Peculiar Science 5

The November/December Popular Science jumps into the Best of What’s New by seeing the road ahead through very foggy glasses inside a Uber vehicle on autopilot. The Uber wizard who claims on page 14 “If we can drive in Pittsburgh, we can drive anywhere” is invited to drop one of his driverless autos on a Wisconsin rural road during an ice storm or blizzard this winter to do some slipping and sliding with little moving and grooving.

The question “Should I replace my laptop with a tablet?” is posted but not answered on page 16. Those readers confused by the diagram and remarks might be better off by skipping that page, taking two tablets at bedtime, and calling the next morning to cancel their subscription.

The creator of Little Bits profiled on pages 26 and 28 believes her building blocks which snap together for high-tech DIY projects will “empower kids very early on to feel they are change-makers.” Because so many high school graduates are unemployed or marking time behind counters in menial jobs, society would be better off if we could teach them how to make change.

The head astronomer in the quest for finding a habitable planet is quoted twice in the same paragraph on page 30 as counting on chance even more than science: “if we’re lucky…” and “We have to be lucky…” Maybe we don’t need more artificial intelligence in outer space but more people out in the fields looking for four-leaf clovers.

Beginning on page 35 the cloudy spotlight shines on the Best of What’s New. Needle-free dentistry will soon take the form of squirts in the nostril which will numb that side of the face before the dentist starts drilling away. The process may be less painful but is apt to lead to more post-nasal dripping.

Readers should be numbed in order to believe the McLaren 570S is a “drivable Super Car” with a price tag of $184,900 or that they will snap at the bait of a $6,000 Canon camera just because it’s touted as a “fast-snapping 4K.”

The lugs who grab on to the shoe sole that “won’t slip on ice” may still fall down and go boom if they look up at the new Supersonic aircraft being developed and wonder why the descendants of the extinct Concorde haven’t learned the noisy lesson of that dinosaur.(Golfers who wonder what happened to those behemoths might be leery of paying $350  for the aircraft grade club shown on page 61 “which gives faster swings and distance to drives.” The shafts of the Estwings hammers made out of aircraft-grade aluminum shown on pages 68 and 69 might give pause to those with a hankering for heavy hitting.)

Baseball players who swing another kind of club and want to slug like Hammering Hank are now being advised to wield a hunk of wood like Barrelhouse Bunyan by wielding an axe bat at the plate. The MLB hitting coach who sees no downside to this contoured handled hunk of ash may alter his opinion when the first team to adopt it for all players on the team changes their nickname to the Blue Oxes.

The house paint that kills disease touted on page 70 is likely to drawn cynical responses similar to this one from coughers and sneezers at this time of the year as they battle their first winter colds: “That’s great. Now my walls are healthier than I am.”

Grand Winner of the best in Engineering is the Swiss government after  the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Alps which involved sixteen years of moving over 1 million tons of rock so train travelers can travel from Zurich to Milan in 3½ hours instead of 4 hours as in the past. Some of those rocks must have landed on the heads of the editors if they think spending 16 years to save 30 minutes is grand.

The same editors who find that “artificial log fumes in theme parks are so yesteryear” turn their clocks back beyond yesteryear with a two-page story devoted to building a record player powered by the wind. Anyone who believes that contraption will generate enough energy to play a 45 RPM record is invited to share the same room with the person shown playing tic-tac-toe in a room-size computer. Aren’t computers that took up all sides of a room so very, very yesteryear?

The eye-catching callout at the top of the cover is “We Fact-Check Your Bad Ideas” which is precisely done as promised on the last page of the issue, page 114. The question remains “Who is checking the bad ideas on the first 113 pages?”



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