Peculiar Science 4

The left side of the masthead of the September/October Popular Science poses the query “Ever sat in a room full of geniuses?” That room was undoubtedly too full to admit the people listed on the right side of the page who are associated with that periodical.

On the Hit List page we take one step back to get somewhat off track with a device called Freewrite which allows a keyboarder to “Tap away without distraction on a digital typewriter” before uploading to the cloud. Staffers who believe this is simpler than making a Word document have their heads in some cloud. Or perhaps the puck shown on that page which translates knocks into commands has already bounced off their noggins. Staffers reeling from the school of hard knocks can smell their way to the fabric test in the lab to try on a shirt that keeps sweat close to the skin. “Dizzy, meet Stinky.”

Acrophobiacs will likely not be fond of taking the 870-foot bungee jump off the world’s longest and tallest glass bridge spanning China’s Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. 25 is the spotlighted number of volunteers who repeatedly tested the cracked glass panels to test their durability. No number is given for the coerced testers whose haunting screams of “Eeeeeeyowww!” still echo throughout the area on certain eerie nights.

One item in the Next section really belongs in the Old News department, viz. “studies suggest the seafloor holds more trash than what floats on the surface.” Didn’t those scientists ever watch Godzilla?

The idea of injecting gel implants under the vocal membranes of entertainers comes too late to help Joe Cocker and Crusher Lisowski. Just where these implants are coming from is not explained, although I suspect any exotic dancers interviewed by the media have been warned to keep it under their tassels.

The very remote possibility of a very remote asteroid reaching earth remains a far, far distant threat, yet the alarmists continue to fret. Now we are being alerted to the danger of 101955 Bennu flying within 185,000 miles of our planet in 2135. This year NASA is going to launch a spacecraft to rendezvous with Ben in 2018 in hopes of finding out more about this very distant hunk of rock. Memo to the walking dead in 119 years: don’t wake me when it’s over us.

Immediately following this pursuit of something way out there is the cover story of the most social man on this planet, Mark Zuckerberg, who is also thinking far ahead with a safe prediction because few humans currently living will be around in 84 years to see if it comes true: “We can manage all diseases by the end of the century.” If his prediction is accurate, millions of people under the age of 20 now will be alive in that 22nd century. Memo to those centenarians in 2100: Don’t roll over me and Beethoven in your wheelchairs.

Zuck’s promotion of virtual reality certainly opens wide horizons for the future, although not all aspects of this concept seem that new such as “connecting even more frequently with people through a technology that tricks your mind into thinking it’s somewhere else, without actually having to be there.” Abbott and Costello were doing that routine 70 years ago without the help of Oculus.

To be fair, any innovator who is pledging most of his fortune toward the goals of advancing human potential and promoting equality and education should be admired rather than mocked. Also to be lauded in this issue is director Werner Herzog for his statement that reliance on the Internet is not a healthy thing and his advice “to read every day and develop critical and conceptual thinking.” When a writer, while interviewing a computer mastermind, considers the potentialities of the Internet by asking, “Will it be profound? Will it make us better citizens or more-realized human beings?,” one can almost believe the magazine is probing close to the heart of what matters in this brave new world.

But then sense gives way to a stream of nonsense such as reporting on a chef who cooked a paella made out of food waste for 5,000 people in Washington, D.C., a place famous for waste, and how an engineer helped the owners building the new 49ers stadium determine how many servers would be needed to get hot dogs to customers. (Wouldn’t it be more logical to determine how to get forward passes into the hands of wide receivers?). One candidate for the “Oh, Really?” department is research which “suggests that being fed, caffeinated, and well-rested can each boost brain flexibility.” In the next issue we can probably expect this startling revelation: “Extending the arm and opening the fingers of the hand is an efficient way to pick up a pencil.”







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