay.
But there is some good news on the horizon
for astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary
geologists, and people who just like learning neat
things about far-away worlds. It’s TESS — short
for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
It’s a relatively small satellite, but researchers
have giant hopes for what it might discover. It
has the potential to identify thousands of new
planets, hundreds of rocky worlds like Earth, and
dozens of planets hanging out in their star’s
habitable zone (where liquid water could exist on
the surface), all within our own little corner of
the galaxy.
How it works
“Kepler was amazing, and Kepler’s legacy is
that we now know that there is a huge
diversity of planets out there,” says Lisa
Kaltenegger, Director of the Carl Sagan
Institute at Cornell and a member of the
TESS science team. Kaltenegger and her
colleagues want to build on the knowledge
gained from Kepler and take a closer look at
some exoplanets that are hanging out
around stars a little closer to home.
TESS will systematically examine 85 per cent
of the sky seen from Earth, focusing on the stars
visible in the northern hemisphere for one year,
66
POPULAR SCIENCE
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
67
How 2.0
and the southern hemisphere for the next
year. It will keep its peeping within 300 light
years of Earth. That might seem like a large
distance, but to an astronomer, it’s right in our
neighbourhood. To put it in perspective, our
galaxy is about 100,000 light years across.
”If you think about it, the closest star,
Proxima Centauri, is about four light years
away. We are looking at everything that is
bright and close out to 300 light years, so
about 100 times that distance, and there’s a
huge number of stars that we can look at,”
Kaltenegger says.
Within that range, TESS will examine
200,000 stars for evidence of planets over
the course of a two-year mission, taking
pictures of a segment of the sky every 30
minutes for 27 days. As with Kepler,
researchers will use TESS to watch for
moments when stars dim, which happens
when a planet passes between the star and
TESS. The dips in light can tell us a lot about a
planet’s size, shape, and what it’s made of.
“We don’t have any ships or vehicles yet to
get there, but light travels the universe for
68
POPULAR SCIENCE
free,” Kaltenegger says. “So we can do this
exploration even though we don’t yet have any
physical way to actually get there.”
TESS will particularly look for planets
around bright stars, much brighter than those
Kepler studied. The brightness of the targets
means that other, more powerful telescopes
— like the forthcoming James Webb Space
Telescope and ground-based instruments —
will be able to look for even finer details of
those planets, including their potential for life.
Looking for life
With TESS, researchers will find thousands of
planets, take the measure of their masses,
and observe strange stars. Some researchers,
like Kaltenegger, hope that they will point
toward a planet other than our own that
might have life.
“My passion is trying to figure out if we are
alone in the universe, and what we need for
that is planets where we can explore the air,
where we get enough light to look at the
atmosphere of those planets. [That means]
we need planets that are close by, and that’s
what TESS affords us,” Kaltenegger says.
Kaltenegger and her colleagues can
search for signs of life by watching for
worlds with large amounts of unstable
compounds in their atmospheres, including
oxygen. Oxygen makes up a
disproportionate amount of our
atmosphere because it is a by-product of
many living organisms. A similar
atmospheric imbalance on another world,
and especially the presence of multiple
gasses that don’t belong together, could
indicate the presence of life.
Scientists can tell the composition of
another planet’s atmosphere by looking for
parts of light that vanish as the globe passes
in front of its host star, and reappear when the
planet has moved on. Those missing pieces
correspond to particular molecules (water,
oxygen, and methane, for example) in the
planet’s atmosphere that absorb specific
parts of the light.
TESS wouldn’t be taking those
measurements, but it would point to promising
candidates for more stringent examination by
JWST or ground-based telescopes.
“It will be the first time in human history
that we have the technological means to
answer the question ‘are we alone?’”
Kaltenegger says.
How 2.0
I Wish Someone
Would Invent…
reporting by CL AIRE MALDARELLI, AMY SCHELLENBAUM, AND ROB VERGER
An instant universal translator
ANNEMARIE CAMPBELL VIA FACEBOOK
We can’t all be Gregg M. Cox (duh, Guinness
World Record’s greatest living linguist, who can
read and write 64 languages and speak 14).
Most of us need tech, like Google Translate,
which isn’t universal or instantaneous. For
that, says University of Washington computer
scientist Pedro Domingos, we must feed our AI
systems the roughly 7,000 spoken languages
verbally and written in what’s called parallel
corpus—the same text penned in two tongues.
Plus it needs all our lingual and cultural
nuances. Even then, the data flow from talk to
text and back means an inevitable few
seconds of lag.
Online ads that know when to stop
MARK CANTRELL VIA FACEBOOK
YOU SEARCHED ONLINE FOR HIKING BOOTSAND
bought them, but those footwear ads remain. That’s
because automatic ad distributors make their pennies by
selling the biggest semi-relevant audience, regardless of whether
those in it made the purchase. So says Mordy Greenspan, head of
programmatic demand at BounceX, a behavioural-marketing software company. There’s hope, he says. Heavyweights like Google
charge advertisers based on how many clicks an ad gets, so they’d
rather match the perfect ad with the perfect person. Because they
move the markets, Greenspan expects more-attuned ads—like one
for socks to go with your new boots—soon.
illustrations by Rami Niemi
A human mind-storage device
CHANCE C. VIA EMAIL
Memories, neuroscientists say, are simply
changes in links among our brain’s neurons.
But the average noggin contains 90 billion
neurons with 900 trillion connections. To back
that up, says Kenneth Hayworth, president of
the Brain Preservation Foundation, scientists
would need to preserve a brain (theoretically
possible), map its connections (they’re working
on it), and finally, test the uploaded mind
against a digital model. That, he says, requires
a decades-long colossal effort. So even if we
preserved a person’s brain today, we couldn’t
interact with their mind for a century.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
69
TALES
FIELD
F R O M
T H E
ON ICE
How You Bank A Brain
S A M A N T H A R I C E , A S S I S T A N T D I R E C T O R O F H I S T O L O G Y,
H A R VA R D B R A I N T I S S U E R E S O U R C E C E N T E R
For about a year, I’ve worked at the Harvard Brain Tissue
Resource Centre, which stores around 3,000 brains for research. When a donor dies, we have only48 hours to process
their grey matter. An on-call pathologist—we have an extensive US
network—removes the organ, packs it in an ice-filled plastic foam box,
and ships it to us. Then a courier picks it up at a local airport and rushes
it to our labs, where a dissectionist like me steps in.
After I photograph the donation, weigh it, and examine it, I cut it in
half. Brains are squishy like jelly, so to keep the cells stable, I put one
hemisphere into a chemical solution that firms it up. I dissect the other
side into hundreds of little pieces and freeze them in liquid nitrogen.
We send these samples all over the world; each organ provides
enough tissue for hundreds of potential studies. Every brain I handle is
unique, and helps scientists understand disorders and diseases such as
schizophrenia and Parkinson’s. I plan to donate mybrain, along with the
rest of my body, and I encourage others to as well.
as told to Nicole Wetsman / illustration by Peter Oumanski
BABY GENIUSES
It’s Surprisingly Hard
To Trick An Infant
A I M E E S TA H L , D E V E L O P M E N T A L P S Y C H O L O G I S T A N D B A B Y
M A G I C I A N AT T H E C O L L E G E O F N E W J E R S E Y
Many people assume that
because babies can’t walk and
talk, they don’t know much. But I
study infant cognition, and
babies have sophisticated knowledge about the world from birth.
Working with infants is
extremely fun but also challenging: You can’t ask what they’re
thinking. We know babies look
longer at things they find surprising. This tells us whether objects
that seem to break physical laws,
like a ball that passes through a
70
POPULAR SCIENCE
wall, defies expectations.
To pull off these tricks, we set
up a puppet stage with a ramp
leading to a wall and a screen
that hides part of the view. We
release a ball down the ramp, it
rolls behind the screen, and we
secretly place it on the other side
of the wall. When we lift the
screen, the baby thinks the ball
passed through the wall. Afterward, they often try to bang the
ball against a solid object, as if it
should pass through that too.
as told to Claire Maldarelli / illustration by Peter Oumanski
TA L E S F R O M T H E F I E L D
MIND GAMES
Chamber,
Made
A N D R E W PA R R , O W N E R O F N E W E S C A P E
ROOM DESIGNS INC.
WATCHING THE WATCHMEN
I Spy With
My Little Eye
T E D M O LC Z A N , E N E R GY- C O N S E R VAT I O N
C O N S U LT A N T A N D S E C R E T - S A T E L L I T E T R A C K E R
In summer 1968, I
was standing in my
driveway in Hamilton,
Ontario, when I spotted a brilliant light in the sky and knew it
was a satellite. I was a pathetic
math student—I had just failed
my first year of high school. But
I was keenly interested in science and space. So I tried to calculate “my” satellite’s orbit. By
sheer luck, my shaky math
worked out: The next night, the
spacecraft reappeared right
where I had predicted.
It turned out to be Echo II, one
of NASA’s early communication
satellites. Identifying it had a
profound effect on me. I’ve since
spent a good part of my life as
an amateur satellite spotter.
Plenty of hobbyists follow the
thousands of unclassified commercial, military, and scientific
orbiters. But I spot spy satellites.
About 20 of us around the world
track roughly 400 of the crafts.
Finding unclassified satellites is
pretty easy—governments release data about their orbits. But
my group can still track the
objects that operate in secrecy
because we know about their
launches: Official agencies announce them (they’re hard to
hide!) and issue warnings that tell
us where parts of a launch vehicle
will fall to Earth. With that, we
use computer programs or even
hand calculators to determine
the classified object’s orbital
plane. Then we can view it with
binoculars or high-quality cameras, and time it with stopwatches.
In one year, our informal
group recorded 18,000 observations of 200 spy satellites. The
work we do can help journalists
to report on government activities and political scientists to
shape policy. They rely on our
findings because most of the
people who launch classified
satellites don’t leak information.
Of course, I wouldn’t share any
findings that might threaten
the national security of Canada
or its allies. I’ve seen and figured
out a few things that I might
never make public.
I’m a full-time music teacher, but on the side, I
design puzzles for escape rooms. You know, the
physical adventures where small groups find
clues and solve riddles to get out of a locked
chamber. You work your way to a final key that
unlocks the door, allowing you to escape.
As a creator, I have to assemble a room that is
fun yet hard—and most important, fair. The challenge is to imagine what a group of strangers
might do to follow my puzzle. That’s tricky, because when I’m designing a game, I’m starting
with the answer and working backward—for
players, it’s reversed. So I have to make sure each
step makes logical sense.
I’ve gone undercover into escape rooms to
play my own games and watch what people do.
I’ve found I don’t need to write incredibly
challenging riddles. A player starting at the
beginning of a mysterious set of puzzles will automatically perceive that mystery as hard, even
if at the end they look back and say: “This was
completely solvable. The clues were all there; I
just didn’t see how they combined.”
I also have failed to figure out a set of
solvable riddles, when some friends and I played
a room I didn’t write. We had found four animal
statues, and the hints told us to place them on
pedestals. Turns out, they also had to be facing
a certain direction because they had magnets
inside. When lined up correctly, they would trigger a box to open. The clues were as precise as
they could be. They gave hints like “the monkey
is not facing the same way as the lizard.” But
under pressure to finish on time, we got sloppy.
We couldn’t decipher what the tips meant. It
wasn’t the game’s fault—and that drove us
nuts. But that’s how the room works. As long as
the pieces are there, I don’t mind being defeated by a good puzzle.
as told to Claire Maldarelli
as told to Mary Beth Griggs / illustrations by Peter Oumanski
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
71
MAY
1977
POPULAR SCIENCE, MAY 1977, PAGE 102
From The
Archives
The Funniest
Computer
Review in History
AS YOU READ THIS INCREDIBLY
detailed and insane review of one of the
earliest home computers, keep in mind that
it’s not parody or satire. It’s real.
Because this was early 1977, in the last
months before Apple released its worldchanging Apple II. Before the Apple II, a
“home computer” came in a box, in bits, with
a ring-bound instruction book that told you
how to put it together. Sort of.
Our correspondent’s adventures with the
MITS 680b read a little like your granddad
trying to grapple with a smartphone. Yet we
see plenty of hints of the future of computing
to come - especially the constant references
to having to go back to the shop to buy an
extra bit to make the computer better.
Maybe you hate your computer. Maybe
your PC is nothing but a source of pain,
frustration, and dubious advertising. But just
remember: it used to be much, much worse.
b ANTHONY FORDHAM
What it’s like
to build and use
your
own home
computer
They compute, memorize, and display just about
anything—all from kits you build yourself
By WILLIAM J. HAWKINS
I didn’t send Christmas cards last
year; my homemade computer did
the job for me. And I no longer
need a personal phonebook: This
box of blinking lights gives me any
name, address, or phone number I
want instantly, just for the asking.
Mathematics? Give it the problem
— old math or new, difficult or easy
— and the answer appears on a TV
screen without hesitation.
Sound great? It is, but a word of
caution: Assembling a computer kit
takes time — lots of it. And, the final
product is not like anything I’ve
built before. With kit stereos and
TVs, my work was finished when I
soldered the last resistor in place.
When I put together the computer,
my job was just beginning.
Furthermore, that basic
computer kit doesn’t come with all
the accessories you need to make
it do practical work. Want to put
information into the computer?
You’ll need a keyboard to do it.
It’s our world, just with
more orange Formica
M AY 1 9 7 7
Look at the coverlines on this issue: renewable energy, oil from
tar-sands, and controversy over a high-tech military aircraft. The
1970s was the decade when advanced technology really started
to penetrate everyday life. The great consumer electronics
revolution was about to kick up a gear. But there was still enough
of the old world left to remind us what was really important:
masonry floors for lasting beauty.
Want to get answers when you
ask questions? You must add a
TV terminal. You want an
answer on paper? Throw in a
printer. And, of course, if you
want the computer to
memorize or store anything,
you’ll also need an optional
memory and a tape recorder.
These are all extras. If you think
they’re necessary, you’re
absolutely right — and that’s
one reason a home computer
system takes so much time to
build. Just when you think
you’re finished, you discover
you need something else.
As a novice, I started by
building a kit designed
primarily for the beginner — the
MITS 680b, a new but relatively
small computer. If you’ve ever
built an electronic kit before,
you know what to expect: empty
printed circuit boards, plastic
bags filled with components,
and an instruction manual
detailing your moves for the
next — in this case — 15 hours.
The instructions (
documentation as it’s known in
computer circles) are well done.
Most of the components mount
on two printed circuit boards
that are then simply plugged
together. Detailed drawings
show how each component
should be oriented — what you’d
expect from a beginner’s kit.
What MITS doesn’t assume,
however, is that you’re also a
beginning computer operator. I
had trouble hooking up the
jumpers that are required
during the final steps of
construction (they select certain
conditions under which the
computer will operate). Before
you can do this, you have to
answer questions like: What
“baud rate” will you be running?
How many “stop bits” do you
require? Will you be using RS232, TTY current loop, or
baudot interfaces? I not only
didn’t know the answers to
these questions; I didn’t even
understand them.
Fortunately, there are a lot of
people willing to help. I went to a
local Computer Store, one of the
sales outlets for MITS, and
posed my questions to one of the
staff. His answer: “Oh, don’t feel
so bad, many beginners get
stuck on these. All you’re doing
is setting up the hardware bit
structure for the peripheral
interfaced to the serial I/O port.”
I understood the part about
not feeling bad. But the rest of
his answer made me feel worse.
I found out quickly that people
involved with kit computers are
willing to be helpful. The
problem is that they speak a
different language —
computerese — and it takes
specifically detailed questions to
get an answer in English. The
translation goes like this: The
jumpers told the computer what
type of equipment
(“peripherals” — teletype, TV
terminal, printer) will be
connected (interfaced) to its
output (port). Knowing this, the
computer spits out information
(bits) in the right code (serial
RS-232, stop bits) and at the
right speed (baud rate). I have to
admit that computerese is
catchy — like the drawl of CBradio operators. It wasn’t long
before I was interfacing,
TTY’ing, and stop-bitting with
the rest of them — it just takes a
little practice.
IT WORKS—NOW WHAT?
Over these hurdles, the 680b
went together smoothly. When I
turned on the power, its 27
LEDs indicated life. But, in
order to do anything, I now had
to learn programming. After
about two hours of studying the
books and playing with the
front-panel toggle switches, I
was able to add two and two
successfully (and they said I was
wasting my time!). The answer
doesn’t come out as a “4,”
however. Instead an LED
glowed to represent its binary
equivalent. It was a success, but
not much to show the family.
In order to enter and retrieve
any information from the
computer in a practical way,
another “option” is needed. For
me, it was the TV Terminal from
Southwest Technical Products.
The terminal is actually two
things in one box that share
some of the same circuitry. It’s a
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
73
MAY
1977
From The
Archives
keyboard (like a typewriter’s)
for entering data, and it’s a
bunch of integrated circuits that
change the binary information
from the computer into a video
signal that can be displayed on a
standard black-and-white TV
screen. Data are printed out on
the screen of the set (which you
must also supply).
WHAT’S IN THE KIT
With my soldering iron not yet
cold, I began building the
terminal kit, but it was far from
what I expected. The kit comes
with three instructions, basically:
Put all the parts together; turn it
on; and — if it doesn’t work —
troubleshoot it yourself or send it
back to the factory.
Along with the components,
you get a schematic diagram, a
few rough sketches and a
technical circuit description: It’s
obviously not designed for the
74
POPULAR SCIENCE
beginning electronics-kit
builder. But its low price — $275
versus a minimum of $500 for
other units — makes it quite
attractive. And, since it is
designed for the hobbyist/
experimenter, it has a number
of circuits available to you for
special functions — push a
button to clear the screen, for
example. Of course, you can just
stick to the sketches and hook it
up normally. But as I found out,
its low price meant a minimum
of hardware as well; the cabinet
you see does not come with the
kit. It’s another option you’ll
need from Enclosure Dynamics
for $47.95.
I could now enter and retrieve
data rather quickly using a
PROM (programmable readonly memory), which was
included with the MITS
computer. The PROM is actually
just an integrated circuit that
mounts in the computer. Stored
inside it is a small program that
automatically teaches the
computer to input and output
information to the TV terminal.
Without a PROM, the computer
would simply ignore the fact
that you’re pushing buttons on
the keyboard — it would not
have been programmed to look
for incoming information.
I began with very simple
programs (a step up from 2+2)
and gradually built up as I
learned more machine
instructions. (There are 72 of
them, plus seven different
modes of use.) One program I
wrote simply allowed me to type
in my name. Once in the
computer, it was automatically
used in a sentence (like those
computerized “We’re sorry to
inform you, Mr. Hawkins, that
you are late with your payment”
letters). The sentence the
computer came up with was to
be random and supposedly
funny to impress onlookers and
relatives over for the evening.
For my first memo, I typed in
my name. The computer
responded with “What?” across
the face of the TV screen.
Unfortunately, “what?” was
not in my program. Not to be
outdone, I then typed in “Do it.”
The computer answered with
“Leave me alone” — also not in
the program.
I have concluded that an error
in the original program had the
computer searching old,
previously stored information
(at least that’s what I keep
telling myself). Fact is, as I
found out, errors in the program
can do much more than just give
erroneous answers; they could
“blow” the program. One wrong
instruction out of perhaps
several hundred you’ve taken
long after Christmas before I
discovered my wiring error.
(For you computer
enthusiasts already into this,
you can use the Southwest
printer on a serial port if you use
the Southwest terminal.
Connect the print-data lines to
the keyboard-input-data lines
on the terminal mother board,
which is not now used because
of the UART board. Connect the
input strobe to IC 5 pin 3 on the
UART board; not the strobe
line, which caused the
occasional double printing. It
works, but you’ll have to add a
software time delay after a
carriage return.)
At this point, you probably
feel I was then well on my way to
a complete system. It’s true, I
was, but as I got further into the
hardware and software, I also
became aware of different
computers: bigger, more
powerful, able to control more
peripherals than ever. Before I
could hit the “run” button, I was
back in the shop building an
IMSAI 8080 computer.
Although it’s a hobby
computer, the IMSAI is
comparable to an industrial-size
system. It will perform 78
separate instructions, control
up to 64 different peripherals
(together, or one at a time) , and
accept up to 65K of memory.
This is far from a beginner’s
computer kit... (The article
continues on in this vein for
quite a bit longer, but we think
you get the point - Future Ed)
Awesome Ad of the Month!
Is the thought of building a whole computer just too daunting?
Then maybe building your amplifier is more your speed. It only
takes “a few evenings”! And you can save $100 off the undisclosed
retail price! Do it!
hours to put into the computer
might cause a total wipeout of
the memory banks. When this
happens (and it happened often
to me), you’ve got three choices:
pull the plug out of spite, begin
typing all over again, or use a
tape recorder.
With a tape recorder you can
record all the information in the
computer before you run, — and
possibly blow — the program.
There are different ways, or
formats for taping; I chose a
National Multiplex Digital
recorder because of its high
speed. A few hundred steps of a
program can be put back into
the computer in seconds. Even
though the recorder does not
come in kit form, I logged quite
a few more hours trying to make
the computer accept it as an
input source (the MITS 680b is
not designed for it).
The recorder does save you a
lot of time, but, since you no
longer fear blowing large
programs, you begin to write
even larger ones. Now you face
another dilemma: running out
of memory space. Add to your
shopping list an optional
memory board from MITS.
Once built, it plugs into the 680b
giving you an additional 16,384
bytes (16K) of storage, and
another $685 to your original
$466 purchase price. (The 680b
will accept up to three extra
memory boards, increasing its
storage capacity to 49K.)
IT DOESN’T STOP
After you’ve run through
programs that count, search, or
flash special messages across
the screen, the novelty begins to
wear off and you want to do
more practical things. I decided
to computerize our Christmascard list; if successful, I would
prove to the family that all my
work had been worthwhile.
So I used another kit — a
South-west Technical printer —
to make labels with names of all
the relatives I tried to impress
earlier. One problem, though,
they weren’t impressed — the
system stuttered. Mrs. Dallas
became Mrs. DDallas and it was
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
75
MAY
1977
From The
Archives
Hard Core
70s Nudity!
WHAT ENCAPSULATES THE 70S
more than this article, also from the May
1977 edition, offering homeowners the
opportunity to install a super-indulgent,
programmable shower cubicle, and
encouraged to do so by naked 70s people?
The 70s was all about freedom, after all.
POPULAR SCIENCE - MAY 1977 - PAGE 120
Weather
Machine
built into your bathroom
It offers the joys of sauna, steam bath,
solarium, and shower for a mere $10,000
By E. F. LINDSLEY
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
Gratifying sensations ranging from
desert sun to tropical rains and
Chinook winds, with jungle steam in
between, can be yours in a new selfcontained, electronically
programmed, synthetic
environmental chamber for home
use. “Environment” is its
trademarked name, and it’s now
being made by the Kohler Co.
Although its power consumption —
four kw/h for a full cycle — may
cause the energy-sensitive among
us to wince, once you’ve seen and
felt Environment work, you may
find it easy to swallow any initial
resistance and start mulling over
where you could install the unit in
your own home.
About the size of a tipped-over
phone booth, Environment has
sliding acrylic doors to let you —
and, even better, you and a partner
— climb in and deploy comfortably
on the pre-heated cypress deck.
Once you’re inside, pressing a
button starts a sequence which you
have previously set on an exterior
control panel to suit your tastes for
the time of each environmental
event. A combination of overhead
sunlamps and heat lamps lets you
bask in sand-beach warmth or
desert brilliance; later comes a
warm rain from six 24-carat, goldplated sprinkler heads; then benign
jungle steam envelops your body
and mind, ultimately yielding to
spring rain; finally a drying Chinook
wind drifts through Environment’s
76
POPULAR SCIENCE
teak-wood chamber. You can go the
full cycle — up to 29 minutes for
each element — or skip certain
elements altogether. An accessory
sound system provides, if you wish,
eight-track stereo music, or a
programmed tropical storm.
It’s all gentle — calculated to
soothe, comfort, and be totally
pleasurable. (There are no plans to
add Arctic blizzard or California
quake to the environmental
sequence, though there’s little doubt
that Kohler engineering could meet
such challenges.) The rain heads are
not the hard-driving kind that
would strip the bark off a log, and
the rain temperatures will stay
where you set them under
thermostatic control. The overhead
lamps don’t bake you with sauna
heat, and there’s no worry about
burning. Halfway through your
sunbath a chime sounds, advising
you to roll over for an even tan. If
you doze off, your preselected sun
time automatically ends with a
gentle shower.
Granting the sybaritic joys
inherent in Environment, I was
intrigued by its mechanism and
visited with John F. Mooney,
director of group engineering for
this and other projects at Kohler. He
quickly shot down my suspicion that
Environment had been dreamed up
by someone who’d spent too much
time staring at the washers in a
laundromat. The controls — the
result of long research, too
proprietary to discuss in detail
— are encapsulated, operate on
12 volts, and have LCD displays
of the event times you select.
They’re definitely not upgraded
washing-machine controls, but
more than that, Kohler won’t
say. “What kind of water supply
do you need?” I asked. “How
much water does it use? What
pressure is required? What kind
of wiring? What’s the current
draw? Isn’t it an ideal breeding
ground for fungus and
bacteria?”
Mooney’s answers were
reassuring. “Your ordinary
household water supply and
heater are the basic supply;
water usage during the rain
cycle is about four gallons per
minute. Household pressure,
whether from a 20-50-psi cycle
off a well pump or from regular
city pressure, is fine, since the
rain heads are special industrial
self-regulating nozzles made to
deliver the same volume
automatically over wide
pressure ranges. Each head
delivers 0.7 gpm. As for wiring,
the service hookup is
50-amp/220V, but the heaviest
draw is 28 amps during the
steam cycle when the steam
generator is on.” I was glad to
learn how deeply Kohler had
gone into the matter of bacteria
buildup, since it seemed to me
that the chamber could turn
into a massive incubator.
Actually, doctors have been
checking rigorously for months
(the demonstration chamber
has been used by many
persons), and they’ve found
nothing; it appears that the
ultraviolet and the steam keep
things pure.
Thus, Environment is pretty
much self-contained without
special installation needs. One
thing it has that you might not
expect is a 30-second
recirculating cycle to clear the
cold water from the sprinklerhead pipes before the valves pop
open. And valve-opening in
production models will
probably be by servo rather than
solenoid, to taper the rain on
and off gradually instead of in
the present punctured-cloud
fashion.
Since the ready-to-install
Environment package costs
$10,000 (a $3500 kit is in the
offing for on-site assembly —
it’ll come in three cartons),
questions about operating costs
fall more or less into the “whocares” class. For the record, and
depending upon the cost per
kw/h where you live, Kohler
says to expect about 25 cents for
a typical 50-minute soak, wash,
rinse, and dry cycle. It’s cheaper,
for example, than running a
batch of clothes through an
electric dryer.
For ten big ones you should
expect something special — and
you get it. The interior is built of
(not finished in) teakwood,
planed and sanded from solid 1”
stock. Teak exudes its own waxlike agent, resists ultraviolet
light better than man-made
synthetics, and is also better
adapted to the constant wet/
dry/heat cycles. Other woods
tested over a long research
period split and warped. The
rich motif is enhanced by a 30”by-60” luminous rear-wall
panel that bathes the interior in
soft light (as an option, you can
even order this panel with an art
nouveau painting). At both ends
of the chamber are portholes.
The smaller one is a cabinet for
bath gear and tan lotion — it has
its own sliding acrylic door. The
bigger porthole can be a window
to a terrarium, an aquarium, or
— if the location of your
Environment permits — the
outside world. The front panel,
resembling a massive TV-tube
surround, comes in fiberglass in
any of 14 colors.
I was surprised by the market
Kohler expects for
Environment. Health clubs,
swinging singles condos, spas,
and the like are naturals, but I
was told that Environment is
intended for the private home,
either as a built-in or an add-on.
The units are already in
production, and you can plan on
an eight-week delivery from the
time you special-order yours
through a plumbing wholesaler.
I mused on all this as I drove
back from Kohler’s Wisconsin
headquarters. It does take some
room, but — maybe if I moved
the freezer over to one side in
the garage .. .
HISTORICAL POSTSCRIPT
Kohler is of course still a big name in plumbing and bathroom supplies.
The Environment evolved into the K-65-0 Habitat Masterbath
Environment Enclosure with Whirlpool System, but today, sadly, is
listed as “discontinued.”
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
77
78
POPULAR SCIENCE
INTERNATIONAL MAN OF VIOLENCE
It was that great man of science, John von
Neumann, who headed the US top secret
ICBM committee in the early 1950s. The US
THE MILITARY TRUMP-CARD HELD BY
the US after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki didn’t stay exclusive for long. The USSR’s
nuclear program was charging ahead in leaps and
bounds, and America needed to keep pace.
When the USSR tested the first hydrogen bomb
in 1953, that pace turned to panic. The US needed
an atomic delivery system that could reach
across oceans and pulverise the enemy’s launch
capability, even as the more accurate manned
bombers were droning toward their own, more
strategic, targets.
Contractor Convair had been working on
a ballistic missile since 1951, in what must
have initially seemed like a pretty cosy little
deal. They were given plenty of time, and
very little pressure, to produce a missile, you
know, whenever.
But that Soviet thermonuclear test changed
everything. Suddenly Convair’s project was given
top national priority.
By 1958, the Atlas was ready to go, and Atlas 10B
reached Earth orbit, without needing an upper
stage, on 18 December 1958.
by ANTHONY FORDHAM
The Atlas family was the USA’s irst ballistic missile, capable of
delivering nuclear annihilation across oceans. But it also played
a key role in the history of human spaceflight.
The Weight of the World
A DODGED BULLET
Fortunately for the world, the Atlas never saw
action in a nuclear war (fortunate indeed, because
it carried a 3.75 megaton warhead). The first
operational version of the missile was the SM65D. While it launched many a test warhead, its
real contribution to human history will be as the
launch system for the Mercury spacecraft - NASA’s
ALL THE EXPLOSIONS
When you jump on YouTube and search for
“NASA launch failures” to enjoy an evening
watching rockets explode on the pad, many of
those early “unscheduled dis-assemblies” are
Atlas ICBMs. Engineers on the project joked
that the initials stood for “Inter County Ballistic
Missile”, since range on the failed launches was
limited to scattering components over a few
square kilometres.
When work began on Atlas, it was designated
as the XB-65, which classed it as a kind of
bomber. It then became SM-65 for “strategic
missile”. Later versions in the 1960s had the
rather ominous designation of CGM-16 where
the C stood for “coffin”.
That’s because prior to the construction of the
infamous ICBM underground silos, the Atlas was
stored on its side in a concrete bunker. For launch,
it would be raised and fuelled in the open-air.
P O P S C I .CO M . AU
79
had seen Germany’s success with the V1
rocket and wanted to know if it would be
possible to mount a nuclear warhead on an
intercontinental ballistic missile.
Von Neumann said that while it would
certainly be difficult, it should be possible.
He relied on what he saw as inevitable
advances in technology, particularly
computers, and he was quickly proven right.
The Atlas wasn’t like the rockets we
think of today. When it was developed,
engineers didn’t know how to “air start” a
second-stage engine.
While modern rockets have separate
stages, each with their own engine and
fuel system, the first Atlas was a “stage
and a half ” rocket. All its engines - a
main engine and two boosters - were
started at launch and drew fuel from a
single set of tanks.
After about two minutes, the
booster engines were cut off from
the fuel system, and then jettisoned.
This made the Atlas a lot lighter and
allowed its main “sustainer” engine
to take it up to its maximum altitude
or even orbit.
This was a complex system that
was difficult to troubleshoot, and it
was eventually superseded by true
two-stage designs on the Titan. But
it was a very light rocket, which
gave Atlas a range of 14,500km
and of course the ability to get to
orbit on a single stage.
Atlas test launches were a far
cry from where this tech
would lead: to the mighty
Saturn V, still the largest
rocket ever to have flown.
SWORD INTO PLOUGHSHARE
The Atlas remains an example of what can be
achieved when you think the world is about to
end. Despite the implications of its original job,
the Atlas is still a testament to the ingenuity of
the engineers who worked on it.
Here was a machine capable of lifting
humans into low Earth orbit, without a
traditional two -stage design, and with
very limited use of computers and other
advanced instrumentation.
Born as a weapon, Atlas - like many of its
successors - was eventually repurposed as a tool of science.
There’s hope for us yet.
first manned orbital missions.
The Mercury launches were planned very early
on, early enough in fact for Mercury astronaut Gus
Grissom to witness an Atlas explode and ask: “Are
we really going to get on top of one of those
things?” He did, and the rest is history.
The Atlas ended its role as a nuclear
ICBM in 1965, but the technology was
kept around for many other tasks.
The Atlas-F, for instance, took the
first GPS satellites to orbit between
1978 and 1985. And a refurbished Atlas
F was used as recently as 1995 to launch
a military satellite.
L A B R AT S
You Only Care About the Cat
Prepare yourself for the shocking revelations herein
THE VAST BULK OF POSSIBLY FICTIONAL FAN-
mail that was expectorated at my definitely fictional
fan-mail Discord account had little interest in my
experience of a medically-induced coma that lasted
almost an entire year. No, these shrieking Erinyes of
the cyber-whatever only cared about one thing: what
happened to Aristides, my cat.
I blame myself really, for even mentioning the
creature in these columns in the first place. If only, I
told myself as I deleted my Discord account, if only I’d
just not talked about him. Then no one would know or
care about what happened to him.
Okay fine. Aristides is a straight up black cat.
Nothing fancy. He’s kind of scrawny, kind of evil, and
he used to inhabit, no wait haunt, no wait possess
my miserable flat like a malevolent spirit who fed on
cockroaches and, like, just the most expensive kind of
tinned cat food. Which smelled gross.
Speaking of gross smells, Aristides had, probably
still has, a persistent ear condition that meant I had to
apply cat-ear medicine to his cat ears, in what I think
is best described as a Dance with Death. It was just
one of the special times we enjoyed together where I
would chase him and he would try to get away.
It wasn’t all maulings and ear- drops though.
Aristides has been a useful mail-in scientific test
subject assistant, as I would often mix his hair or drool
or ear secretions in with whatever biosample I was
supposed to be sending back to the lab that wanted
a biosample. I did this in the hope that at least one
of these cat-human vials would cause their fancy
CRISPR machine to explode and maybe I’d even save
the world from GMO zombies or something.
And okay sure, when I woke from my medicallyinduced coma and sorted out the whole thing with the
creepy German guy from Eier Labs and the apparently
black-market-human-body-parts dealing nurses and
doctors, and was thrown out of the hospital onto
the street wearing nothing but a hospital gown, and
with my head draped in the unwashed clothes I’d
been wearing when admitted to the hospital a year
ago and which had just now been hurled out of an
upstairs window at my head, and as I stood blinking
in the unfamiliar sunshine and trying to ignore the
screaming agony from all my tendons and whatnot
that had become all stiff and shortened after a year
in a coma in a hospital that didn’t really feel the need
to bother with physiotherapy of coma patients, I did,
eventually, start to worry about the cat.
S o I rushed home as fast as catching public
transport from a part of a city so unfamiliar to me I
wondered if maybe it wasn’t even my city, would let
me, and I rushed up the stairs in my block of flats,
and I hurled myself at my flat door, and that’s when I
80
POPULAR SCIENCE
realised I didn’t have my key.
So then I had to walk a couple of kilometres to
the real estate agent, where I discovered the agent
I’d been leasing the flat from no longer existed and
there was an entirely new and much much funkier
real estate agent in that shopfront and managing
my building. It took quite a bit of yelling and then
pleading and then begging to demonstrate that my
lease was still active because it was guaranteed in
lieu of a massive compensation payout from the
pharmaceutical company that destroyed my uvula.
By the time I had my key it was getting dark and I
was starting to panic even though a rational part of
me somewhere deep deep inside pointed out that if
Aristides had survived for a year while I was in a coma,
another night probably wouldn’t kill him. And if he
hadn’t survived, well, another night was irrelevant.
Yet still I thundered up the stairs, hospital gown
flapping, and I jammed that key into the lock and I
hurled open the door and flicked on the lights to my
flat and everything was just as I had left it.
Threadbare couch, wheezing refrigerator, remains
of broken vase glued to the windowsill, and pretty
much nothing else. There was a neat pile of junk mail
and mail-in scientific test kits to one side of the door
that was arranged in such a way as to communicate
from whoever had left it there, that they would have
put my mail on a table, if only I had a table.
Aristides, for his part, sat on the back of the couch
looking exactly the same as he did the last time I saw
him, sitting in that exact spot on the back of the couch.
He was licking his paw. He did not so much as turn his
head to look at me.
“Dude!” I cried in a rare moment of spontaneous
emotion. “You’re okay! I’m so sorry, I had no idea
they were going to induce a coma, medically!” I
advanced upon the cat with arms outstretched and
he leapt nimbly from the back of the couch and shot
underneath it.
Then when I tried to reach under the couch to pat
him or establish any kind of contact whatsoever,
Aristides shot out of the front door and away.
At this point I should probably explain that
Aristides is not in fact my cat. I mean, I call him my
cat, but really he belongs to a family that lives in a
house across the street from my block of flats. I see
him there sometimes, wearing a pink bow and riding
in a little stroller, pushed around first by a little girl
who grew up and then another little girl who is still in
the process of growing up.
Whenever I see him in the pink bow though, I
pretend I don’t. I’m cool about it. I think he knows
this. I think that’s why he keeps coming around. Well,
that and the free cockroaches.
BY
SUBJECT
ZERO
“I was
starting to
panic even
though a
rational part
of me pointed
out that if
Aristides
had survived
for a year
while I was
in a coma,
another night
probably
wouldn’t
kill him”
ING CLASSIC CAMERA BRANDS
GONE BUT NOT FORGOT TEN – CELEBRAT
May/June 2018 $8.99
NZ $10.99
UNDERSTAND HOW
N
IO
T
I
S
O
P
COMM
AKES FOR BETTER
PHOTOGRAPHS
ED THRILLS
E RACES WITH
ON’S VERSATILE
THE
SECRETS OF
IMAGE
SENSORS
F8 STUFF
AUSSIE DESIGNS
TAKE ON
THE WORLD
AUSTRALIA’S
ONLY TIPA
MEMBER
IN THIS ISSUE
ON TRIAL
FUJIFI M X-H1
CELEBRATING CLA IC
CAMERA BRANDS
ON SALE NOW at your newsagent
or on subscription in PRINT
or digital at mymagazines.com.au
TRAILER
Next Issue!
POPSCI#115, JUNE 2018, ON SALE 31 ST MAY 2018
PLUS!
How supernovae create life
Eating up all our garbage
High tech lawn alternatives
Why you should take Magic Mushrooms
AI in the palm of your hand
+ HEAPS MORE!
82
POPULAR SCIENCE
Документ
Категория
Журналы и газеты
Просмотров
3
Размер файла
11 429 Кб
Теги
Popular Science, journal
1/--страниц
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа