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MYSTERIES OF TIME AND SPACE September/ October 2017

CARIBOU ARE SUPER PUNCTUAL —AND I T ’S A P R O B L E M THE BEST TIME T O E A T, S L E E P, B E C R E AT I V E . . . W H AT C A M E BEFORE THE BIG BANG?

13

Crazy Clocks, from Ancient to Atomic

WHAT TIME IS IT? YOU HAVE NO IDEA


THAT TV WON’T PAY

FOR ITSELF.

Switch to GEICO and save money for the things you love. Maybe it’s that glorious, curved-screen 4k beauty. Or the 12-26k Hz headphones you wear. High-tech is what you love – and it doesn’t come cheap. So switch to GEICO, because you could save 15% or more on car insurance. And that would help make the things you love that much easier to get.

Auto • Home • Rent • Cycle • Boat geico.com | 1-800-947-AUTO (2886) | local office Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states or all GEICO companies. Homeowners and renters coverages are written through non-affiliated insurance companies and are secured through the GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc. Boat and PWC coverages are underwritten by GEICO Marine Insurance Company. Motorcycle and ATV coverages are underwritten by GEICO Indemnity Company. Motorcycle insurance is not available in all states. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, D.C. 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. © 2017 GEICO


CONTENTS CHARTED

A map of your brain’s internal clocks p.6 Robots learn artificial comic timing p.8

0 mins

120 mins

60 mins

OPENING CREDITS ROLL

The climate-change clock killing caribou p.10 In some cultures, tomorrow is to the left p.11

“I GOT YOU BABE” DAY ONE

Your life, in a day p.12 A brief history of timekeeping p.14 Racing a photon p.16

how long it will take you to read this issue cover to cover

Sleep your way to Mars p.18 The stars gaze into the past p.20 IN PROFILE

The man killing your holidays p.22 GOODS

PHIL SEES HIS SHADOW...AGAIN

Clocks that are perfectly in sync p.24

(and where you’d be in Groundhog Day if you watched it simultaneously)

Hunt for buried treasure p.26 These watched pots boil, quickly p.28 Cameras to speed or slow reality p.30 Fleet-footed muscle car p.32 Tools for better z’s p.34 A sleep tracker that keeps its distance p.35 F E AT U R E S

PHIL MASTERS THE PUDDLE

PHIL MASTERS THE FRENCH LANGUAGE

Life’s first moment just got pushed back p.38 The people who define time p.45 Why a year feels shorter as you age p.50 Big brains hate the big bang p.52 Shift work is killing you p.58

THE PHILS DRIVE OFF A CLIFF OLD MAN DIES IN THE ALLEY. YOU CRY

The art of watchmaking p.66 TA L E S F R O M T H E F I E L D

What it’s like to live only in the now p.75 Packing for a summer without night p.76 What we mean when we say “dead” p.76 Counting down oxygen in space p.78 Smelly time travel p.80 The hammer that wouldn’t get lost p.81

TODAY BECOMES TOMORROW

HEAD TRIP SHUTTERSTOCK

A stopped clock and illusions of motion p.84 INVENTIONS

TOTAL TIME 1 H 41 M

Warp speed, anti-aging, sleepy learning p.98 cover photograph by The Voorhes / infographic by Sara Chodosh

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

3


S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 Editor-in-Chief Joe Brown Creative Director Pete Sucheski Executive Editor Kevin Gray Managing Editor Corinne Iozzio

TIME DIFFERENCES Y O U P R O B A B LY W O N ’ T

remember this page tomorrow. Don’t worry; I’m not offended. See, these 313 words will take you less than two minutes to read. If you live as long as an average American—78.8 years—my carefully crafted editor’s letter (which took me forever to write) will comprise just 1/29796163 of your life. Or, rounding to the nearest sensible number, zero percent of your dance through this mortal coil. But what if you were a mayfly? Stay with me—I am sober and I have a point, I promise. Forget that mayflies don’t so much think as obey instincts hot-stamped into their DNA, and ignore their lack of literacy. If you were a bookish mayfly—specifically a female of the species Dolania americana— these 83 seconds would represent almost a third of your adult life. That’d be like spending decades pondering this page.

My point is that though time feels like an inescapable fact of the universe, it means something different to all of us—even to members of the same species. Time isn’t even fixed within the confines of your own mind: When you were a little kid, didn’t summer vacation last a blissful eternity? And now, do you find yourself wondering, How is it already September?! The full span of your life and all that you’ve experienced within it shapes your perception of time. And so do your memories, emotions, and preferences. An hour melted away in the pages of a great book is no shorter than one slogged through while poring over your taxes. But it still feels different. That’s just the way your brain works. If we’ve done our jobs right, reading this magazine will send you speeding forward in time. One minute you’ve just cracked the cover, and then suddenly it’s two hours later and your mind is full of new and wonderful stories. I’ll leave you to it.

EDITORIAL Online Director Amy Schellenbaum Features Editor Susan Murcko Science Editor Rachel Feltman Technology Editor Stan Horaczek Senior Editor Sophie Bushwick Associate Editor Sarah Fecht Assistant Editors Mary Beth Griggs, Claire Maldarelli, Rob Verger Staff Writers Kelsey D. Atherton, Kendra Pierre-Louis Engagement Editor Mallory Johns Senior Producer Tom McNamara Associate Producer Jason Lederman Commerce Editor Billy Cadden Copy Chief Cindy Martin Editorial Assistant Sara Chodosh Researchers Ambrose Martos, Erika Villani Interns Cassidy Mayeda, Aparna Nathan, Marissa Shieh, Sara Kiley Watson ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY Photo Director Thomas Payne Associate Art Director Russ Smith Digital Associate Art Director Michael Moreno Consulting Production Manager Glenn Orzepowski Digital Design Fellow John Kuehn Multimedia Fellow Francis Agyapong Jr. CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Kate Baggaley, Brooke Borel, Tom Clynes, Clay Dillow, Tom Foster, Bryan Gardiner, William Gurstelle, Joseph Hooper, Gregory Mone, P.W. Singer, Kalee Thompson, James Vlahos, The Voorhes (photo) Group Editorial Director Anthony Licata Group Creative Director Sean Johnston BONNIER LIFESTYLE GROUP Senior Vice President, Managing Director Gregory D. Gatto Associate Publisher Jeff Timm Financial Director Tara Bisciello Northeast Advertising Office Matt Levy (Manager), Frank McCaffrey, Chip Parham, Scott Stewart, Lee Verdeccia (Digital Sales Manager) Midwest Manager Doug Leipprandt Detroit Advertising Director Jeff Roberge Advertising Coordinator Nicky Nedd Executive Director, Integrated Marketing Brenda Oliveri Group Sales Development Director Alex Garcia Sales Development Directors Amanda Gastelum, Charlotte Grima Executive Director, Brand Integration Beth Hetrick Associate Directors, Brand Integration Eshonda Caraway-Evans, Lynsey White Creative Services Director Ingrid M. Reslmaier Creative Director Gabe Ramirez Digital Creative Manager Steve Gianaca Consumer Marketing Director Bob Cohn Senior Public Relations Manager Molly Battles Human Resources Director Kim Putman Group Production Director Michelle Doster

Chairman Tomas Franzén Head of Business Area, Magazines Lars Dahmén Chief Executive Officer Eric Zinczenko Chief Financial Officer Joachim Jaginder 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 This product is from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources. FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SUBSCRIPTION QUESTIONS, such as renewals, address changes, email preferences, billing, and account status, go to popsci.com/cs. You can also call 800-289-9399 or 515-237-3697, or write to Popular Science, P.O. Box 6364, Harlan, IA 51593-1864. Occasionally, we make portions of our subscriber list available to carefully screened companies that offer products and services we think might be of interest to you. If you do not want to receive these offers, please advise us at 515-237-3697.

illustration by Tim Tomkinson

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

5


CHARTED 1

1

Stopwatch When your brain picks up a signal from its surroundings, such as a whiff of french fries, the SUPPLEMENTARY MOTOR AREA (SMA)

acts as a timer: Its activity increases the longer a stimulus lasts. As long as the external signal remains, neurons within the SMA fire, retaining information for other areas of the brain.

HEAD MASTER

your brain: time machine YOUR MIND IS CONSTANTLY

counting: the rhythm of your speech, the minutes until your next snack, the awful pause between text messages. Without all that tallying, you’d misinterpret a friend’s motives, or (horrors!) miss doughnut time. So how does your clever noggin seamlessly compute your life? Neuroscientists do not fully understand the precise neural dance—yet. But researchers do know that you can’t point to just one region in your skull. Different parts of our gray matter respond to different timing tasks, and brain imaging has helped us parse which areas do what. From drumming along with a musical phrase to figuring out how long a lecture has lasted, these specialized areas work together to shape our temporal perception.

2

Memory Center You can’t estimate time without a short-term memory, which lives in the RIGHT INFERIOR FRONTAL CORTEX, just behind your forehead. For example, to count the length of a baby’s cry, this area tracks when the sound starts and ends. Without memory, the wail’s beginning would disappear from the brain after only a few seconds.

3

Sequence Sorter To be productive, humans must be able to recognize the order of a series. The syllables in a word, the steps of a line dance, and the process of getting dressed in the morning all occur in set sequences. In MRI studies, the brain’s HIPPOCAMPUS lights up, which is a signal of activity, when we’re sorting this stuff out.

by Claire Maldarelli / illustration by Sinelab

2


4

Beat Keeper The CEREBELLUM coordinates your muscles’ movements, so it’s involved in all sorts of timing tasks—especially holding a beat. On research subjects, this area lights up like a disco ball during predictive timing tasks, such as tapping a rhythm: It helps you decide how long you should wait between taps.

5

5

Reward Counter

3

4

If you love chocolate, you will probably wait a while if you know it’s coming. For that, you can thank a strangely shaped conglomerate of neuron clusters, or nuclei, known as the BASAL GANGLIA. It heads up a process dubbed delayed discounting, which tells you how long you should wait—or not—depending on the payoff.

Billions of Ticking Clocks NEUROSCIENTISTS ARE STILL DEBATING EXACTLY how a clump of cells manages to track time. The latest idea, called the population clock theory, suggests neurons all over the brain, rather than a central chunk of gray matter, tick away constantly. A stimulus—say the start of a walk to work—triggers neurons to start firing, creating a pattern of lit-up cells that indicates how much time has passed. Each circuit acts as a unique clock; the path might get one cluster while a passing car gets another, creating countless timers in our heads. Scientists think various brain areas read these circuits, which is why you can cross the street, listen to music, and text at the same time.

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

7


BOT TO THE FUTURE

A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR. THE ROBOT BARTENDER ASKS,

“What’ll it be?” But when does the bot greet him? As soon as the man walks in? After he’s browsed the taps? A machine with no sense of social graces would not know the answer. That is, unless you taught it the delicate art of timing. According to Oregon State robotics professor Heather Knight, robots must understand how humans perceive time in order to build relationships with us. To teach them, Knight helps robots read our cues. For instance, a drinker in a hurry will take a direct, not a meandering, route to the barstool. But unpacking human body language is only part of what a would-be bionic barkeep might have to process.

teach AI when to say hi

DRINK SERVER

How might a drink-slinging AI serve and entertain us?

We imagined this robot’s process by combining two areas of Heather Knight’s AI research: observing human motion to see how we process time, and developing comic cadence.

A customer enters Analyze customer motion path

WANDERING

Part of a group?

Are they dancing?

YES

YES

NO

Do the robot

Where are they looking?

SOMEWHERE ELSE

NO

Looking at phone?

YES

DIRECT

NO

Analyze facial expression

On a bluetooth phone call?

ANIMATED

BLANK

Have they had a drink yet?

NO

YES

NO

“Hard day at work?” Make the jerk wait!

YES

“Anything good on Instagram?”

AT YOU

NO YES

NO

“Bitcoin for your thoughts?”

CHUCKLE

Let them show you animal photos Taking selfies?

TEARS YES

8

Cut them off, ping a selfdriving taxi

Serve a drink

Photobomb!

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

by Cassidy Mayeda / illustration by John Kuehn


A DIY project that’s perfectly delicious.

Maker’s Mark® & Ginger 1-1/2 parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon Ginger ale Orange slice or lime wedge for garnish Fill rocks glass with ice, add Maker’s Mark® Bourbon and top off with ginger ale. For a twist, garnish with an orange slice or lime wedge.

WE MAKE OUR BOURBON CAREFULLY. PLEASE ENJOY IT THAT WAY. Maker’s Mark® Bourbon Whisky, 45% Alc./Vol. ©2017 Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc. Loretto, KY

makersmark.com


NOT IN SYNC

consider the caribou IN THE WILD, TIMING IS EVERYTHING: MILLIONS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION

have made species dependent on seasonal cues. In parts of North America, fall’s cooler weather signals some birds to fly south and avoid Jack Frost’s chill; meanwhile, shifts in both temperature and sunlight tell maple trees to shed their leaves. As Earth warms, some creatures are rapidly recalibrating their clocks. But others, such as caribou in Greenland, have stuck to the same old timetable. For them, the results are catastrophic.

The Greenland Calendar, Then and Now The black bars show how the Arctic schedule once worked: Caribou gave birth as their food source (grass) sprouted, and when their buggy predators were harmless larvae. The red marks show how the grass and mosquitoes have begun emerging earlier—which could kill off the deer. 10

MARCH

APRIL

MAY

CALVING GROUNDS...

GRASSES NOW EMERGE TOO EARLY

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

JUNE

GIVE BIRTH TO BABIES...

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

AND THEN DISPERSE, FLEEING MOSQUITOES

GRASSES TYPICALLY BEGAN TO SPROUT

MOSQUITOES NOW ARRIVE WITH CALVES

MOSQUITOES HISTORICALLY STARTED HATCHING

by Kendra Pierre-Louis / photo illustration by Eric Heintz

GEOFF BRIGHTLING/GETTY IMAGES; SHUTTERSTOCK

Big Biter Arctic mosquitoes can grow to lengths of nearly half an inch.

Arctic caribou herds arrive at their far-north calving grounds in early June, when grasses and sedges would begin to sprout, providing tender, nutritious meals. Caribou, whose internal clocks rely on seasonal changes in light rather than temperature, still arrive at the same time, but global warming has pushed the sprouting schedule up by as much as 26 days. Lately, herds can find only tough-tochew mature plants. The early arrival of Arctic mosquitoes makes things worse. Instead of larva, adult biters now overwhelm and even take down newborns. These climate-induced food and pest problems are killing caribou: In years when one Western Greenland herd meets plants and bugs that emerge early, seven times as many calves die.


DIFFERENT STROKES

which way to tomorrow?

FORGET THE GEARS OF A WATCH. THOSE COLLECTIONS OF COGS AND

springs might help us track the passing hours, but the way we visualize tempo is far more nuanced. “Time is abstract. It can’t be tall or short or big or small,” says Emanuel Bylund, a linguist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Time itself might be universal, but cultures worldwide use all kinds of metaphors and mannerisms to imagine the fourth dimension —and not everyone crams it into the same spatial constraints.

Write Way, Write Time

Clock Half-Full

It’s All Uphill from Here

Your Future Is Behind You

To understand this page, you need to read from left to right. That’s how the Greeks set up their alphabet, one of the precursors to our own. But in written Arabic, words flow in the opposite direction, and in Chinese, characters run top to bottom. Researchers have found that the direction of your writing determines how you orient the arrow of time. When asked to organize events in a line from earliest to latest, English readers arranged them left to right, Arabic right to left, and Chinese top to bottom. People without writing systems, like Papua New Guinea’s Yupno, had a free-form approach.

Swedish days are “long,” but Spanish ones can be “full.” These metaphors help us see time, but they can also mess with our heads a little. In one experiment, people watched a short line grow on a screen for three seconds, followed by a longer line over the same duration. The lengthier line tricked Swedish subjects into thinking extra time had elapsed. The same thing happened when Spanishspeakers watched a cylinder fill up: To them, a fuller cylinder meant more time had passed. They had no trouble with the line experiment, and vice versa for the Swedes. Words really do matter.

Location isn’t just a buzzword for real estate agents; terrain can contour speech. Papua New Guinea’s hilly landscape has helped shape the indigenous Yupno people’s perception of time. To them, the future is uphill and the past down. Cognitive scientist Rafael Núñez from the University of California, San Diego says that, while rare today, other geographybased time systems may have existed once, based on features like plains or waterways. But migration to different lands—and landscapes —likely erased their usefulness. “Perhaps this is not a system that travels well,” Núñez says.

Time seems to come at us head-on: the future in front, the past behind. Not so for the Aymara people of the Andes. Because the past is what they have experienced, it lies ahead, where they can see it. The future remains hidden, so it is behind them. That’s because visual evidence is particularly important to the Aymara. Their grammar, for instance, indicates whether you personally saw Joe go to the store (-vna), or learned he was going there (-tayna). You’d also use -tayna if you saw Joe leaving while you were drunk, so your eyesight can’t be trusted. This emphasis on vision frames their view of time.

by Mary Beth Griggs / illustration by Marco Goran Romano

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

11


44m00s

15-19

GROOMING Gotta look good for all those hot dates you’re going on.

20-24

1h 00m

1

25-34

EATING Savor it all before your metabolism slows down.

13m 48s

35-44

CHAUFFERING Because the kids can’t drive themselves to the mall.

45-54

3h 13m

1

55-64

WATCHING TV Binge-watch all the shows you missed while raising kids.

65-74

75+

TIME SPENT

GARDENING Retirement finally lets you focus on the lawn and veggie plot.

Working

Learning

At Leisure

Doing Chores

Eating/Drinking

Traveling

Helping

Shopping

Exercising

Spiritually

Volunteering

On the Phone

MIND YOUR TIME

where does the day go? 12

23m 24s

1

Grooming

BREATHTAKING MOMENTS MIGHT LINGER IN YOUR MEMORY, BUT THEY’RE NOT

what make up a life. It’s the minutes spent cleaning the toilet and choosing a not-too-hard avocado that add up. We spend most of our time zoning out or fussing about the lines at the grocery store, then wonder where the day went. Here’s how you’re most likely spending your waking hours at different stages of your life—and where you can pause to savor them for the lifetime they really are.

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

story and illustration by Sara Chodosh


TOCK TICKER

OVER MILLENNIA, HUMANKIND’S TIME-TRACKING HAS GROWN INCREASINGLY

a brief history of time(keeping)

precise. Sundials divided days into hours. Clocks broke hours into quarters and minutes, and finally minutes into seconds. As timepieces evolved, so did scientists’ need for ever-more-exact tickers. They developed devices that relied not on Earth’s wobbly rotation, but on microscopic atomic movements. At the heart of it all is an ever-advancing appreciation for our smallest temporal unit, the second. Modern systems like GPS and cellphones rely on keeping this interval consistent, which makes defining and refining it, well, of the essence.

THE S TA R T OF TIME

18000–8000 BCE

3500 BCE

Earthen Calendars

Shadow Clocks

A hash-marked bone found in the Semliki Valley in the Democratic Republic of the Congo might be the earliest human attempt to count the days. Ten thousand years later, in what’s now Scotland, humans dug moon-shaped pits to track the lunar cycle.

Humans cut days into smaller units by tracking the sun with shadow-casting obelisks and rods. Nearly 2,000 years later, Egyptians refined that method into the earliest known sundial. Babylonian, Greek, Chinese, and Mesoamerican versions followed.

1267 CE

725 CE

clock was invented by Chinese spun a wheel, an interlocking system of rods and levers

2017

14

1430 CE

1656 CE

Spring Drive

Pendulum Power

A 15th-century French duke may have owned the first clock to drive its gears with a spring instead of water or weights. The design allowed for compact timepieces like pocket watches, and boosted accuracy. Later versions only dropped four minutes a day.

As springs unwound, they became inaccurate, causing problems for precision-craving astronomers like Galileo. So 17th-century Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens built a pendulum clock. Its 3-footlong swinging weight lost only one minute per day.

2001 CE

1967 CE

Optical Future

Seconds, Redefined

Visible light, which lets us detect faster vibrations than microwaves do, led to optical clocks that err just a second every 140 million years. Too fragile to run longer than a few days, these tickers could eventually cause a redefinition of the second. Again.

Atomic clocks made a more-precise second possible, though it took nearly two decades for researchers to agree on a standard. Finally, they matched a second to the precise frequency of energy a cesium atom releases when its electrons jump.

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

by Kelsey Atherton / illustrations by Polly Becker

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

drumbeat every quarter and a bell every full hour.


A CONTINUOUS SEARCH FOR MORE AND MORE ACCURATE TIMEKEEPING MACHINERY.”

1500 BCE Hours After Dark By slowly flowing water from one vessel into another and measuring the liquid level against marked intervals, Egyptians could see how much time had passed— without using sunlight. Similar methods relied on sand, burnt incense, or scored candles.

150 CE Seconds, Defined To help astronomers track stars, Egyptian mathematician Ptolemy mapped the sky onto a globe. He divided each degree of longitude (360 in total) into 60 segments called minutes, and each of those into a further 60 smaller slivers: seconds.

1927 CE Quartzer Hour Gravity can slow pendulums, but researchers at Bell Laboratories found that electrified quartz crystal vibrates more consistently. Early models erred by one-third of a second each year, allowing for precision measurements like tracking gravity at sea.

1949 CE Atomic Age Atoms resonate even more reliably than quartz. Using microwaves to track these oscillations, the National Bureau of Standards made a timer accurate to one second in eight months. Today’s most advanced cesium clock loses a second per 300 million years.


TECHNICALLY... the tortoise didn’t make the cut. But we couldn’t just leave him off!

J

I

H

G

F

E

D

C

B

17.6 MILES Apollo 11 exiting Earth’s atmosphere at 9:35 a.m. on July 16, 1969

A

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

the 10-second marathon

47.6 MILES the International Space Station right now, experiencing a sunrise every hour and a half 410 MILES a 4-inch-thick metal disc shooting skyward from a 1956 nuclear test at Los Alamos

THE CONCEPT OF A MINUTE IS KIND OF MEANINGLESS.

We can’t even be sure any two organisms experience a minute as the same length of time. Animals with slow metabolisms, like tortoises, perceive it as oozing along, while hares see it whizzing past. In the chaos of relativity, sometimes it’s nice just to have fun. So here’s how far some animals and objects would get in 10 seconds. 16

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

A

FASTEST TORTOISE: 0.0017 MILES

F

NERVE IMPULSE: 0.745 MILES

B

USAIN BOLT: 0.0649 MILES

G

SOUND: 2.11 MILES

C

BROWN HARE: 0.132 MILES

H

THE CONCORDE: 3.75 MILES

D

CHEETAH: 0.169 MILES

I

THE MOON: 6.35 MILES

E

TOYOTA COROLLA: 0.319 MILES

J

LIGHT: 1,862,824 MILES

by Marissa Shieh / illustration by Peter Sucheski


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RE FUTU IEW V E R P

[ STEP 1 ]

[ STEP 2 ]

Pod People

Straight Chillin’

You enter the torpor pod. Using an IV placed in a central vein in your chest, a crew mate injects a sedative similar to propofol to prevent shivering, then tapes sensors to your skin. These will monitor heart rhythm, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and other stats.

Once the sedative knocks you out, the pod begins cooling the air around your body. This lowers your core temperature a few degrees per hour, from a healthy 98.6°F to below the point of hypothermia. Crew members may also cool you with gel pads or icy nasal spray.

CHARTED

[ STEP 3 ]

[ STEP 4 ]

SNOOZE CRUISE

nap y your way to Mars IMAGINE A ROAD TRIP THAT

lasts six months—no pit stops, black night the whole way. That’s how long it would take you, and how monotonous it would be, to fly to Mars. To avoid the boredom (and its cousins depression and anxiety), you could spend part of your trip in artificial hibernation, or torpor, as it’s medically known. NASA is funding research into this method for future planet hoppers, and not just to reduce the games of I Spy. Because metabolism slows during slumber, you would require less food and water, reducing a mission’s cargo weight, fuel needs, and price tag. Also, you wouldn’t want to kill your crew mates. Here’s how you might go nightynight and save your sanity on your 34-million-mile flight .

18

Low Maintenance

Food Tube

The crew pushes anticoagulants through the central line to prevent blood clots from forming—if they break free, they can block blood vessels. IV antibiotics help stave off infection. And robotic systems periodically stimulate your muscles to prevent atrophy.

In torpor, the average body needs only about 1,000 calories of daily nutrient slurry. You “eat” via a feeding tube down your throat or a PEG tube implanted on the inside of your stomach. Urine- and fecal-collection systems keep you, and the pod, clean.

[ STEP 5 ]

[ STEP 6 ]

Up and At ‘Em

Get a Move On

After two to three weeks, it’s time to rise and shine. A crew member ramps down your pod’s cooling system, letting your body gradually warm. Once you’re back to normal internal temperatures, the crew will turn off your sedative and allow you to wake.

You stay up for two to three days, moving your body and caring for dozing crew mates (although robots might one day take over this task). Then you go back under for another few weeks. Repeat until you arrive safe and sane on the Red Planet.

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

by Jason Lederman / illustration by Brown Bird Design


HIGH SCHOOL WILL NEVER BE THE SAME

SEPT 8 8 7C

Join the biggest stars in entertainment for an unforgettable, live special, as we come together to rethink American high schools. Visit XQSuperSchool.org/live to get a sneak peek at the future of education.


1

Trappist-1 a potentially habitable seven-planet system

A TWINKLE IN TIME

WHEN WE LOOK AT STARS IN THE NIGHT SKY, WE’RE

staring into Earth’s past

actually looking back in time. Since it takes a while for light to cross the vast emptiness of the universe— even at a blistering 186,000 miles per second—we’re seeing each celestial object as it looked eons ago. But what if those stars looked back at our pale-blue dot? Here’s what the astral peeping Toms would see.

2

Betelgeuse a star in the Orion constellation

3

Andromeda Earth’s nearest neighboring galaxy

4

SN2009 a supernova in galaxy NGC 4487

5

MACS J0416 a galaxy cluster far, far away

6

GN-z11 the most distant galaxy we know of

DISTANCE:

DISTANCE:

DISTANCE:

DISTANCE:

DISTANCE:

DISTANCE:

39 light-years

642 light-years

2.5 million light-years

70 million light-years

4.5 billion light-years

13.4 billion light-years

WHATS GOING ON:

Sweden becomes the first nation to ban aerosol sprays (over concerns that they damage the ozone layer). Meanwhile, Americans boogie to disco, in vitro fertilization produces its first human baby, and Space Invaders invades arcades.

WHATS GOING ON:

Medieval Europe is still bringing out its dead from the worst years of the plague; smaller outbreaks continue to ravage the population. Britain and France play a bloody game of thrones in the Hundred Years’ War…because the Black Death wasn’t deadly enough.

WHATS GOING ON:

Our ancient ancestors learn to wield tools. Homo habilis most likely butchers his meals with sharp stone flakes. He also sports humanlike feet, indicating that he walks on two legs, and has a bigger brain than his predecessors. He will employ both to create disco.

WHATS GOING ON:

Tyrannosaurus rex stalks North America, crunching prey in its 4-foot-long jaws, and possibly sporting feathers (sunglasses not included). Small, shrewlike mammals start thriving in the relatively warm climate, just waiting for their turn to rule the planet.

CLOSEST STAR 1

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WHATS GOING ON:

A Mars-size rock slams into Earth (probably), creating the moon and nearly destroying our planet. Fortunately, since the first cellular sacs won’t crawl out of the proverbial mud for a billion more years, no life-forms are harmed in the making of this satellite.

WHATS GOING ON:

Just a few million years after the Big Bang, Earth’s neighborhood consists mostly of emptiness. What little gas and dust there is won’t clump together into our sun and planet for another 9 billion years. Enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts. FARTHEST STAR

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IN PROFILE / S T E V E

H A N K E

THE MAN WHO WOULD KILL YOUR HOLIDAYS STEVE HANKE IS AGITATED. AN INFLUENTIAL ECONOMIST

given to sonorous talks on troubled currencies, he sits in a book-jammed office, jabbing his finger at an offending email printout. It’s from a factotum at Johns Hopkins University, where Hanke is a professor of Applied Economics. The email informs the faculty that, due to the ever-shifting date of Labor Day, fall classes will begin on a Thursday (but on a Monday schedule) and skip a Friday. “Every year,” says Hanke, “I have to completely revise my schedule.” Such jiggering is a waste of his time. Multiply his frustration by an entire school, add the time suck at thousands of other places making similar changes—sports leagues, government agencies, your company—and you get chaos! Trillions of wasted work hours! “Imagine the meetings!” says Hanke, hoisting his eyebrows like a blazer-wearing radical. Hanke is indeed a radical, but one on a rational mission. The son of a watchmaker, he craves precise measurements. He wants to shred our current Gregorian calendar, adopted in the 16th century, and replace its messy floating dates and leap years with clocklike regularity. Under the HankeHenry Permanent Calendar, developed with Johns Hopkins physics and astronomy professor Richard ConnHenry, every January 1 falls on a Monday. Each day of each month maintains its position year after year. Your birthday would always fall on the same day of the week. Never again would you need to buy a new Curious Kittens wall calendar. Imagine the eternal surety: “You would know, every Wednesday, forever, that the Baltimore Orioles will be playing the Toronto Blue Jays, and that’s it,” Hanke says.  The Hanke-Henry system would ground floating holidays like Memorial and Labor days. In addition, the grid pins Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on Sundays, nixing time (and money) wasted wrestling with year-end schedules. “A positive pop in GDP growth,” Hanke muses.

Hanke’s not alone in detesting the current taxonomy of our divided years. It took nearly 200 years for England to adopt Pope Gregory XIII’s calendar, which debuted in 1582; Orthodox churches still haven’t. Gregory sought to fix the Julian system, which was plagued by a pesky almost-11-minute annual drift, shifting the equinox earlier each year. The calendar’s enemies are legion. In 1793, French revolutionaries assaulted it, instituting 10-day weeks. In 1928, Kodak founder George Eastman tried running workers on a 13-month calendar. But such reforms fail, mostly because they include the odd long week to catch up with Earth’s solar orbit. This lets the Sabbath shift, which incenses churchgoers.  Hanke’s plan keeps faith by funneling our orbit into seven-day chunks. This works out to a four-quarter 30-30-31 pattern, for a rhythmic 364-day year. Rather than dealing with the messy 1.2422-day remainder each time we spin around the sun (a problem that quadrennial leap days don’t fully resolve), this system lets the time pile up for five or six years until it makes a work-free Leap Week. Economists like Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-leaning Economic Policy Group, think that’s a bad deal. “That’s a loss of leisure for many people who do not have access to vacation days,” Mishel says. “This would never pass a popular vote. Nor should it.”  Despite opposition, Hanke believes his bottom-line approach will prevail. What he needs is an early adopter—an Eastman, maybe a sports-team owner looking to cut costs. In any case, a full-out campaign to convince the world will have to come from someone else. The reason, he says: “I don’t have the time.”

YO U W O U L D K N O W, E V E R Y W E D N E S D AY, F O R E V E R , T H AT THE ORIOLES A R E P L AY I N G T H E B L U E J AY S .” -STEVE HANKE, OF HIS UNIFORM C A L E N DA R


by Matt Hongoltz-Hetling / photograph by Marius Bugge

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GOODS 24

SWISS BEATS

WA I T A S E C O N D (A N D A H A L F )

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

THERE’S AN IRONY AT THE HEART OF

the Swiss Federal Railways’ famously precise train-station clocks: Each second hand takes just 58.5 ticks to move around the dial. When the paddle-shaped tip gets to the top, it pauses for 1.5 seconds. This trademark quirk began in the 1940s, when engineer Hans Hilfiker pondered how to synchronize by Rob Verger / photograph by Jonathon Kambouris


the clocks across stations to keep the system free of delays. His solution: Make each clock simply display the time rather than counting for itself. Minute hands received their cues from a “mother clock” in Zurich via telephone lines, but second hands still moved on their own. Trouble was, their motors ran too fast. So Hilfiker inserted a peg in each

clock that stopped the second hand when it got to the top, then retracted when the minute hand received its signal to jump forward. These Mondaine wall clocks are stylized re-creations of the famous Swiss tickers, but they use a standard battery-powered quartz movement to stay on time—without the need for a master clock to boss them around. $235

3,000

The approximate number of timepieces in Swiss stations still obeying a mother clock

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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HEAVY METAL

THE LURE OF TREASURE HUNTING IS NOT THAT OF

DIGGING U P T H E PA S T

striking proverbial gold (although some still do search for it), but that you never know what historical holdovers the ground will produce. At the right local spot—an old battlefield or remote beach—these tools will allow you to burrow back in time.

D O O G

First, you need a metal detector. The Teknetics Patriot can spot booty up to a foot underground, and its display will estimate the object’s depth and material. Audible beeps let you know when metal distorts the electromagnetic field generated by the 11-inch head. $449

S

1 Search the area

2 Dig a tidy hole A hand trowel is great for small digs, but if you need to bust through roots or tough dirt, the serrated edges of the 3-foot-long Ground Hawg Shovel will help you cut. Four jabs with the 7.5-inch blade will create a cube-shaped plug of earth that’s easy to replace. $60

2

4

3 Be more aggressive

4 Get accuracy

THIS AND PREVIOUS PAGE: PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES

Rocky terrain requires more hardcore tools like the Garrett Retriever II Pick. At 19 inches long, the steel pickaxe features a flat blade for moving earth and a point for cutting. A rare-earth magnet in the center of the head will grab metal objects underwater. $59 3

Once you start digging, use the 9.3-inch Minelab Pro-Find 35 detector to search the hole. The probe creates a 360-degree electromagnetic field with adjustable power that can sense when it’s within inches of loot. Haptic and audio alerts intensify as you get closer to your treasure. $149 26

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

by Rob Verger / photograph by Jonathon Kambouris


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A WATCHED POT

B OIL BARONS

At Home

At Work

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APPLY ENOUGH HEAT TO WATER AND IT WILL EVENTUALLY BOIL, BUT TRY TO convince your brain of that while you impatiently loiter in your kitchen, listening for your old kettle to whistle. Your noggin is a timekeeper, and the more you pay attention to each passing second, the longer your suffering seems to last. It would take just 10.16 minutes to boil a gallon of water on an impossible stove with ideal heat transfer, and the wait would still feel like torture. The good news: These vessels were built for maximum efficiency and temperature control, to minimize the pain of waiting for those little bubbles to start rising.

At Play

You can boil any liquid you want in the Fellow Raven Stovetop Kettle + Tea Steeper, but its specialty is a perfect cup of tea. This pot has an integrated metal filter inside for steeping. The silicone top has a built-in thermometer with markings to indicate the ideal temperature range for your brew. Try 170°F for green tea, or the full 212°F for an herbal mix. Plus, the copper finish will only get better-looking as it ages.

A proper cuppa requires thermal precision. Measure your water level in the Cuisinart PerfecTemp through its lit window, then let the 1,500 watts flowing into the base’s metal heating element do their thang. Six presets guide you to the right temperature for your drink. White tea? 185°F. French-press coffee? 200 flat. It’ll even keep the water at that set point for up to 30 minutes, all from the comfort of your desk.

Look, sometimes you just need to boil 16 ounces of water in two minutes and fifteen seconds in below-freezing temperatures. The Jetboil MiniMo understands. A valve dishes out a carefully tuned fuel mixture of propane and isobutane to speed heating. The whole package fits inside a 5-by-6-inch cup for transport. Use it to cook some cowboy beans, and you’ll appreciate the shallow spoon angle from the wide cup.

CAPACITY: 34 ounces

CAPACITY: 57 ounces

CAPACITY: 32 ounces

HEAT SOURCE: Stovetop

HEAT SOURCE: Electric

HEAT SOURCE: Fuel tank

PRICE: $100

PRICE: $100

PRICE: $135

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by Sara Chodosh / photographs by Jonathon Kambouris


Be the breakthrough.

Breakthroughs are the patients participating in clinical trials, the scientists and doctors working together to advance the fight against cancer, and the brave survivors like Tonya who never give up. Let’s be the breakthrough. To learn about appropriate screenings and clinical trials or to help someone with cancer, go to su2c.org/breakthrough. #cancerbreakthrough


EXPANSION

VIDEO RUNNING AT THE SPEED OF MOLASSES REVEALS

SLOW D OWN T H E WO R L D

hidden movements our feeble peepers can’t typically see. While most footage is filmed at 30 or so frames per second (fps), the ultrafast cameras below can capture hundreds or thousands. When played back at a normal rate, the movies stretch out time, creating cinematic magic.

SLOW

GoPro Hero5 Black Like many smartphones, this action camera can record footage at 240 fps, or eight times slower than real life. Unlike your smartphone, however, it can plunge up to 33 feet underwater and survive sky-high drops, so it can go where the action is. Try filming the mesmerizing-but-gross undulations of a dog’s tongue as it drinks from a bowl of water. $399

SLOWER

Sony RX100 Mark V

SLOWEST

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This pro camera can take a second and stretch it into five minutes of high-def footage that can be crucial in research scenarios, like analyzing the results of a crash-safety test. With the resolution cut to the lowest setting, the sensor can grab an extraordinary million frames per second, making one second last more than nine hours. FROM $40,000 by Stan Horaczek / photographs by Jonathon Kambouris

PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES

Moments shot at this camera’s 1,000 fps top speed produce hypnotizing films. That requires plentiful light, so the Sony’s lens has an extra-wide aperture to let in oodles of photons. One second of film time becomes 33 seconds of playback. $1,000


2

COMPRESSION

THEN SPEED IT UP

1

A SINGLE IMAGE CAN CAPTURE

a discreet moment, but stringing dozens or hundreds together into a time-lapse can tell an hourslong story in one spectacular sequence. Start with something simple, like tracing a flower’s bloom over the course of a morning, and, with a little practice, you’ll be able to catch more complex and captivating motion, such as the stars wheeling across the night sky. Here’s what you need to fast-forward time like a pro.

1 Camera

PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES; SEBASTIEN GABORIT/GETTY IMAGES

The 24.2-megapixel sensor on Nikon’s D5600 DSLR is large enough to capture spectacular night skies that won’t be overwhelmed by ugly pixel noise, and the included zoom lens is ideal for covering landscapes. $800

2 Control 3

The Pulse Camera Remote sits atop your camera and communicates via Bluetooth with a phone app. Use it to dial in detailed commands, like the interval between each shot and the time frame you want to shoot. $99

3 Rotating Mount Add an extra layer of motion to your time-lapse videos with the Syrp Genie Mini, a motorized turntable that rotates the camera as it’s shooting. It’ll make even a static scene, like a cityscape, look more dramatic. $249 4

4 Tripod Few things ruin a well-shot sequence quicker than a wobbly camera. The aluminum MeFoto RoadTrip Classic weighs just 3.6 pounds and supports more than 17 pounds of gear, making it burly enough for your whole rig. $200 P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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IT TAKES JUST A LIT TLE MORE THAN TWO SECONDS FOR THE

DRAG KING

$85,000 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon to reach 60 miles per hour. That makes it the fastest production car on the planet when it comes to pure, straightline drag-race-style acceleration. The Demon needs excessive amounts of raw power to pull off speedy feats, like clock a quarter-mile in just 9.65 seconds, or hit a top speed of 168. Here’s how this chunky mass of American muscle manages to rival the kind of vehicle that travels with a pit crew.

GONE IN 2.3 SECONDS

840 770 100+ 12.6 HORSEPOWER

FOOT-POUNDS

OCTANE

INCHES

In drag mode, a transmission-locking system allows the driver to rev the Demon’s supercharged V-8 up to 2,350 rpm without the car creeping forward, making for greater torque at go time.

The car generates enough torque to pop a wheelie when it launches, lifting its front tires up to a record 2.9 feet off the ground and subjecting the driver to as much as 1.8 G’s of force. Buckle up, please.

Racing fuel packs more power, allowing the Demon to unleash more horses and drive faster. Going highoctane requires a powertrain-control module, part of a package called the Demon Crate.

To maximize grip, the Demon’s Nitto racing tires are made from a soft, road-grabbing rubber designed specifically for the car. Each one is more than a foot wide, which is inches fatter than a standard tire.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HIT 60 MPH? 2018 Dodge Demon

2.3

2017 Porsche 911 GT3 1974 Dodge Challenger

9.5

2017 Ford Transit Connect SEC OND S

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COURTESY DODGE

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W H E N W E T H I N K O F T I M E T R AV E L W E P I C T U R E

something out of an H.G. Wells novel, but in a way, your bed is a time machine. Lay down, close your eyes, and wake up in the future. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 50 million adults in the U.S. have trouble getting shut-eye. This gathering of gadgets can’t cure a full-fledged sleep disorder, but it will appeal to your five senses and make it easier to drift peacefully into dreamland.

SMELL

SOUND

SIGHT

TASTE

TOUCH

1. Essential oils aren’t

2. Looping white noise

3. Switching between

4. For centuries,

5. Under Armour’s

a bedtime panacea, but it’s easier to rest in a room that smells more like peppermint, lemon, or cedarwood than your dirty gym clothes. The Homedics Ellia Aspire Ultrasonic Diffuser uses a rapidly vibrating transducer to transform and disperse a waterand-oil mix into a cool, fragrant mist. $129

from an app or digital sound machine can be inconsistent and annoying. The Marpac Dohm, however, uses a two-speed asymmetrical fan to generate constant, soothing sound. The pitch and volume are adjustable up to 75 decibels to drown out street noise or a snoring partner. $50

machine-fed light of our devices and total darkness can confuse our brains about the time of day. The Philips Wake-Up Light changes color and brightness to simulate natural sunrise and sunset. Its LED shifts among yellow, red, and orange to aid transitions into and out of sleep. $199

purveyors of Ayurvedic medicine have praised various spices for general relaxation. Yogi’s Bedtime Tea contains two of ’em: cardamom and cinnamon. Chamomile in the mix adds apigenin, a flavonoid, which binds to benzodiazepine brain receptors to help chill you out. $8

Performance Pajamas feel like a mixture of silk jammies and athletic gear. A bioceramic coating reflects far infrared rays from body heat back to the skin, which preliminary studies show might help muscle recovery. The science isn’t settled, but the PJs sure are cozy. $99

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

by Mallory Johns / photograph by Jonathon Kambouris

PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES

SLUMBER BUDDIES


THE NIGHT WATCH

T H E B E S T WAY T O M E A S U R E S L E E P Q U A L I T Y I S I N A L A B ,

C OU N T I N G S LE E P

with a dozen or so sensors stuck to your noggin and torso. The 6-inch-tall SleepScore Max tracker ($150) can’t replace a trip to the clinic, but it can give you data about your slumber without even touching you. Plus, it monitors conditions like light, sound, and temperature to perfect your bedroom setup.

HOW IT WORKS

1

Throughout the night a small radio emitter sends low-power, high-frequency waves toward your bed 16 times per second.

2

Those waves bounce off your upper body, and then return to a built-in sensor, allowing the device to judge your movement and respiration rate.

3

At 30-second intervals, an algorithm determines what sleep stage you’re in (light, deep, or REM), and then transmits the data to a dedicated app.

PROP STYLING BY WENDY SCHELAH FOR HALLEY RESOURCES

4

The system assigns a grade from 1 to 100, and offers advice —like making the room dark, cool, or quiet — to help you sleep better.

by Rob Verger / photograph by Jonathon Kambouris

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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S E P T E M B E R — O C T O B E R — 2 0 1 7

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WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

WATCHING THE CLOCKS

HOW LONG IS A YEAR?

WHAT CAME BEFORE THE BIG BANG

YOUR SCHEDULE COULD BE KILLING YOU

AMERICAN RENAISSANCE

photograph by The Voorhes

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BEGIN?

A new geological finding stirs questions—and controversy—about where and when earliest life emerged. CREDIT GOES HERE

B Y K AT M C G O WA N

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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T The rock is deep rusty red, shot through with gray stripes. It rises above shrubby tundra, part of a hummocky terrain that slopes down to the Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, as it has for a very long time—maybe almost as long as the planet itself. This is a rare spot on Earth, one of a few where rocks this old survive. Plate tectonics and the relentless recycling of crust have repeatedly chewed up our planet’s surface. Only a few zones in deep continental interiors have escaped this fate, in places like Greenland and Western Australia. Scientists who specialize in finding signs of the origins of life make pilgrimages to these primeval sites. Life wrote its first chapters in these rocks. And scientists hope to read them.

Canadian geologist Dominic Papineau schemed for years to visit this lonely place, known as the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt. In 2008, he finally rounded up a couple thousand dollars in funding and set out from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., journeying through three layovers and a final leg on a bush plane. If you like rocks—and don’t mind mosquitoes—it’s a great place to ramble for a couple of weeks in the summer. A lichen-flecked stony expanse, polished by glaciers, juts through the thin soil. Papineau pitched his tent near a creek. At that time of year, at these latitudes, the sun rises at 4 a.m., giving him many hours to explore. Three days before he was due to leave, Papineau found a 20- or 30-yard-long strike, part of a banded iron formation: reddish hematite layered with dark magnetite, like a red-and-gray napoleon. It had

OPENING SPREAD: SCIENCE SOURCE/GETTY IMAGES

WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?


100 mi

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COURTESY DOMINIC PAPINEAU AND MATTHEW DODD

formed not too far from the location of an ancient deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Blobs the size of quarters dotted the surface, creating thin swirls. In younger rocks, Papineau knew, such marks can indicate the presence of former life. “When I saw this material, I knew I needed to sample it,” he says. With a sledgehammer, he smashed off chunks. When it came time to go, he lugged his hundred-plus pounds of rocky souvenirs back to his lab at Carnegie, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in geophysics. There, his new specimens joined his collection and waited patiently as only rocks can until he could find time to analyze them. Papineau finally dug in to investigate after he moved to University College London in 2014. Because the Nuvvuagittuq formation is believed to be between 3.77 billion and 4.28 billion years old, that would make his samples just slightly younger than our 4.54 -billionmap by John Kuhen

Rare Earth year-old planet. Papineau and graduate stuThe Nuvvuagittuq dent Matthew Dodd pursued a dozen lines Supracrustal of analyses and eventually concluded that Belt, where ancient rocks jut these humble rocks held evidence of some of from the ground. the oldest life ever found on Earth. In March, they published their findings in the journal Nature. If correct, their work bolsters a newish theory in origins-of-life research: Rather than assembling its building blocks over a billion-plus years, the earliest forms burst forth in a geological heartbeat of tens of millions—maybe even hundreds of thousands. Moreover, life may not have required freak coincidences. Rather, it might have formed as a routine consequence of Earth’s early chemistry, maybe a default set of conditions that can be found on rocky, wet P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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planets everywhere—all 40 billion of them in the Milky Way alone. But the origins-of-life field, like early Earth itself, is a cauldron of roiling theories, each new one challenged and sometimes buried under volcanic flows of criticism. If Papineau and Dodd are wrong—and some suspect they are—the marks and minerals they found are merely a mirage, another case of misleading geology that creates the illusion of long-ago microbes. And there will be consequences. Papineau jokes about Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake in 1600 for suggesting beings existed on other planets. Fortunately that form of peer review is no longer popular. Instead, they might endure the modern equivalent.

ORIGIN STORIES In 1992, Bill Schopf, of the University of California at Los Angeles, said he had found 3.5-billion-year-old microfossils in rocks from Western Australia. The claim survived for 10 years, until Martin Brasier, an Oxford astrobiologist and paleobiologist, charged that Schopf had misunderstood the rocks. And their geology. Brasier claimed Schopf had cherry-picked his evidence, and may even have committed fraud. At that year’s Astrobiology Science Conference, the scientists hashed it out in public. In front of hundreds of origins-of-life and extraterrestrial-life researchers, Brasier and Schopf traded verbal blows, slamming each other’s science. The victory went to Brasier. Today, most researchers in the field do think that Schopf ’s rocks showed evidence of early creatures—just not the type he thought he saw. Almost since the 1870s, when Darwin first speculated that early life might have sheltered in a “warm little pond,” the field has given rise to nearly as many theories as there are scientists who specialize in this work. In general, though, the theories follow one of two themes: land or sea. Biologists tend to prefer the sea theory, which posits that life began at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where super-heated, mineral-charged water seeps up from inside the earth to nourish and sustain organisms. It seems reasonable. The sea could shelter early life from the relentless meteor strikes and deadly solar UV radiation that once scorched the young planet’s surface. And the vents would provide food, or energy, in the form of hydrogen gas and minerals such as sulfur and iron. Michael Russell, who heads the planetary chemistry and astrobiology group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a group charged with preparing to search for life in space, favors the sea theory. He says that as alkaline water seeped from certain types of vents, it would have mixed with ancient Earth’s acidic seawater, creating a tiny electrochemical charge that could have given rise to the first organisms. “Hydrothermal vents are great places to live,” Russell says. That kind of scenario could also produce mineral pillars, where simple chemicals collected and concentrated in tiny holes. There, trapped together, they could link into the long chains necessary for biology. Then they would begin to form membranes, build systems

that capture energy, and create a genetic code. Eventually these components assemble into a microbe that could leave a mark similar to the ones Papineau sees in his rocks. A ridiculous idea, say the land theorists: The ocean is too watery for life to have gained its first foothold there. “It’s chemically implausible,” says Armen Mulkidjanian, a biophysicist at Osnabrück University in Germany. Martin Van Kranendonk, a geologist and astrobiologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, concurs with that assessment. “We regard the oceans as an extreme environment,” he says. Van Kranendonk and others instead look to the surface of the new Earth, where briny hot springs, bubbling geysers, and rich gases would have served as the chemical cradle for life. Call it Volcano World. There, compounds of hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide could collect in freshwater pools. Cycles of wetting and drying, combined with searing UV radiation, could cause these chemicals to join up in a way that allowed them to self-replicate, eventually creating a genetic code. Researchers have shown in labs that the building blocks of DNA can arise this way. And Van Kranendonk’s own team recently discovered evidence of 3.5-billion-year-old life from a former hot spring in Australia. The scientists who favor the sea theory counter that existnece begins not with a code but with a meal. You need a metabolism and a source of energy before you can build anything like genes. Besides, the chemicals involved are implausible (cyanide?). “That idea of life coming from organic molecules in the sunshine is ludicrous,” charges Russell. His jet-fueled analogy: You wouldn’t put a guidance system on a rocket with no engine and expect it to work. Fuel comes first. In research, everyone is an expert. And no one is. Tackling the problem requires a whole university’s worth of scientists: physicists, biochemists, geologists, microbiologists, atmospheric scientists, and astrobiologists. Each entails different training and specialized knowledge. “Physics, van der Waals forces, the ideas Tolstoy can give me about self-organization—for the emergence of life, what don’t I need to know?” asks Russell. Compounding the problem, there is no data from the moment of creation. The only source of information is the rocks, nearly as old as the planet itself, mostly twisted and deformed by heat, pressure, and time. No matter how sophisticated your tools, when you interpret ancient rocks, you’re in danger of getting Schopf-ed. “It’s a bit of a Wild West of geology,” says Nick Lane, an evolutionary biochemist at University College London who favors the deep-sea-vent theory. “It’s difficult to interpret. You risk getting egg on your face.”

“YOU SEE THIS IN THE MICROSCOPE, AND YOU SAY, THIS IS TELLING ME SOMETHING,” PAPINEAU SAYS.

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ANALYZING ANCIENT CLUES It takes just two steps to walk across Papineau’s small lab in the UCL nanotechnology building. From where I stand, it’s one step to the cabinet, filled with carefully labeled cloth bags of rocks he illustration by Joel Kimmel

FACING PAGE: COURTESY DOMINIC PAPINEAU AND MATTHEW DODD; (4); MOE ABDELRAHMAN/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?


ROCKS THAT TALK

Researchers can find multiple messages encrypted in seemingly ordinary material.

A

After analyzing thin slices of a rock similar to this one (center), Dominic Papineau and Matthew Dodd concluded that they contained evidence of early life. If the researchers are right, the dark blob in the left close-up once sheltered bacteria. The tubes in the middle image, they believe, formed as the bacteria extruded waste. At right, rings of white carbonate and dove-gray quartz form a hematiteflecked rosette—a shape that arises as biological materials rot, Papineau says.


WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

vent systems and are like much-younger fossils—an even more important clue. “You see this in the microscope, and you say”—he snaps his fingers—“this is telling me something, but I don’t know quite what.” He concluded that tiny, dark knobs in the formations are fossils, remnants of actual cells. The twisted ribbons are microbial waste products that had been coated in rusty-red hematite by geological processes. To be certain of their case, Papineau and Dodd performed physical and chemical comparisons with far younger fossils and partnered with other researchers to test samples. Papineau had already analyzed the ratio of light to heavy carbon: Life prefers the lighter version, which he found in excess in this rock. He and Dodd used micro-Raman spectroscopy, firing a laser at the sample to study its composition from the spectra of scattered light. They aimed a focused ion-beam microscope on it to mill away nanoscale bits, looking at its mineral components. In each case, they found graphitic carbon, or minerals associated with it, and patterns that indicated life. After they published their paper, the bubbling cauldrons of geology boiled over with supporters and detractors. Many praised the work without endorsing the conclusion: “Those authors did a really nice job of applying some advanced techniques,” says Ken Williford, director of the Astrobiogeochemistry Lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “More will be required before we can be sure of the interpretation.” (CONTINUED ON P.90)

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ORIGIN THEORIES

by Mary Beth Griggs

Ancient Greece

1908

1953

1986

2009

Leading thinkers conjecture that life arose spontaneously —just as maggots seem to appear on carcasses.

Svante Arrhenius popularizes the theory of panspermia—the notion that life was seeded by comets from outer space.

Stanley Miller and Harold Urey show building blocks of life can form in water when electricity zaps key ingredients.

Walter Gilbert proposes that life starts with RNA molecules combining, separating, and evolving.

The Deep Carbon Observatory seeks the origins of carbon-based life miles inside Earth.

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1871

1920s

1977

2006

2012

Charles Darwin writes that life may have emerged in a “warm little pond” with the right mixture of light, heat, and chemicals.

Alexander Oparin and John Haldane independently theorize life began in a primordial “soup” of organic compounds.

Discovery of living creatures near deep-sea hydrothermal vents opens a new origin-of-life frontier.

Fossils called stromatolites found in 3.4-billion-year-old rocks in Australia— the oldest accepted evidence of early life.

Researchers propose that life originated in geothermal ponds on land instead of in the deep sea.

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

COURTESY DOMINIC PAPINEAU AND MATTHEW DODD

Rocky Ground has collected from across the Papineau’s key world. And it’s one step to the sample came from microscope he’s now hunched this formation of hematite and over. He is looking for somemagnetite. thing good to show me. He turns to a nearby computer and pulls up a micrograph, an image of the magnified insides of the rock that starred in the Nature report. To me, it looks like a kitchen countertop: black and white blobs, with spatters of dark red against a gray palette. To a trained eye (not mine), each color and shape reveals what the material is and how it got that way. Geological sleuthing is a lot like conducting a criminal investigation. There never is a smoking gun because everything happened too long ago. The idea is to launch multiple lines of inquiry that let you explore your mystery from different angles. And just like when you’re corroborating witness accounts, if they all say the same thing, you can be reasonably sure your theory about what happened, when, and how is correct. The first step in the forensic process required slicing off parts of the rock and milling them so thin that light could shine through. Then Papineau and Dodd began looking for graphitic carbon, which could be a sign that biological material had been present. They soon found it, in rosette formations the size of grains of salt. On his computer screen, Papineau shows me the faint bull’seye mark. The center is pearly gray quartz with flecks of dark-red hematite. Rings of white and dove-gray surround it. “Look how beautiful this is,” he says. “It’s almost perfectly spherical.” This shape arises, he proposes, as biological materials rot, producing carbon dioxide that then forms carbonate minerals. Next, Papineau pulls up a micrograph in which blood-red ribbons squiggle across a white-quartz background. He and Dodd hadn’t expected this, but in addition to chemical signs of life, they had also found what they believe to be actual fossils. These squiggles, or filamentous tubes, are similar to shapes made by modern iron-oxidizing bacteria in deep-ocean


W AT C H I N G

T H E

Five experts obsess over lines, faces, places, and noses to understand how every second shapes our world and how our minds shape every second. by B RYA N G A R D I N E R i l l u s t r a t i o n s by A DA M C RU F T 45


WAT C H I N G T H E C L O C K S

ELISA FELICITAS ARIAS D i r e c t o r, T i m e D e p a r t m e n t , I n t e r n a t i o n a l B u r e a u o f W e i g h t s a n d M e a s u r e s

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“I HAVE A VERY BAD

relationship to time” is not a confession you expect from the person in charge of the world’s official time standard. Yet Elisa Felicitas Arias admits to a certain laissez-faire approach to personal punctuality. “I’ve never missed a flight or anything like that,” she clarifies, “but no two clocks in my house give the same time.” This laid-back way with hours and minutes doesn’t carry over into her day job. As director of the Time Department at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures just outside Paris, Arias formulates Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the 24-hour standard to which governments, militaries, and scientific bodies synchronize every clock-bearing device—from hyperaccurate global-positioning satellites to weather warning systems. Using data from about 75 master atomic clocks around the world, Arias and her team analyze, compare, and weight the slight, billionth-of-a-second discrepancies in those reported times to formulate a kind of retrospective average. This glimpse at the past gives each of the Bureau’s 58 member nations a way to steer toward a more uniform future. Using Arias’ monthly reports, a country can adjust its clocks in the hopes of achieving a better UTC and therefore improving the accuracy of the standard. Without this guideline, the Internet, the airline industry, and militaries around the world would cease to function. Yet there is no “perfect time,” Arias says. “People say the UTC is the international reference for time, but in fact, UTC is just a piece of paper.” An extremely important piece of paper. While it might be a social construction (like every objective measure of time), its monthly publication is critical to the smooth functioning of the global economy. As for us civilians, Arias maintains that, like her, we needn’t worry about such meticulous timekeeping in our day-to-day lives. “Many things in life are not as urgent as people think,” she says.


Alexandra Horowitz ∙ P r o f e s s o r, D o g C o g n i t i o n R e s e a r c h e r, B a r n a r d C o l l e g e

MATÍAS DUARTE V P, M a t e r i a l D e s i g n , G o o g l e

WHETHER IT’S A BUFFERING YOUTUBE VIDEO

or a stalled app download, waiting online is as inevitable (and aggravating) as waiting in real life. Matías Duarte, VP of Material Design at Google, has been perfecting ways of masking and distracting us from these delays for close to seven years. A native of Chile, Duarte got his start as a video-game animator in 1994, learning how to use exaggeration and editing to play with people’s perception of time. After designing the popular SideKick smartphone and building the user interface for Palm’s highly praised mobile operating system, WebOS, Duarte arrived at Google in 2010 to lead the design for Android. A few years later, he took on an even more massive task: unifying the user experience for all platforms and products. “We had an opportunity to take advantage of a whole bunch of new technology and understanding of perception and cognitive science,” he says. Duarte and his team have since tweaked how progress and loading bars look in apps and even developed touchscreen ripple animations that give users a better sense of responsiveness to their taps. These days, one of their most common tricks is to deploy what’s called a dynamic placeholder before content can be fully loaded. For short wait times (around a second or two), these pulsating cards show up momentarily—for example, when you launch your Google app or Facebook newsfeed. Their shapes and sizes hint at the arrangement and type of content to come, while also distracting impatient viewers. Although all of this is a work in progress, one thing has become clear to Duarte: We can’t rely only on speedier networks and processors to remedy our online-waiting woes. Making something objectively faster isn’t the same as making it seem faster. “The real constraint is human perception,” he says.

We humans rely on our eyes to help mark the passage of time. Dogs have a different sensory bias, says Alexandra Horowitz, founder of Barnard College’s Dog Cognition Lab and author of the book Being a Dog. Highly sophisticated pooch schnozes contain more than 300 million olfactory receptor cells (we have 5 million), which allows them to not only detect smells and hormones invisible to us, but also their relative concentrations. That gives man’s best friend a unique skill: the ability to smell time. “One of the main elements of smell is that it changes over time,” Horowitz explains. “When we walk down the street, we’re constantly giving off odor molecules in our wake, like a little cloud of smell behind you.” Those molecules dissipate, she says, so you can think of time as a dimension of smell. For dogs, that means the past can reveal itself through a faint odor in a footprint, and the future could appear on a stiff breeze. To canines, scents don’t just reveal who and what, but also when. Horowitz has spent the past 15 years studying dog behavior—particularly play—to better understand the mind of Canis lupus familiaris. That inevitably led to an effort to try to perceive our world from an olfactory point of view. “As a contrivance of humans, time is a really peculiar one,” she says. “To expect that nonhumans would have the same way of sensing and experiencing it seems silly.” Next smell-related mystery for Horowitz? Determining whether dogs can recognize and identify themselves through their own unique odors.

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

47


WAT C H I N G T H E C L O C K S

Richard Larson Professor of Data, Systems, a n d S o c i e t y, M I T

SYLVIE DROIT-VOLET P r o f e s s o r o f P s y c h o l o g y, C l e r m o n t A u v e r g n e U n i v e r s i t y, C l e r m o n t - F e r r a n d , F r a n c e

SYLVIE DROIT-VOLET STARTED HER CAREER

studying ergonomics and human error for French car manufacturer Renault. Today, the neuropsychologist specializes in a different form of human fallibility: our tendency to misjudge time spans. For the past three decades, Droit-Volet has been investigating, among other topics, how our brains construct time and why our perception of it is so malleable. “Our internal clocks can be very capricious,” she says. Using visual lab experiments that measure perceived time and physiological responses like skin conductivity and heart rate, Droit-Volet thinks she’s identified one culprit: emotions— particularly highly intense ones. Anger, disgust, and fear prime our bodies to react, Droit-Volet explains, which causes our internal clocks to accelerate. A faster internal clock registers more “pulses” over a given period, which in turn affects our perception of the length of the elapsed period. “We judge the duration of that past event as if external time has slowed down,” she says. We don’t just warp our own time, either. Others can influence our temporal flow by capitalizing on the human tendency to mirror emotions and actions. In one study, she showed subjects pictures of young and old faces; the test group consistently underestimated the duration they’d seen the latter but not the former. Her theory? We internalize the slower movements of elderly people, and our internal clocks decelerate, making it feel like time’s passing more quickly. Some might see this as proof that our bodies are fickle and unreliable timekeepers, but Droit-Volet has a different perspective. “Time is plural,” she says. “We have several clocks attuned to the rhythms of our daily life.” 48

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

Richard Larson still remembers the line that broke him. It was 1985, and the MIT professor had stopped by Sears to pick out a bike for his 6-year-old son. After choosing the model and paying for it, he made his way to the merchandise-pickup area, handed his receipt to a clerk, and waited. “Ten, 20, 25 people came along after me, gave in their receipts, and then walked off with their lamps, waffle irons, and quilts as I just sat there,” Larson recalls. “I was furious.” By the time the clerk called his name more than half an hour later, the operations researcher and systems engineer had made two resolutions: to return the bike and to never shop at that Sears again. (He stuck to both.) Weeks later, Larson had a sudden insight: It wasn’t the wait that had upset him. It was how people who arrived after him had beat him to the exit—and that he had not expected a delay. That was the genesis of his seminal 1987 paper, “The Psychology of Queuing and Social Justice,” which highlighted the importance of fairness and feedback to a person’s waiting experiences. Today, Larson remains one of the world’s foremost experts on lines. An engineer by training, he began his career solving queuing problems with statistical probabilities and flow-balancing equations. Over 45 years, his work has ranged from helping the New York City Police Department reduce its 911 emergency-call wait times to inventing the Queue Inference Engine, a mathematical method for determining the length of a line and how long people have to wait in it when data isn’t readily available. More recently, Larson has focused on using customer engagement and information to shape people’s perceptions in line. He points to Disneyland and Disney World as places that are doing it right (though he doesn’t work with them). Because the theme parks purposely overestimate wait times, a family can stand in line for 40 minutes, Larson says, thinking they were going to wait for an hour, then get on a four-minute ride and be completely happy. “That’s what happens if you manage people’s expectations such that you can exceed them,” he says. “I wish airline pilots understood this better when you’re on a ground hold.”


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O N E Y E A R A S A P E R C E N TA G E O F A L I F E S PA N

0.2%

0.3%

0.4%

0.5%

0.53%

0.50%

0.26%

0.20%

Ming the Clam The growth bands in a quahog’s shell can reveal how old it is.

Great Green Gobs This flowering plant, found in South America at high altitudes, grows only 0.4 inches a year.

Deep-Sea Needle The makeup of a glass sponge’s long, rod-shaped silica skeleton encodes its age.

kiddo’s grandparents, it passes in a flash. The same is true for the oldest flora and fauna on the planet. As things age, each trip around the sun becomes an ever-shrinking percentage of a vast lifetime. Take 38-year-old Creme Puff (RIP), the oldest known house cat: 365 days was only 2.6 percent of her yarn-chasing journey through existence. That might not seem like a lot to, say, the Grand Canyon (if it could think, that is), but, as this graph shows, it’s all relative.

TO A CHILD, ONE YEAR CAN FEEL LIKE AN ETERNITY. BUT TO THAT

How Long Is a Year?

1 YEAR TO

IS LIKE

5 MINUTES TO A HOUSEFLY

1,000 YEARS TO A SEA GRASS

IS LIKE

1 YEAR TO A GIANT TORTOISE

3 MONTHS TO

Fractions of a Life, Compared


SHARK; FRANCO BANFI/GETTY IMAGES: GOMEZ; CINDY ORD/GETTY IMAGES FOR SIRIUSXM; SHUTTERSTOCK (17)

51

BOWHEAD WHALE 200 YEARS

GREENLAND SHARK 392 YEARS

MOST ADULT MAYFLIES LIVE A DAY OR TWO. NOT DOLANIA AMERICANA: ONCE FEMALE MEMBERS OF THIS SPECIES REACH MATURITY, THEY GET FIVE MINUTES TO MATE AND LAY EGGS BEFORE THEY DIE.

S E C O N D S

300

JEANNE CALMENT (1875-1997) She rubbed olive oil into her skin, ate 2 pounds of chocolate per week, avoided stress—and smoked.

122.5

GIANT TORTOISE 188 YEARS

AGE OF THE OLDEST HUMAN

0.0%

0.1%

LLARETA PLANT 3,000 YEARS

BRISTLECONE PINE 5,067 YEARS

0.02% 0.001% 0.0005%

AGE, IN YEARS, OF AN UNDERWATER MEADOW OF POSIDONIA OCEANICA SEA GRASS IN THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN

LENGTH, IN DAYS, OF A DRAGONFLY’S ADULT LIFE

GLASS QUAKING SEA GRASS SPONGE ASPEN COLONY MEADOW 11,000 YEARS 80,000 YEARS 200,000 YEARS

0.01%

AGE, IN YEARS, OF OLDEST BRISTLECONE PINE

M A X I M U M K N O W N L I F E S PA N

QUAHOG CLAM 507 YEARS

0.03%

BY SOPHIE BUSHWICK

1,00O YEARS

IS LIKE

1 YEAR TO AN ASPEN COLONY

1 HOUR TO A MAYFLY

A 3-MONTH VACATION TO A RETIREE

IS LIKE

1 YEAR TO A FIRST GRADER


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Photograph by The Voorhes


BUT WAIT...

Not everyone thinks the universe had a beginning. BY R AC H E L F E LT M A N A N D M AT T H EW R . F R A N C I S I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY M AT E I APOSTOLESCU

Cosmologists used to think the universe was totally timeless: no beginning, no end. That might sound mind-melting, but it’s easier on the scientific brain than figuring out what a set starting point would mean, let alone when it would be. So some physicists have cooked up alternative cosmological theories that make time’s role seem a little less important. The concepts are as trippy as those black-light posters you had in college. Wait a minute… P O P S C I . C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 201 7


BEFORE THE BIG BANG

THE MAIN REASON SOME PHYSICISTS OBSESS OVER the beginning of the universe is because so much evidence points to there being one. But what if our universe grooved within an ageless multiverse—like a patch of ground from which countless flowers bloom. In this model, each universe has a big bang and keeps its own time. In the most popular version, each universe might even have its own version of physics too. Infinite possibilities yield infinite results: Some say this theory explains life itself. We’d have to be extremely lucky for a single big bang to create a universe with the perfect conditions for life as we know it, but if new universes are springing up all the time, it’s no wonder one of those cosmic neighborhoods turned out just like ours. The universes in this garden grow or wither according to their own rules, while the multiverse around them goes on without a beginning or an end. It’s an elegant blend of change and timelessness, a floral brew many cosmologists are still sipping.


Some variations on the big bang go down a little smoother than the original. In the simplest version, the beginning of time is a sharp point, where everything we currently observe was mashed into a ball of energy smaller than an atom—then burst outward, duh. But what came before? Physicists such as Stephen Hawking tried to restore a kind of timelessness by getting rid of that starting point, imagining a universe with no clear “bang.” You can wind back the clock to the edges of those first moments of existence, but asking what came before would be like asking why you can keep walking north when you get to the North Pole. Time, as we define it, loses its meaning as the universe shrinks down. It never quite narrows to a single point. But no one has proved physics works like that—yet. 55


BEFORE THE BIG BANG

The big bang posits that the universe exploded into existence and is still booming outward. So to throw out the bang, you must explain why we can see galaxies shooting off into the distance. In 1948, astronomers Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle got around the problem by imagining the universe as a constant display of dazzling fireworks, with new matter bursting into existence everywhere, at every moment. In the steady-state model, it looks like the cosmos is growing, but change is just an illusion, man. The universe is literally spacing out, yeah, but it’s not because of some single original event. It’s because the universe is constantly creating new matter, and that new matter pushes the older stuff out into the beyond. But the discovery of microwave radiation left over from the big bang during the 1960s cooked this idea— the theory couldn’t explain away that afterglow.

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WHY DOES A BIG BANG HAVE TO BE A BEGINNING? Paul Steinhardt and collaborators propose that there are bangs bangin’ all the time, as our universe rattles around in a fifth dimension (whoa) our puny minds cannot even perceive. All of space and time as we know it sits on a four-dimensional surface called a brane. Sometimes it collides with another universe’s brane, and the smash creates bursts of energy we know as the big bang—energy still detectable as cosmic background radiation. As the universes move farther and farther apart in the fifth dimension, our cosmos expands. The cycles of collision and separation go on forever in a psychedelic dance. Many cosmologists don’t think we’ll ever find proof of this fifth dimension, but the idea that the big bang isn’t the real beginning has no end in sight.


YOUR SCHEDULE COULD BE


Depression It seems obvious that skipping sleep and working odd hours will eventually take a physical toll on the body. But mental illnesses like depression are also more common in workers who regularly pull night shifts.


YOUR SCHEDULE COULD BE KILLING YOU

“Trauma level 2,” a female voice warns over the loudspeaker. “Arriving in 10 minutes.” It is 7 p.m. on a spring Friday, and the Highland Hospital emergency room in Oakland, one of the busiest trauma centers in northern California, is expecting. When the patient—a young bicyclist hit by a car—arrives, blood is streaming down his temples. From a warren of care rooms, a team of nearly a dozen doctors and nurses materializes and buzzes around the patient. Amelia Breyre, a first-year resident who looks not much older than a college sophomore, immediately takes charge. As soon as the team finishes immobilizing the victim, Breyre must begin making split-second decisions: X-ray? Intubate? Transfusion? She quickly determines there is no internal bleeding or need for surgery and orders up neck X-rays after bandaging the patient’s head. Breyre will make a half-dozen similar critical choices

tonight. Highland, a teaching hospital, is perhaps the most selective emergency-medical residency in the nation. To be here, she must be outstanding. To succeed, though, she must stay sharp. That quality of focus—amid the chaos and battered humanity that comes through Highland’s doors—is itself in need of urgent care. Andrew Herring, an emergency-room doctor who supervises Breyre and 40 other residents, is worried about the team. ER doctors are shift workers, and their hours are spread over a dizzying, ever-changing schedule of mornings, afternoons, and nights that total 20 different shifts a month. That’s meant to equally distribute the burden of nocturnal work across an entire team of physicians. But despite those good intentions, Herring says, the result is that every single one of them is exhausted and sleep


Obesity Research suggests that the later it gets, the more likely we are to tuck into something fatty or alcoholic— so poor sleep could be contributing to the growing obesity epidemic, which afflicts 35.7 percent of adults across the U.S.

P O P S C I .C O M • S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7

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YOUR SCHEDULE COULD BE KILLING YOU

When is the best time to...

You might think you’re in control of your schedule, but your body evolved to follow a natural rhythm. Sticking closer to that routine can help keep you in tiptop shape. BY CLAIRE MALDARELLI Drink coffee

Eat

Sleep

Exercise

Be creative

Do math

Sipping caffeine is best done early in the day. Imbibed later, it can reset your body’s clock and prevent sleep. If you’re sure you can take a shot of espresso at 8 p.m. and be snoring by 10, try skipping the caffeine for a few weeks to see what a night of truly good rest feels like.

It’s best to eat your biggest meal early, contrary to a typical American day. Insulin—the hormone that regulates metabolism—peaks in the first half of the day, then steadily drops. So your blood sugar is less likely to skyrocket after a big breakfast than after a comparable dinner.

Around 8 or 9 p.m., our bodies start to cool down, and we sleep better when we have a low core body temperature. But how much shut-eye is ideal? Studies show that those who get six and a half to eight hours are less likely to die prematurely. Eight hours seems to be perfect.

Some people swear by early-morning jogs. But muscle tone is highest around 5 p.m. Even pros get a boost: West Coast NFL teams won more often and by a higher margin in matches after 8 p.m. on the East Coast. Still on Pacific time, their bodies were primed to play.

The evolution of language, religion, and philosophy all started with late-night talks—and research suggests there is still a different cast to our nocturnal musings. So save that short story you’ve been meaning to write for a dark and restless night.

Scientists think we reach maximum alertness between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a peak around noon. For the first few hours after we wake, organs with more basic functions take priority. Once they’re booted up, our brains have a chance to hog some more energy.

illustration by Todd Detwiler


deprived. That’s dangerous for doctor and patient alike. “A single night shift has cognitive effects going out for a week,” says Herring, a Harvard-trained physician. “When you are done, you are burger meat, crispy fried. People will tell you the next day that they are rested up, but they aren’t — and mistakes occur.” This phenomenon isn’t unique to the ER. Nocturnal labor presents risks to roughly 15 million shift workers in the United States alone. Major industrial accidents, such as the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in 1979, occur disproportionately in the dead hours before dawn. The graveyard shift, it turns out, is aptly named. Those who regularly endure it are also at higher risk for depression, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. In fact, the correlation is so strong that in 2010, the World Health Organization went so far as to classify late-night work as a probable carcinogen. Biologists have come to believe that the negative effects happen because toiling through the wee hours screws with our circadian rhythms, mysterious internal timing mechanisms that can be modulated by external cues like light and temperature. In fact, every animal and plant on the planet— even certain bacteria—has evolved with these cellular oscillations. They dictate hundreds of other crucial processes, turning energy on and off in 24-hour cycles. They orchestrate our daily peak rhythms for things like cognition, fat synthesis, and even hair growth. These internal clocks, which biologists are just starting to research and understand in detail, are constantly syncing based on the food we eat, our exercise routines, social interactions, and light patterns. And whether we know it or not, we’re constantly working against them. In 2006, University of Virginia researchers turned on the lights in the cages of lab mice six hours earlier than normal once a week for eight weeks, preventing them from resetting their clocks. In terms of light-cue changes, it was as if they’d flown from New York to Paris once a week. The result: Younger rodents got sick and displayed mentally unstable behavior; 53 percent of the older mice just dropped dead. “I really worry we are killing ourselves,” says Herring, scanning the ER as Breyre and the others multitask, physically and mentally pushing themselves. This past spring, Herring read about another mouse study, by researchers at the University of California at San Diego. The investigators are part of the UCSD Center for Circadian Biology, which is dedicated to the nascent and often-overlooked field of chronobiology, the science of our inner biological clocks. Its scientists study the implications of untethering humans from our natural light cycles and other external cues that regulate our bodies. The UCSD mouse study, unlike the earlier research from UVA, offered good news in its findings: a way to use twilight to adjust the mice to irregular day/night cycles. Herring volunteered to make his team available to the researchers as study subjects. “I felt we really needed to look at this in a different way,” he says.

USAN GOLDEN, DIRECTOR OF THE

UCSD center, doesn’t just talk chronobiology. She lives it. At home, she and her husband, James, a microbiology professor who also works at UCSD, cuddle up in front of the TV wearing orange sunglasses to block blue rays, which our bodies read as midday light. They’ve installed dimmers on their bathroom and bedroom lights so they can keep them low throughout the course of the night. “None of us are Luddites trying to live outside technology,” Golden tells me one day in her office in the Applied Physics and Math building on campus. “But that technological lifestyle needs to be smarter,” she adds, “because we are animals that evolved on Earth.” Like most of her 35 colleagues, Golden didn’t set out from school intent on pursuing a career in chronobiology. The field only barely existed when she did her graduate work in the 1980s. Her specialty was, and still is, studying bacteria that use light as a source of energy. But with advances in computing and analytical methods, it’s now possible to process thousands of tissue samples at once and chart changes in metabolic processes over time. Adding that fourth dimension made Golden realize how much she had been missing by looking at a single point in time for information. It made her decide that science plus time—i.e., chronobiology—was where she needed to take her career. “What we’ve really learned in the past five years is that circadian studies cannot be treated as a boutique discipline,” she says. “It is biology. You cannot adequately study neurobiology, metabolism, microbiome without taking time into consideration. All of the processes in all of these cells and organs change over time. And if you look at a static snapshot without considering that, you don’t get the right answer. Or at least not the whole answer.” That picture finally started to come into focus in 1972, when neuroscientists first discovered how a tiny region in the brain’s hypothalamus acted as the body’s master circadian clock. This small cluster of 20,000 neurons, named the suprachiasmatic nucleus, sends signals through the body to keep the various processes switched on or off during the right moments of our 24-hour cycles. The system uses daylight as its main cue to stay on track. Other discoveries followed. It turns out that nearly every organ has an internal ticker. Your pancreas has a mechanism that tells it when to release insulin and when to stop. Your liver knows when to stop processing glycogen and start metabolizing fat. Even your eyes have built-in timekeepers that tell them when to repair retinal cells damaged by ultraviolet rays. In other words, to understand the body and its functions, you also have to understand its timers. All across the UCSD campus, members of the Center for Circadian Biology—which does not have its own building— are researching these timekeeping functions. Among their findings: Genes that run our circadian rhythms are linked

THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, IT TURNS OUT, IS APTLY NAMED.”

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‘INSIDE LIGHT IS JUST TERRIBLE FOR YOU. IT IS MAKING US ALL SICK.’”

to metabolism and its control networks. Mess with one and you mess with the other. For example, eat too late in the evening, when your metabolic defenses have powered down, and your chances of growing obese balloon. In turn, that fat can also invade your liver and thus increase your likelihood of inflammation and cancer. Our mental health is also at risk. Researchers have found that 70 percent of people with disorders that keep them from sleeping at the usual time—possibly due to a genetic abnormality—suffer from conditions like severe depression or anxiety. In fact, nearly two-thirds of bipolar sufferers report abnormal sleep cycles. Already, doctors treating cancer have used chronobiology’s findings to better plan their treatments. For example, undergoing chemotherapy later in the day increases patients’ chances of avoiding nausea because stomach linings better repair themselves at that time. Much of the center’s research can seem, cumulatively, like a condemnation of our modern lifestyle. Since the dawn of electricity, we have been engaging in a massive uncontrolled experiment in disrupting ancient rhythms. And it’s not just due to shift work. There are a thousand small ways that we use artificial light to ignore the subtle cues that changes in nature give us all day. “Inside light is just terrible for you,” Golden says. “It is making us all sick.” As man-made light keeps us awake longer or in a state of agitation throughout the night, it’s also contributing to one of the biggest epidemics in America—obesity, which afflicts more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults across the country. That role is slowly gaining attention, thanks to one of Golden’s star researchers. ATCHIDANANDA PANDA WORKS AT

one of the country’s pre-eminent research facilities: the Salk Institute for Biology. Although chronobiology is growing in importance, many scientists, including fellow biologists, still think it’s mostly about jet lag and sleep. No one has resisted that second-tier status more than Panda. For more than a decade, he’s been studying the links between human metabolism and our inner clocks. He and other researchers have found that by limiting the number of hours during which obese mice can eat fatty foods, they’re able to achieve all kinds of health benefits for the plump subjects. Even when eating the same amount and type of food as control mice who could eat all day and night, the ones who Panda restricted to an eight-hour feeding schedule lost weight, shed stored body fat (particularly around the liver), and suffered less internal inflammation. In another study, a team of UCSD researchers found that when they subjected obese mice with cancer to time-restricted diets instead of allowing unrestricted gluttony, the rodents’ tumors shrank. Despite these findings, and their potential effect on the obesity epidemic, Panda has struggled for funding and

recognition. The NIH has denied all 14 of his proposals for grants to study time-restricted feeding. The grants are decided by anonymous peer review, and many of Panda’s mainstream fellows are suspect about the science of time. “My reviewers said, ‘Humans don’t eat like mice; they eat three meals a day within 12 hours, so it has no human significance,’” Panda recalls, visibly incensed. “That really pisses me off. I’ve reviewed 150 years of human research, and most studies never asked or recorded when people eat. They asked what you had, but rarely when you ate.” Panda’s focus on chronobiology, his belief in its role in our lives, goes back to rural India. He and his sister could tell the time of evening, for example, based on when the frogs would enter their backyard and begin croaking. To an observant child, it was apparent that the natural world has


immutable rhythms. His interest has led him to explore entirely new avenues of research: In 2002, he helped discover how light sensors at the back of the eyes communicate with the brain’s master clock. In 2005, he found that the part of the retina that uses ambient-light levels to determine when the body should sleep or wake is most sensitive to blue light. Panda decided that his only way forward was to prove his peer reviewers wrong about eating patterns. Taking a cue from Silicon Valley, he open-sourced a human experiment, using an app. He called it Mycircadianclock and recruited 156 people. He asked them to record what they ate and drank, including water and medicines, by simply snapping a photograph and uploading it via the app. The data proved his point. We think we eat about three times a day. But we often ignore snacks. In fact, a third of

Panda’s participants ate eight times a day. And they were more likely to eat around the clock. People who started their days with coffee and a bagel at 6 a.m. would post pictures of brownies, Sun Chips, pizza, and wine at 11 p.m. The later it got, the more likely they were to tuck into something fatty or alcoholic. Panda speculates that the brain “thinks it will be up all night, and so it wants us to overeat in preparation.” Panda has since opened his app to the public, and volunteers now number in the thousands. Moreover, wherever he goes, he conducts his own informal survey of eating hours and habits. He asks every cab driver, waitress, and drugstore clerk he encounters what time they woke and when they ate their first meal. And he asks when their day will end. “You will find many of these people work two jobs,” Panda says. After hearing of his work, ( C O N T I N U E D O N P. 9 2 )

Heart Disease Firefighters and ER doctors face similar sleep challenges. Working overnight shifts—and eating at odd intervals— seems to put them at a higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

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RENAISSANCE BY JOE BROWN P HOTO G R A P H S BY C H R I S TOP H E R PAY N E

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Roland G. Murphy is the R, G, and M in RGM Watches, the last American outfit manufacturing fine watches and their 100-plus-piece movements from raw, precious metals. After a part-time gig in high school that involved building clock cabinets, he caught the horological bug. Murphy went on to study watchmaking in Switzerland and then took a job developing timepieces for the Hamilton Watch Company. Twenty-five years ago he founded RGM. Here, he works a 1913 Swiss lathe called a Rose Engine.


YOU’VE GOT A WATCH IN PENNSYLVANIA

Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, seems an unlikely location for the epicenter of high-end American horology. But Lancaster County has provenance: Hamilton once based here, and the famous Bowman Technical School watchmaking academy operated locally until 1992. Murphy attended the school and is now honing his craft in an old bank building nearby. “We bought it for the vault,” he says. Makes sense: RGM’s watches start around $3,000 and climb above $100,000.


RUBY SLIPPERS You might hear the term “jewel”—often preceded by a number—when talking watches. It refers to these little red guys surrounded by all that gold. Though many high-end pieces do benefit from a bit o’ bling, jewel usually refers to tiny, super-hard gems inside a watch’s movement that reduce wear between metal parts. Watchmakers used to grind jewels out of actual rubies, but these days they employ synthetic gems that fit into holes reamed by this machine, which is about the size of a tissue box.

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THE INNER SANCTUM

Ten people work at RGM; eight of them, including Murphy, build, repair, and fabricate watches. They work the same tools you’d find in an early-20thcentury Swiss atelier. Four cast-metal engine-turning machines dominate the main workroom. These lathes carve patterns into metal surfaces. The process, known as guilloche, requires expertise that sets RGM apart. “Guilloche is a whole separate craft from watchmaking,” says Murphy. “Very few people around the world do both.”


IN WITH THE OLD WAYS

Watchmaker Jake Weaver-Spidel adjusts one of the company’s housemade movements, the Caliber 801. It takes about a week to assemble and adjust one of these machines, and that’s in addition to the time it takes to fabricate the components (months). Murphy purposely designs his movements with servicing in mind, so that, if cared for, they could last indefinitely. More than watches, these are heirlooms. “I don’t like the idea of building something with a life span in mind,” he says.

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BEAUTY WHEREVER YOU LOOK

If there’s a flat surface inside a high-end watch, chances are it’s decorated, or, as watchmakers say, finished. The word choice speaks volumes about the craft. Even though the recessed areas of this watch’s main plate will soon sit under a multilayered complement of gears, springs, and other parts, they’re subjected to a purely decorative process called perlage. RGM’s artisans grind tiny overlapping circles over every exposed facet of the plate. It can take a half-hour or more to embellish this part.


HEART SURGERY

Fancy watches are expensive for two main reasons: The first is material cost. Watchmakers groove on precious metals like gold and platinum for decorative elements outside the movement, which is typically made from steel, nickel, silver, or brass. The other, much more significant factor is labor. RGM produces only around 60 watches with what are known as in-house movements in a given year. Murphy’s team fastidiously crafts these beating watch hearts by hand.

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a stroke erased my sense of past or future J I L L B O LT E TAY L O R , AUTHOR OF MY STROKE OF INSIGHT

As a neuroanatomist at Harvard, I studied how our brain creates our perception of reality. And then one morning, I woke up with a sharp pain directly behind my left eye. In the course of four hours, I lost the ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of my life. I was experiencing a major hemorrhage, bleeding in the left half of my brain, which rendered me an infant in a woman’s body. The perception of time is, of course, controlled by cells inside our brains. Cells in the left hemisphere allow us to think linearly, to recognize that things happen in a certain order. My stroke completely shut down those cells, leaving me dependent on my right hemisphere, which doesn’t register anything beyond the present. I had no perception of the past or future. What I was seeing and smelling and experiencing at that instant was my entire existence. It’s hard to put that feeling into words, but consider this situation: Your clothes are in a pile. You use your linear brain—the left half—to figure out what goes on first and what goes on last. You’re going to put on your underwear before you put on your pants. Without that sense of linearity, all you have are the individual pieces. It’s hard to relate to people when you think that way; it’s not good when a storyteller tells you the punchline before the joke. A couple of weeks after the hemorrhage, surgeons pulled a golf-ball-size blood clot out of my left cerebral cortex. I immediately felt brighter and more present— even with a hole in my head. Brain cells, and a lot of my memories, started to come back online. I began to relearn skills. And I learned to work with time: I had a watch, and I understood the concept. But my experience remained very much in the present moment for a good six years. You could teach me how to put my socks and shoes on, yes. But if you put them down in front of me, I wouldn’t know which to put on first. Eventually, time came back. Some abilities I had to learn all over again, and some just returned on their own. I remember some things I forgot, but I have no clue what parts of myself I’ve lost forever. I still can’t remember, say, what my 10th birthday cake looked like. Can you? as told to Sophie Bushwick / illustration by Jungyeon Roh

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TA L E S F R O M T H E F I E L D

PACKING LIST

summer in sunny Antarctica ROSS VIRGINIA, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF A R C T I C S T U D I E S AT D A R T M O U T H C O L L E G E

During Antarctica’s warm(er) season, the sun shines constantly. Without darkness to divide night from day, researchers find ways to cope. After 21 field seasons, here are ecologist Ross Virginia’s must-haves.

I’m not trying to statement. It’s constantly bright and it’s wicked dry, so I protect my eyes with dark glasses that have side coverage and 100 percent UV protection.

day in the field, it can be hard to sleep. Music helps me make that transition. I’ve rigged an Altoids box to hold a small speaker that connects to an iPod.

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To block out the midnight sun, I use a neck warmer as an eye mask. During the day, I can use it as a scarf, or wear it as an open-top hat. But when I’m in my tent, I just pull it over my eyes so I can sleep.

When music doesn’t work, there’s scotch. I don’t really drink it at home, but carrying a summer’s worth of beer isn’t an option— in the field, you have to consider the space and weight factors.

as told to Kendra Pierre-Louis

TIME’S UP

a trip to the other side I study the intersections between death, dying, and the deceased. What does it mean to be dying, to be dead? The answer has changed a lot throughout history. It’s not hard to figure out how I got here: My dad was a funeral director. I grew up around death. In the early 2000s, he called and asked if I’d help him exhume a grave that was about 30 years old. Unfortunately, the concrete around the casket had cracked, and the whole thing was full of water. It was a big, brown soupy mess. I got into a hazmat suit and climbed down with a bucket and a rope. I filled up the bucket, scoop by scoop, and my dad hauled it up when it was full. That experience really seared itself into my mind. It made me think about what it means to move a body when time has broken it down and 76

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about what it means to be dead in the first place. Around the time that man passed away in the 1970s, the discourse around our final moments was shifting. Lifesupport machines changed our definition of what it means to be alive, raising all these questions about when death happened and what it really meant. We moved away from defining dying as when the heart stops and toward an understanding of personhood as being in the mind. That was important in deciding that when a brain is dead, a person is gone. Because the definition of death has changed before, we know it will shift again. As our DNA comes to identify us, will we say that if it still sends instructions to our cells, we’re still alive? I have no idea what death will mean in the future, but I can tell you that it will change.

as told to Rachel Feltman / illustration by Jungyeon Roh

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TA L E S F R O M T H E F I E L D

SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM

on a space walk, flying blind CHRIS HADFIELD, RETIRED CANADIAN ASTRONAUT

Time is your enemy on a spacewalk. When you’re outside the ship, everything that keeps you alive is on a clock. Carbon-dioxide-absorbing chemicals work for only a certain number of hours. Your batteries wind down. You carry a fixed amount of oxygen. There’s very little room in the schedule if something breaks or if there’s an emergency. During my first spacewalk, our mission was to install an antenna and a robotic arm on the outside of the Internation-

aged. But what bugged me most was the passage of time. I had a lot of stuff to get done, and I could almost hear the clock ticking. Eventually I realized that I could get rid of the irritant (which I later learned was soap and oil from my helmet defogger) by venting oxygen from my space suit to create airflow. After a while, my tears evaporated and I could see again. We’d lost half an hour and hustled to catch up, but there were still moments when I had to stop and marvel at the beauty Australia—suddenly we go through the aurora, and all the colors of the rainbow are rippling around us like this great curtain. When you’re in one of those mo-

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as told to Sarah Fecht / illustration by Jungyeon Roh


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TA L E S F R O M T H E F I E L D

THE NOSE KNOWS

smell ya later J O R G E O T E R O - PA I L O S , D I R E C T O R A N D P R O F E S S O R O F H I S T O R I C P R E S E R VAT I O N , C O L U M B I A U N I V E R S I T Y

Scents give you a sense of continuity with the past. That’s why I study how to preserve the odors of historic places. The molecules floating off pages at the J.P. Morgan Library in New York, for example, reveal how it smelled before the books were all behind glass. We create chemical cocktails of those molecules to bottle up historic perfumes, and we hope to share them with visitors someday. We can re-create the smell of specific moments too. When Morgan died in 1913, the family laid out his weeksold corpse in the library for viewing. Corpse smell is easy to get; it’s used to train police dogs. Records say 5,000 pungent roses masked the stench, so they’re in our mix as well. It’s all about capturing the essence of a space. Visitors might not care to smell Morgan himself, but these scent snapshots can help preserve the library’s magic forever. as told to Mary Beth Griggs / illustration by Jungyeon Roh

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HAMMER TIME

blast from the past PAT R I C I A R Y B E R G , A S S I S T A N T P R O F E S S O R O F B I O L O G Y, P A R K U N I V E R S I T Y

1990

In 2010, I was on my first research trip to visit Antarctica’s Skaar Ridge, a 2-mile-long stretch of rock and fossils near the side of a mountain. It can be accessed only via helicopter, so it doesn’t see much foot traffic. The last research team to visit did so back in 1990, and they had left behind one unfortunate casualty: my colleague Professor N. Rubén Cúneo’s hammer. We joked about rescuing our fellow scientist’s old tool, but the odds of finding it were incredibly slim. A hunk of metal and wood could certainly survive a couple of decades in that barren, frozen landscape, but Skaar Ridge is a big place, and wind constantly blows the snow around in Antarctica. There’s a reason it got lost in the first place. You can imagine our surprise when just two days in, we spotted a handle poking out of the snow. How were we certain that it was Cúneo’s, you ask? Its head was painted baby blue. The 2010 expedition carried only hammers painted fluorescent pink, to make them easier to spot if and when we dropped them into the snow. We’d learned our lesson about baby-blue hammers back in 1990.

2010

as told to Jason Lederman / illustration by Jungyeon Roh

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in Ohio said recently he supports vaccinations but suggests that there has to be a better way to defeat disease. Suffice it to say, he is in some hot water now! Today we are injected with foreign disease substances that we normally would want to avoid simply to elicit a lifesaving IMMUNE RESPONSE.* Here’s a possible answer (I am a graduate engineer not a doctor). In my 88th year—a family effort—I am not new to controversy!) In 1957 I had the best discus throw in the World (T&F News, Vol. 10, No. 12) but gave it up because I knew Anabolic Steroids would cause users heart damage! At the time, all the top athletes were being pushed to use them. They had been told they were safe by doctors. Anabolic steroid inventor John Ziegler, M.D. said before he died at 63: “I wish I had listened to [John Ellis]. I damaged my own heart!” RIGHT THEN, RIGHT NOW A great friend, Al Oerter (won the Olympic discus four times), needed a heart transplant and died shortly after he and his wife visited my daughter in Atlanta. I have a long list of Olympic friends who are dead because they were “FDA approved” (now banned).

I was right then about anabolic steroids and I am right now about viruses and disease!! As viruses mutate, vaccines have to become stronger until reaching a toxic overload tipping point. (During a physical, I received an inadvertent Lyme Disease Shot, later recalled!) THE ANSWER: Since blood is 94% water, change the properties of water (our E-5 water machine does that) and flush disease markers and toxic elements out of the blood stream (typical Zurich results shown under “Violating Faraday’s Law,” below). This has been confirmed by a UCLA M.D. doing independent Blood Flow Research to prevent strokes and heart attacks. (See more at JohnEllis.com.) One fan of our water said: “You can’t argue with something you can measure. Nothing is even close to your water [John Ellis Crystal Clear Water made with our own patented water machines] because you changed water properties!” After treating a well (soak in the water!), a Jan. 27, 1992, Washington Post Investigation article described how it works (13 International Patents): “10,000 people/day said this water will cure anything even cancer and diabetes!” Washington Times (after the top scientist at Los Alamos Nuclear Lab with 4 PHD’s bought our E5 Machine): “I am embarrassed to tell you he DID change the properties of water and we wish we owned his patents!”

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Two nursing sisters with wounded soldiers are shown in a ward room at the Queen’s Canadian Military Hospital in Shorncliffe, Kent, England, circa 1916.Top right: Clara Barton tends a soldier. Bottom right, Susan B. Anthony.

One doctor at a prominent U.S. clinic is in hot water for suggesting there’s a better way than vaccinations to beat disease. We’ve been saying this for decades.

Although we have offers from Dole, among others, we need somebody with a lot of money—like Pfizer has—involved or a huge demand from celebrities concerned about autismv to spread the word! DEDICATED TO HEALTH A wonderful woman from a major foundation funded our Ebola results in the video ignoring her male counterparts like American Red Cross Founder Clara Barton: “We nursed you back to health and now we need your help!” But unfortunately some of her counterparts made sure help never came … even after thousands of women like my grandmother and Clara Barton went to Rochester, NY and descended on the home of women suffragist Susan B. Anthony (Clara Barton’s 6th cousin) to offer their support for a woman’s right to vote! If you Google: Nursing Sisters Port Dover, you’ll see a book by Harry B. Barrett with pictures of my grandmother and her heroic nursing sisters during WW1 including one sister who was mentioned in wartime dispatches for her heroism resulting in a certificate presented to her by King George V. In spite of her “valor in the face of the enemy”, after throwing caution to the wind because the love of her life had been killed in action, a woman was ineligible to receive the Victoria Cross! Heartbroken, this beautiful lady never married. There are hundreds of letters and pictures, including one of the ambulances my grandmother donated (before we entered WWII) encouraged by her friend, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, who moved around the corner from my grandmother in New Rochelle, N.Y. As a youngster, I remember all the sewing machines and their many friends at my grandmother’s house sewing thousands of predie cut clothes together to keep children warm during the brutally cold English winters. Carrie Chapman Catt also founded the League of Woman Voters and is most famous for her Congressional speech resulting in the 19th Amendment that gave


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You Can Be a Part of Our Humanitarian Effort! woman the right to vote in 1920! All this took place after Susan B. A portion of every sale of our water machines goes to maintaining this property, Anthony died. which is currently used by Boy & Girl Scouts, and other youth groups free of charge. Now, history repeats itself, except This is the Gatehouse Entrance to the 418-acre John Ellis Estate on top of Crystal Mountain in this time their counterparts have problems Shohola, PA. Ellis pledges to DONATE THE PROPERTY in partnership with a major foundation with clogged arteries, heart attacks, prostate or university in perpetuity for humanitarian purposes. Accordingly, our 501c (3) Living Water problems and cancer by stonewalling a Environmental Foundation details can be sent if you have an interest in helping our tax deMan’s right and a Woman’s right to ductible humanitarian effort. flush DEUTERIUM (a major cause of Aging and Cancer) and Pathogens out of their bloodstreams . . . so these small bottle! This is done by heating and diseases aren’t handed down to generations VIOLATING FARADAY’S LAW? of our unborn kids and grandkids!! Here’s what a man in Zurich said: “I cooling water hundreds of times per gallon have had your E5 Water Machine for only (not just once!) to change the properties VIDEO SHOWS MACHINE AT WORK 24 hours. I had gross swelling in my legs of that water. We have 13 International Go to www.JohnEllis.com/NIH and and hadn’t worn ordinary shoes in years. Patents and 332 FDA Tests. You can judge you can watch an informative video which Your water immediately destroyed the the blatant dishonesty in the water industry explains just how our E5 Water Machine markers for elephantiasis in my blood using simple electrolysis. A child in science works. And, just below the video, there is stream!! I lost all the water weight in my class could do that! a green link to multiple NIH.Gov studies legs and I bought a pair of shoes size 10 demonstrating the adverse health effects ½. Also unlike ordinary DDW, using elec- AMAZING POWER PROPERTIES of deuterium in your water. trolysis (a battery and two thin pieces of A company that produces hydrogen The video shows that by changing stainless steel, anode and cathode, not a generators for trucks found the required water properties, small amounts of this stack that negates power) your water pro- power slowly went down over 24 hours (a water can treat vast quantities of ordi- duces so much Hydrogen it violates Fara- cascading effect that is immediate once it nary water (even an aquifer or lake) so day’s Law… producing the energy needed has been treated) from 31 amps to less Municipalities can supply this healing to stop disease!!” than 1 amp making the same amount of water right at the tap!! Go to our website hydrogen by adding only 20 drops of this JohnEllis.com/NIH with a link to the COOK WITH THIS WATER! water to ordinary water in their hydrogen National Institutes of Health. (Deuterium Since it’s made by boiling and cooling, generator (another website video)! Using is found in every bottle or glass of water this energy is imparted to your food, this technology, you can power your car, you drink!) unlike ordinary water that absorbs en- heat your home and produce electricity However, DDW (Deuterium Depleted ergy (from your food and body) to reach for pennies. Watch the Video that shows Water) is only part of the battle for better equilibrium)! Also, since DEUTERIUM examples PROVING you are drinking health as noted by Nobel Prize Winner studies (150 ppm) show it kills fruit flies the wrong water . . . just as food supplies Albert Szentgyorgy: “Hydrogen is the and disease carrying mosquitoes, you energy, this water provides the “BODY Fuel of Life” because, unlike ordinary don’t want to remove all the Deuterium!! ELECTRIC” energy that powers your DDW, by also changing Water Properties Instead, INCREASE the Hydrogen Bond heart (defibrillator to stop a heart attack, and increasing the Hydrogen Bond Angle Angle (so it holds more contaminants in pacemaker)! between atoms (so it has more room to suspension along with Deuterium) and hold viruses and environmental contami- flush Deuterium along with viral diseases TAKE A TAX DEDUCTION! nants in suspension) they can be eliminated from the bloodstream with almost IMWith our 501(c)(3) non-profit Founfrom the bloodstream with almost im- MEDIATE results!! Note the typical candation, you can buy a machine and take a mediate results! cer charts: The “purest water” is USELESS Tax Deduction! There are thousands of Small amounts of this water can because it doesn’t do the above. They still families around the U.S. who need our treat millions of gallons of ordinary have cancer! water machines—kids in Flint, families water (as the Municipal Video shows) inin poverty, etc. When you buy a machine, cluding markers for disease, so they can MAKING DDW YOURSELF a portion of the proceeds go to this imbe flushed from a human waste lagoon or Using our E5 Water Machine, you portant humanitarian aid project. Contact the blood stream along with heavy metals. (Flint, MI: thousands of children have ir- can make two types of DDW for PEN- us at mO Box 553, Westbrookville, NY NIES per GALLON . . . not $300 for a 12785 or call 845-754-8696. reversible brain damage.) Gilbert Daunant (Prince Rainier’s cousin): “I just walked 40 blocks and I am 95! Send another E5 to Monaco!”

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UNLIKE ACTUAL SNAKES, YOU DON’T

need to keep a keen eye on the spiraling ones above. In fact, for your sanity, it’s probably best to ignore them: These playful circles stay still when you stare them down one at a time, but spin frustratingly when spied all together. Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a psychologist at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, made this take on peripheral drift illusions—which make the brain miscast patterns as motion. Neuroscientists think the shapes mess with the way our brain adapts to disparities in color contrast. When we glance at this image, the blacks and whites cause a bunch of neurons to fire at once. At the same time, the paler blues

S E P T E M B E R /O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • P O P S C I .C O M

and yellows trigger a slower, longer-lasting response. Motion-detecting neurons in the visual cortex mistake this difference in firing timing for movement and report that the image is spinning when it’s perfectly stagnant. Oddly, the effect is fierce in the periphery but muted under direct view. That’s because the eye’s center (the fovea) contains the densest grouping of cones, a type of photoreceptor. This massive cluster of sensory cells lets us see fine details easily, preventing our motion detectors from muddying the works. You might even be able to fool your cat with it. Some felines, researchers found, display hunting behavior when viewing this illusion. by Marissa Shieh / photographs by Brian Klutch


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HEAD TRIP

NO TOUCHING!

rabbit, run EVERYONE HATES AWKWARD PAUSES, AND YOUR

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brain is no exception. The mind’s eye will attempt to fill in dead spaces—though it’s not always very accurate. Try this: Have a friend give a few taps to your forearm, first near the wrist and then the elbow. Your noggin will confidently assert that something scurried up your arm. The prank even works when the middle of the forearm is numb. Neuroscientists call this trickery the cutaneous rabbit illusion. At its carrot-y roots, the rascal arises from the inaccurate map your brain has of your arm. On your forearm, sensory neurons can separate stimuli that are 1 centimeter apart. (By comparison, your fingertip has sensitivity resolution of 1 millimeter.) The arm’s imprecise measures aren’t a problem if you’re looking at it, but if you turn away, your brain must rely on assumptions: The object on your wrist didn’t transport to your elbow; it must have run there. We see proof of this confusion in our somatosensory cortex, the brain area where the body’s mental map resides. Whether the taps actually touch the forearm center or you just think they do, the same cortex area lights up in fMRI scans. But don’t always assume what’s on your arm is illusory; there’s a lot of creepy, crawly (bite-y) things in this world.

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HEAD TRIP

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NOT EVERY SECOND IS MADE THE SAME—AT least as far as our noggins are concerned. Quickly glance at an analog clock. You might find that the second hand seems stuck at first. But if the precise machinery ensures every second is the same, why the pause? Amelia Hunt, a neuroscientist with the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, says the standstill (nicknamed the stopped-clock illusion) occurs because our brains anticipate what we will see before we actually view it. When we move our eyes, everything shifts position on the retina. If we couldn’t sense those adjustments coming, we’d be incredibly disoriented. So our brains figured a way to cope: As we navigate the world, our visual cortex creates and updates an interactive map of what’s around us. The brain uses it to predict what we’ll see to prevent discombobulation. So, when you look up at a clock, your mapmaking brain has foreseen what it will look like. And when your gaze does reach it, you are a step ahead of time. In a 2009 study, Hunt’s team found that, on average, clock gazers set the time as 39 milliseconds earlier than what actually landed on the clock. For a fleeting second, time might seem to stop. Too bad it won’t help you catch up if you’re running late.

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The skepticism was equally swift . “ Papineau strung together a whole bunch of possibilities that pointed to a probability, but we can’t make a leap to what the samples definitely are or aren’t,” says Van Kranendonk, who based his own 2017 finding on a different type of fossil pattern—sheetlike structures called stromatolites. Others cast doubt on the filaments and said they didn’t look right. The rocks had gone through too much heat and pressure to be trustworthy. Papineau and Dodd say they have thought all this through. It’s true that any single phenomenon they saw could have been caused by nonbiological chemistry. But it’s extremely unlikely that every last one of the phenomena would have been present unless life too had once been present. “We always knew the work would be met with controversy, given the history of early-life claims,” Dodd says. “It’s not something trivial to claim.”

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It might not seem as explosive as the big-bang theory, or as disorienting as Darwin’s origin of the species, but the question of where and how life began is an enduring existential mystery. It points to our first beginnings, the stuff that we’re all made of—codes and chemicals. Papineau and Dodd might be right. Or not. But it looks likely that microbial creatures started swarming Earth almost as soon as it formed. Even without consensus on how and where life got going, everyone pretty much now agrees on a basic when: early. And quickly. In fact, it could have happened more than once around the same time, in many places. “It’s entirely plausible,” says MIT geobiologist Tanja Bosak. That also means that it could have happened on another planet. In the case of Mars, our closest candidate, it could have come and gone. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will try to find that out. Engineers will outfit its rover with a micro-Raman spectrometer that can do a bit of what Papineau and Dodd did in the lab—analyze rocks for former biological content. Williford, who is the deputy project scientist for the mission, will use some of the Nuvvuagittuq samples to test the rover’s spectrometer during its development. If a mission one day sniffs out former life in rocks on Mars or elsewhere, Papineau thinks it will shift our perception of our uniqueness 90

in the cosmos. It might even “unify people,” he says. Van Kranendonk says it’d be like the Apollo astronauts looking back at our planet from space: “It could have a profound impact on our place in the cosmos.” In the meantime, scientists will continue looking where they always have—in remote ancient rock, in biochem labs, in clean rooms under microscopes, and in bubbling vats like the one in Lane’s lab at University College London. It’s just a block away from Papineau’s office, but it’s a completely different world. Lane builds origins-of-life reactors to try to replicate the chemical reactions that lead to creation. The first version, now retired, looks like something out of Breaking Bad: a big, smudged glass cylinder with a tube dangling from the bottom, partly encased in wrinkled tinfoil secured with masking tape. A thin bundle of wires snakes out below. When it’s switched on, hot hydrogen-rich alkaline fluid with common salts such as potassium phosphate and sodium sulfide seeps up the pipe into the chamber. It bubbles through acidic water rich in dissolved carbon dioxide, iron, and nickel, and starved of oxygen—like the seas were 4 billion years ago. After a few hours, spidery black tubes form amid the alkaline and acid waters, mimicking early vent structures. One of Lane’s contraptions yielded formaldehyde, a precursor to complex biochemistry. He’s working on control experiments to verify that result. “A few people are taking this chemistry seriously,” he says. “I hope it’s only a matter of time before someone cracks it.” Papineau and Dodd are still looking too. Among many other projects, they’ll send one of their rock-and-fossil samples to a synchrotron in France for 3D X-rays that could suggest which modern microbes are most closely related to their ancient microorganisms. “Everything counts,” Papineau says. “These are the best-preserved microfossils we have. We have to seize that opportunity to characterize them as best we can.” In other words, these are among the finest ones we have now. But maybe one day, somebody will stumble across something better—older, clearer, more surprising. If this field of research has proved anything, it’s that life takes any opportunity it can get, and it gets there in a hurry. Life happens. Kat McGowan (@mcgowankat) is a science journalist who writes from Berkeley, California, and New York City.

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down. Anyone who has stayed up late at night, working or studying, knows how it feels to try to push through this point instead of dozing: “It is like hitting a wall,” Herring says. “You become cold, you become exhausted, your thinking slows down, and you become gassy.” Herring recalls a spooky happening during this stretch, which is also when an ER is down to a minimal crew. A middleaged patient came in at 3 a.m. with chest pains that could have signaled either heartburn or a heart attack. The EKG was normal. Unsure, Herring faced the patient alone and decided how to proceed. Instinct told him to do a bedside echocardiogram, which showed that a massive heart attack was, in fact, in progress, requiring an emergency catheterization. Everything turned out fine for the patient. But in retrospect, Herring thinks it was a close call. In the daytime, he suspects, that kind of decision would have been much more clear-cut. Since Oakland is a public hospital with growing demands and limited resources, it might not have the ability to address Herring’s concerns about shift work. So he and fellow doctors have come up with a Band-Aid based on the best science they can find. They’re adopting a solution used by Canadian ER doc Pat Croskerry. A professor in emergency medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Croskerry is an expert in cognition and diagnostic errors. He is also a trained experimental psychologist. He advocates using a so-called casino shift: Instead of having one doctor work through the entire night, you have two doctors split the evening, with each of them sleeping for a bit during the witching hour. Even a little shut-eye at this time seems to improve doctors’ focus and reduce potential errors. But better ways of doling out late-night work won’t make the underlying problem go away. Keeping such hours will still push doctors to their limits. “You need to bake in the cost of night work,” Herring says. “The physiological cost on your body. The psychological cost. We somehow have to get the greater society to understand the terrible toll this is taking.” Leslie Kaufman, founder of the political newsletter Red for the Blue, also writes frequently on science.

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Mathematically speaking, warp speed is possible, says Eric Davis, a theoretical physicist with the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin. In theory, he says, a warp drive creates a bubble that distorts spacetime around a moving vessel. The problem, though, is the energy required to do so roughly equates to the sun’s mass. Don’t give up yet. Physicists brought that energy demand down from its original estimate (the mass of the galaxy) by creating a more efficiently shaped warp bubble. Finding better ways to send that bubble through space is next.

A Pill That Stops Aging ASKS @1CENTTHINKER VIA TWITTER

It’s unlikely that any medicine will unlock the secret to immortality, but certain drugs might slow our decline. One, called rapamycin, tricks cells into thinking they’re starving, which allows them to better resist DNA damage and other stressors, and thus live longer. One study found it extended mice’s life spans by 25 percent. Longevity researchers such as Matt Kaeberlein at the University of Washington, are now testing rapamycin on dogs. But getting it OK’d for humans will be hard; the FDA doesn’t consider aging a medical condition.

A Way to Be Productive While You Sleep ASKS JUSTIN RODGERS VIA FACEBOOK

It would be the ultimate life hack: Instead of wasting one third of your days staring at the back of your eyelids, find a way to make use of those lost hours. But Matthew Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, says that’s a backward way of thinking. Snoozing is extremely productive, he counters. One pivotal 2003 study found participants who lost between one and five hours of sleep saw steady declines in scores on tests that measure reaction speeds to visual stimuli. The effects worsened with each additional lost hour of sleep.

WANT TO KNOW IF YOUR IDEA COULD BECOME REALITY? TWEET @POPSCI, EMAIL LETTERS@POPSCI.COM, OR TELL US ON FACEBOOK. POPULAR SCIENCE magazine, Vol. 289, No. 5 (ISSN 161-7370, USPS 577-250), is published bimonthly by Bonnier Corp., 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. Copyright ©2017 by Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reprinting in whole or part is forbidden except by permission of Bonnier Corp. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to POPULAR SCIENCE, P.O. Box 6364, Harlan, IA 51593-1864. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription Rates: $19.95 for one year. Please add $10 per year for Canadian addresses and $20 per year for all other international addresses. Canada Post Publications agreement #40612608. Canada Return Mail: IMEX Global Solutions, P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2. Printed in the USA. Subscriptions processed electronically. Subscribers: If the post office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within two years. Photocopy Permission: Permission is granted by POPULAR SCIENCE® for libraries and others registered with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to photocopy articles in this issue for the flat fee of $1 per copy of each article or any part of an article. Send correspondence and payment to CCC (21 Congress St., Salem, MA 01970); specify CCC code 0161-7370/85/$1.00–0.00. Copying done for other than personal or reference use without the written permission of POPULAR SCIENCE® is prohibited. Address requests for permission on bulk orders to POPULAR SCIENCE, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016 for foreign requests. Editorial Offices: Address contributions to POPULAR SCIENCE, Editorial Dept., 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. We are not responsible for loss of unsolicited materials; they will not be returned unless accompanied by return postage. Microfilm editions are available from Xerox University Microfilms Serial Bid Coordinator, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

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