Hyperloop or Hype: Can Elon Musk’s Wild Transport Idea Work?
How would you like to get around in a vehicle that “never crashes, that’s at least twice as fast as a plane, that’s solar powered, and that leaves right when you arrive, so there is no waiting for a departure time”? Sounds a little too good to be true, but that is precisely what serial […]
The Problematic, Newfangled Hack That Is the Human Leg
If you were to design a leg for a bipedal animal from scratch, what would it look like? Don’t bother looking down at your own body for inspiration—you won’t find a good model there. If you want to make a really good bipedal leg, you should make one a lot like an ostrich’s, and nothing like […]
When Pigs Fly
It’s no fairy tale—factory farms and air travel form a viral expressway to pandemics.
Two Good Ways to Really *Get* the Solar System
The Sun is one busy celestial body. In addition to giving us light, holding the solar system together, and providing the energy for almost every living thing on Earth, it’s also a grapefruit in a grass field in Austin, Texas, and a 50-foot yellow archway in northern Maine. Now, obviously this huge mass of incandescent gas […]
Why People Love to Get Lost in Books
In the huge range of different human cultural inclinations, one of the most widespread is a fondness for stories. We just love to get lost in a good book or movie. When we do, we tend to ignore where we are and become completely absorbed in the story. Psychologists call this “transportation,” and have conducted […]
Reading the Tea Leaves: How Particles Can Travel Upstream
It’s been said that the true harbinger of scientific discovery is not “Eureka!” but “Huh… that’s funny….” That certainly proved to be the case for Sebastian Bianchi: a simple cup of tea led him to some intriguing, counter-intuitive insights into the surface tension of water. Back when he was an undergraduate physics major at the […]
The Feminine Smells That Get Sperm Moving
Sperm are the cheetahs of the microscopic world: Made of little more than molecular muscle and batteries, tipped with a payload of genetic information, they are optimized for speed. But to orient themselves before their epic, seven-inch sprint (it’s more impressive if you’re less than one three-thousandth that size), they first need to sniff out […]
By the Light of the Moon, the Poles of the Earth
The remarkable ways animals get around.
Worlds Without End
Think we might eventually travel to other planets? In a way, we already are.
When home is not a haven.