Peculiar Science 3

The July/August Popular Science spins further into its orbit of being way, way out with Simon Pegg acting as guide to the spaciness of its first annual insane ideas issue.

Readers are supposed to be getting a lift from learning about Lyft, a fleet of self-driving taxis that will pave the way to Utopia. A Lyft co-founder wonders why people will want to drive their own cars that are only used four percent of the time and have to do all the “work” of parking and washing it. He suggests “Start to imagine all of the idle vehicles disappearing.” Readers are apt to imagine all the idle minds seeking to find ways to steer the public onto the off-ramp of uniformity.

When the pleasure of driving our own automobiles is gone, people will probably head for a Risk Theme Park like the one proposed for Daegu, South Korea. The nine death-defying scenes include simulations of wilderness rescue and being trapped underground. The biggest trap will certainly be at the ticket booth.

Foot fetishists will still get their kicks as the PS crew reports in “Rocket Science Meets Runway” on high heels that absorb shock better and offer extra arch support. When the stilettos are released this year, leg lovers should station themselves near arches or doorways where women will be supporting each other and recovering from the shock of shoes retailing at $925 a pair.

About halfway through the issue readers finally get to play Simple Simon with ideas that are more inane than insane. Worrywarts who keep watching the skies for asteroids and other falling objects headed our way can be comforted by the prospect of comet-crashing rockets being developed. Or maybe they might simply realize that these earth-shattering events occur about every 500,000 years.

Anyone concerned about Air Supply (and not just those still singing “All out of Love”) might be interested in knowing that artificial intelligence (the only kind that seems to intrigue the editors) is now monitoring the quality of air in Beijing, which has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Now high-resolution forecasts give residents of the populous city 72 hours advance warning and planning time. To do what? Take a deep breath and hold it until the worst of the smog dissipates?

Very prominent in the spacey category are the thousands of cracker-sized spacecraft to be launched by a Russian billionaire with the express purpose of searching for extraterrestrial life. It will take 20 to 30 years for the tidbits to reach their targets so about 2045 expect a message from outer space on the order of “Polxyp wants another cracker. This time, with onion dip.”

Although doctors haven’t made house calls for decades, we are expected to believe other health care professionals may soon be on the move. A physician requests a blood draw, the patient then schedules a convenient time, and a phlebotomist arrives to take the sample. All might go well if every abode was a sanitary and safe haven. Just how will the patient know whether the stranger knocking on the door is after just a small sample in a vial or is really a vile character out for blood and anything else that isn’t nailed down?

Never let it be said that the PS staffers aren’t just sitting around for sitting compresses the spine or standing idly by which makes the feet ache. The solution in the Manual section: walk while you work by converting a base-drum carrier into a desk that can be worn. No mention is made of sore tummies and banged knees from bumping into chairs and tables the walker cannot see over the top of a laptop.

In the “Ask Us Why” department readers are asked to consider the question of whether skunks hate the smell of their spray. The short answer is “Not as much as humans do.” One wonders “Do the staffers at PS find their subjects as weird as their readers do?” The short answer probably is “Not as long as they get paid for their weirdness.”


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