Sometimes the octopus doesn't even straddle a map. Here it's just a very subtle villain.Udo J. Keppler
Octopuses, octopi, octopodes: whatever plural form used, the surprisingly smart eight-tentacled underwater cephalopods are a popular symbol of something far-reaching and sinister, both on earth and, now, above it. The National Reconnaissance Office, tasked with watching the earth through largely classified satellite programs, recently launched a new rocket into space. That rocket's classified contents were marked with an incredibly subtle image: an octopus spreading its tentacles across the globe, over the words "nothing is beyond our reach." Charming! In honor of the "oct" in octopus, here are eight images featuring an octopus--and similarly limb-surplused creatures--straddling the globe.
For further reading beyond this gallery, Strange Maps has an amazing collection of maps featuring the "Cartographic Land Octopus," and Vulgar Army is a whole site devoted to "the Octopus in Propaganda and Political Cartoons."
Posted to Twitter last night, this nice friendly octopus is the logo for the National Reconnaissance Office's semi-classified space mission. Do not fear! It only wants to make sure that its tentacles reveal all the secrets in the world. There is nowhere to hide.
Getting aircraft into the sky typically requires a dedicated launching area—usually a flat, sturdy surface. These are hard to come by in the middle of the ocean. Aircraft carriers are one way to bring runways to the sea, but they are giant and expensive, and they must travel with a full fleet for protection and support. What if there were a simpler way? Freed from the constraints of an onboard pilot and static wings, the Naval Research Laboratory's XFC drone is launched from a tube and assembles its wings midair. Four years ago, the XFC flew for six hours straight. Yesterday, it launched from a submerged submarine for the first time.
Powered by a fuel cell, the XFC (for eXperimental Fuel Cell, and sadly not for Xtreme Flying Cod), fits into a special launch system called the Sea Robin. The Sea Robin, in turn, fits into a torpedo tube on the USS Providence sub. When it's launch time, the torpedo tube spits out the Sea Robin, which then bobs on the water's surface like a buoy. Using an electric launch system, the Sea Robin sends the XFC into the sky, where (as the above picture demonstrates), its wings spread out for flight. The XFC flew for several hours, sending streaming video back to the submarine and other support vessels. It then landed at a Navy testing center in the Bahamas.
While the XFC is an experimental concept, its future applications are plentiful. Drones like the XFC, with launchers that fit in both torpedo tubes and the tubes used for Tomahawk cruise missiles, mean more naval vessels can scout the seas from above, and do so even from under the water.
When members of the U.S. military and other federal government agencies need to discuss the big secrets, they go into secure, soundproof rooms called "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities," or SCIFs (pronounced "skiffs"). Except, according to initial research by acoustics engineer Marlund Hale, the rooms might not be all that soundproof.The door and frame systems often don't seal well, letting noise escape
The problem, Hale says, is that the whole of a SCIF is less secure than the sum of its parts. The requirements for making a site secure are elaborate; the unclassified version of the technical specifications runs at 158 pages. Acoustic insulation standards cover all sides of the room, including the floor and ceiling. Despite these standards for individual sections, the door and frame systems often don't seal as well as intended, letting noise escape, Hale says. He suggests the flaws arise when contractors neglect specific design details during construction. As a result, SCIFs are no more soundproof than a typical California apartment, according to Hale, who presented his findings yesterday at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.
Current Department of Defense design standards "only require sufficient acoustical isolation to prevent a casual passerby from understanding classified information, but do not need to be adequate to prevent a deliberate effort by someone to understand that information," Hale says.
Next week, Hale will conduct 13 more tests on another military installation. Among his early recommendations are special airlock-like, two-part entrances, which would prevent sound from traveling down the hall when a door opens. Until new improvements are adopted for acoustic insulation, it's probably a good idea for people with secret information to use their inside voices when inside a SCIF.
The new plugs and receptacles will be bilaterally symmetrical, so never again will you try and fail to plug in a USB plug because it's upside-down! "Users will no longer need to be concerned with plug orientation," says the press release calmly.
The new USB standard, called Type C, will not connect to existing USB ports, but that's a small price to pay.
According to a study conducted by the Library of Congress, 70 percent of American silent films are lost--and a good portion of the remaining ones aren't exactly in great shape, either. Of the 11,000 films made before "talkies" came into the picture, only about 3,300 are left. Of those, 17 percent are incomplete, and some, like the only missing Greta Garbo feature, The Divine Woman, are down to a single remaining reel. What happened?
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington explains in the study's foreword that, with the rise of sound, silent movies were seen as having little commercial value. As myopic as it comes across from a 21st-century vantage point, silent films were lost to "chemical decay, fire, lack of commercial value, cost of storage," and most film producers were content with unsentimentally moving on toward the Next Big Thing. From the study, here's the breakdown of what we lost, and what we have left:American Silent Feature Film Survival Library of Congress
With a more complete view of what we're missing, we might be able to better prevent losing more. Anticipating that, the Library has also released a searchable database filled with every silent feature still around.
[via The Verge]
Bartenders are still using fresh and local produce, but they’re fine-tuning every aspect of the cocktails in which they’re used, from temperature to texture to physical format. In this slideshow we look at some of the cutting-edge equipment used in bars around the world.
We've had a laugh at drone-delivery marketing gimmicks before, and Amazon Prime Air—announced yesterday during a flattering segment on 60 Minutes—may very well be more of the same. But that's just for now. Drone-based package delivery could totally become reality in the next 10 years.
Here's the primary reason for skepticism about Prime Air: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says drones could being delivering packages as early as 2015. Here's how Amazon envisions those deliveries.
As my colleague Erik Sofge notes, if it exists in 2015, Amazon Prime Air will looking nothing like the promotional video. At best, says Sofge, this is what the 2015 delivery system will look like:
The delivery request comes in, and the drone pilot gets ready to move. He can’t lounge in a central command center, joysticking the octocopter over city streets to its destination. He needs constant, visual line-of-sight. So maybe he’s peering up at the machine from the open top of a convertible. He certainly isn’t driving, so he’s riding shotgun, head craned toward the sky. Better yet, perhaps he’s in a sidecar? Whatever his mode of transportation, he is leashed, essentially, to that aerial robot, unable to break contact as it buzzes over and through urban canyons. When it sets down its cargo, he’s eyeballing it still. Like a concerned parent surreptitiously following a child’s first unattended walk to school, the human is the robot’s faithful guardian.
The primary limitation here is legal. Without special authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, drones can only be used for commercial purposes so long as the pilot keeps the drone within eyesight. The FAA has a plan to change these rules, outlined in its recently published roadmap, but the agency is slow moving. Before Amazon distribution centers can send drones on deliveries, the FAA must figure out how to safely integrate all these new flying objects into U.S. airspace.Drones will need to be able to safely plot a course that avoids collision.
That challenge will be met with new technology. Currently, airplanes and helicopters with onboard human pilots work with "see and avoid" rules, in which pilots see other vehicles and follow rules about right-of-way to avoid collisions. Drones lack onboard human eyeballs, so they need a different approach. The goal is "sense and avoid," where drones can detect each other and other flying objects, be they airplanes, helicopters, or geese. Drones will need to be able to safely plot a course that avoids collision. This technology is very much still in development, but the FAA wants it ready to go before unleashing swarms of flying delivery robots on the skies.
According to the FAA roadmap, initial certification of sense-and-avoid drone systems is scheduled for between 2016 and 2020. Should the technology work by then, it's entirely possible a future fleet of Amazon drones could carry packages directly to doorsteps.
If this is so far off in the future, why is Amazon talking about it now? The FAA is set to announce which six states it has selected as drone test sites at the end of 2013. While drones have already proven their worth to small-town police departments and rural farmers, the prospect of overhead robots isn't exactly appealing for some people, especially since most commercial and safety gains anticipated with drones come from their role as flying cameras. Amazon Prime Air is a daring bid, and one that might finally help people distinguish between military Reaper drones and smaller drones like quadcopters. That change in perception is probably necessary for any future drone delivery operation, and while Bezos is almost certainly wrong about this working in 2015, it might very well be a reality by 2020.
If you're a Rubik's cube expert and a bit of an exhibitionist, maybe you'll be interested in this mind-blowing project from artist Javier Lloret: a giant, remote-controlled LED puzzle cube made out of a building.
For the project, called Puzzle Facade, Lloret built a gray puzzle cube with built-in orientation sensors. Then, he connected the cube via Bluetooth to a computer, which controlls the LED facade of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria. Whenever the cube twists, the lights on the building move in tandem.
There's also an added layer of challenge: you can only see two sides of the building at once while you're attempting to match colors. So maybe if Rubik's cubes aren't your thing you can just stick to building-Tetris.Puzzle Facade Javier Lloret Puzzle Facade Javier Lloret
Click here to see a larger version of this image.S.W. Clatworthy, Popular Science
The age of battleships is long over. The United States built the USS Missouri, the nation's last battleship, in 1944, even as that category of "heavy ship with many powerful guns" was superseded by "floating runway with many powerful planes." Though aircraft carriers would eventually replace battleships, both were used during WWII. Readers on the home front were curious about how these behemoths worked, and in October 1943, Popular Science obliged with the above infographic of the North Carolina class of battleships.Close Up On Gun Turrets S.W. Clatworthy, Popular Science
The North Carolina class was primarily armed with three turrets, each containing three guns 16 inches in diameter. These guns could fire two explosive or armor-piercing rounds a minute, at enemies up to 22 miles away. That's an impressive distance for a single gun, but still not enough to match the increasing advantage of airplanes: the F4U Corsair, a standard Naval fighter used on aircraft carriers during the era, could fly more than 1,000 miles while carrying bombs. Despite many mighty guns, the battleship's limited power in the new age of carrier warfare relegated it to a support role. Large crew sizes—the North Carolina class regularly traveled with 2,339 people on board—were another reason for the battleship's eventual retirement.Why Perfectly Rounded Hulls Are A Bad Idea S.W. Clatworthy, Popular Science
Bonus! Here's a U.S. Navy training video from 1955. It took 79 men to load and operate a battleship gun turret:
Thanks to vast improvements in hygiene, pharmaceuticals, and surgical techniques and devices, medical treatments today tend to be significantly less painful—and less deadly—than they were a century ago. Though the cures of yesteryear often seem brutally primitive, some, like the five treatments in this gallery, stand on solid science.
The BigDog family of robots, developed by Boston Dynamics, has come a long way since it was first created in 2005. To celebrate some of the headless robot's coolest technological achievements, I made these eight GIFs. Enjoy.
Here's the first time BigDog learned how to throw things. Cinderblocks, specifically, which are less "playing fetch with a ball in the park" and more "that robot is trying to bash in my head." Nice arm, BigDog!
WildCat is BigDog's newest sibling. It likes to run really fast, and it recovers quickly when it crashes. WildCat is an evolution of Boston Dynamic's Cheetah. Aww, it's like an excited robot puppy.
LS3 (for Legged Squad Support System) is a robot attempting to be a donkey or mule. DARPA is especially interested in this one, which is why has an acronym instead of a cool animal name.
One of the most remarkable things about the original BigDog is its sense of balance, whether recovering from a slip on ice...
...or a mean kick from a human.
Sometimes BigDog has fun! Here it is playing pretend with a person. I would totally go to robot bull fights in the future.
Boston Dynamics took BigDog on a vacation to Thailand, and, like an actual living creature, the robot frolicked in the water. Here is BigDog playing in the surf.
Thanks for eight years of good times, BigDog! Please don't kill us all.
Just as books come in different editions, so do historical pieces of music. Different manuscripts from the time the music was written may have slight variations… and their composers aren't around anymore to say which they prefer.
That's why musician-engineer Zoltan Komives made meiView, an experimental piece of software that lets musicians compare manuscript variations side by side and choose which ones they like. The software then automatically puts together a playable score with all the chosen variants. Now, in spite of years of childhood piano lessons, I don't really have the judgment to make these kinds of calls (It's not your fault, Ms. Judy; I just never practiced. I'm very sorry). But I know some people do.
In Spain's Basque Country, some of the oldest residents are getting the newest communications technology. The region is piloting a system that allows doctors to monitor elderly patients remotely using motion sensors originally developed for Microsoft's Xbox.
The system also includes more mundane things, such as apps that let people of all ages access their health records, a call center for medical advice, and an online appointment-making service. The idea is to reduce healthcare costs in Basque Country by reducing the number of face-to-face doctor's appointments people have to make, CNBC reports. The company in charge of the system, Accenture, says the system saved the region of 2 million people $55 million in its first year.
Elderly residents using the remote monitoring system, called TEKI, also get a heart rate monitor and a spirometer for checking their respiration. Their doctors are able to get their data in real time and to write prescriptions over TEKI. TEKI focuses on elderly people because Basque Country has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, 72 years for men and 84 years for women. According to an Accenture document, about 77 percent of the region's healthcare costs go toward managing chronic diseases, which appear more often in elderly people and which lend themselves to home monitoring.
The system doesn't sound super revolutionary, but it does sound cool. I'm not exactly elderly yet, but I would love to have consistent, quick, remote access to a doctor or nurse for the small stuff, too.
The problem with liquid explosives, besides being explosive, is that they often look just like non-explosive liquids. Since 2006, to protect against the threat of those explosives, people traveling by air in America have been limited to one quart-sized bag for liquids, each in a container no larger than 3.4 ounces. That size limit has, at best, a questionable impact on safety, but a new device being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory could eventually make the scanning process less painful. Called the MagRay, it's designed to scan liquids and quietly differentiate between the safe and unsafe. And now Los Alamos has released a video showing off the tech.
The MagRay essentially combines an X-ray and an MRI to differentiate between, say, a soda, and something more suspicious. Liquids are placed into the scanner, which, according to LANL researcher Larry Schultz, can give of a measure of how "sludgy" a liquid is, an indication of what might be inside the can or bottle. Another measure is X-ray density, or how difficult it is for X-rays to show through the liquid. With that data, the machine paints a fairly distinct portrait of the liquid, and a simple computer interface shows the most important information about the liquids in a giant colored circle: red for unsafe, green for safe, and more details presented alongside. The research is supported by the Department of Homeland Security, and it's easy to see how an airport security checkpoint in the future could employ a liquid-scanning device like the MagRay.
The device has been in development since at least 2007, but it still may be a few years before MagRays can scan Thanksgiving travelers' homemade gravy.
ATLAS--the totally incredible Boston Dynamics robot that strikes love and fear into the hearts of all who witness its humanoid stride--is having a tough time lately. Last month it broke its ankle during its first live demonstration, and now it crumples when trying to walk through some minor debris. This footage, taken by a team from Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, shows the rescue 'bot flailing and falling over a piece of wood while trying to traverse the rubble. We once thought it was untrippable, too.
According to the letter, the FDA has been seeking information needed to approve the test for a while, "including more than 14 face-to-face and teleconference meetings, hundreds of email exchanges, and dozens of written communications":months after you submitted your 510(k)s and more than 5 years after you began marketing, you still had not completed some of the studies and had not even started other studies necessary to support a marketing submission for the PGS. It is now nine months later, and you have yet to provide FDA with any new information about these tests. You have not worked with us toward de novo classification, did not provide the additional information we requested necessary to complete review of your 510(k)s, and FDA has not received any communication from 23andMe since May. Instead, we have become aware that you have initiated new marketing campaigns, including television commercials that, together with an increasing list of indications, show that you plan to expand the PGS’s uses and consumer base without obtaining marketing authorization from FDA.
23andMe has not yet responded publicly.
Passionate inventors in modest workshops around the world, often backed by little more than ambition and a big idea, are minting surprising new technologies that stand to change the world.
Popular Science can't get enough of these audacious makers, so we celebrate the best of them each year in our Invention Awards issue—but to find them we rely on readers like you.
We want to know about any game-changing innovations developed by determined, independent inventors (not big academic or corporate R&D labs). Maybe you're an engineer designing a revolutionary tool in your garage, or an electronics hobbyist who crowdfunded the development of a great new gadget. Or perhaps you're an obsessive teen building a life-saving contraption, or a hackerspace member who's open-sourcing a powerful new technology.
Sound familiar? Enter the eighth annual Popular Science Invention Awards by filling out our entry form at popsci.com/inventionawardsform. Or, if you know people who might want to enter, please share this post with them (popsci.com/inventionawards2014).
Our editors will select 10 finalists that embody the spirit of homegrown ingenuity and solve real-world problems in original ways. Then, in our May 2014 issue, Popular Science's readers will get a first look at the winners before they go online and appear in our tablet edition.
There's neither an entry fee nor any tangible prizes. However, your invention stands to be featured in the world's largest science and technology magazine, reaching our audience of many millions—plus the audiences of TV, radio, web, and other outlets that often highlight our finalists.
Before submitting, please carefully read our rules, guidelines, and tips below, and note that our entry form will close after 11:59pm (eastern time) on January 15, 2014. (The sooner you submit, the better your chances.)
- There is no fee to submit, and there are no prizes.
- An invention should be poised to create a market or disrupt an existing one—not be a solution in search of a problem.
- Inventions must be new, not just minor tweaks to existing objects, products, or processes.
- Inventions on their way to becoming commercial products are welcome, but they can't already be for sale.
- Inventions must be the work of independent inventors or small teams. Outside funding is fine (even from movie stars!), but inventions created in association with universities, large R&D labs, major corporations, etc. won't be considered.
- There must be a working prototype, or something that demonstrates an invention works. If you can't prove your invention works, it won't be considered.
- Pictures of or relating to your invention are worth a thousand words (and videos even more).
- We love inventions that are physical objects or are very visual, not highly abstract processes or concepts (e.g. computer code). This helps us show off the winners in the magazine.
- Popular Science will not publish an entry without notifying the inventor first, but—as part of our rigorous vetting and fact-checking process—we will contact outside experts to verify the technology and significance of the invention prior to publication.
- Intellectual property (IP) protection is the responsibility of the entrant. We do not have the resources to answer questions about IP, help anyone secure IP rights, or make any kind of guarantee that publicizing your invention won't compromise your IP or rights. (Enter at your own risk.)
If you're curious what makes the cut, we encourage you to review winners from previous years:
- 7th Annual Invention Awards (2013)
- 6th Annual Invention Awards (2012)
- 5th Annual Invention Awards (2011)
Spanish scientists are checking in on a batch of cells, frozen in liquid nitrogen 14 years ago. The cells belonged to the last bucardo, a Pyrenean sub-species of mountain goat that went extinct in 2000, and researchers have received funding to see if the cells might be all right for a round of cloning, the BBC reports.1898 Illustration of Bucardo Illustration by Joseph Wolf, from the book Wild oxen, sheep & goats of all lands, living and extinct
If Celia's (her name was Celia) cells are in good shape, a team of scientists will attempt to make embryo Celia clones and implant them in female goats, to make new bucardos for a world that hasn't seen them in 14 years.
There's no "bucardo recovery plan" yet, one of the scientists involved in the effort told the BBC. Scientists will discuss a plan for growing a bucardo population if the Celia clones prove viable. Clones are often difficult to bring to term: A bucardo clone born in 2003, the world's first extinct animal brought back to life, died minutes after being born.
Should Celia's clones survive, the BBC describes a couple of options scientists have for upping the population beyond just one poor goat's genome.
The idea of bringing extinct species back again garnered a lot of attention this year. Genetic techniques are getting closer to being able to make this reality for several species, not just bucardos, as National Geographic reported in April. Check out the National Geographic link for some arguments for and against so-called "de-extinction."
Yesterday, China's new stealth drone flew for the first time, according to Chinese state media. The drone is an unmanned flying wedge, similar to American flying wedges like the RQ-170 and the U.S. Navy's experimental X-47B. It bears a striking resemblance to Russia's MiG Skat drone. Named Li Jan, or "Sharp Sword," the drone flew for about 20 minutes, and set off a flurry of news coverage about China's growing military power in the region.
Much like Iran's new Fotros drone, the Li Jan's capabilities are largely dependent on how well the rest of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (or People's Liberation Army Navy; the Li Jan is being considered for both services) can support it. The flying wing and stealth shape of the Li Jan give it some increased freedom to move without detection, but don't expect China to start stealth drone strikes with impunity any time soon. Japan, currently locked in a long-running dispute with China over the uninhabited Senkaku/Daiyo Islands claimed by both nations, has already asserted its right to shoot down any drones that enter Japanese airspace.
Here's a shot of the Sharp Sword in flight, posted by China's state-run Global Times:Sharp Sword In Flight Global Times