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Inventor and Hover -Flight Record-Holder

INNOVATIONS FOR YOUR SUMMER BBQ CAN GENES MAKE YOU KILL? WE SETTLE THIS QUESTION ONCE AND FOR ALL

SURFING EL NIÑO


©2016 Edgewell

A SHOWDOWN FOR SKIN SUPREMACY

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Feed Volume 288 No. 3

MAY/JUNE

CONTENTS 201 6

Featuring 50 THE INVENTOR’S HANDBOOK Everyone has an inner Edison. Here’s how to bring your idea to life. R ACH EL N UWER

56 WELCOME TO DRONE-KOTA A cottage industry tries to put North Dakota on the map. M AR K S UN D EEN

64 CAN GENES MAKE YOU KILL? Science’s search for the root of violence. LO IS PAR S H LEY

70 ENERGY FIELDS The way we power society is changing—and it’s beautiful. Here’s a photo essay on the massive infrastructure of energy. S P EN CER LOWELL

ON THE COVER Alexandru Duru on his hoverboard; photograph by John Kealey

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John Kealey

10TH ANNUAL INVENTION AWARDS

From a personal airplane to a printer that makes bridges, we highlight the year’s 10 greatest inventions by scrappy individual inventors.

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Feed Volume 288 No. 3

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For daily updates: facebook.com/popsci

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22 Produce studio-quality tracks from tools that fit in

your backpack

NEXT FEED 08 From the Editor 09 Before We Begin

NOW 11 Backyard party gadgets that let you actually

enjoy the party 14 10 great ideas in gear 16 The man who made us speak in GIF 18 PlayStation VR is a game changer 20 Bespoke 360-degree audio 21 Get service without a signal

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24 Surfing El Niño 26 Edward Snowden talks to Popular Science about

the future of the Internet 28 How to protect privacy online 30 What we’ll wear to Mars 32 An island fit for a Bond villian 34 Beef, leather, and milk now available at the

synthetic butcher shop 36 The tiniest crop duster

MANUAL 78 An obstacle-dodging bug bot

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80 Attack of the fire balloons 82 Three projects that reinvent breakfast 84 A real man of steel 85 Someone is calling your phone—it’s your drill 86 Take infrared photographs 88 Hack a teddy bear to say anything 90 A glove that fights hand tremors with aerospace

technology 92 Painting with bacteria 94 Pipe up your smartphone’s volume with a passive

PVC amp

END MATTER 96 Ask Us Anything: Why hasn’t the U.S. adopted

the metric system? 110 Terminus: Dispatch from the Future


©2016 Goose Island Beer Co., Goose IPA®, India Pale Ale, Chicago, IL | Enjoy responsibly.


MAY/JUNE 201 6

Feed Editor’s Letter Editor in Chief Cliff Ransom Executive Editor Jennifer Bogo Acting Design Director Chris Mueller

History Favors the Bold

the modern system of electrical distribution, remote control, and the basis for radio communications. The power in our homes, the radios in our cars, and the phones in our pockets all owe their existence in part to Tesla. (He also may have burned down a building with artificial lightning and was rumored to be working on a death beam— but, hey, no one bats 1,000.) When not working, Tesla loved to give audacious demonstrations —he would send massive currents through his body to power a lamp held in his hand. He also thought a lot about invention. In 1919, he wrote: “The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world.” I love this quote. Too often, the idea of invention is undervalued. It conjures images of a guy pottering about his garage in search of a perpetual-motion machine. But the process of forging iron was an invention, as was the plow and the printing press, antibiotics and the Internet. Our world would be a very different place without them. As a species, humans are not that big or that strong. We don’t have fur or fins. But we have these really big brains, which allow us

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to adapt to most circumstances. We humans have succeeded because we’re wired to find creative solutions to problems. It’s our single-greatest strength, and invention is just an extension of that. When we invent, we’re doing exactly what we were built to do. In this issue, we celebrate—as we have for a decade—invention and those folks bold enough to pursue it. You’ll meet an engineer who is rethinking the airplane, a group that conceived a new, ultrafast 3-Dprinting method, and the guy on our cover who built his own functioning hoverboard, among others. You’ll learn how to unleash your own powers of invention. And you’ll hear from some celebrity inventors— the MythBusters gang and Alton Brown chime in with advice. As is only fitting for an issue that celebrates bold ideas, I have some big news: This will be my last issue as Editor in Chief. After a full magazine and website redesign, various product launches and events, and too many great stories from too many great writers to remember, I’m shifting roles to Editor at Large. Instead of spending most of my time behind a desk, I’ll be out talking to the scientists, entrepreneurs, and (of course) inventors shaping the world around us. I’ve loved my time as Editor in Chief, and I hope I served you well. You, the readers of Popular Science are, and will remain, an unending source of inspiration to me. You epitomize the values that make this magazine great: curiosity, ingenuity, and enthusiasm for a brighter tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again. For now, I’ll see you in the future.

ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY Photo Director Thomas Payne Digital Associate Art Director Michael Moreno Acting Production Manager Paul Catalano POPULARSCIENCE.COM Online Director Carl Franzen Senior Editor Paul Adams Social Media Editor Jason Lederman Assistant Editors Sarah Fecht, Claire Maldarelli Contributing Writers Kelsey D. Atherton, Mary Beth Griggs, Alexandra Ossola CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Brooke Borel, Tom Clynes, Clay Dillow, Nicole Dyer, Daniel Engber, Tom Foster, William Gurstelle, Mike Haney, Joseph Hooper, Corinne Iozzio, Gregory Mone, Adam Piore, P.W. Singer, Erik Sofge, Kalee Thompson, James Vlahos, Jacob Ward Group Editorial Director Anthony Licata Group Design Director Sean Johnston BONNIER TECHNOLOGY GROUP Vice President, Publishing Director, New York Gregory D. Gatto Associate Publisher Jeff Timm Financial Director Tara Bisciello Northeast Advertising Office Matt Levy (Manager), Shawn Lindeman, Frank McCaffrey, Chip Parham Midwest Manager Doug Leipprandt West Coast Account Manager Stacey Lakind Detroit Advertising Director Jeff Roberge Advertising Coordinator Nicky Nedd Digital Campaign Managers Amanda Alimo Digital Campaign CoordinatorJustin Ziccardi Group Sales Development Director Alex Garcia Senior Sales Development Manager Amanda Gastelum Sales Development Manager Charlotte Grima Creative Services Director Ingrid M. Reslmaier Marketing Design Directors Jonathan Berger, Gabe Ramirez Marketing Design Manager Sarah Hughes Digital Design Manager Steve Gianaca Group Events & Promotion Director Beth Hetrick Promotions Managers Eshonda Caraway-Evans, Lynsey White Consumer Marketing Director Bob Cohn Public Relations Manager Molly Battles Human Resources Director Kim Putman Group Production Director Michelle Doster

Chairman Tomas Franzén Chief Executive Officer Eric Zinczenko Chief Operating Officer David Ritchie Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Burnham Murphy Chief Digital Revenue Officer Sean Holzman Vice President, Integrated Sales John Graney Vice President, Consumer Marketing John Reese Vice President, Digital Operations David Butler Vice President, Public Relations Perri Dorset General Counsel Jeremy Thompson

Enjoy the issue. Cliff Ransom Editor in Chief

This product is from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources.

M A R I U S BU G GE

A

t Popular Science, we talk about inventors the way sportswriters talk about pitchers or quarterbacks. Because of that, the question “Who is your favorite inventor?” is one I get just about every week. My answer is always the same: Nikola Tesla. I pretty much idolize the guy. In just a few decades, the man developed an induction motor,

EDITORIAL Managing Editor Jill C. Shomer Articles Editor Kevin Gray Technology Editor Xavier Harding Projects Editor Sophie Bushwick Associate Editor Breanna Draxler Assistant Editors Matt Giles, Dave Gershgorn Editorial Assistant Grennan Milliken Copy Chief Cindy Martin Researchers Ambrose Martos, Erika Villani Editorial Intern Annabel Edwards


Feed

M AY /J U N E 2 0 1 6

Before We Begin

Corrections At Popular Science, we always strive for flawless presentation, but occasionally mistakes slip through. On page 33 of the March/April 2016 issue, we wrote that the Perlan 2 glider would be towed by a 20-horsepower plane. We hope not! It will be towed by a 200-horsepower plane. We also implied the wingspan was a part of the airfoil, and it is not.

PopSci on Video

Another Year Older Hail science! The winners of our 2016 Science Visualization contest (the Vizzies), will be on display at the Chicago Science Festival May 28-31 in honor of the 2,600th anniversary of the founding of science (thanks ancient Greek guy). Go to nmhmchicago.org to find out more.

Want a small dose of PopSci between in-depth articles? We’re producing video shorts on a broad range of topics. We’ve got DIY tutorials like how to turn a smartphone into a scanner; we tackle health topics like the Zika virus; we even debunk the myriad scientific claims made in the crazy world of politics. Like us on Facebook to see these videos in your daily stream.

Want more? Check us out on social media! Besides Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, look for our icon—a chimp in a spacesuit — on Tumblr and List App. You can even watch us test gear, fly drones, and conduct experiments (sometimes on each other) on Periscope.

H Series 60” caramel bamboo with SenseME™ technology ($995 as shown)


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GRilL SMARTeR In the age of the connected home, someone forgot the backyard. These eight innovative gadgets usher in a new age of connected backyard technology.

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Jonathon Kambouris

EDITED BY XAVIER HARDING + DAVE GERSHG O R N

T hese

BOB GRillSON PReMiUM $5,000 If you can hail a cab from a smartphone, you should be able to cook a steak from one too. That’s the lazy-man genius behind the Bob Grillson smart grill. This 44,000 BTU burner is app enabled, letting you grill, smoke, or cook a pizza—all while you kick back indoors in the comfort of your air conditioning. And its brushed-steel curves tell your barbecue guests you have fiery taste. by DAV E G ER S H G O R N

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lilY CAMeRA DRONE $899 This is the future; we don’t take selfies. Our drones do that for us. Toss the Lily Camera into the air, and it grabs 1080p video and 12-megapixel stills of your party. Now you can get back to what’s important: hanging with friends.

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OM SOUND SYsTeM SPeAKeR $1,595

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MeTASeNSOR $199 FOR THReE

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Left the stereo outside after the party? No worries—the Om Sound System is a weather-resistant, solar-powered speaker that can be deployed anywhere. It also has three LED light arrays that can illuminate walkways and decks.

No matter how polite they are when they arrive, wandering houseguests turn curious. If Metasensor’s Sensor-1 moves, it messages your smartphone, alerting you to whoever is poking through your medicine cabinet or coat closet. 4

iROBOT BRAAVA JeT 240 $199 You’re the host. Why should you wash sticky shoe prints off the kitchen floor yourself? The new Braava jet 240 from the Roomba-makers does it for you. Using three smart cleaning modes—wet mop, damp sweep, and dry sweep—the Braava will scrub stains and spills from all the festivities.

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PiCOBReW MiNi $999 Has craft brewing become a beer glut? We think not. Picobrew’s new compact beer-maker helps concoct new styles or replicate your favorite brands. Brew five liters, then let it ferment in a mini keg.

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lUMiNOODlE $20 The Luminoodle is a USB-powered lighting system to end extension cords and tangled wires. It emits 180 lumens, and has built-in magnets and loop ties that attach to anything. Light your driveway for every game of hoops.

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YeTi RAMBleR COlsTeR $30 The beer koozie sheds its frat-house foam for stainless steel. The new Yeti Rambler’s double-wall insulation and lock-tight gasket keep your 12-ounce as cold as the inside of a chilled keg.


Now

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HiT lisT 10 Great Ideas in Gear 4

2 FIX IT STICKS Midcommute bike repairs are no fun. And few of us carry the tools needed for a quick fix. Fix It Sticks are a tiny multitool with various-size screwdriver bits. And a foldable T-shaped handle fits in your pocket, so you’ll never get stuck again. $30 3 AMAZON ECHO DOT Amazon’s Echo the size of a hockey puck: That’s Echo Dot. The voice-activated assistant still answers queries, spins Spotify, and summons your Uber. But it’s got a new trick: support for wired or Bluetooth speakers. $90 4 ROOST SMOKEDETECTORALARM BATTERY Make your old smoke detector smart. The Roost plugs into any off-the-shelf model and sends alerts to your smartphone if the alarm rings or when the battery gets low. $35 by XAVIER HARDING

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5 BRITA INFINITY PITCHER What good is a Britta if you never change the water filter? This one senses when your filter is nearing its end and pings Amazon via Wi-Fi. A new one arrives just in time. $45, $6/filter 6 URBAN EARS HELLAS What’s a commute without proper cans? A cord and in-line remote is replaced by Bluetooth, and a discreet ear touchpad lets you pick a song or change volume. Keep the party going. $120

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7 RINGLY ARIES Wearables don’t all look like tiny computers. Ringly’s smart bracelet riffs on the company’s ring idea. The Aries collection’s striking gold band wraps around your wrist and offers a step tracker, in addition to vibrate and a notification light. $275 8 SAMSUNG GEAR 360 Great VR needs great content. The Gear 360 shoots using two 195-degree cameras, then stitches together near-4K quality images, viewable on Samsung’s Gear VR headset. Video recording comes full circle. $TBD 9 MIGHTY Combine iPod Shuffle design with Spotify functionality and you get greatness. Take that eerily on-point Discover Weekly playlist to the gym or on a hike without worry of wrecking your iPhone. $80

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10 lG G5 LG’s latest smartphone focuses on modularity. Slide the battery tray out to affix a camera add-on with physical controls, a DAC for better music, or a larger battery for those long days. Fill your utility belt to the brim. $650

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY STARRY STATION; COURTESY FIX IT STICKS; COURTESY ROOST; COURTESY URBAN EARS; COURTESY RINGLY; COURTESY MIGHTY; COURTESY LG; COURTESY SAMSUNG; COURTESY BRITTA; COURTESY AMAZON

1 STARRY STATION Wi-Fi routers are finally cool. Starry Station’s touchscreen shows your gadgets in a galaxy of orbs, depicting which devices use the most data, and letting you cut the kiddies’ connection at bedtime. The best feature: displaying your way-too-complicated Wi-Fi password. $350


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Now The Platform

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M AY /J U N E 2 0 1 6

Now The Platform

THE GUY WHO MADE US SPeAK iN GifS If you’ve ever shared a GIF—those brief video loops of movie scenes and cooking tutorials—you’ve used the future’s most effective communication tool. At least that’s what Giphy, the three-year-old indexing platform for GIFs, is telling us. In a busy world, where even tweeting takes too much time, the highlight clip has become our go-to lexicon. More than 65 million people a month use Giphy to search and share GIFs. But for company founder Alex Chung, our global chatter will soon be a lot more than just piano-playing cats and Beyoncé moves. Why do we need a search engine for GIFs? No one searches Google for self-expression. When was the last time you searched “happy” or “sad”? You would just get antidepressant pills or it would be the Wikipedia

You’re not getting information from The New York Times. You’re getting it from friends, from Twitter. It’s peer-to-peer. GIFs are a great format for sharing information and for self-expression. We always ask, “When has the Internet really made you

A mother told me she used the site to teach her autistic child what human expression is. I felt proud at that moment. page for what sad is. That’s not useful, unless you’re a fifth grader writing a report. Google’s page rank is taken straight out of the citation system for library management. It was never meant to index all of pop culture. Why do you say GIFs are the communication tool of the future? The Internet has changed communication.

P H OTO G RA P H BY

Liam Sharp

cry? Or made you go ‘aww’?” It doesn’t really do that. Unless you read some really beautiful poem, but that happens like— Every day. Yup, every day [laughs]. But really, beyond that, GIFs are efficient. It’s the easiest natural way to communicate by using the entire lexicon of pop culture as your dictionary. We

POPUL AR

Q&A SCIENCE

by XAVIER HARDING

think it will be used for really practical things. Like, you get a cut and you think, “How do I stitch myself up?” You can find a GIF that will show you in five seconds what to do. The same goes for CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver. As well as how-to’s, recipes, everything. What’s the most surprising use of GIFs you’ve seen? I was at South by Southwest, and a mother came up to me and she said: ‘I just want to thank you. I have an autistic child, and we use your site to teach him what human expression is. There’s no place else I can really do that.’ And it was just really heart warming. I felt kind of proud at that moment. Wow, that is amazing. Any others? Well, for dancers, when they choreograph a routine, they break it down into specific movements. This is the vocabulary of dance. There’s no way to translate it well onto paper. So GIFs become like their sketches. They are an easy way to codify those dance moves. GIFs are like a return to form for humans. Like a grown-up show-and-tell. It’s true. GIFs can represent a concept that other mediums can’t, such as infinity— because they are forever looping. Nowadays communication is messaging. Everything that was on the internet is now shared within messaging apps and is conversation based. GIFs are everything we as humans want to say that words can’t express.

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Now Standout

Virtual reality is poised to alter modern gaming as we know it, and Sony wants in on the action.

GAME CHANGeR by XAVIER HARDING

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In the race for virtual-reality dominance, Sony’s PlayStation is about to win a critical lap: In October 2016, its VR headset will be the first tied to a video-game console. That’s important because the PS VR, as it’s known, can take advantage

of the 36 million PS4 consoles already in homes across the planet. And, for those starting from scratch, the $400 price tag of the PlayStation 4 is far less than the $900-plus PC required to run competing products. It’s VR gaming made easy. Like other virtual-reality headsets, the PS VR helmet tracks head position: Look left, right, up, and down to fully take in a video game’s

world. Not being able to walk in VR by physically moving forward, as with HTC’s Vive or the Oculus Rift, is a glaring omission. But will couchpotato gamers care? Nope. So far, Sony expects more than 50 games to launch for the VR helmet in 2016, including space-shooter EVE: Valkyrie and robot-fighter RIGS. But with such a huge user base, even more developer support is virtually a guarantee.

P HOTOGR AP H BY

Jonathon Kambouris


It’s the ride ;,!;1!ħ'89W When the sun meets the horizon and there’s nothing in front of you except the open road. That’s the only way to live. '; 3;38$@$£' -29<8!2$';3&!@W

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MAY/JUNE 201 6

Now How It Works 1

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Your ears are a s d i sti n c tive as f ingerprints . Your headphones should be too.

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OSSIC X WEIGHT: 12.3 ounces P RI CE: $299 (preorder) AVA I LABL E : Holidays 2016

BeSPOKE 360 AUDiO In a virtual world, hearing is as important as seeing. When you walk on a moon, you want to hear footsteps in the dust. So it’s no wonder virtual-reality headset-makers like HTC, Oculus, and Sony have invested in 3-D audio engines that immerse the user in location-specific sounds. San Diego headphone-maker Ossic, however, says that’s not enough. “To get accurate 3-D audio, you have to take the individual ear into account,” says Ossic co-founder and CEO Jason Riggs. Because no two sets of ears are alike, Ossic created headphones calibrated to a user’s physiology, delivering the most true-to-life sounds in VR yet.

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Sound reaches each ear at different times, depending on proximity to the source. Head size greatly changes the length of that perceived delay. Ossic put sensors in the ear cups and headband that measure the distance between your ears, allowing an onboard processor to re-create those delays.

The external curves of our ears help our brains figure out where sounds come from: above, below, in front, behind. Ossic engineers surround each ear with a group of four drivers, and use motion sensors to tell onboard software which drivers to use, creating an accurate illusion.

Virtual reality requires that we look around the world we’re immersed in. So the location of noises needs to update as quickly as the images. Onboard accelerometers, gyroscopes, and a compass keep track of head movement to update audio within milliseconds of your slightest twitch.

P HOTOGRA P H BY

Jonathon Kambouris

by CO RI N N E I OZZ I O


M AY /J U N E 2 0 1 6

Now Out There

SeRViCE WiTHOUT A SiGNAL Music festivals are great until you try to phone your friends up front, and your cell signal gets blocked by thousands of other people doing the same. Enter Beartooth: It’s an off-grid transmitter that pairs with your smartphone— via Bluetooth, naturally—turning it into a two-way radio for texting and calling.

B EA RTO OT H PRI C E: $198 /two pack ; for iOS and Android.

by BE R N E B RO U DY

Beartooth’s signal uses a public-radio frequency that goes over the crowd like an umbrella. Nearly the size of a deck of cards, it weighs less than 5 ounces, looks like a thin hard drive, and has enough range to cover about 2 miles. It links only to other Beartooth users (which is why the company sells it in pairs). Backcountry hikers and skiers use it too, which makes sense since its two founders are Montana-based skiers. In case you get lost or stuck in a snowslide, Beartooth locates you, pinpoints nearby landmarks, assists you with navigation, and sends SOS signals to others. The 3,000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery also holds enough power to charge your phone and still have leftover juice for a full day of operations. B ea r to o th connects two phones, even through the network congestion.

P H OTO G RA P H BY

Jonathon Kambouris

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Now

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Ask an Expert

TIPS FROM MOHAWKE KEEP IT LIGHT “I invested in a lot of gear before realizing I didn’t need it—synths from the ’70s, drum machines from the ’80s. These are undeniably incredible pieces of equipment, but there is no carrying these boxes around the world. Plug-ins are becoming very good. Purists will say they can’t match the sound of the original unit, but that’s not true.”

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NO sTUDiO REQUiReD (featuring Hudson Mohawke) When you’re Kanye West’s secret weapon and you’ve got a day to turn around a track, you do it no matter where you are. Hudson Mohawke, one of the most sought-after and well-traveled music producers, has a dream rig that fits in a backpack, so he can drop hits between inflight meals. These tools from his on-the-go arsenal won’t put you on Kanye’s riser, but they will make it sound like you worked in a real studio—even if you cut your track at a Doubletree. by M AT T G ILE S

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1 ASUS ROG LAPTOP Mohawke used to travel with a desktop tower—solely for the added memory. The Republic of Gamers laptop gives him 16GB of RAM with dedicated Nvidia graphics. And Thunderbolt support connects lightning-fast to his vast sample library.

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AKAI MPK MINI KEYBOARD A lot of mini keyboards are actually too bulky for travel. The MPK Mini crams 25 keys, eight pads, and eight assignable knobs into the slim footprint of a 13-inch MacBook. That means Mohawke can work in tight quarters, even 30,000 feet in the sky.

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TEENAGE ENGINEERING OP-1 It’s a synth, sampler, sequencer, and four-track recorder. Mohawke previously used another MIDI keyboard but went to OP-1 for compact, all-in-one versatility. A 16-hour battery means it won’t die on the flight from Chicago to Scotland.

Jonathon Kambouris

I N S ET : DA NI E L BO C Z A R S K I/ G ET T Y I M AG ES FO R KE T E L ON E

NEVER STOP EXPERIMENTING “I am still an aspiring producer. When you stop messing around with new means and structures of production, you become stagnant. If you start every song the same way, or on the same software, it becomes boring. This sounds cheesy, but if you don’t feel invigorated by what you are creating, it’s not worth it.”


ED ITED BY BREANNA DRAXLER + MATT G I LES

The largest wave of 2016? Aaron Gold’s 60-plus-foot wave at Jaws, which is off Maui’s North Shore.

Wa nt to see an epic surf ing fail? Check out popsci.com/science-of-wipeouts.

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P HOTOGR AP H BY

Mike Coots


MAY/JUNE 2016

141

Number of g i a nt waves at the 2016 Eddie Aikau tournament i n Wa i m ea Bay, which is held only wh e n waves top 35 feet.

Every few years, El Niño—the weather phenomenon caused by unusually high surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean—deals us some wild cards. Some are devastating, in the form of floods and droughts. Others are godsends, in the form of much-needed rain or this year’s gargantuan waves that gave surfers the ride of their lives. This past winter’s El Niño was one of the three strongest on record, creating waves with magnitudes not seen in nearly two decades. The breaks that pro surfers paddled into during the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational (pictured) in late February ranged from 40 to 60 feet. The monster swells, according to Mark Willis, chief meteorologist of the website Surfline, are the result of an extended southward Pacific jet stream—strong upper-level winds lift warm evaporation into the atmosphere and begin to turbulently churn that moisture. This action creates more intense and frequent storms that, when combined with offshore winds that help waves grow larger and break cleanly, lead to some once-in-a-lifetime surfing sets.

by ANNABEL EDWARDS

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Next

he Internet Is Broken EXCLUSIVE

Edward Snowden on our digital naiveté In 2013, a now-infamous government contractor named Edward Snowden shined a stark light on our vulnerable communications infrastructure by leaking 10,000 classified U.S. documents to the world. One by one, they detailed a mass surveillance program in which the National Security Administration and others gathered information on citizens—via phone tracking and tapping undersea Internet cables. Three years after igniting a controversy over personal privacy, public security, and online rights that he is still very much a part of, Snowden shares his thoughts on what’s still wrong and how to fix it. Ë

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Even if you don’t use the Internet or a smartphone, your information is handled by tax authorities and healthcare providers who route it over the Internet. This is a force for good, but it can also be abused— by small-time actors, criminals, and nations. During the Office of Personnel Management hack last summer, the government— arguably the world’s most well-resourced actor—was compromised. They weren’t even using encryption. There’s a great paper called ‘Keys Under Doormats.’ It says if you weaken security for an individual or for a class of individuals, you weaken it for everyone. Security based on trust is, by its very nature, insecure. Trust isn’t permanent. It changes based on situations and administrations. And this is not just an American thing; this happens in

every country worldwide. Think about the governments you fear the most, whether it is China, Russia, or North Korea. These spying capabilities exist for everyone. Before 2013, we were electronically exposed. We had to trust the people handling our communication not to abuse it—be it iMessage or Facebook. We no longer have to give it to them. We have other options. There is Tor [the free software that allows for anonymous online communication] and Signal [which does the same for smartphones]. We have WhatsApp, which is an end-to-end encrypted system—the only ones who can read and access the messages are the sender and the recipient. This is much safer against abuse than having AT&T hold a record of every text message you’ve ever sent. Security in the digital world is not something that can be selective. Technologists now share an obligation to clothe users— ways to ‘tokenize’ access to the Internet that divorces it from identity and doesn’t create trails. We should all be using it. If you want to call a cab, the cab doesn’t need to know who you are or your payment details. Today we create activity records of everything we do in our daily business. It’s a byproduct of living life. This is what has to change.

P HOTO G R A PH BY PL ATO N/ T R U N K A R C H I V E

Geeking Out


57 As told to M ATT G ILE S

Pe rcentage, according to a 2015 Pew study, o f A m e r ica n s wh o be l ieve the Feds shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t m o n i to r t h e i r co mmu nications


Next The Conversation

Here’s How We Fix It.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker of Citizenfour, a documentary about the Snowden-NSA affair

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA reveal, society has grappled with how to balance personal privacy 1 and public safety. Events like the mass terror attacks in San Bernardino, Brussels, and Paris have only raised the stakes. Records of our daily lives now exist on our smartphones. That is why the prospect of a federally sanctioned iPhone hack—even a one-time occurrence under the argument of national security— could open a Pandora’s box; 2 it could threaten future technological rights and human rights. U.S. presidential candidates are calling

for digital backdoors to a host of technologies, 3 which would allow access to private information. 4 This could create unintended entry points for rival governments and hackers, as well as damage the brands and trustworthiness of tech companies’ products. Some people say they don’t mind giving up privacy because they have nothing to hide. 5 But citizens in the U.S. and abroad have the right to be shielded and need to be shielded from state prying. 6 Encryption has gone from niche to necessary—the software and apps are no

1. The post-9/11 era was filled with impunity; there was no accountability. When a country maintains that culture over multiple decades and presidencies, it becomes hard to backtrack.

2. I trust the state, but only for very specific things. The reason we have laws and the Constitution is that trust is not enough.

3. The risks of all this private information being made public are very real. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of what can happen when that information is released.

4. Criminals and terrorists will always try to circumvent protections—it’s going to happen. We need to use the resources we have at organizations like the NSA to secure things, not break them.

A N D R EW BU RTON / GE T T Y I M AG ES

Laura Poitras

by M AT T G I L ES


MAY/JUNE 201 6

Jacob Appelbaum Computer security researcher, journalist, and member of the Tor project

longer just for those in the know. 7 They encode information, protecting reams of personal data (like medical records) 8 and meta data (like geospatial information) that are being uploaded to the cloud every second of the day. Safer software and hardware, however, might not be enough. Like the Bill of Rights, we’ll need a legal framework to

5. We are trying to install human-rights protections into the architecture of systems that people use by default every day. There will be people who don’t want to use those systems, but at least you won’t have to be a software expert to be protected.

6. Saying you don’t care about privacy is like saying you don’t care about free speech. Maybe you don’t feel that you personally need privacy, but you do believe a journalist or a lawyer or a doctor does.

M I C HA L A N D RYS I A K

7. There are people who were initially shocked by the idea of using computers to communicate, but now they are on Skype. People adapt to technology—they figure it out. Trusted cyber communication tools are ready and available.

8. When you centralize records, those computer systems are vulnerable. There are laws to protect that information, but criminals who break into a doctor’s computer don’t care about laws.

protect the Internet rights that we have, until now, taken for granted. 9 Future citizens, raised online with all of the inherent benefits and risks, 10 will hopefully better understand how to navigate these new digital waters. 11 They’ll insist on defending their freedom by controlling what information they let others—corporations and governments alike—see. 12

9. Privacy is not a futurist thing. If you can connect to the Internet now, someone can connect with you in a secure fashion, even behind firewalls.

10. What scares me is the next generation. They might take mass surveillance as the new normal. The people being targeted seem to be those who are limited in their understanding of what’s possible.

11. If you send a postcard, you don’t expect privacy. If you put it in an envelope, you do. It’s the same with the Internet. Yes, there will always be online governmental scrutiny—that won’t go away—but there will be strategies to preserve privacy, and tactics that can subvert unwarranted mass scrutiny.

JACOB’S DEVICES A German-made Cry ptophone, which he uses to call Julian Assange A n iPhone 5C with microphones re m oved to avoid tapping T h e e n c r y p t io n s e r v ice Silent Circle, which he uses to call a regular telephone network through To r Several Androids t h at r un o n free and secure so f twa re

12. If you are in middle school now, there is a good likelihood you already have a digital footprint. You’ll want to defend it, and defend the new kinds of democratic relationships it creates.

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Next Now & Later

What We’ll Wear to Mars The Evolution of the Space Helmet

In the 47 years since humans first stepped on the moon, space-helmet technology hasn’t exactly made a giant leap. But the prospect of exploring Mars has NASA’s designers scrambling for their drawing boards. “The requirements are different from anything we’ve done before,” says Dave Lavery, who leads NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program. They include durability (to withstand abrasion in wind storms), flexibility (for yearlong missions), and field of view (for 360-degree visibility). “The shape [of future helmets] is going to be driven by the ability to see your feet while walking on the rough surface of Mars,” says NASA’s Amy Ross, who designs space suits. Now it’s up to NASA to get us there.

by SA R A H F EC H T

PAST (1960s & ’70s) The iconic bubble helmet worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was built to withstand the moon’s extreme temperature swings and protect astronauts’ eyes from solar glare and radiation. At the back, the helmet’s fitted shape cushioned the head in case of an emergency during launch or landing.

PRESENT Today’s helmet is almost identical to the Apollo era’s—bulbous and locked solidly into the neck of the suit— except that this one has cameras and lights. Since the International Space Station circles the Earth every 92 minutes, astronauts might be suddenly plunged into darkness during a spacewalk, so lights are a must.

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MAY /JUNE 201 6

FUTURE (2030s & ’40s) On Mars, visibility and range of motion will be extremely important. That’s why the helmet for the BioSuit—one of the contending designs for a Mars mission—moves freely with the astronaut’s head, like a motorcycle helmet. It will also have a heads-up display with information on navigation, logistics, scheduling, situational awareness, and life support.

P H OTO G RA P H Y BY

Douglas Sonders

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Next Concepts & Prototypes

An Island Fit for a Bond Villain by CO RI NN E IOZZIO

Thanks to climate change, the 1 percent now have a new problem to worry about. As sea levels rise, their private islands are imperiled. With a new concept from Swiss submarinemaker Migaloo, islands no longer have to be so annoyingly stationary. Kokomo Ailand is a custom-built multistory megayacht that comes complete with a penthouse, submarine bays, a beach club, and a shark elevator.

Footprint: 98,304 square feet (384 feet long by 256 feet wide)

Hull depth: 67.25 feet Build time: Five to eight years Cost: TBD (What’s your Forbes rank?) Top speed: 7 knots (8 mph)

1. SOLID GROUND

2. RESORT SETTING

3. TRILLION DOLLAR VIEW

Like a cruise ship, Kokomo Ailand is a series of decks. They sit atop two massive pontoons, which remain submerged to keep the craft level. Four submersible towers extend below the pontoons; they house storage, service decks, and the four anchor lines that keep the Ailand in place.

At the edge of the superstructure, an artificial beachfront leads to a pool and an elevator-accessible oceanfront beach club. Above that, there’s a garden deck for sightseeing and outdoor dining, a spa deck with a gym and salon, and a jungle deck with palm trees and waterfalls.

The owner’s penthouse sits 26 stories above sea level, and includes a private gym and glass-bottom hot tub. His (or her) entourage can enjoy the 10 or more suites on the decks below.

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4. DEEP DIVES An elevator drops from the main deck to a viewing pod 10 feet below the ocean’s surface; pressure-proof glass protects those inside from swarming sharks and other sea life. For those who prefer more of a safety net, a glassedin dining room in one of the support towers also provides underwater views.

5. ESCAPE ROUTES The Ailand can accommodate up to four docking bays, custom-built for craft such as sailboats, subs, or even a fleet of personal watercraft. For Hollywood-style getaways, a helipad large enough for a 59-foot, 30-passenger Sikorsky S-61 sits just off the main deck.

6. FLIGHT PLAN Below each tower is a thruster called an azipod, developed in the 1980s for icebreakers and tankers. Unlike propellers, which push the water, azipod blades pull it. This reduces resistance for a smoother (and more-efficient) ride. The pods also rotate 360 degrees, eliminating the need for rudders.

C O U RT E SY M IGA L O O

MIGALOO SUBMARINES: KOKOMO AILAND


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MAY/JUNE 2016

Next Tech Trend

The Synthetic Butcher Shop

325,000

We depend on cows for food, clothing, and sometimes even insulin. Cattle, though, are expensive and inefficient—each cow drinks a bathtub of water and emits three times that volume of methane daily. There are also the ethics of animal slaughter. But we might no longer need the cow. Scientists are synthesizing the substances we normally get from cows by using bovine cells, yeast, and even bacteria.

by HEAT HE R HANS MAN

Cost, i n d o l l a rs, to bioengineer the f irs t lab - grow n hamburge r

MEAT Since tissue engineer Mark Post debuted an in vitro burger in 2013, several companies have tried to create tasty, scalable test-tube meat. Though Memphis Meats recently unveiled a cultured meatball, two challenges—chewability and cost—have derailed other attempts.

LEATHER To make lab-grown leather, Modern Meadow uses bovine cells to grow sheets of collagen, which are then tanned and cut into leather goods, such as jackets. A bonus: Workers don’t have deal with the hair or subcutaneous fat that comes with animal skin.

COLLAGEN

INSULIN Cow insulin moderates diabetics’ blood-sugar levels but can cause allergic reactions, and synthetic analog insulin must be carefully dosed. Now, researchers at MIT are synthesizing a new form of insulin that stays in the blood and activates only when sugar levels are too high.

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Muufri, a bioengineering startup, makes milk that’s more dairylike than almond or soy. The company adds 3-D-printed cow DNA into yeast cells, then harvests the milk protein it produces—like making penicillin or beer. Adding calcium and potassium, the mixture emusifies and gives it the same nutritional and textural qualities as milk.

Foreign antibodies can prevent animal tissue from being used on human injuries. But KOD— a synthetically derived collagen, stops bleeding, promotes tissue regrowth—and, because it lacks bovine genes, won’t be rejected.

CARTILAGE Biologists in Sweden are engineering cartilage tissue for human joints using cells from cow knees. Cartilage is tricky—it has to bend and stretch, but it regenerates slowly. “If we can make the process work with bovine cells, we can one day do the same with human cells,” says team member Janne Ylärinne.

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Next Insane Study

Science Confirms the Obvious

Meet the Tiniest Crop Duster by ANNABEL EDWARDS

To keep harmful pathogens, molds, and fungi at bay, farmers often spray crops with chemicals. But a company called Bee Vectoring Technology has developed an environmentally friendly alternative in which bees carry and deliver a fungus that kills off the bad stuff. Normally, a farmer with an acre of apples sprays about 13 pounds of streptomycin to protect the fruit from fire blight, which can destroy entire orchards. But with the new bee system, a tray at the hive entrance coats the bees’ hairy legs with a natural powderized fungus called BVT-CR7. The fungus acts as an endophyte, and grows harmlessly on the plant. It also prevents parasites and bacteria from taking hold. As the bees forage for nectar

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and pollen, they deposit the powderized fungus—of which only 0.04 pounds is necessary— on individual apple blossoms. The delivery method is extremely efficient: A hive of 300 can cover 10 million flowers. Michael Collinson, CEO of Bee Vectoring Technology, says field tests have shown the method is harmless to the bees. It might offer some relief by limiting the amount of pesticides they would normally encounter. Last May, the USDA said pesticides could be contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that wipes out a large percentage of a hive’s worker bees. “If you reduce pesticides,” Collinson says, “you’re going to help bee populations by putting less pressure on them.”

WE HATE BEING HOT As if the climate-change debate weren’t heated enough, it turns out that as global temperatures rise, so do tempers. A UC Berkeley researcher has gathered a dataset from social media that links warmer weather and general crankiness. –CORINNE IOZZIO

HOT TEM P ER S Environmental economist Patrick Baylis wanted to quantify what the incremental effects of climate change mean for the average person, so he fed a billion geo-located tweets from 2014 and 2015 into a computer model. It scored each post’s sentiment based on factors such as profanity and word choice (e.g., “furious” meant a greater displeasure than “hate”).

HOTTER TEM P ER ATUR ES Baylis then mapped sentiments against the average temperature where each tweet originated. The increase in misery between a 70-degree day and a 90-degree day was equivalent to the drop between the end of a weekend and the start of a work week. And that’s after he compensated for factors such as income, location, and humidity.

HOTTEST TR END Baylis paired his results with climate projections through 2099. As Earth warms, he predicts unfavorable mood swings—largely in cool states like Wisconsin and Minnesota. Since people might crank up the air conditioner to counteract rising temps, he hinted at climate change’s broader cost. “Would I be willing to pay a buck to have it be a 70-degree day?” Baylis wonders. A $1 isn’t much, but the beach might just be a cheaper option to beat the heat.

FR O M R I G HT : I L LU ST R AT IO N BY M I KE Y B U RTON ; P H OTO GR A P H BY D EJ E N ME N GI S / US GS B E E I N V E N TORY A N D MON I TORI N G L A B

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1

THE 2016 INVENTION AWARDS 38

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AVIATION

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLANE EVER MADE David Loury isn’t a classic-car kind of guy. But when he decided to radically redesign the private plane, he turned to luxury automobiles— and their design-forward aesthetic—for inspiration. “Maserati and Mercedes-Benz were the two main cars I looked at, and I engineered ideas and concepts from them,” says the independent aerospace engineer. Those concepts evolved into the Valkyrie: a five-seat, singlepiston-engine plane that he calls a “high-tech vehicle of the future.” The Valkyrie’s exterior certainly looks futuristic—and beautiful.


MAY/JUNE 201 6

I M AG E C O URT ESY C OBA LT

2

1

With a 350-horsepower engine, the Valkyrie can reach 260 knots (300 miles per hour). It has a range of 1,200 miles.

2

Valkyrie’s single-piece Plexiglas canopy is the largest ever on a private plane, providing a 320degree view.

That’s because Loury designed it to have aesthetic proportions: “a convex profile in the front, a concave one in the back, and an inflection point where they join.” In addition to looking good, Loury wanted Valkyrie to be efficient and easy to fly. So he gave it a canard, a second wing near the nose that supplies additional lift. This helps make the plane up to 20 percent faster, with

P H OTO ILLU ST RAT IO N BY

less fuel burn, than a Cessna or comparable aircraft. The canard also makes it nearly impossible to stall—to lose lift in midair. Coupled with simple controls (just one handle-to-handle throttle) and the information-rich Garmin G3X flight-display system, Valkyrie is extremely user-friendly. “When you start the engine, it’s as easy to control as a car,” Loury says. “So even if you are a bad pilot, it will forgive your errors.” Loury’s startup, Cobalt, plans to start filling preorders for the

Eric Heintz

Invention: Valkyrie Inventor: David Loury Company: Cobalt Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

experimental version of the plane, Valkyrie X, as early as late 2016, and aims to make the consumer version, Co50 Valkyrie, available in mid-2017. The only thing standing between you and a Co50 Valkyrie is the $750,000 price tag. “It’s not cheap to make a plane like this,” says Loury. But he points out the price is only slightly more than similar private aircraft. “Before the Valkyrie, the offerings weren’t glamorous or fun,” he says, “and not nearly worth the effort.” MATT GILES

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20 16

I NVE NTI O N AWARDS

RECREATION

FINALLY, A HOVERBOARD THAT FLIES 1

Duru controls his altitude and speed using a handheld remote fashioned from a pair of pliers.

2

Snowboard bindings strap his feet to the frame.

2

1 Invention: Omni Inventor: Alexandru Duru

On May 22, 2015, Lake Ouareau in Quebec, Canada, was peaceful and sunny. Then something straight out of science fiction roared across the water. Alexandru Duru, balancing on a homemade hoverboard 16 feet above the surface, flew a distance of 905 feet, 2 inches—smashing the previous Guinness World Record (a measly 164 feet) for the farthest hoverboard flight. “Riding it is a feeling that no other machine can provide,” Duru says. “Nothing comes close.” Duru, a software engineer, has devoted the past five years to perfecting his hoverboard design, called Omni. His first attempt was little more than a piece of wood strapped to a motor and propeller. The current iteration—refined by his new company, Omni Hoverboards, and local university students—is made from carbon fiber but still has a DIY feel: It achieves lift with eight large propellers, powered by 16 lithium-polymer batteries. Duru and his team are now developing a second prototype that’s sleeker, more powerful, and safe enough for an eager public. He plans for it to be ready for distribution by 2017. “Most people imagine a future with hoverboards in them,” he says. “I think it’s going to happen for sure.” ALYSSA FAV REAU

Company: Omni Hoverboards Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

40

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P HOTOGR AP HY BY

John Kealey


MAY/JUNE 201 6

Q&A With Adam Savage

LIFETIME INSPIRATION AWARD

THE MYTHBUSTERS

M A A RT EN DE BO E R /G E T T Y I M AG ES

If science and technology are best left to professionals, nobody told Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. For 14 seasons, they have provided scientific reality checks to more than 1,000 common myths on their hit TV series, MythBusters. This March, it came to a close. During their run, the dynamic duo and their co-hosts determined the truth not by quoting expert opinions, but by conducting their own rough-and-ready experiments. Although they did consult experts, “We always based our conclusions on something we saw happen,” Savage says. Before MythBusters, “DIY” usually referred to building a bookcase or insulating an attic. But the series showed us a quirkier, more creative application for hands-on skills. Nearly every myth called for a testing contraption, often involving explosives or firearms, operated by hosts who clearly loved creating gonzo rigs. You couldn’t watch without getting the itch to break out a power tool. It’s no coincidence, then, that Savage and Hyneman’s popularity coincided with the rise of the maker movement, which celebrates fun and often wildly impractical creations. “They were an enormous inspiration to the movement,” says Mark Hatch, CEO of the maker mecca TechShop. Savage and Hyneman would call that myth busted. “We stumbled on a way of doing the show that surfed the wave,” Hyneman says. Still, they taught us all that technology exists to be used, abused, hacked, and modified. JA M ES B. M EIG S

How do you get started on a project? When I build stuff, I like to have the materials I will work with in front of me so I can understand them. But before getting to them, I do construction and problem solving in my head. The process of building in my head is one of my favorite feelings—I get an endorphin rush. Drawing helps me remember the ideas I am having. I certainly think the pencil is one of the most powerful tools for invention ever. I use this really wonderfully crappy Paper Mate Sharpwriter No. 2 mechanical pencil. I pick one up and I feel like inventing. Any tips for DIYers? Be ready to build everything three to four times. It is a developmental process, and I never get it right the first time. Being open to that fact helps free me up. For

some reason, it took me a while to understand that starting from scratch is the most powerful thing I can do. As tedious as it might seem, the result is better—the second try is almost always better than the first. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and overcome? At a certain point in every build, I have felt like it would be a total failure. I’d get 70 percent into it, and I would think that this is a piece of crap; why waste so much time on it? Then I would realize I have to push through. But it still happens. I feel that way on almost everything I do. Do you ever take a day off? No, I am so addicted to making things. There are days I don’t build anything, but I am always thinking. That’s how I function best. AS TOLD TO MATT GILES

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20 16

I NVE NTI O N AWARDS

ENERGY

SELFPOWERED CAMERA At first glance, the boxy “eternal camera” looks like an old daguerreotype device. But appearances are deceiving. This is something new— a camera that powers itself. The computer vision lab at Columbia University, led by computer scientist Shree K. Nayar, created this everlasting camera by making

1

The eternal camera’s image sensor uses 1,200 photodiodes in a 30-by-40 array.

photodiodes—devices that convert light into electricity —do double duty. In digital cameras, photodiodes measure light. In solar panels, they harvest energy. The eternal camera’s photodiodes do both jobs. This enables the camera to generate enough power to take photos forever—as long as there’s light available. Nayar’s team began by building just one double-duty photodiode. Mounted on a robot that slowly moved it in a grid, it captured an entire picture one pixel at a time, which took about an hour. The current iteration of the camera incorporates 1,200 pixels and takes a photo every

Invention: Eternal camera Inventors: Shree K. Nayar Mikhail Fridberg Daniel C. Sims Affiliation: Columbia University

second, displaying the images on an external monitor. The group next plans to reduce the camera’s size while increasing its speed and resolution. That way it could be used for specialty projects where size and access to power are concerns: to track wildlife as part of conservation projects, to use less power on space-exploration missions, or to provide round-the-clock security. For Nayar, the camera’s appeal goes beyond its technical accomplishments. “There’s a romantic aspect to this,” he says. “To have anything that can produce information without consuming power, that can go on forever— it’s a powerful concept.” ALYSSA FAV REAU

Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

2 1

3

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2

Each photodiode measures the light that passes through a lens and turns it into an electrical signal, which represents a single pixel. Combined, the signals create an image—just as they do in a standard camera.

3

Unlike conventional cameras, each of the eternal camera’s photodiodes are wired into a special circuit, which takes some of the electricity produced from the absorbed light and stores it in a capacitor to power itself.

I L LU ST R AT I ON BY

M C K I BI L LO


ROBOTICS

THE ROBOT COMPANION

As a child, Star Wars. They were not robots to be, but they also later, as an expert in social robotics at MIT, Breazeal robotic assistant with the same endearing charm. launched an Indiegogo

C O URT ESY JI B O

Most smart machines, ple from one another. “We all know this image of the dinner table where everybody’s staring at their devices,” Breazeal says. Not so with Jibo. “He really feels like he’s part of the family,” she says. Like any good assistant, Jibo takes calls and gives alerts. The 7.6-pound, nearly foot-high robot can recognize faces and autonomously learn individual preferences. He can even recite a favorite bedtime story or snap photos on demand. Those who shelled out an extra $100 during the initial crowdfunding campaign will get a developers’ version of Jibo (standard home versions were offered for $499), so they can continually add to his repertoire after he ships to backers this summer.

Jibo inquisitively cocks his head while conversing in an eager voice. His touchscreen face swivels to follow the user and displays a range of friendly expressions. Invention: Jibo

the experience of technology in the home,” she says. “But I forget she’s there half the time. Jibo brings that sense of high-touch engagement and personal attention.” opportunity for innovating

SARAH STANLEY

Inventors: Cynthia Breazeal (pictured) Jonathan Ross Fardad Faridi Andy Atkins Rich Sadowsky Todd Pack Company: Jibo Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

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20 16

I NVE NTI O N AWARDS

MANUFACTURING

FASTEST 3-D PRINTER EVER

BREAKOUT YOUNG INVENTOR AWARD

ANN MAKOSINSKI Ann Makosinski’s first serious toy was a box of transistors. She’s been tinkering ever since, creating projects with a hot-glue gun and household items. A few years ago, she used her hobby to solve a real-world problem. A friend in the Philippines mentioned she was failing school; without electricity, she couldn’t do her homework at night. So Makosinski devised a flashlight powered by the heat of your hand. It uses peltier tiles, which generate electricity when one side is hotter than the other, to draw energy from the heat difference between hand and air. Makosinski submitted her invention to the 2013 Google Science Fair and won first place in her age group. She has since nabbed prizes from competitions such as the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and has twice appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Makosinski is now enrolled at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but hitting the books hasn’t stopped her from inventing. Her latest creation is the eDrink, which uses the heat from a coffee mug to charge a phone for 30 minutes. SA RA H F EC HT

During a TedTalk in March 2015, Joseph DeSimone quietly revolutionized 3-D printing. With little fanfare, he printed a palm-size geodesic sphere, a task that normally takes hours, in a little over six minutes. A serial entrepreneur, DeSimone had devised his rapid 3-D-printing method with help from his former postdoc Alex Ermoshkin. Instead of using conventional techniques, they drew inspiration from the liquid-metal T-1000 assassin in Terminator 2. Like the fictional robot, their M1 printer “grows” solid objects out of liquid—by applying ultraviolet light and oxygen to resin in a technique called Continuous Liquid Interface Production, or CLIP. “We’re using light as a very delicate chisel that can make complex, amazing things,” DeSimone says. The result is 25 to 100 times faster than conventional printing. It also works with more materials, including the entire polymer family, and at a higher resolution than competitors, which build objects in layers—making CLIP ideal for custom commercial manufacturing. Now the company DeSimone co-founded, Carbon, is partnering with BMW, Johnson & Johnson, and others to do just that. ALYSSA FAV REAU

Invention: Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) Inventors: Joseph DeSimone Alex Ermoshkin Ed Samulski Company: Carbon Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

Carbon created this sphere as a test of the printer’s ability to work with acrylate resin.


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ACCESSIBILITY

QUEST FOR THE HOLY BRAILLE Digital tablets provide access to a world of information— but there’s no elegant, affordable way for the visually impaired to read from them. That’s because current braille readers, which attach to the bottom of a tablet, provide room for only one line of text at a time. Researchers at the University of Michigan, led by Brent Gillespie, Alex Russomanno, Mark Burns, and Sile

O’Modhrain, hope to develop a refreshable display to translate an entire page at once. The project was partially motivated by O’Modhrain, who is visually impaired. “Existing displays don’t allow you to access lots of braille code and graphical information,” she says. “Math and music codes, for example, are displayed spatially, so that they’re spread over multiple lines.” Existing technology could conceivably allow for a full-page braille screen that refreshes like a tablet. But the price would be astronomical. For instance, single-line displays that rely on electronics cost more than $3,000; expanding them to a full page

Invention: Holy Braille Inventors: Brent Gillespie Alex Russomanno Mark Burns (not pictured) Sile O’Modhrain Affiliation: University of Michigan

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Each dot sits on an inflatable bubble.

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Air or liquid flows into a specific channel to reach the bubble, which inflates and lifts that dot.

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A microfluidic chip controls the pattern that emerges.

could potentially raise the price to as high as $55,000. To reduce that cost, the team chose to make their device with microfluidics. Here’s how: A refreshable display must raise and lower braille dots—a full page might include up to 10,000—to create a pattern. In the team’s device, a microfluidic chip controls this process by moving small doses of fluid through tiny channels. Their prototype is only a couple of inches wide, but the team hopes to expand it to a full-page display that would cost $1,000 to $2,000. As for the device’s name, collaborator Noel Runyan coined a popular moniker: Holy Braille. XAV IER H ARD ING

Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

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I NVE NTI O N AWARDS

GADGETS

PRECISE 3-D SCANNING ON THE GO

DRONES

A DRONE FOR THE EVERYDAY COUSTEAU Four years ago, Eric Stackpole and David Lang were on a quest for treasure: They wanted to build a cheap remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and explore an underwater cave rumored to contain gold. For help, they turned to likeminded enthusiasts online. An open-source community quickly formed to contribute to the ROV’s design. The treasure proved elusive, but Stackpole and

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Invention: Trident Inventors: Eric Stackpole David Lang Company: OpenROV Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

Lang still found success: They discovered a market for affordable, collaborative underwater exploration. The pair decided to produce a kit that would make such exploration “accessible to everyone,” Lang says. So far, thousands of people have used it to do things like observe melon-headed whales and discover biofluorescence in a clam species. Now their company, OpenROV, has built a new vehicle called Trident—a drone that works right out of the box. Thousands of people in their online community helped OpenROV develop Trident’s new features: a dive depth of 100 meters, a three-thruster design that allows for delicate maneuvers,

Invention: eora 3D Inventors: Rahul Koduri Asfand Khan Richard Boers Company: eora 3D Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

and a sleek profile that provides steadier, faster movement. This enables Trident to perform transects, which is when it semi-autonomously travels in long parallel lines to capture the topography of a seabed or lake bed. Users will also be able to modify their drones with extra tools, such as special lighting systems and water samplers. Not to mention, the inventors say, Trident is fun to control. “Normal ROVs feel much slower and heavier,” Lang says. Steering Trident is “almost like flying a jet fighter,” Stackpole adds. “When you get down there and start looking around, it’s addictive.” OpenROV plans to start shipping the drone in November. SARAH STANLEY

COURT ESY EORA 3D

In 2012, Rahul Koduri, Asfand Khan, and Richard Boers were designing a solar tracking system. But it didn’t work. To find out what went wrong, they needed to find out how the shape of a metal dish had warped—by performing a 3-D scan. “The cheapest option we could find for a scanner was $20,000, which we couldn’t afford,” Khan says. “So we patched something together using open-source libraries, a camera, and a cheap laser.”


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While doing online research to refine their home-built device, the team realized other DIYers wanted their own cheap, accurate 3-D scanners. So they put aside the solar project and created eora 3D. It’s a smartphoneconnected laser scanner that achieves the same resolution as an industrial scanner but at a much lower price: $319. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the device will begin shipping to backers in June. The key to eora 3D is that it harnesses the processing power of smartphones, making it “as much a software innovation as a hardware innovation,” says Khan. There are other smartphone scanners, but they are low-resolution. That’s because they stitch together

photos without capturing reliable depth data. Eora 3D achieves higher precision via a soda-can-size device that attaches to the smartphone and sweeps a green laser across an object. The laser allows the phone to capture depth data for each pixel as the phone snaps photos. The smartphone app then stitches more than a thousand of these images into a digital model. To capture the object from all angles, users can place it on a Bluetooth-connected turntable, which rotates in sync with the laser. The turntable, which comes with the device, is ideal for scanning small objects. For larger ones, eora 3D can take a few scans at different angles and stitch them together later. SA RA H STA N LE Y

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An HD video camera captures the underwater scene.

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A neutrally buoyant tether sends live video and other flight data to the surface.

TASTIEST INVENTOR AWARD

ALTON BROWN Food Network star Alton Brown began hacking (his preferred term) kitchen devices on his food-science show, Good Eats. During season one, he made a fish smoker from a cardboard box. Since then, his hacks have grown in size and showmanship. For his first national culinary variety show in 2014, Edible Inevitable, Brown built his Mega Bake oven, which uses 54 one-thousand-watt lights to cook a pizza in three minutes. And his Jet Cream—two fire extinguishers, one filled with CO2 and the other with a “top secret” chocolate-cream mixture—makes carbonated ice cream in just 10 seconds. “Experimentation is the finest expression of curiosity,” says Brown, who is currently on his second tour, Eat Your Science. “It’s trying to match what you know with what you can learn and what can be done. So what do I say to kids and young adults? Take apart the lawnmower. Build the jetpack. And don’t forget the kitchen is a laboratory, and there’s one in every house.” JASON LED ERMAN

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HEALTH

SWALLOW A PILL TO MONITOR YOUR VITALS Vital signs are key indicators of health. But tracking some of these signals, such as the body’s core temperature, can require invasive tactics— which is especially problematic for active or injured patients. Almost anyone, however, can swallow a pill. That’s what Giovanni

Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Harvard Medical School, and Al Swiston, a biomaterials scientist at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, realized when they met at a work event in 2012. At the time, Traverso was working on ingestible devices and Swiston on vital-sign monitoring—so they decided to join forces to create what Traverso calls “an ingestible stethoscope.” “It’s basically a really tiny microphone that is able to listen just like the doctor would,” says Swiston. The PSM pill (short for “physiological status monitoring”) contains special microphones that pick up the sounds of the heart and lungs, as well as a tiny thermometer

Invention: PSM Pill Inventors: Giovanni Traverso Robert Langer Al Swiston Affiliation: Harvard Medical School, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory

that measures core body temperature. It is the only pill of its kind that can track three vital signs at once. So far, the prototype has successfully been tested in pigs, and the team plans to try it in humans next. If all goes well, the military could one day use the device to monitor soldiers in the field for hypothermia or dehydration. A marathon runner could closely track her heart rate during a race. And doctors could look for abnormal heart rhythms or early signs of asthma. The researchers hope to one day incorporate drug delivery so the pill could also treat the conditions it detects. CLAIRE MALDARELLI

Maturity: 쏆쏆쏆쏆쏆

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Once a person swallows the pill, hydrophones (microphones that work underwater) pick up sounds coming from the heart and lungs, while a small thermometer measures core body temperature.

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The monitor sends the sound and temperature data to a computer, where an algorithm separates the waveforms of the sounds into two distinct tracks: one for respiratory rate and one for heart rate.

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As the pill travels through the GI tract, the doctor is able to continue monitoring vital signs until the pill passes—which happens within a day or two.

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C OU RT ESY M X3 D; A LL IN V E NTO R I M AG ES C O URT ESY O F TH E I N V E N TORS

The multiaxis industrial robots are essentially robotic arms equipped with extruding tools and the software to control them.

ARCHITECTURE

A BRIDGE PRINTER For the past 12 years, the Joris Laarman Lab in Amsterdam has crafted experimental furniture and artwork. To produce their more ambitious designs, Laarman and his partners adopted 3-D printing early on. But existing printers couldn’t produce their larger creations. So the team built its own system, called multiaxis 3-D printing, or MX3D.

“We thought, ‘Why not get an industrial robot, attach an advanced welding machine to it, and see what it does?’” says Tim Geurtjens, chief technology officer of Joris Laarman Lab and its spinoff R&D company, also called MX3D. First, the team developed software to control the industrial robotic arm. Then they attached extruders—the parts of printers that push out material—to it and started printing with copper and aluminum. Most 3-D printers attach the extruding tools to a frame, which gives them three axes of movement. The MX3D

Invention: MX3D Inventors: Tim Geurtjens Joris Laarman Gijs van der Velden Company: MX3D

has six: It is a mobile, freely moving robot that can travel with and around the printed structure to build an object of nearly any size or shape. To showcase MX3D’s ability to create durable, large-scale objects, the team is printing a fully functioning steel bridge in Amsterdam—a city of 165 canals. They wanted to do a project that would demonstrate the technology and inspire people at the same time. “So we came to the idea of printing a footbridge,” Geurtjens says, “since we are from Amsterdam, after all.” GRENNAN MILLIKEN

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iNveNtOr’s haNDBOOk B Y R AC H E L N U W E R /// I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y D O U B L E N AU T

We are living in a golden age of invention. Makerspaces and online creator communities abound; information is abundant and free; equipment is affordable and available; and crowdsourcing platforms offer a great way to test interest and build excitement around a new idea—as well as to fund it. Because barriers to entry are practically nonexistent, these days anyone can be an inventor. As a result, the number of amateur creators is on the rise. Nearly half of American adults now refer to themselves as “makers.” Most important, people of every age, gender, and background are involved in this movement. “You don’t have to be an expert in a field in order to make an original contribution,” says Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera and a 2011 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee. “You can become an inventor simply by having an idea, working on it, and refining it.”

››

iDeATiON

Every Wednesday we do a live Google+ hangout called Show and Tell. People from around the world show off what they’re working on. Solving problems that they bring to us is the number-one place I get inspiration for new ideas.

I’m inspired by everyone around me, and by reading about what things are like in other parts of the world. When I see someone struggling, I want to do everything I can to ease that struggle.

liMOR fRieD

CEO, Other Machine Co.

Founder and Lead Engineer, Adafruit

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DANiellE APPlesTONE

In historical studies of inventors, we’ve discovered that they often find the world to be irritating, and they want to fix it.

A lot of inventions that come about are because new technologies allow people to apply or combine them in ways that haven’t been done before.

eRiC HiNtZ Historian, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian

lEON SANDleR Executive Director, Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT


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So you have an idea. How do you know if it can bring you fame and fortune? Follow this flowchart to find out.

Try again!

Try again!

DOeS A SiMilAR PRODUct AlReADY eXisT? Not really

Yes

Can you hire or partner with someone who can help?

No

Does your idea somehow improve on what’s already out there?

No

Yes

Not sure Yes Is there a market for it?

Nope

Yes Will it be an affordable, competitively priced product?

Run the idea by 20 to 50 experts and/or potential customers. Do they express enthusiasm and interest? Not sure

Yes

Are you driven, passionate, and stubborn about your idea yet intellectually honest with yourself?

Yes Meh, I just want money and fame

Yes

You’re a hobbyist inventor!

Let’s go!

Yes

Are you willing to invest years of your life bringing this thing to market?

Um, not really

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PROTOtYPiNG

Fear of failure (or looking crazy or stupid) is the biggest hurdle for inventors. “You can’t be concerned with that,” says Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits, a platform of easy-to-use modules that snap together into electronic projects. “You have to get over it and just jump.”

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1 Research & Model Inventors, like artists, start with representations before they attempt to make something. Among their methods and tools:

>

RESEARCH The Internet is a great way to find available materials and possible technologies and techniques you can apply. The broader your search, the better. Mixing disciplines often produces the best results. DRAWING Pencil and paper MODELING Cardboard, X-Acto knife, tape and hot glue

>

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DIGITAL MODELING > 2-D and

MILLING MACHINES >

3-D modeling and design software, such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks

Commonly used in industry for producing parts with precise sizes and shapes 3-D PRINTERS Used to create three-dimensional objects in plastic, metal, wax, nylon, and more LASER CUTTERS Uses a high-power beam to make exact cuts at high speeds

2 Experiment The creative process requires trial and error— you must test your prototype, tweak it to make it work better, and then test it again. Repeat over and over again until there’s no room for improvement. The goal is to quickly and inexpensively prove the technical feasibility of your product. Tools for this phase include:

>

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ELECTRONICS TOOLS > Such as a multimeter for measuring electric resistance, voltage, and current; an oscilloscope for debugging circuits; and a soldering iron

3 Finalize The final prototype should be presentable for potential investors and customers.

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SCALING UP The tools you used in the experimental phase might get the job done, but your final prototype will be built to scale and it will likely entail more expensive materials and more careful design. OUTSIDE HELP If a prototype’s final creation requires skills you don’t have and can’t easily learn, hire expert help.

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››

fUNDiNG Most inventions that die—the good and the bad alike— do so because of a lack of money. For those who are not independently wealthy, there are many options for funding the invention process.

Crowdfunding S. Brett Walker chose Kickstarter to fund the Circuit Scribe—a rollerball pen filled with conductive ink— because his invention was straightforward (“Everyone knows how to use a pen”) and inexpensive. He also thought it would be a boon for the maker community, which is active on crowdfunding sites; such platforms can also test interest in an idea.

Competitions In 2007, NASA challenged the public to design the next generation of astronaut gloves. Peter Homer, an engineer, took

first place for his design and used the prize money to start a company. Similar invention challenges are hosted by Netflix, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and—for young inventors—the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Georgia Tech.

Self-funding Limor Fried started Adafruit by investing $10,000 of her own money. This let her test interest and get immediate feedback. “Rather than trying to raise $5 million and then blowing it all because there’s a flaw that you didn’t realize, first do a small manufacturing run of a handmade design, using money you put in

yourself,” she says. If customers like your idea and you listen to their feedback, she says, you’ll soon see profits.

way to pitch your idea is a personal connection or an introduction: “Investors find social validation to be valuable,” she says.

Investors

Outsourcing

Prior to co-founding the company behind communications gadget goTenna, Daniela Perdomo worked with tech startups. So she already had venturecapitalist connections. They provided funds to build goTenna, in exchange for a slice of the company. “If you don’t have a network in the tech world, there are a lot of VCs and angels who publicly post their emails or are active on Twitter,” she says. But the best

Licensing or selling your intellectual property can spare you the hassles of a startup. For Alexander Nectow, the co-inventor of Retro-TRAP—which enables high-resolution molecular studies of the brain—licensing to two drug companies was a no-brainer. “My major interests are in basic science and research, not starting a company,” he says. “I preferred to let others apply the tool for their own needs.”

TO MARKeT Ideally, you’ve been developing a community of “true believers,” as tech entrepreneur Danielle Applestone calls them—people who know about and support your product. Get your prototypes into their hands first. Not only will those people provide valuable feedback, they’ll also spread the word. To extend your reach, evangelize about your product at conferences, meetups, and hackathons, and write about it in forums and blogs. The media can also help you reach new audiences and build your customer base. Seize upon every opportunity for an interview, even if it’s not with a major news outlet; you never know who the story might reach. Most companies hire professional marketers to help with this phase. Finally, use feedback and market research to determine demand. This will help you set the pace for scaling up.

The challenges of scaling up production often catch inventors off-guard, so the earlier you begin thinking about manufacturing and introducing yourself to manufacturers, the better equipped you will be for the future. A typical company might reach 1 percent of the total market in its first year, 3 percent in its second, and 5 percent in its third. So if your total market is about 10,000 people, you’ll need to make 100 products your first year. For anything fewer than 1,000 units, you should probably just build your products in-house, following the same procedures you used for your prototype. For 1,000 to 5,000 products, team up with nearby manufacturers to ensure an easy working relationship and low transportation costs. Once you hit 10,000 units, however, you’ll need to find a large-contract manufacturer.


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A COTTAGE INDUSTRY


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D R O N E - KOTA

the downtown Fargo office of the startup Botlink, engineers, code writers, and executives huddled around me, thrusting a tablet to show off their app, an air traffic control interface that allows even the least skilled to fly a drone without crashing it into a plane. “Real-time data distribution,” said one. “The orange circles show restricted airspace around airports. You want a beer? A Coke?” With the exception of the executives, all sharp smiles and good hair, the entourage was pure geek: sneakers and hoodies that limited exposure to sunlight and, in the Zuckerberg era, seemed to suggest imminent innovation and subsequent riches. I had arrived in North Dakota last June, in the same week MarketWatch declared it the “Silicon Valley of drones.” At each stop I was regaled with the vocabulary of promise—disruptive tech,

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NOBODY CALLS THEM DRONES. THAT’S A FOURLETTER WORD AROUND THESE PARTS

THANKS TO the shale oil boom, North Dakota’s economy and population has led the nation in growth—the state leapfrogged Alaska to become our 47th largest. Just as crude is fracked to the surface, so is money fracked to the east, where roughnecks deposit wives and children in the leafy lanes and solid schools of Fargo and Grand Forks, far from the oily man-camps. Now, as oil prices plummet and production drops off, North Dakota sees drones as its chance to develop a bust-proof tech sector. It is worth noting here that nobody official calls them drones. They say unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Drones, as one pilot told me, is a four-letter word around these parts. Another conceded the word had a “delicate public perception.” Grand Forks exudes warmth and trust—a tidy little city: not too rich, not too poor. As I cruised its broad streets listening to Polka Hour on the radio, I saw evidence everywhere of prosperity. As just one informal yardstick, the city of 56,000 boasts three sushi joints. I stayed in a spanking-new motel out by the interstate, in a cluster of similar motels plunked down like Monopoly pieces on freshly poured concrete. Upon registration I was required to sign a paper promising not to smuggle a hockey stick into my room. A sign in the elevator read: “We suggest that if your plans are to ‘PARTY’ after midnight, that you please take it to somewhere else. Be respectful of others and everyone will have a great stay.” That could be the state’s motto. The North Dakotans I met are pursuing their quixotic quest with archetypal Midwestern pluck. A professor of aviation gifted me a school medallion stamped “VENTURUM TEMPUS PROSPECTUS: Looking to the Future.” A brigadier general said that folks here were not just nice, but North Dakota nice. This flat state’s chief selling point as a nascent drone industry, though, might not be what it has, but what it lacks: There are fewer people and things to collide with should your craft, as one airman put it, “come into contact with the ground.” Indeed, one of the first things you’ll see, speeding away from Grand

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green fields, incubators, and accelerators. In the booming economy of drone technology, North Dakota has been an early and enthusiastic adopter. The Federal Aviation Administration chose it as one of six official drone test sites, and the entire state permits unmanned flights at night and at altitudes of 1,200 feet (as opposed to daylight and up to 200 feet, as per the rest of the nation). The U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, and border patrol all pilot drones from Grand Forks Air Force Base. Adjacent to that, Northrup Grumman is building a facility as the anchor tenant at the Grand Sky unmanned aerial systems business and aviation park—the nation’s first. And the University of North Dakota launched the nation’s first undergraduate program in drone piloting in 2009. The state Department of Commerce pointed me to Botlink as an example of “the vibrancy of the sector,” so I followed the team of coders into the creaky elevator of their prewar building and drove with them to a city park. There, they hefted a quadcopter from the trunk, laid it on

grass, and fired up the rotors. But something wasn’t meshing with the smartphone, so an engineer named Tandy bent over to shut it down. When he reached into the rotors, he yelped—blood shot through the air. He sucked on his finger and spat red, and finally someone asked, “Do you need a bandage, dude?” The question was moot because nobody had a bandage, but one guy offered a wadded-up napkin from his jeans pocket. It was quickly soaked red. No matter. The drone again whirred to life and soared skyward. Before it could cross the lawn, the pilot detected that the app was not communicating with the drone—an earlier crash broke the antenna—so he landed the thing manually, packed it up, and we drove back to the office. It was not exactly the sort of tech disruption I had imagined. But my tour of North Dakota had just begun—and even the Wright Brothers crashed a few planes, right?


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Forks airport, is a red, white, and blue building that screams GENEROUS GERRY’S FIREWORKS SUPERSTORE, and you’ll think, “Ah yes, come here to do dangerous stuff that is elsewhere banned.” For many years the only drone users were the military and hobbyists, who were largely unregulated. Then in 2014, the FAA began to issue special exemptions to existing regulations. By the time I got to Grand Forks, 664 companies across the nation had been granted exemptions (the figure has since reached 3,000 and continues to climb). But while the companies are allowed to fly—say, for aerial photography or pipeline inspections—they are not allowed to fly out of the pilot’s line of sight. Amazon, for example, can’t make deliveries here. To test experimental delivery aircraft and techniques, Amazon has been working in Canada, the U.K., and Denmark. Smaller companies with fewer resources would probably have to partner with one of the six FAA-approved test sites, such as the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site in Grand Forks. “Until recently, there was no way for a civilian entity to fly an unmanned aircraft,” the site’s executive director, Robert Becklund, told me. Now that’s changing, and North Dakota is eager to help it along. Becklund—a lean pilot who’s all fighter-jet

competence with clipped hair and a crisp black polo—seized my hand. “My suspicion,” he said, “is that by the end of the week, you’ll be pretty enamored with the place.”

THE SPEEDWAY 805 Grill & Bar is a brick block on shadeless 42nd Street in Grand Forks. The parking lot smelled like bacon. Inside, Matt Dunlevy and Jack Wilcox gulped dark beer from glass steins as big as their heads. They were from SkySkopes, a startup specializing in aerial photography that recently won a commercial

Future pilots in th e Un iversi ty o f No r th Dakota’s drone -flying program (above). Pilot f ield tra i n i n g, l i tera l ly, n ea r gra z i n g cattl e (left).

exemption from the FAA. Dunlevy wore basketball shorts, a T-shirt, and rubber sandals. Sitting across from him, obscured by a plastic tumbler of Coke, sat SkySkopes’ pilot, Connor Grafius, dressed in an oxford shirt buttoned to the neck. He had a phone against one ear and a finger in the other. “We are looking for a range extension,” Grafius said into the phone. “A blanket COA to 200 feet. You have to exclude the military installations.” “We’re on the phone with the FAA now,” Dunlevy told me. Two days from now, SkySkopes would fly its first commercial mission: to inspect a cell tower 300 miles west of here in the Oil Patch. “Your phone sucks,” Grafius said, passing it back to Dunlevy. He sipped from his straw. He drank soda because he was 20 years old. The founders were just a few years older. I liked these guys. They had vision and were starting from nowhere, or close to it. Whereas another flight I was supposed to witness had been scrubbed due to high winds, the SkySkopes team pulled an octocopter from their car when I met them and launched it in about five minutes. Then they let me fly a cheap drone. If their plan panned out, SkySkopes could prevent linemen or pilots from risking their lives to study skybound cables—and make a bucket of money. Their smarts and ambition and enthusiasm made me think they were going to succeed. Forget journalistic objectivity, I wanted them to succeed. Because drones are evolving quicker than the regulations, Grafius had to explain to the FAA what he was trying to do in order to get permission to do it. They did not know of

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anyone in the country who had inspected cell towers with drones—at least not legally. “There’s really no one to ask for advice,” Dunlevy told me. While Dunlevy was the businessman, Grafius was the ace. A junior in the UAS program at the University of North Dakota, Grafius began flying and building remote-controlled aircraft when he was 15. Then he mounted cameras on his planes and piloted them by feel while wearing a pair of video goggles. Passersby might have been perplexed to wander upon this wispy teen, seemingly blindfolded, operating a stick and throttle, enraptured by what he saw in his headset. “It’s the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” Grafius told me as he ate french fries. “The sensation, the peripherals—it’s like you’re flying. When people asked what I was doing, I’d say, ‘Just look into these goggles and you’ll freak out.’” I asked why other companies weren’t angling for the same business. “We’re hungry,” Dunlevy said. “They’re not.”

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE I met in North Dakota, the guys from SkySkopes found nothing controversial about drones. It was just another industry, and if someone was going to have a piece of it, it might as well be them. Yet outside the state, opinion is split. Some see the personal aircraft you can buy for a few hundred bucks as a neat way to film your kid’s soccer game; others fear it’s a means to deliver anthrax and stalk your ex. I fall in the latter camp. So when a professor of aeronautics suggested my visit might “dispel some myths,” I

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launched an aircraft, gone home, had dinner with my wife,” he said, “then gone to sleep, come back the next morning, and landed the same aircraft.” Military drones inspire their share of anxiety: Like many Americans, I was taken aback when the FBI director admitted to Congress that drones had been used for surveillance on U.S. soil. Then-senator Lindsey Graham said, “If I’m president of the United States, and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL, I’m not gonna call a judge; I’m gonna call a drone, and we will

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kill you.” I was allowed to sit at a drone simulator and pretend to launch it, but when I peered down on a building, I did not imagine myself the patriot gathering intel, but rather the mope in the crosshairs. Wherever I went, my fears were met with upbeat assurances. Back at the Test Site, Becklund had said: “Privacy concerns will be handled by the courts. Will drones get in the hands of the wrong people? I’m sure they will. But from a government point of view, privacy is not a big issue.”

A DX 9 t ra ns m itte r (used to fly a quadcopter) alongside a student pilot’s notebook.

“If you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the big deal?” agreed a colleague. I had reached the limits of Midwestern openness. The Global Hawk pilot declined to divulge the purpose of flights over North America. Because of nondisclosure agreements, Becklund could not tell me what kind of research companies were conducting at

TWO DAYS LATER, I drove west with the SkySkopes team. Flare stacks from the oil field threw yellow fire into the sky. At the gas station in an outpost called Ray, they donned yellow safety vests. Grafius in particular did not look much like a roughneck. He wore a checked oxford, tan Levis, and unlaced boat shoes. At the pump, he nearly collided with a man packing two firearms. “He looked me right in the eye,” Grafius reported, “and was like, ‘What are you doing out here?’” The story I’d been told about North Dakota’s entrepreneurial blossoming was not quite holding together. I learned that of the 664 commercial drone operators in the U.S., only three were based in North Dakota. That struck me as a small market share for a place heralding itself as the upstart of the startups.

FR O M TO P : T I M GR UB ER / THE NEW YORK TIMES /R E D UX

hoped he was right. The first unmanned aircraft in North Dakota were military; their arrival followed the decommissioning of fighter jets and nuclear missiles. One morning, a toothsome trio of camo-clad handlers chauffeured me around Grand Forks Air Force Base, where the remotely piloted Global Hawk hulked in its hangar. Sleek and streamlined as a bottlenose whale, it is capable of flying all the way to Panama and back on a single tank of gas. The pilot was all smiles. “I’ve

the Test Site. Two Botlink guys told me they piloted Predator drones from the Air National Guard base in Fargo but weren’t supposed to reveal specifics. This impenetrability was further tangled by a Gordian Knot of agencies. The Test Site is not actually a brick-and-mortar proving ground with hangars and runways, but rather an amorphous entity mandated by the FAA, in partnership with UND Aerospace, ND State University, ND Aeronautics Commission, ND Aviation Council, and the Adjutant General of the ND National Guard, but largely funded by the ND Department of Commerce, which also funds Grand Sky business park. The Test Site is housed adjacent to, but not inside, UND’s Center for UAS Research, Education, and Training, and both are connected by tunnel-bridge to the Center for Innovation, a project of InnovateND, also partially funded by the Department of Commerce. Both the Air National Guard and Customs and Border Protection operate various types of Predators at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, where UND researchers have been developing a drone flight simulator. Got it? The more I asked, the less I learned. I eventually found out that the unarmed border-patrol drone introduced as an MQ-9 Predator B was referred to by the USAF as the MQ-9 “Reaper.” It made me wonder: Why are we droning Canada anyway? Customs and Border Protection deployed a Predator B to resolve a standoff with a North Dakota rancher. Another border-patrol pilot told me he’d assisted with “some meth, some gun cases, some pot.” Department of Homeland Security reported that border drones cost $12,000 per hour to fly—five times the original estimate—and that the agency “cannot demonstrate how much the program has improved border security.” North Dakota was beginning to feel more like the Pentagon than Palo Alto. Yet even Grand Forks Air Force Base was disarmingly pleasant. Looking out the truck window to take in the verdant view, I asked my camouflaged handlers, “Is that really a golf course?” “Yes.” “Eighteen holes?” “I want to say it’s nine.”


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What’s more, two of them were existing companies; only SkySkopes started up recently. Nonetheless, I felt a thrill heading out to a job with the SkySkopes team. In their hands, drones didn’t seem like sinister weapons, but brilliant gadgets to make life fun and easy. That day I read about California lifeguards who, using a drone, had spotted a shark and cleared swimmers from the water. Johns Hopkins was investigating the transport of human blood for transfusions in Uganda. I could get behind this. We drove down a gravel road to where a cell tower rose from the fields. A tattooed tech with a ponytail held up a waiver that I signed without reading. Two older men arrived in a pickup. The problem, they explained, was water. Strands of black cable snaked to the top of the tower. Rainwater had entered the plastic sheath and poured into the circuits below. Was it faulty weatherstripping? Or had the cable been nicked through careless installation? Thousands of towers—millions of dollars—hinged on the answer. It would cost $1,500 to send up a climber who might not figure it out. Grafius hefted a black case from the back of the car, wheeled it across the gravel, and opened the lid, revealing the octocopter. He straightened its spindly legs, tipped in red. SkySkopes did not build the drone; they bought it online. Grafius’ talent was mounting and interfacing the camera, gimbal, and software. “You have done towers before, right?” one of the workmen asked. “Yeah,” said Grafius. “Is it easy to fly one of these things?” “Not by a tower.” “How close can you get?” “Very close,” Grafius said. “Does this tower produce any frequency in the spectrum of 2.4 gigahertz?” “You guys have insurance in case something goes wrong?” the man asked in return. “Up to 2 million,” Dunlevy interjected. As the workmen beheld the eight-legged creature, their skepticism softened. That’s the thing about drones: They’re cool. Everyone stooped to examine it. “That’s a pretty mean gadget,” said the tech. Grafius powered the drone and a melody beeped. “Clear,” he said. “Powering up.” The thing whirred like a hummingbird as its eight rotors spun. Then it lifted off. As Grafius slipped on his sunglasses and piloted it upward, the rest of us did the only thing male humans can do upon encountering an unmanned craft: We took pictures. Grafius’ gaze alternated between the drone and a real-time video feed. Wilcox operated the camera. Grafius gave commands. “I want you to look down at those guy wires. Look straight. Now look up.” “I always get scared,” said Dunlevy, pacing. Grafius was as cool and crisp as a mint hundreddollar bill. A workman peered at the video and said: “There. Right there. That’s what I need.” Grafius held the drone steady, and Wilcox zoomed in on the junction where the cable entered the steel housing. “Yes, that’s it.” There was a sense of wonder, the marvel of technology—the magic really—that we could be seeing in such detail 20 stories off the ground. These magnificent lads and their flying machines!

THE DRONE WOVE BETWEEN STEEL CELL-TOWER WIRES. AND THEN I HEARD A THWACK. The drone wove between steel wires as it climbed. Depth perception was impossible. Grafius propped his Ray Bans on his forehead and studied the monitor, saying to Wilcox: “Look up. OK, look level.” He lowered the glasses and held up a hand to block the sun. Then I heard a thwack way up high. My head snapped up just in time to see the octocopter spinning out of control. “Uh-oh,” said Grafius. He throttled up and pulled it away from the tower. The drone lurched and swiveled. Rotors whined, landing gear deployed. Before I could count to five, the thing slammed down in the wheat, bounced, and toppled in a heap.

BACK ON THE ROAD, we had lunch at a pizza place in Minot. SkySkopes was unfazed, as was my faith in them. No one was hurt, the tower and wheat field were not harmed, and the damage to the drone amounted to only $35. Had they packed more spare parts, they could have repaired the thing on the spot. They

scheduled to finish the job a month later. “Another thing,” said Grafius, sipping a Coke. “We need parachutes.” From what I’d seen, the North Dakota drone industry had lots of promise. In fact, since my visit last year, the Botlink guys said they had perfected their software, quadrupled their staff of engineers, and had moved from glitchy prototype to actual app-controlled devices shipped to real customers. But I had also found the state oddly insulated from the national debate over drones. Activists have protested Northrup Grumman and General Atomics in California, but not here. The chair of a committee that regulates drone use around Grand Forks told me there had been little conflict. Anyway, she said, we are constantly photographed in banks and malls, and our smartphones track us better than any aircraft could. “Well, yeah,” I sputtered, “but we choose to purchase a smartphone, same as we choose to use the Internet or drive a car. No one ever chose to be looked at from the sky.” She looked at me as if I were an Amish person explaining why suspenders were godly but belts were of the devil. There’s a sense in the north country, as the elevator sign said, that if we respect one another, we’ll have a great stay. On my trip home in the airport shuttle, a mounted camera winked at me. I had come north afraid drones would enable my country to invade my privacy, only to learn my privacy was already compromised—usually with my consent. Octocopter ads flooded my Facebook feed. Someone may well be watching, but it’s not them—it’s us.

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It was a fall night in 2006, when Bradley Waldroup walked out of his rural trailer in southeastern Tennessee, carrying his .22 caliber hunting rifle. His estranged wife and her friend, Leslie Bradshaw, had just pulled up to drop off the Waldroups’ four children. Waldroup began arguing with his wife and Bradshaw, who was unloading the car. Drawing his gun, Waldroup shot Bradshaw eight times, killing her. He used a knife to cut her head open. He then chased his wife with the knife and a machete, managing to slice off one of her pinkies before dragging her into the trailer. There, he told their frightened children, “Come tell your mama goodbye” because it was the last time they’d ever see her. Miraculously, his wife managed to slip his grasp and escape. Three years later, in a county court, Waldroup admitted the whole thing. He said he had “snapped.” “I’m not proud of none of it,” he told the judge. Convicted of felony murder, he faced the death penalty. To save his life, his legal team took an unusual approach, never before admitted in a capital-murder case. They sent a sample of Waldroup’s blood to the molecular genetics lab at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Lab techs there were told to look at a specific gene. Sure enough, they found Waldroup had a genetic variant on his X chromosome, one that coded the enzyme monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA).

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Jurors ruled out the death penalty for killer Bradley Waldroup (above) after lawyers argued a gene variant helped predispose him to violence.

Kent Kiehl

works inside a portable trailer on the grounds of the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility, home to 440 inmates in the small town of Grants. He sits at a cramped desk in front of computer screens that monitor activity in a nearby and loudly humming cylindrical tube. It is a $2.2 million functional magnetic-resonance-imaging scanner

C O URT ESY W R C B C HATA N O O GA

The killer read his Bible. He drank. Heavily.

MAOA’s job is to break down crucial neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. If left unchecked, these potent chemicals can build up in the brain and cause a loss of impulse control and an increase in violence and rage. In part, Waldroup’s lawyers were claiming, his genes made him do it. It’s been more than two decades since geneticists linked MAOA deficiency to violent behavior. And it’s been a decade since the media dubbed one of the genes that causes the deficiency “the warrior gene.” It is among the most controversial of several genes linked to violence and psychopathic behaviors. Mental illnesses have also been linked to genetic causes. In January, Harvard scientists jolted the mental-health field when they identified a gene that might lie at the root of schizophrenia: During adolescence and early adulthood, a variant of the gene causes the overpruning of synapses in the brain’s decision-making frontal lobe, impairing things like attention and impulse control. While only a fraction of the 2 .2 million Americans suffering from schizophrenia turn violent—a point that mental-health workers are careful to point out—people with serious mental illnesses are two to three times more likely to become violent than those who are not. As each mass shooting and road-rage murder fills our daily newsfeeds, scientists, law-enforcement officials, politicians, mental-health experts, and the public ask what we can do to stop the next one. Can we identify violent people before they hurt someone? Is there a genetic link among serial killers like Ted Bundy, mass murderers like Adam Lanza, and roadside shooters like the Uber driver, Jason Dalton, who police charged with killing six people in a random rampage in Michigan this past February? These are uncomfortable questions, ones that conjure the quackery of phrenology and the eugenics of the Nazis. But as geneticists come closer to unlocking the doors of personality traits and pathologies, we seem to be stepping beyond behaviorism to embrace genetic determinism. We accept science has found a gene that increases the risk for alcoholism, a condition once associated with weakness of character. We accept that genes can alter brain function and may trigger anxiety behaviors. There is evidence that the same could be said for violence.


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Is there a genetic link between Ted Bundy and Adam Lanza? It’s an uncomfortable question that conjures up eugenics. (fMRI). One by one, Kiehl slots in murderers, rapists, arsonists, and other violent criminals, and then peers into their brains. He has become a top expert on the neuroscience of schizophrenia and psychopathy. Kiehl has a unique and personal perspective on the subject he studies. His family had lived down the street from Ted Bundy in a quiet Tacoma neighborhood. When Bundy was arrested in 1975 and later accused of killing more than 36 women over nearly two decades, it sent a collective shiver through his neighborhood. Kiehl wondered, “How could someone like that grow up in our sleepy little suburb?” As a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, he has spent the past 25 years looking for an answer. Psychopaths suffer from severe emotional detachment. They lack both empathy and remorse. Kiehl has found that they make up about 16 percent of the U.S. prison population. Such people also comprise about 1 percent of the general population. To put that in perspective, it is about as common as bulimia but much more difficult to diagnose. That’s troublesome because psychopaths are inclined to violence. On average, a criminal psychopath will be convicted of four violent offenses before age 40. Twin studies have pointed out a genetic component to psychopathic traits, but few experts agree on an exact cause for the disorder. Kiehl believes it can be traced to defects in the limbic and paralimbic cortex, used in generating emotions, controlling impulses, and paying attention. During an exam, an inmate lays his head beneath a coil that sends and receives magnetic signals. Kiehl displays phrases, like “stealing from your job site,” or images, like that of a car crash, on a screen. He asks the inmate to rate the moral offensiveness of each. As the inmate makes decisions, his or her neurons fire, and the computer records the response time and the area of the brain activated. A nonpsychopath will show activity in regions, such as the almond-shaped amygdala, related to empathy and emotion. Psychopaths will not. Depending on which region is active, Kiehl can determine how the inmate processes the material. A psychopath might show little activity in the amygdala and instead be processing the material

Brain scans, like those below, have shown that psychopaths might have defects in regions related to impulse control and emotional processing.

in a logical portion of the brain, in some cases trying to trick Kiehl or give Kiehl answers he thinks are appropriate or that he thinks Kiehl wants to hear. Altogether, Kiehl has collected brain-imaging data from more than 4,000 criminals at eight prisons in two states, building what amounts to the largest forensic neuroscience library in the world. He has found that psychopaths tend to have less gray matter in the region that he’s targeting, as well as smaller amygdalas. In short, he says, “they have different brains.” And those differences are “at least 50 percent caused by genetics,” he says, adding, “That shouldn’t surprise people with neuroscience knowledge.” Kiehl’s work has become so well-known that parents of troubled kids frequently seek his advice. It’s a situation he finds depressing because he doesn’t yet have answers for them. “I get an email at least once a week from a parent whose child is struggling. And it’s heartbreaking,” Kiehl says. “‘Is my child a psychopath?’ I’m the last guy they want to call.”

The modern search

for the genetic roots of violence began when a woman walked into a university hospital in Nijmegen, Netherlands, in 1978. She had come to seek help for the men in her family—

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Men in one Dutch family with a history of violent rape, assault, and arson shared the same genetic disorder. several brothers and her own son—who she suspected were suffering from the same mental disability. Two had committed arson. One had tried to rape his sister. Another tried to kill his boss by ramming him with a car. Another had drawn a knife against his sisters and forced them to undress. In fact, the family violence appeared to stretch as far back as the 1870s, according to a detailed family tree of violent offenders that a concerned uncle drew up in 1962. More than a decade after the woman appeared at the Nijmegen hospital, researchers there finally figured out what was wrong. The violent men possessed a mutation on their X chromosome. That defect turned out to be a flaw in the MAOA gene. Since

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In 2015, a Finnish study concluded that a genetic variant of the CDH13 gene was a “plausible factor” for violent criminal behavior.

the gene is on the X chromosome, men—who have only one X chromosome—are more likely to suffer its effects than women, in whom a second, normally functioning X chromosome can compensate for the problems of the defect. Women can, however, pass the defect to their sons. Soon the women in the family were coming in to be tested to figure out if they were carriers. Since then, several projects have found other genetic risk factors for violent behavior. In 2011, a German researcher canvassing the field, found a connection between homicidal behavior and a variant in a gene that codes for a protein called atechol-O-methlytransferase (COMT). Like MAOA, it regulates dopamine. Four years later, Finnish researchers studying prison inmates found that violent offenders often possessed MAOA variants or variants of genes that code for CDH13—a protein that assists in brain-cell signaling. Previous studies linked those same variants to autism, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The inmate study, which appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, concluded that the CDH13 variant, and the cellular dysfunction that it contributes to, was a “plausible factor” for violent criminal behavior. The notion that a biological basis to aggression might exist troubles many scientists and ethicists. They are quick to note that environmental factors play a huge role in how genes are expressed. Having a gene that increases the risk for breast cancer doesn’t mean a woman will get breast cancer—and having a gene linked to schizophrenia doesn’t mean you will develop it. “Genes are programs that run every activity of every cell in your body every second you are alive,” says Daniel Weinberger, director of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development at Johns Hopkins University. “If you inherit small glitches, little pieces of noise, this sets you on a path. But it doesn’t determine you will end up with mental illness. These glitches aren’t fate. They are for risk. Environmental factors are at play too.” After all, plenty of people carry the same gene variant as Bradley Waldroup, the man who killed his wife’s friend, and they’ll never kill anybody. But courts have proved ready grounds for the genesmade-me-do-it ethical and science debate. Criminal defense cases have cited genetics nearly 80 times in the U.S. between 1994 and 2011. “Attorneys are getting more sophisticated in looking for explanations for behavior,” says Deborah Denno, director of the Fordham University Neuroscience and Law Center. In the case of Waldroup, the jury spared him the death penalty and found instead that he should spend his life in prison. The killer-gene defense worked. After, when asked if Waldroup’s genetics

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FROM TOP: BILL FRAKES/THE LIFE IMAGES COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; KALAMAZOO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE/GETTY IMAGES; KATELEEN FOY/GETTY IMAGES

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informed her decision, one juror said, “Oh, I’m sure.” But Denno says the role of gene variants, and links to increased risks of violence, has been misunderstood in the courts and by the media. Behavioral genetics seeks to study genetic as well as environmental sources for clues to behavior. It is interdisciplinary, incorporating psychology, sociology, statistics, and other fields. “While genes influence behavior,” Denno has noted, “they do not govern nor determine it.” In fact, environmental factors—as varied as malnutrition, social and economic strife, and poor education—remain some of the strongest predictors of behavioral pathologies in adulthood. Psychologists have long known that childhood abuse alone is a risk factor for violence. Boys exposed to erratic, coercive, and punitive parenting are at risk of developing antisocial personalities and becoming violent offenders, according to a 2002 study in Science. Of course, not all abused boys become violent. The idea that gene variants—like those leading to neural disruption or hyperactivity in the brain—might put them at increased risk for violence is an intriguing one. But it is by no means the sole cause or even a root cause.

One afternoon last fall, the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington stood nearly flooded after a late-season downpour. Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents with PTSD, sat in his booklined fourth-floor office. Ford helped write the official 114-page investigative report on Adam Lanza and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. After Lanza killed 20 schoolchildren, six staffers, his mother, and himself, the state’s medical examiner sent a piece of his brain to UConn geneticists and asked them to analyze his DNA. It was the first time a mass murderer’s genome had ever been studied. Despite formal requests from Popular Science, neither the medical examiner, UConn, nor its geneticists would release the report’s findings or even discuss what they were looking for. But they most likely searched for gene variants linked to mental illnesses. During his early life, Lanza suffered from insomnia and struggled with speech. Shy, quiet, and a social outsider, he wrote a story for a fifth-grade project called “The Big Book of Granny.” In it, an old woman shoots children and talks about preserving a boy for her mantle. Lanza was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety, and obsessivecompulsive disorder. While Asperger’s is not associated with violence, it might have masked his violent thoughts and behaviors. On the basis of a recommendation by a psychiatrist, his mother took him out of school to teach him at home. While various people

Would genetic testing have stopped killers like (top to bottom): Ted Bundy, Michigan shooting spree suspect Jason Dalton, and Adam Lanza? As of now, no. And researchers are skeptical that it ever could.

had noted Lanza’s challenges, “What was apparently missed,” says Ford, “was his emotional turmoil.” Adolescence is a vulnerable period, and not just because of mood swings caused by surging hormones. It is a time when mental illness is most likely to manifest. With schizophrenia, for example, symptoms often appear suddenly during this period and in early adulthood. In their landmark study at Harvard this past January, scientists identified a gene potentially responsible for this timing: The natural process of synaptic pruning, during which the brain deletes ineffective connections between neurons, occurs as the brain matures. This takes place in the prefrontal cortex, where thinking and planning are based. People who carry a gene variant that accelerates the pruning have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia. That’s why it’s critical that adolescents get care, says Steven McCarroll, a Harvard geneticist and senior author of the study. “Often when teenagers manifest symptoms, they’re seen by pediatricians without psychiatric specialization,” he says. One success story he cites is an ongoing Australian mental-health program for adolescents, started in 2006, called headspace, which runs more than 80 clinics in some unusual and convenient places. “Some are in shopping malls,” he says. “They have warm colors and welcoming furniture to avoid a clinical feel. It’d be wonderful to have something like that here.” But what about kids like Adam Lanza who fell through the healthcare-system cracks? Would genetic screening have helped? As of now, no. And researchers are skeptical that it ever could in the future. “We don’t know enough about genetics yet to use genetics as part of diagnosis,” says McCarroll. There are plenty of reservations about what we would look for and what we’d find—worries over privacy and stigmatization, the question of what to do once you know someone has a genetic risk of violence. But learning about genetic markers, even if it doesn’t entail screening for criminals, still helps us better understand violence and its origins. The more we understand, the more we can do to prevent it. So it’s hard to stop looking for genetic clues. Daniel Weinberger, the Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, has the world’s largest collection of brains from deceased PTSD sufferers. He studies them for molecular clues to mental illness. “For a century, we knew what mental illness looked like, sounded like, what it felt like,” he says. “But we didn’t know the basic underlying cause. Today, thanks to genetics, we’re able to explore things that were science fiction 10 years ago.” But even he worries about what science will find and how society will act on it. After all, he says, “everyone’s genome has a different level of risk for different disorders. Everyone’s got something.”

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D ES E R T SU N L IG HT S O LA R FA RM

Located in California’s Mojave Desert, it’s the largest solar farm in the world—with 8.8 million photovoltaic modules that produce enough clean energy each year to displace about 300,000 metric tons of CO2 produced by burning coal.


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EX P O S U R E

D EWA J E B E L ALI POW E R PLA NT

The pipes at this power plant in Dubai suck in up to a billion gallons of seawater a day, producing 2,060 megawatts of electricity. The steam generated from turbines creates 140 million gallons of drinkable water.

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K I N GSTON F OS S I L PL A N T

Trucks haul ash slurry to nearby piles outside this coal-burning plant in Harriman, Tennessee. Once the largest such facility in the world, it still burns through about 5 million tons of coal a year and outputs as much as 10 billion kilowatts, enough for 700,000 homes.


EX P O S U R E

W H I TI N G P E TRO LE U M PLA NT

It isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always easy to liberate crude from the earth. This facility in west Texas uses CO2-enhanced oil-recovery technology, injecting high-pressure CO2 into water underground, which helps lower oilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s viscosity and push it toward production wells.


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TH E N ORRI S DA M

Sluice gates control the flow of water inside this 80-year-old hydroelectric dam in northeastern Tennessee. About 26 stories high, the dam spans 1,860 feet across the winding Clinch River and holds back 33,840 acres of water.

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EDITED BY SO PHIE BUSHW ICK

An ObstacleDodging Bug Bot TIME 2 hours COST $30 DIFFICULTY w

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by SEA N MICHAE L R AGA N

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In 1984, Italian neuroscientist Valentino Braitenberg published a book exploring how complex animal behaviors might arise from simple networks of nerves, sense organs, and muscles. That book, Vehicles, inspired a robotics movement now known as BEAM (Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, Mechanics), which is dedicated to designing simple robots that do complex things. You can build your own BEAM robot with only four switches, two batteries, and two motors. Despite its simplicity, this basic, buglike robot can detect and avoid obstacles, shut down if lifted or flipped, and wake or sleep on command. Just make sure to set it down on a smooth, flat floor.

P HOTOGR AP H BY

Jonathon Kambouris


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TO O L S

M AT E R I A L S Drill and bits

Screwdriver set

Electrician’s tool

Soldering iron

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I N STR U CT I ON S 1 Use a 3/16 -inch bit to drill out the battery boxes’ spring rivets. Save the ring terminals and attached wires. Remove the T-nuts’ prongs, put them in the holes, and put a spring clip, faucet washer, and ring terminal on the posts. Secure with 6-32 screws. 2 Pass a 4-40 screw through one box’s bottom corner hole on the end nearest the clip. Temporarily mount the roller switch: Pass

this screw through the switch hole farthest from the wheel and secure with a nut. Rotate the switch until its other hole is parallel to the long box edge, and drill a 1/8-inch hole through the plastic below. Solder the four front pins of the slide switch to the roller switch’s C terminal. Solder the red wire to one of its rear pins. Demount the switches. Repeat for the second battery box, but connect its red wire to the opposite pin.

3 Solder two red wires to the roller switch’s NO terminal. Then use 4-40 screws, nuts, and washers to mount the battery boxes back to back with switches in between. Install standoffs at the rear corners. 4 Align the lever switches at 90 degrees. Solder their NC terminals together and solder wire between their NO terminals. Mount the switches across the front of the battery boxes with

No. 2 screws. Connect one black wire to the NC terminals and the other to the NO terminals. Solder a black wire to each C terminal. 5 Load the flashlight cylinders and pop them into the battery boxes, one facing forward and one backward. Press a faucet washer onto each rivet nut and a rivet nut onto each motor shaft. Snap the motors into the spring clips and turn on the slide switch.

6 Depress the roller switch. Touch one black lead to one motor terminal on the same side of the robot, and one red lead to the other. If the wheel doesn’t turn forward, reverse red and black. Solder leads. Repeat for both motors. 7 Solder the paper clips into quick-connect lugs and bend into “whiskers” that cross ahead of the robot. Slip the lugs over the switch levers and let the bot go.

Watch the BEAM robot explore at popsci.com/bugbot.

P OP SC I . C OM

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Manual

MAY/JUNE 201 6

History Strikes Back

Attack of the Fire Balloons In November 1944, Japanese soldiers in a top-secret oceanside location loosed a set of balloons into the westerly winds. These globes, about 33 feet in diameter, contained a crude but ingenious device for releasing ballast that their inventors hoped would keep them airborne for three to four days—long enough to reach the United States. There, an onboard timer would activate, causing the balloons to drop their payload: incendiary bombs. Of the roughly 10,000 balloons—or “Fu-go”—launched, about 10 percent made it across the ocean. But the timer couldn’t control where the bombs dropped, so most fell in unpopulated areas. The strategy never amounted to much. Still, these balloons were the first successful intercontinental weapons. Last year, a pair of foresters found a

WARN I NG: P l ay w i t h f i re, a n d yo u could get burned. So be careful, and keep your balloon under control!

DIY-history columnist WILLIAM GURSTELLE gives bygone weapons a modern spin

70-year-old Fu-go, half-buried but intact, in the mountains of eastern British Columbia. That amazing discovery inspired me to build my own fire balloon— without the dangerous payload. My design is much simpler than the historical one. Because my fire balloons lift off with hot air rather than helium, I need to use only lightweight materials. First I smear a dab of Sterno inside a small aluminum pie tin. Once lit, the fuel heats the air in a flimsy, plastic dry-cleaner bag, attached to the pie tin with thin wire. The volume of heated air gives the device enough buoyancy to rise hundreds of feet. To prevent my DIY Fu-go from setting fires, I tether it with a spool of fine wire. On a cool, still night, it looks like a jellyfish with a pulsing orange heart floating toward the clouds.

To launch your ow n f ire balloon, visit pops c i .com / fugo .

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P O P SC I .C O M

P HOTOGR A P H BY

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MAY/JUNE 201 6

Theme Building

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Three Projects That Reinvent Breakfast It’s hard to get excited about a meal that takes place when you’re half-asleep. To get the day started right, these makers have invented machines that shake up breakfast. Their outlandish appliances might not end up on your table, but they’ll certainly whet your DIY appetite.

1 CEREAL HACKS In March 2015, artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox got an offer he couldn’t refuse. Kellogg’s wanted him to create five goofy devices to liven up cereal. Wilcox dreamed up 20. He eventually built seven, including a cerealserving drone, a spoon with LED eyes, a “tummy

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rumbling amplifier,” and a head-mounted crane for scooping cereal. The latter, which appeared on The Late Show, uses three levers to control the crane’s motion and a fourth to release milk. “The way it moves looks robotic,” Wilcox says, “but it’s powered by hydraulics.”

by J ER EM Y S. CO O K

2 BACON ALARM CLOCK Traditional alarm clocks wake you with annoying beeps. Tech entrepreneur Matty Sallin decided to make mornings more pleasant— with a bacon-scented alarm clock. “You probably have a memory of waking up to the smell of breakfast,” Sallin says. “It’s a completely

effective alarm.” With help from friends, including engineer Josh Myer, he built a pigshaped device. Partially inspired by the EasyBake oven, it uses two halogen lights to heat up precooked bacon in about 10 minutes. Once he’s awake, Sallin simply eats breakfast in bed.

3 WAFFLE-MAKING ROBOT Jon Eivind Stranden, a Norwegian electricalengineering student, created the WaffleBot to help cook breakfast when he has guests. “It solves the problem of having to constantly fill and empty the waffle iron,” he says. “You just select how many waffles you want, and

it does the rest.” At the heart of the WaffleBot is a waffle iron, opened and closed by a motor on a wire, and a custom valve that releases the batter. After a set cooking time, the iron rotates upside down and automatically falls open, releasing a waffle onto a waiting plate.

I L LU ST R AT I ONS BY

Chris Philpot


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Manual Meet a Maker

Real Man of Steel realistic,” he says. He thought he could make a simpler version that actually worked in real life. Hobson started by attaching some leftover pneumatic cylinders to a brace made of perforated tubing. The resulting upper-body exoskeleton allowed him to curl 275 pounds with relative ease. “But my back was still taking most of the load,” he says, “so we wanted to start from the ground up.” That meant building legs to match. Hobson designed the pneumatic legs with a stronger steel frame, and in January, he used them to lift the back end of a

THESE LEGS WERE MADE FOR LIFTING Hobson built his exoskeleton’s legs from lengths of steel, anchored in steel-sole boots, and pneumatic cylinders that stretch from the foot mounts to a hip mount. External loads can be hitched to this steel mount, which connects to a work belt worn at the waist, and holds an air compressor and battery pack. Air flows from the compressor to the pneumatic cylinders via supply lines, elongating the leg pieces and lifting the weight. Eventually, Hobson plans to attach the upper body to the legs, and lift things with the arms as well. Learn more on his YouTube channel, the Hacksmith.

800 pounds

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PO P S CI. CO M

Mini Cooper—approximately 800 pounds. In February, he lifted an estimated 1,500, raising a pickup truck by its hitch. Hobson quit his job this past November to focus full time on side projects like his exoskeleton work. Now he and his friends are designing a new upper-body exoskeleton to attach to the super-strong legs. Eventually, they hope their designs will be used to help people who are disabled. Strong and lightweight exoskeletons could also do the heavy lifting for firefighters, search-and-rescue operators, and industrial workers. by SA R A H F EC H T

C O URT ESY J A M ES HO BS ON /H AC K S M I T H YOU T UB E/ I LLUST R AT IO N BY C HRI S PHI L POT

Until recently, James Hobson spent his days designing products for a digital-projector company. But at night, he pursued a very particular dream: to build exoskeletons that give him superhuman strength. Hobson, a 26-year-old Canadian engineer, got the idea to build an exoskeleton after watching the movie Elysium. “It was the first time I saw an exoskeleton that was depicted in a way that was somewhat


M AY /J U N E 2 0 1 6

Manual

Your Drill Is Calling Power tools are designed for professional users and typical applications. Deviate from the norm, as makers and DIYers often do, and you no longer have the best tool for the job. For power-tool users who crave flexibility, Milwaukee’s new One-Key line can connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing users to adjust their tool settings (and keep an inventory of their tools) through an app. The initial One-Key launch includes a cordless drill, hammer drill, impact driver, and two impact wrench sizes. Users can modify nearly every aspect of their drills and drivers. In addition to setting the desired torque ceiling and speed range, advanced options let anyone tinker with variables such as trigger rampup time and the duration and brightness of your work light. Once you’ve chosen your custom settings, you can save

Users of the Milwaukee One -Key hammer dr ill can customize its settings through a smar tp hone ap p.

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them as one of four “profiles.” Or you can pick an existing preset profile, tailored to a specific application. Milwaukee One-Key won’t be right for everyone. Custom tool settings will be most beneficial to those who work on many different types of projects and want repeatable performance and optimal results for each one—without having to master the feel of new drill-bit and fastener styles every time. For these makers, One-Key could be a real game-changer.

STUART’S DRILL TEST When I work with wood, plastic, metal, and other materials, it can be difficult to keep track of the best speeds for different sizes and styles of drill bits. If I’m drilling a 3/8-inch hole into acrylic, for example, I first look up the recommended speed. Then I pick a speed range, and zero

in on the ideal trigger pressure by trial and error. But when I reached for a One-Key drill, I simply set the desired speed range and trigger ramp-up, and got to work. When I moved on to drilling aluminum, I didn’t have to look up the settings again. I just switched to another preset mode.

P OP SC I . C OM

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MAY/JUNE 201 6

Enviable Project

Set Your Filter to Infrared

Most photographers rely on the light that humans can see, known as the visible spectrum. But photojournalist Steven Saphore thinks they could do a lot more with the light our eyes can’t detect. By hacking cameras, he says, photographers can take pictures in the infrared spectrum—just as he does in his World in Infrared project. While we can’t see infrared light, we experience it all the time in the form of heat, which almost every object on Earth emits. Dark objects tend to radiate more heat than pale ones because they can absorb more light energy. This makes them appear brighter in infrared. In that way, Saphore’s photography flips expectations: Leaves on a tree, for example, might look muted and dark in visible light, but through his lens, they become glowing and vibrant.

by C L A I R E M A L DA R EL L I

HOW TO HACK YOUR CAMERA Infrared cameras are often expensive and specialized. But with a few tweaks, any camera, from a point-andshoot to a DSLR, can snap infrared images. All cameras can capture infrared light, but a filter allows only visible light through. To photograph both, first open up the camera so you can see the lens and the glass filter over it. Carefully remove that filter. (Note: This might permanently alter your camera.) To give your images a more washed-out look, you can add a relatively inexpensive (ranging from $50 to $100 and up) filter that will block visible light, leaving only infrared.

“It’s mentally challenging because you are forced to see beyond your perception,” says Saphore. “You can’t detect infrared with your own senses, but you have a tool in front of you that can.” Saphore’s favorite demonstration is to create infrared images of people with varying skin tones. In the presence of infrared light, the pigment melanin is more transparent. “Differences in skin tone are less obvious,” says Saphore. “It’s hard to make a snap decision based on what you see.”

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Saphore snapped this photograph in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2014, with a camera that captures only infrared light.

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P HOTOGRA P H BY

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Hack a Teddy Bear to Say Anything

In the 1980s, a talking bear called Teddy Ruxpin took the world by storm. Now, Oakland engineer Andrew Langley is bringing Teddy back. He hacked the bearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s circuitry and installed C.H.I.P., the $9 computer that his company, Next Thing, had just crowdfunded. The 1 GHz computer can run by text-to-voice algoA N D REW ROS EN B LU M rithms that let the bear read anything.

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POPSCI.COM

together: Clip the first two wires on the upper and lower jaw connectors, and solder together the â&#x20AC;&#x153;jaw openâ&#x20AC;? and the â&#x20AC;&#x153;jaw closedâ&#x20AC;? wires. 3. An H-bridge circuit will let the C.H.I.P. control Teddyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s motors. Follow the wiring

diagram at popsci.com/ chippybear to connect the C.H.I.P., the motor driver, and the bearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s control board. 4. Cut the audio output wires that connect Teddy to his onboard speaker, and rewire them to the audio cable.

Plug the cable and the battery into the C.H.I.P. 5. Follow C.H.I.P.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s directions to boot up and log onto the Internet. Then download Langleyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s software from Github. Launch the interface, and give Teddy something to say.

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MAY/JUNE 2016

Fix the World

This Glove Fights Hand Tremors While working at a London hospital, 24-year-old medical student Faii Ong went to perform some routine tests on a 103-year-old patient suffering from hand tremors. The woman’s hands shook so badly, Ong says, that she’d spend half an hour just trying to eat soup, most of which had spilled. He’d spend the next halfhour cleaning her up. To Ong, now 26, the situation was deplorable. And although the hospital staff said that there was nothing to be done, he refused to believe them. Instead, he recruited a few of his fellow students to build a solution: GyroGlove. Worn on the hand, the device stabilizes tremors with a gyroscope. This spinning disc—used in both aerospace technology and children’s toys—maintains an upright position, even when pushed. So when the hand shakes, tilting the gyroscope, the disc will resist the force attempting to knock it over. This creates a sensation wearers compared to moving their hands through syrup. Early GyroGlove tests reduced significant tremors by more than 80 percent. The GyroGlove could benefit professional surgeons, athletes, photographers, and others who require steady

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MAY/JUNE 201 6

Manual Biohacks

PAINTING WITH BACTERIA Medical illustrator Sarah Berman was in a bio-art class at Parsons School of Design in New York when she learned about fluorescent proteins. When genetically modified to produce them, bacteria glow various colors under ultraviolet light. Inspired, Berman decided to cultivate her own bacteria—and use them to make art. “As an artist, I enjoy producing work that makes people want to learn more about something they weren’t interested in before,” she says. Berman created her “paint” at Genspace, a community biolab in Brooklyn, by injecting DNA that codes for fluorescent proteins into a nonpathogenic strain of E. coli. She found that by mixing

her genetically modified bacteria, she could produce different hues. After four months of daily experimentation, Berman chose a palette that included green, red, yellow, and cyan. She smeared the bacteria onto large plastic sheets to create

images of the human endocrine system, which she displayed at her senior thesis show in May 2015. But unlike real paint, Berman’s bacteria begin to die once they leave the petri dish—now, her art has become entirely invisible.

Berman painted the human brain’s pineal and pituitary glands using red- and cyanproducing bacteria on a polystyrene sheet.

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Here’s the answer: the egg came first.

5 DAYS. 50 EVENTS. GO TO KNOW. JUNE 1–5, 2016 / NEW YORK CITY / WORLDSCIENCEFESTIVAL.COM


Manual

MAY/JUNE 201 6

Cheap Tricks

TO O LS + M AT E R I A LS

Pipe Up the Volume

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1 Cut the PVC pipe at 45 degrees on both ends. It should be symmetrical, with the shortest part about 8 inches long. 2 Rotate the tube so the shortest side faces you. Along the top center of the pipe, use the Dremel to make a slot that’s slightly wider and thicker than your phone in its case. 3 To prevent rolling, drill a pilot hole for the

.E J EREM Y S. CO OK

Your smartphone crushes it when ordering pizza, snapping photos, or displaying YouTube videos. But playing the audio that goes with those videos? Not so much. You could overcome the problem with a pricy speaker or some headphones—but that’s the boring route. Instead, use a PVC pipe or a sturdy cardboard tube to make a simple passive amplifier.

TIME 1 hour COST $10 DIFFICULTY w

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screw in the center of the pipe’s longest side, at a 90-degree angle to the phone’s position. 4 Secure the screw in the hole. 5 Optionally, decorate the amplifier with spray paint. Once it dries, put on some tunes and insert your phone speaker-first. If you have an iPhone with speakers in the bottom, prop it up with a spacer.

PHOTOGRA PH BY J ON AT HON KA MB OURI S

I N ST R U C T I O N S


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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

WHY HASN’T THE U.S. ADOPTED THE METRIC SYSTEM?

Short answer It’s complicated.

A: While most nations use the metric system —those units of decimals that are universally employed in science—the U.S. still clings to pounds, inches, and feet. Despite several high-profile attempts to change that, Americans refuse to convert. Thomas Jefferson first tried to move the nation toward a decimal-based system in 1789. But without support from scientists, his idea flopped. More than a century later, in 1906, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell told Congress that “few people have any adequate conception of the amount of unnecessary labor involved in the use of our present weights and measures.” Strong words, but still no change. Things looked promising in 1968, when Congress authorized a three-year study that eventually recommended converting to metric and laid out a 10-year plan to get there. But they did not make the switch mandatory. Instead, business owners and

96

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people who opposed big government and globalization—and who saw conversion as ceding control—won the battle for hearts and minds. A Gallup poll at the time showed that 45 percent of Americans opposed the switch. Today, the problem with metric is the same as it’s always been: The benefits of switching are negligible, but the costs are huge. Manufacturers would have to convert values on packaging. Everyday people would have to replace their tape measures, switch to metric wrenches, waste time figuring out what it means to say its 20 degrees Celsius outside. Even metric fans see the hassle. “Like all educated people, I just assumed it made perfect sense to go metric,” says Donald Hillger, president of the U.S. Metric Association, which was founded a century ago to promote conversion. “Now I look at it and think: ‘Exactly what am I personally going to get from this? I’m going to get annoyed.’” Still, metric creep is already here. We buy soda by liters, machine car parts in millimeters, and measure medicine in milligrams. “It’s going to happen,” Hillger says, “but at the rate we’re going, it will take a while.” Appropriately, it will be a game of inches.

Daniel Engber

I LLU ST R AT I O N S BY

Jason Schneider


JOHN ELLIS MACHINES... THE WORLD’S FIRST AND ONLY REPURIFYING REDISTILLER Have you ever asked yourself this question: “Why do we age? Why does our skin get old and wrinkled?” Or, for others of us: “Why did I get cancer and others don’t?” Those are questions the National Institute of Health has been investigating for decades through dozens of studies on their website, NIH.gov. They refer to this element as DDW, or Deuterium Depleted Water. It’s one of those oddities of science, you might say, that comes with a blessing and a curse. Deuteriumhas a curative affect on many of man’s most feared diseases, but as it is killing the pathogens which cause those diseases, Deuteriumis doing one other thing: it’s damaging your DNA. You will find dozens of scientific studies you can access by going to https://www.johnellis.com and clicking on the green link, “Revealing Water’s Secrets. Studies confirm the phenomenal DDW results which John Ellis™Water has achieved—but with a twist. To produce DDW, the technician must redistill the water in a centrifuge 60 times (producing an estimated net cost to the consumer of $300.00 for a small bottle. The 13 patents on the John Ellis E-5 steel distillers redistill and repurify the water hundreds of times—automatically, not just once nor 60 times, killing all of the pathogens in the water—including DDW. When the FDA applied for patent protection, he was required to prove his distillers permanently changed the hydrogen bond angle of water from 104º to 114º. John Ellis™ water was scientifically analyzed by Dr. G. Abraham, MD with a scanning electron microscope [SEM] at the UCLA Medical Center when detractors, many of them selling unsafe plastic distillers were shouting “quackery!” because the John Ellis™ Electron 5 stainless steel distiller, the product of 332 FDA reports and 13 patents was more expensive than the much cheaper plastic distillers which, possibly, will ultimately leach toxins into the water plastic distillers boil. It is by constantly redistilling and repurify-

ing the water in the John Ellis™ Electron-5 distiller that you produce MEASURABLE ENERGY. (See the Ammeter video at www.johnellis.com (which shows you how a defibrillator powers your heart) and you’ll understand how scientists can measure energy and why your heart doesn’t have to work that hard to keep you alive. With 13 patents, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a few ounces of DDW water when you can either buy bottled water from John Ellis©.com, or make it at home for pennies a day. (And, here’s the biggest secret I can share with you about my water.) Most people who buy bottled water do so because they think they can’t distill it themselves. They wonder: “What if I can’t do it right, myself?” Here’s the secret. The E-5 does it by itself. It’s like baking a cake. You put it in the oven, set the timer and go play canasta until the timer rings. (Only the E-5) doesn’t have a ringer. Crystal Clear™is a family business. It’s been here for over 40 years, and with the next generation standing in line waiting for the

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Short answer Skin protects itself; hair doesn’t.

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The sun’s ultraviolet rays damage skin and hair. So both rely on a pigmented polymer called melanin for protection. Melanin both absorbs and scatters UV rays, keeping them away from your cells’ fragile DNA. But melanin degrades over time and loses its color from prolonged exposure. In hair, the result is a bleached or yellowed effect. But because hair cells are dead— comprised only of lipids, water, pigments, and structural proteins—these light strands remain in this damaged state until new hair with fresh melanin grows to replace them. Skin cells, on the other hand, are alive and can react and adapt to UV rays. When sun hits the skin, the body cranks out a hormone that binds to melanin-making cells, causing them to produce more melanin for additional protection. This melanin populates the lower epidermis and becomes darker as it disperses to the upper layers. Over time, this process leads to a suntan, which serves to protect you better. Prolonged exposure to UV light can eventually damage skin’s cellular DNA, though, and those damaged cells put you at a higher risk for skin cancer. Tanning and repeated sunburns only multiply those risks. So feel free to sun your hair until it’s golden blond— but slather on that sunscreen.

Ph 513-984-8900 Fx 513-984-8976

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MAY /JUNE 201 6

Dispatch from the Future

In much of her work, Zirngibl incorporates advances in science and engineering, projecting them forward into the distant, but still foreseeable, future. To construct her elaborate pieces, Zirngibl thinks first on paper, creating a web of descriptions and diagrams that build on one another until, she says, ideas fill the notebook like cells in a Petri dish. The results are images that are more than illustrations—each is a rich, technologically plausible universe.

Dispatch from the Future is a series that imagines— through words and images—how humanity will live in the decades and centuries to come.

by K AT I E PEEK

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K I R ST EN Z I R N GI B L/ KI R ST E NZ I R N G IB L. C OM

Though this world might be unrecognizable, the scene it portrays is familiar: A traveler waits for a train. Except here, the trains are powered not by diesel fuel, but by tides. Artist Kirsten Zirngibl, who used digital art software to create this image, was inspired by one of Jupiter’s large moons, Europa—which, due to its proximity to the massive gas giant, experiences tidal forces extreme enough to melt the ice on its surface. In Zirngibl’s vision, the technology harnesses the tides’ push and pull, and uses the power to propel small passenger trains through tubes—a kind of mashup of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop and a surfboard.


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