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contents

this months guide to innovation and discovery


march 10

features

The Future
of Drones
36 A Field Guide to
FlyinG Robots

on the cover: nick kaloterakis; this page, clockwise from top: nick kaloterakis; general atomics
aeronautical systems; jim wilson/lockheed martin; jonathan worth; john macneill; istock

PopScis illustrated guide


to the unmanned aerial
vehiclesfrom hunt-andkill drones to tiny pollinating
bee botsthat will soon
rule the skies.
By Eric Hagerman

xx

FronTiers oF meDicine
44 RebootinG tHe body
Reprogramming the immune system could eradicate
the autoimmune diseasessuch as Type 1 diabetes
that affect as many as 50 million Americans. After
nearly a decade of treatment, our writer knows what
progress feels like. By Catherine Price

50 RAdicAl cuRes
Restoring sight, waking
people from vegetative
states, curing cancer:
What was once quackery
is now grounds for the
next breakthroughs in
medicine. By Corey Binns

vital signs

disconnected
54 The radiation
from cellphones
and other
electronic devices
might not be
causing brain
tumors, but
cases like Per
Segerbchs
suggest that
electromagnetic
elds could
be harming
your health in
subtler ways.
By James
Geary
march 2010 popular science 03

popsci.com

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contents

16

72

30

reGuLars
Q megapixels

10 A toxic disaster; a ping-pong-playing terminator.


Q WhaTs

15 GAdGets

neW

Set your camera on your laptop to transfer pics wirelessly.

knoW youR dRones


The Predator was just the beginning. For an expanded look at
current and future unmanned aerial vehicles, consult our full eld
guide to UAVs at popsci.com/droneguide.

16 tHe Goods
22 Automotive

new slideshows and features

Apps for controlling your car with your cellphone.

24 RecReAtion
A treadmill that re-creates any hike on earth.

Q heaDlines

27 ReseARcH

Will brain-scan lie detectors free the innocent, or jail them?

28 disAsteR tecH
Tracking reghters to get them out alive.

Jet-Powered Atv
in Action
This issue features staff
photographer/mad inventor
John Carnetts jet-powered allterrain vehicle. To hear it roar
and watch it go, head to the
video at popsci.com/jetquad.

30 biGGeR, GReeneR, FAsteR


Stopping bleeding quicker, and other superlatives.

33 AstRonomy
The ying telescope that sees more than Hubble.

Q hoW

the secret lives of


Particle Accelerators
Particle accelerators dont just hunt for obscure subatomic bits
theyve helped clean up the environment and create better plastic
kitchen wrap. See more collider by-products at popsci.com/colliders.

2.0

65 you built WHAt ?!


A bad-ass jet-powered ATV.

68 build it

Fixes for American Health care

Make your own mini-megaphone.

70 GRAy mAtteR
Making an LED with sandpaper crystals.

72 Ask A Geek
Whats the best way to back up your computer?

Q FYi

76 Why you shouldnt dump nuclear waste into volcanoes.


Q oTher

sTuFF

06 FRom tHe editoR


08 tHe inbox
92 tHe FutuRe tHen

Check out our countdown of game-changing


technologies poised to save millions of healthcare dollars, not to mention many lives, at
popsci.com/healthtech.

the complete Popsci Archive

With our friends at Google, weve scanned all 138 years of Popular
Science and made it available to you, for free. Get ready to lose an
afternoon (or several) at popsci.com/archives.

goT QuesTions? Send them to fyi@popsci.com. Weve got answers!

04 popular science march 2010

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popsci.com

clockwise from top left: courtesy delorme; thereddress.co.uk; courtesy Bae systems; john howell; istock; l-dopa

The trillion-color TV; a device to text via satellite.

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from the editor


THE
FuTurE
nOW

Editor-in-Chief Mark Jannot


Deputy Editor Jacob Ward
Creative Director Sam Syed

In January, in a session typically reserved for emergency legislation, the

Maine state legislature was slated to consider a measure requiring cellphone


packaging to feature cigarette-style labels warning consumers that the devices
may cause cancer. Its sponsor, state rep Andrea M. Boland, told the New York
Times that she had been convinced after reading that cellphone radiation
increases the risk of brain cancer, especially among kids. Well, I hope Representative Boland reads Disconnected [page
54], James Gearys investigation of the science behind cell-radiation concerns.
Lets be clear, Geary writes. Cellphones are not like cigarettes. There is a
proven mechanism by which cigarettes
cause cancer, even if you live an otherwise
healthy life. There is as yet no proven
mechanism by which cellphones do the same. Most experts say there is no such
mechanism. Geary is not a debunker; hes an elucidator. His piece does a revelatory job of articulating the subtler mechanisms and risks that science is just
beginning to understand. He notes, for instance, that while the electromagnetic
radiation from mobile phones almost certainly doesnt cause cancer, some scientists believe it may affect the body in ways that help to promote cancer.
Rather than search for alarming studies in pursuit of a simple, catchy
headline, Geary instead worked to articulate this important distinction. And
he builds his story on a character who exactly personifies the tension between
what we know and what we dont about cellphones: a former telecommunications engineer in Sweden who claims to be so physically sickened by the radiation from cellphones that he lives alone in a nature reserve, but who also readily
admits that he cant explain why or how its affecting him.
Theres a tendency, when one thinks of public-spirited journalism, to summon images of whistleblowers, crusaders and reporters who uncover and publicize a menace or threat to the populace. I think Disconnected is a fine example
of a less-heralded, though no less valuable,
sort of public-spirited journalism: reporting
that carefully examines and explains the
evidence to help readers more reasonably
assess the risks at hand. Warning labels
raise alarms. Disconnected puts them in
context (and, for me, seriously moderates
them). Im proud to be publishing it.
Mark Jannot

Lets be
cLear:
ceLLphones
are not Like
cigarettes.

mark.jannot@bonniercorp.com

ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY


Art Director Matthew Cokeley
Photo Editor Kristine LaManna
Staff Photographer John B. Carnett
Senior Designer Stephanie OHara
Contributing Artists Kevin Hand, Nick Kaloterakis,
Graham Murdoch, Bob Sauls, Paul Wootton
Photo Intern Jack Forbes
Production Intern Reynaldo Lopez
POPSCI.COM
Digital Content Director John Mahoney
Digital Content Manager Taylor Hengen
Associate Web Editor Paul Adams
Bonnier Technology GRouP

Group Publisher Gregg R. Hano


Group Director, Sales and Marketing Steven B. Grune
Associate Publishers Wendi S. Berger, Anthony Ruotolo
Executive Assistant Christopher Graves
Marketing Director Mike Gallic
Financial Director Tara Bisciello
Northeast Advertising office: Lauren Brewer,
Matthew Bondy, Taryn Guillermo, Sara Schiano
Midwest: Manager John Marquardt 312-252-2838
Ad Assistant Krissy Van Rossum
West Coast Account Managers Robert Hoeck 310-227-8963,
Bob Meth
Ad Assistant Kate Gregory
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Classified Advertising Sales Patrick Notaro 212-779-5555,
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Sales Development Managers Alexis Costa, Mike Kelly, Kerri Levine
Group Director, Creative Services/Events Mike Iadanza
Director of Events Michelle Cast
Special Events Manager Erica Johnson
Marketing Art Directors Lindsay Krist, Shawn Woznicki
Promotions Manager Eshonda Caraway
Consumer Marketing Director Bob Cohn
Associate Directors Lauren Rosenblatt, Andrew Schulman
Senior Planning Manager Raymond Ward
New Business Manager Cliff Sabbag
Retention Manager Connie Cotner
Single Copy Sales Director Vicki Weston
Publicity Manager Amanda McNally
Human Resources Manager Kim Putman
Production Associate Erika Hernandez
Group Production Director Laurel Kurnides
operations Director Mimi Rosenfeld

Chairman Jonas Bonnier


Chief Executive ofcer Terry Snow
Chief operating ofcer Dan Altman
Chief Financial ofcer Randall Koubek
SVP, Corporate Sales & Marketing Mark Wildman
Vice President, Consumer Marketing Bruce Miller
Vice President, Production Lisa Earlywine
Vice President, E-Media Bill Allman
Vice President, Digital Sales & Marketing John Haskin
Vice President, Enterprise Systems Shawn Larson
Vice President, Human Resources Cathy Hertz
Vice President, Corporate Communications Dean Turcol
Brand Director John Miller
Publishing Consultant Martin S. Walker
Corporate Counsel Jeremy Thompson
For service anytime, please use our Web site:
www.popsci.com/cs
Or you may write to
Popular Science, P.o. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235

06 popular science march 2010

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JOHN B. CARNETT

Lower the
Alarms

EDITORIAL
Executive Editor Mike Haney
Features Editor Nicole Dyer
Editorial Production Manager Felicia Pardo
Copy and Research Director Rina Bander
Senior Associate Editors Lauren Aaronson, Doug Cantor,
Bjorn Carey, Seth Fletcher, Martha Harbison
Associate Editor Corinne Iozzio
Assistant Editor Susannah F. Locke
Editorial Assistant Amy Geppert
Editor at Large Dawn Stover
Contributing Technology Editor Steve Morgenstern
Contributing Editors Eric Adams, Theodore Gray, Eric Hagerman,
Joseph Hooper, Preston Lerner, Gregory Mone, Rena Marie Pacella,
Catherine Price, Dave Prochnow, Jessica Snyder Sachs, Rebecca Skloot,
Mike Spinelli, Elizabeth Svoboda, Kalee Thompson, Phillip Torrone,
James Vlahos, Speed Weed
Contributing Troubadour Jonathan Coulton
Editorial Intern Sandeep Ravindran

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the InbOx letterS@POPSCI.COM

Star Chasers

In our January issue, we predicted


what 2010 would hold for the world
of science; attended Singularity
University, a program that brings
together brilliant minds to brainstorm
world-changing businesses; and
explored the science behind James
Camerons 3-D Avatar. But it was our
coverage of the private space industry
assuming some of NASAs duties that
drew the biggest response from our
readers, including those at the center
of the burgeoning space race.
Human exploration of the moon and beyond would restore
national pride and bring purpose to our space program.
The Apollo 11 lunar landing was a positive achievement for
America. President Obama must take rm leadership and put
our manned space program back on course.
Rick Schreiner
Via e-mail

Correction
The image of the TKTS pavilion [Best of Whats New,
December 2009] should have been credited as architectural
team: Perkins Eastman/Choi Ropiha/William Fellows
Architects; structural engineer: Dewhurst MacFarlane and
Partners; photograph: Pal Rivera/ArchPhoto.

notes from the field


For Disconnected on page 54, photographer Jonathan Worth
traveled to Sweden to photograph Per Segerbck, who has a diagnosed hypersensitivity to electromagnetic radiation from cellphones
and other devices: Ever watch a nature program about spiders or
fleas and find yourself
scratching your way
through it? When I left
the shoot, I could feel
the microwaves coming
off my phone and the
car alarm melting my
brain. Every airport x-ray
machine on the way back
was torture. Weve since
removed our Wi-Fi.

THE
FUTURE
NOW

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08 popular science MarCh 2010

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please contact syndication@


popsci.com.
LETTERS
Send letters to the editor
to letters@popsci.com.
Send science questions
to fyi@popsci.com.
Comments may be
edited for length
and clarity. We regret
that we cannot answer
unpublished letters.

The paper used for this


magazine comes from certified
forests that are managed in a
sustainable way to meet the social,
economic and environmental needs
of present and future generations.

jonathan worth

Although your cover line Who needs NASA? was meant


to be tongue-in-cheek and rhetorical, it is a question
that needs to be answered and answered clearly: The
commercial space industry needs NASA. Because there is so
much misinformation oating around out there regarding
NASA and its relationship to commercial space, I felt it
important to make the relationship clear. NASA has been
a longtime supporter of SpaceX and, in many ways, has
helped shape the company that SpaceX is today. While it is
clear that the commercial space sector is certainly ushering
in the new space rush, no one organization can do it alone.
Theres no question about the critical need for NASA.
Elon Musk
CEO and CTO, SpaceX

POPSCI.COM

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megapixels
the must-see photos of the month

10 popular science March 2010

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See more amazing photos at popsci.com/gallery.

CoinCidenCe or
ConsequenCe?

REUTERS

QueStionS linger a Quarter-century after the


worSt toxic-gaS leak in hiStory
Eleven-year-old Salu Raikwar, born with six fingers on both hands, walks near the Union Carbide pesticide
plant in Bhopal, India. In December 1984 an estimated 27 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked
from the plant and into the environment. The disaster resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people. Now,
with the passing of the 25th anniversary of the disaster, anecdotal evidence and reports not publicly available suggest a long-lasting legacy in the form of higher rates of cancer, delayed growth, and birth defects
like webbed or extra fingers and cleft palates in children of parents exposed to the chemical, but no comprehensive studies have been made. The genetic and carcinogenic effects of MIC will become most apparent
in long-term studies that are crying out to be done, says epidemiologist Sushma Aquilla, a member of the
International Medical Commission on Bhopal, which in 1994 conducted an independent assessment of adults
directly affected by the disaster. Despite the Indian Council of Medical Research issuing a call for such studies last year, there has been a lack of interest in doing them, Aquilla says. To her, it seems that some people
would actually like to forget the incident. BY SANDEEP RAVINDRAN PHOTOGRAPH BY REINHARD KRAUSE

POPScI.cOM popular science 11

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megapixels

Match Point

Your table-tennis dYnastY is toast

REUTERS

Meet TOPIO 3.0, the ping-pong-playing robot. Made by Vietnams first-ever robotics firm,
TOSY, the bipedal humanoid uses two 200-fps cameras to detect the ball as it leaves
the opponents paddle. TOPIOs brainprocessors and an artificial neural network
analyzes the balls path to choose the best return. Last fall, TOPIO 3.0 debuted at the
International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. At six feet tall, 264 pounds and with 39 independent points capable of movement (such as rotation) throughout its body, the chiseled
robot appears a formidable adversary, but it hasnt beaten a human quite yet. Ho Vinh
Hoang, TOSYs president, hopes that a newer version of TOPIO, which will have a more
flexible arm and be able to learn on the fly, will win a match in the near future, possibly at Automatica, an automation trade show, to be held this June in Munich. Hoangs
ultimate goal: a TOPIO in every home, not just to play ping-pong but to help with household chores and other tasks. BY BROOKE BOREL PHOTOGRAPH BY KIM KYunG-HOOn

12 popular science march 2010

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see more amazing images at popsci.com/gallery.

POPScI.cOm popular science 13

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whats neW
tech that puts the future in the palm of your hand

20
Eco lawn mowers

that run on grill fuel

22

Control your car


from your cellphone

24

Gym gadgets that


make exercise fun

ConneCt the ShotS


Zap photos from your camera to your laptop with just a tap

Now that even cellphones can take photos good


enough to save, we end up with images scattered
all over. So electronics makers are coming up
with easier ways to move your snaps. Sonys new
wireless solution, TransferJet, is built into this TX7
camera and Vaio F-Series laptop. Come home after
a trip, put the camera down, and your photos will
hop over before you hang up your coat.
When a TransferJet chip in the cameras
memory card comes within an inch of one in
the keyboard tray, up to 20 photos copy over at
a rate of a second apiece. (Thats more than 20
times the speed of Bluetooth and even closes
in on wired rates.) The chips attain that pace by
using a shorter-distance, lower-power version of
speedy ultra-wideband radio and skipping timeconsuming le compression. And unlike Wi-Fi or
Bluetooth, theres no need for passwords, since
the close range ensures that hackers cant steal
pics from afar. Expect more TransferJet devices,
like TVs and digital photo frames, from Sony and
others over the next year.Rebecca Day

brian klutch

Get them:
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-tX7
Resolution: 10 megapixels
Price: $400 (est.)
SoNy Vaio F-SeRieS
Screen: 16.4 inches
Price: From $1,720; sony.com

MARCH 2010 popular science 15

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wHAts new
Laundry Learner
This Whirlpool is the first
washer you can teach how
to handle clothes. Its built-in
USB port will soon let you add
custom cycles (downloaded
to a flash drive from your
computer) for garment-specific
instructions. Whirlpool Vantage
Price not set; whirlpool.com

GOODS
THE

A DOZEN GREAT IDEAS IN GEAR

Current Rotation
Among the thousands of Internet radio stations, this four-inch cube
radio tunes in only to the favorites you select from your PC. Rest it
on one of four sides, and accelerometers signal it to switch between
four presets of your choosing. Tipping it back and forth adjusts
the volume. Q2 Cube Price not set; www.armourgroup.uk.com

By corinne iozzio
Smart Control

News Ticker

The Re dongle and its app


make your iPhone a remote.
Its infrared emitter stores
the codes for your TV and
other devices, which it can
learn from other remotes
by capturing and replicating
their signals. New Kinetix Re
Price not set; newkinetix.com

Get headlines automatically.


This seven-inch Wi-Fi display
updates and scrolls your picks of
thousands of free feeds. Its apps
(including Reuters news and
others from gadget company
Chumby) broadcast changes
whenever fresh info pops up.
Sony Dash $200; sony.com

Color Display
Our eyes are capable of seeing millions
of colors, and this HDTV is the first to recreate just as many. Sharps LCD adds
a separate yellow filter to the usual red,
blue and green, so it can mix more than a
trillion colors. Sharp Aquos LE920
From $3,600 (est.); sharpusa.com

16 popular science MARCH 2010

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multiplex
Samsungs six-panel
monitor is the first to show
multi-screen high def. When
paired with an AMD graphics
processor, it can show one
image (as large as a 60-inch
display) or six separate
views. Samsung MD320
$3,100; samsung.com

Still Film
This Canon works harder to steady
shake-prone zoom shots. It has a
more sensitive image stabilizer than
other models, which moves its 10x
zoom lens slightly from side to side
to compensate if you wobble. Canon
Vixia HF S21 $1,100; usa.canon.com

Text Anywhere

Slope Info

Stay in touch even on desolate


trails. Absent cell coverage, the
SPOT hooks up to a satellite
signal to send text messages
of up to 50 characters that
you type on a DeLorme GPS.
DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w
and SPOT Communicator Price
not set; delorme.com

Read your current speed,


temperature, altitude and more
from the inside of your goggles. A
lens and mirror make the image
from a 0.6-inch LCD in the lower
right-hand corner appear as a
virtual 14-inch display. ReconZeal Transcend From $350 (est.);
reconinstruments.com

totable Tube

Tiny Trainer

This seven-inch DVD player is


the first device to pick up free
digital TV. Its tuner chip is more
reliable than comparable cellular services and can show live
local programming in 22 cities.
Philips Portable DVD Player
PET749 $180; philips.com

Haiers earbuds turn any


MP3 player into a heart-rate
monitor. A sensor on the
controls takes your pulse
through your thumb, and the
data is dictated to you and
saved for review on a PC later.
Haier Trainer Earphones
$40; haieramerica.com

Hanging Helper
Bostitchs level saves time by
freeing up your hands. The
24-inch level has aluminum
clamps that lock onto wood
as thick as a 4x4. Bostitch
43-723 Clamping Level
$60; bostitch.com

POPsCI.COM popular science 17

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whats new GaDGets

HOW IT
WORKS

PaPer,
revised

A bAttery-powered
notepAd As convenient
As the reAl thing

Outside
light

A new electronic notepad may be lifelike, cheap


and energy-efcient enough to replace those
wasteful paper slips we still use for memos and
grocery lists. The four-ounce Boogie Board runs
for years on a single watch battery and, thanks to a
novel use of the material inside ordinary computer
screens, even mimics the feel of putting pen to paper.
The Boogie Board contains liquid crystals, just
like an LCD monitor, but it eliminates pixels and the
expensive, power-hungry circuitry they require. Instead,
you actually push the crystals around with your stylus or
ngernail. That physical pushing is electricity-free (the board
uses no power at all until you erase it), and it re-creates a
pen-like sensation that produces lines of different thicknesses
depending on how hard you press. Use it like a whiteboard for
now; future versions will add memory that can save your scribbles
for later transfer to a computer.sandeep Ravindran

Direct
pressure

Plastic
sheets
Reective
liquid crystals

Transparent
liquid crystals

The Boogie Board sandwiches


trillions of liquid crystalstiny
molecules that arrange themselves
in spiralsbetween two plastic
sheets. At rest, the screen appears
dark because the spirals lie in a
way that lets outside light pass
through to the black plastic below.
But direct pressure forces the
spirals to stand upright. Light then
bounces off them, naturally creating

a bright whitish color, no


energy-hogging lamp needed.
The image stays put without
power, unlike in a traditional LCD,
because polymers mixed in with
the liquid crystals help keep them in
place. To erase, you press a button
that sends a charge between the
plastic sheets (which are coated
with conductive lm) and rescatters the spirals.

18 POPular science maRcH 2010

GET IT:
Improv Electronics
Boogie Board LCD
Writing Tablet
(with Kent Displays
Reex screen) $30;
myboogieboard.com

BRIAN KLUTCH; sCReeN INseT: eRIC HeINTZ

HOW TO Write without Paper

pOpScI.cOm

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toyota.com/prius

Recycles Sunshine.
An optional Solar Roof*, helps ventilate the Prius interior
when youre not there. The 50 mpg-rated 3rd generation
Prius. Download the Prius Experience App to learn more.

Harmony between man, nature and machine.

1)

2)

Install.

Get the Prius Experience iPhoneTM


App from the App Store.SM

Interact.

Take a picture of this ad using


the Interact mode, then touch
to see features and videos.

*The Solar Roof uses a fan to draw outside air into the cabin, lowering cabin temp. near outside ambient temp. Must be turned on prior to leaving vehicle, and parked in direct sunlight. See Owners Manual. Avail. on Prius III and IV only.

2010 EPA 51/48/50 city/highway/combined mpg estimates. Actual mileage will vary. iPhoneTM is a trademark of Apple, Inc.App Storeis a service mark of Apple, Inc. All rights reserved. Options shown. 2009 Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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whats new hOMe teCh

TECH
REBORN

Greener
Pastures

BarBecue-grill gas creates


a cleaner-Burning mower
Propane fuels your camp stove and patio
grill because it burns efciently and is easy
to store safely. Now the same canisters are
making lawn mowers more eco- and userfriendly, too. The propane-powered Eco
Mower spews 26 percent less greenhouse
gases and 60 percent less carbon monoxide
than a gasoline model, plus you can replace
its fuel conveniently and inexpensively.
Twist a store-bought 16-ounce can into

Lehrs engine (similar to those in some ecocars) and mow for up to 90 minutes, 20 to
40 percent longer than the same amount of
fuel lasts in a standard mower. Propane is a
gas, not a liquid like gasoline, so youll avoid
greasy buildup, spills and ooded engines.
And since it produces almost no carcinogens
or particulates, youll escape the smoggy
exhaust that makes mowing even more
of a chore.nicholas Mosquera

Inside Propane Power


Engine

Pressure regulator

Propane canister The Eco Mower burns propane with an


ordinary internal combustion engine. But
it can eliminate the inefcient carburetor
and choke needed to turn liquid gasoline
into a usable, vaporized form, because
propane is naturally gaseous at normal
air pressure. The canister holds propane
thats compressed by high pressure into an
easily stored liquid. The propane becomes a
gas either as it travels down the fuel line
Fuel line
(since an emptying tank or tilted mower
reduces the pressure on it) or when it
reaches a pressure regulator. This
series of spring-loaded valves lowers the
force uniformly so that the gas enters
Cutting blade the 139cc engine in a steady ow.

In Related News: Sit on Your Can


Cub Cadet brings propane to a
riding mower, giving you green in
more places than your lawn. The
Z Force S LPs 33-pound tank is
rellable at many gas stations, and
pumped propane costs up to a third
less than gasoline, so youll end up
saving cash.
The tank fuels the two-cylinder
engine for up to six hours. Although

20 pOpulaR sCiENCE MarCh 2010

some commercial ride-ons already


run on propane, this mower makes
the package smaller and more
homeowner-friendly. Its a version
of the zero-turn-radius mower
controlled by a steering wheel (not
levers) that won a PopSci Best of
Whats New award in 2007.
Cub Cadet Z Force S LP
From $5,500; cubcadet.com

pOpsCi.COM

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illustration: stEVE KarP; PhotograPhs, from toP:


CourtEsy lEhr; CourtEsy Cub CadEt

E Get It: Lehr Eco Mower


From $300; golehr.com

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whatS new aUtOMOtive

Remote-ContRol CaRs

TECH
TREND Smartphone-baSed SyStemS that let you

commandeer your car from acroSS the country

THE TREND
Fly cross-country and forget to lock your car back in the parking
lot? Now theres an app for that scenario.

integrating your app-rich smartphone and the cell-capable


computer in your dashboard is the logical next step.

HOW YOULL BENEFIT

Many cars already have built-in computers with cell data chips
and Bluetooth connections for linking to cellular phones. Fully

Use your phone to switch radio stations from the backseat or


lock the doors, check engine status, or track stolen vehicles.
Mike Spinelli

Mercedes mbrace

ford sync

GM onstar

Developed by Georgia-based Hughes


Telematics, Mbrace allows you to use
your iPhone or BlackBerry to nd your
car in a crowded lot, lock the doors from
any distance (provided you have a cell
signal), lead you to a nearby dealership,
or track your car in case of theft. The app
will get more features over time, starting
with real-time trafc information. Mbrace
is available on all Mercedes models.
mbusa.com/mbrace

Fords in-car system already links with


phones and MP3 players to offer voiceactivated access to music, contact lists
and more, and this year Ford plans to
let third-party developers create other
SYNC programs. Engineers have worked
with University of Michigan students on
prototype iPhone apps, including one that
streams Internet radio and another that
sends GPS directions from a lead vehicle
to several followers. fordvehicles.com

GMs telematics system and its human


operators can already call an ambulance
after a crash, among other things. With
the arrival of the Chevy Volt later this year,
OnStar will link to your smartphone as
well, with an app for Droid, iPhone and
BlackBerry phones that will help Volt
owners track their cars battery-charging
status, fuel-economy history and other
functions. It will even send a text if you
forget to plug in your car. onstar.com

22 populaR sCiENCE MaRch 2010

pOpSci.cOM

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

from left: Courtesy HugHes telematiCs; ford motor; Courtesy oNstar

WHY NOW

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

whats new RecReation

Treadmill
Traveling
A mAp-equipped exercise
mAchine cAn reenAct
EXTREME
CLOSE-UP Any hike on eArth

Dreaming of running up Mt. Kilimanjaro? Do it today. The NordicTrack X7i


Incline Trainer raises and lowers itself
to mimic the dips and hills of realworld topography.
The X7i downloads maps over
Wi-Fi from a Web site called iFit,
which lets you pick popular routes like
San Franciscos Golden Gate Trail, as
well as treks youve designed on your
computer across any territory covered
by Google Maps. As you run, a seveninch screen scrolls the map and shows
snapshots of passing landmarks. (The
scenery will help distract you from
the burning in your legsthe machine
cranks to 40 degrees upward or six
downward.) Afterward, the console
sends workout data to the Web, where
you can analyze it and plot your next
run anywhere on the planetor
beyond, since Google Moon is open for
hikes, too.Jason Daley

four MORE: Fitness Gadgets


scale of shame
H20 Holder
This scale adds peer pressure to
your battle against the bulge. It
uses Wi-Fi to send your weight,
body-fat percentage and body-mass
index to your computer, iPhone
or even your Twitter followers.
Withings WiFi Body Scale
$160; withings.com

Stay hydrated without strapping a


bulky water bottle to your hip. The
Platypus reusable, exible nylon
and polyethylene pouch
squishes to stow in a
pocket and shrinks as you
drink. When empty, it rolls
up for easy storage,
and a bacteriaghting lining
means it wont get
skunky. Platypus
SoftBottle From
$8; platy.com

run to the music

Biker Bytes

The Activa MP3 player chooses


songs that match your jogging pace.
An accelerometer judges how fast
youre moving, and software picks
tunes with a similar tempo. Or it can
select music similar to your favorite
motivational anthem. Philips
Activa $130; philips.com

Attach SoundofMotions magnetic


sensor to a bikes rear wheel, and it
measures torque, rotations and speed
and beams the info to your cellphone.
Or, for less-exact stats, strap an
accelerometer-containing phone
to your leg and let an app count its
turns. Soundof
Motion VeloComputer
$70 (est.);
velo
computer
.com

24 POPULaR SCiEnCE maRch 2010

popsci.com

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clockwise from top: courtesy Nordictrack (3); courtesy souNdofmotioN; courtesy philips;
courtesy cascade desigNs; courtesy withiNgsi

GET IT: NordicTrack X7i


Interactive Incline Trainer
$2,000; nordictrack.com
(iFit Live console also
available on other models)

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29

Better survival tech


for reghters

33

A telescope-toting
747 takes ight

34

Measuring blood to
save diabetics

research

Head Case
clockwise from top: Graham Blair; courtesy kosha ruparel/daniel lanGleBen/university of pennsylvania (3); ap photo

Two companies say Their brainscanning Technology can find


The TruTh in criminal cases

It was a courtroom rst. Late last year, an Illinois


judge allowed functional magnetic-resonance imaging
(fMRI) as evidence during the sentencing phase of
a murder trial. Defense attorneys argued that the
scan showed signs of mental illness and hoped it
would convince the jury to show mercy. It didnt.
They sentenced Brian Dugan to death for killing a
10-year-old girl. Despite the inability to sway a jury,
many lawyers say the case is a watershed moment: It
opens the door for all kinds of fMRI analysis, including
the work of two companies that say they can read
brain activity to detect deceit. In essence, fMRI could
someday become an unbeatable lie detector. The
reality, though, is a little more complicated.
fMRI scanners detect variations in the magnetic
properties of blood as oxygen levels change in
response to neural activity. The more a section of
the brain works, the more oxygen it demands and
the brighter it glows on the scan. When a person is
recalling a memory or formulating a lie, the part of
the brain doing that work will light up. The next step is
decoding what activity in each part of the brain means.
Researchers are developing deceit patterns based
on tests with peopleimages of the way a deceitful
brain looks in fMRI scansthat computers analyze
to determine whether the person was answering
truthfully. But because no two brains are exactly
alike, standardizing the incriminating patterns and
delivering consistent results has so far proved elusive.
The two companies marketing fMRI lie
detectors, No Lie MRI in California and Cephos in
Massachusetts, have reported accuracy rates from
75 to 98 percent. Thats not good enough, says
Joy Hirsch, director of the Program for Imaging
and Cognitive Sciences at Columbia University:

>>> JANUARY 4

LIE DOWN No Lie MRI scans brain


activity with fMRI to identify deceit
patterns. On this map, activity in blue
areas suggests a truthful response,
red a lie [right]. Defense attorneys for
Brian Dugan attempted to use the tech
to show jurors that he was mentally ill.
They were not convinced.

Someones life could be in the hands of this technology.


Joel Huizenga, the founder and CEO of No Lie MRI,
agrees and notes that, with acceptance of fMRI evidence
growing, his company is participating in more studies
than ever to improve recognition of deceit patterns.
Are we as good as we can be? No, of course not, he
says. His counterpart at Cephos, Steven Laken, says
that no matter the error rate, jurors have to be told
[continued On page 29]
that fMRI results are not infallible

Dubais Burj Khalifa opens. The worlds tallest building is 160 stories, surpassing Taipei 101 by more than 1,000 feet.

>>>

MarCh 2010 popular science 27

POPSCI.COM

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

2
3

hOw It wOrkS
sTep 1:
Gear up

>>>

The commander
uses his
laptop to
activate
radio
receivers on the trucks
ladders, location beacons
strapped to remens uniforms, and sensors in their
face masks that measure
pulse, blood-oxygen levels
and breathing rates.

JANUARY 4 NASAs Kepler telescope nds its rst ve possibilities in the hunt for Earth-like bodies. JANUARY 13 An international team of geneticists

28 popular science March 2010

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hEaDLINES
[continued from page 27]

Disaster tech

FIRe esCaPe

GRAHAM MURDOCH

a new sysTem could help firefighTers survive deadly


blazes and find fallen comrades in The smoke
This month, James Duckworth and David
Cyganski, engineering professors at
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will ll
a building with expensive sensors10
years worth of R&Dand set the whole
place on re. If their system works in
the 1,100F inferno produced inside the
Massachusetts Fireghting Academys
burn building, the tech could give a re
chief everything he needs to make sure his
crew returns safe and sound every time.
Ironically, the very gear that allows a
modern reghter to run into a burning
building also puts his life at risk. Fireretardant jackets deect ames so well that
reghters can stay in a burning building
until just before ashover, the moment
when the room reaches 1,100F and all the
combustible gases in the airand pretty
much everything elseignite. Years ago,
before we got hoods, wed burn our ears
and necks, and that would tell us Thats
too frickin hot, lets get out, says Gerard
Dio, chief of the Worcester, Massachusetts,
re department, which is helping test the
system. Now, remen feel the intense heat

only when its seconds from ashover.


The new system involves portable
sensors that register room temperature.
With further testing, it could warn
reghters of ashover a minute before
it occursenough time to dash out. It
also tracks reghters whereabouts
in the blaze. Sensors attached to their
harnesses and face masks beam their
locations and vital signs (heart attacks
account for half of all reghter deaths)
to a commanders laptop outside.
The researchers hope to have the
system in the eld by 2013. Considering
that theyre risking their lives, its
pathetic that reghters are using whats
essentially 19th-century technology,
Duckworth says. This will bring them
up to date. It certainly hits home for Dio.
During a 1999 ve-alarm warehouse re,
two of his men got lost in the smoke, and
four others rushed in to rescue them.
All six died. I know we did the best job
we could at the time, Dio says, but this
system could have saved all of their lives.
SaNDEEP raVINDraN

sTep 2:
Drop THe BoX

sTep 3:
collect data

sTep 4:
see the scene

Fireghters
enter the
building,
identify
the source
of the blaze, and deploy
an environment-sensor
box that extends a mast
to measure oor-toceiling heat differences.

The environment
sensor
beams
temperatures to
ladder-mounted receivers
that relay info to the commander outside. Health
sensors indicate everyones
vital signs, and location sensors use radar and radio to
pinpoint reghters whereabouts to within three feet.

The commanders
laptop
shows
where
reghters are, and their icons
transition from green to red
if their health is failing. If
sensors report that a room
will soon reach the 1,100F
ashover point, the commander issues a clear out
command over a radio.

and should be interpreted only


for supporting a judgment, not
as denitive evidence of guilt.
Even so, studies show that jurors
focus on salient points of evidence and
downplay the probability of errorthey
tend to believe that scientic-looking
results, presented by experts, are true.
The answer is to make the fMRI as
reliable as it can be, says F. Andrew
Kozel, a researcher at the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
who studies lie detection through fMRI.
That will take more research.
His latest study,
partially funded
by Cephos and
published last
year, used
fMRI to
test people
who had
participated
in a mock
crime as
part of the
experiment. Although
the test caught guilty
parties who lied, sometimes it nailed
innocent folks who were telling
the truth. Kozel is seeking funding
to test scenarios that are as close
as possible to ones an fMRI might
be used to evaluate in court.
Might is still the operative word.
Despite the decision in Illinois, judges
typically scrutinize the merit of new
scientic methods before admitting
them in an actual trial. I believe
there will be more attempts to have
this testimony introduced in court,
says Michael Perlin, a law professor
at New York Law School who studies
how courts use fMRI results. But if
attorneys cant prove its reliable and
relevant, theyll probably fail.
The real test will come when
prosecutors try to use fMRI to bolster
their cases. Experts tend to agree that,
for now, the technology delivers mixed
results. Using a picture of someones
brain to justify a prison sentenceor
worsemay be too much to ask.

BRAIN
SCANS StIll
StRuggle
to CoNfIRm
INNoCeNCe.

JUStIN McLaChLaN

sequences the rst genome of a legumethe soybeanwhich could help agricultural scientists engineer better versions of the protein-rich crop.

>>>

POPSCI.COM popular science 29

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HEADLINES

overachievers we love
BiGGer

Bearing

Steel plates

Theres a 60 percent chance that


an earthquake will level Istanbul by 2040. But when it does,
the newest terminal at Sabiha
Gken International Airport can
soldier on. The worlds largest
earthquake-protected building,
which opened last November,
can absorb 80 percent of backand-forth shaking, the most
destructive movement. Designed
by the engineering rm Arup, the
building features a foundation
with 300 dampers, each with a
bearing sandwiched between
sliding steel plates. In an event
like the citys 1999 7.4-magnitude
quake, the airport could be used
to y in emergency medical
supplies and food, says Atila
Zekioglu, a principal at Arup:
Transportation is what makes a
city tick.CArINA STOrrS

Red
blood
cell

greener
The floaTing freighTer
Take a blimp, add plane engines and
wings, and you get Dynalifter, a fuelefcient aircraft. When the 120-foot
airship prototype begins test ights
this spring, its 20,000 cubic feet of
helium-lled compartments will offset half its weight so the engines wont
have to work as hard. The engines
propel the craft at 80 mph, 30 mph
faster than conventional blimps, says
Robert Rist, the co-president of Ohio
Airships, which is developing the ship.
This year, the company will build a
freighter-size Dynalifter that can haul
at least 22 tons, which its eyeing for
cheaper, greener shipping in developing nations where rough roads limit
traditional trucking.

>>>

Engines

Natural
platelet
Articial
platelet

faster
Bleeding Blocker
A soldier hit by shrapnel can
bleed to death in 10 minutes.
Now engineers at Case Western
Reserve University have created
articial blood plateletscomponents that clump together
to form clots. Last December
they showed that the plastic
platelets, which dont need
refrigeration, can stop bleeding
in rats 25 percent faster than
donated natural platelets. Up
next, the researchers hope to
test them in larger mammals.

Helium
compartments

sky trucker
A 700-foot
Dynalifter
[right] would
transport
goods.

Cargo bay

FEBRUARY 9 NASAs planned launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite that will study solar storms that interfere with satellites and the power grid.

30 popular science MArCH 2010

>>>

POPSCI.COM

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illustrations: l-DoPa; PhotograPhs, from toP: Courtesy limak-gmr-malaysia airPort; Courtesy ohio airshiPs

The Quake-proof
airporT

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HEADLINES

cosmos in focus
The SOFIAs 2.5-meter
telescope, shown
inside the plane that
will carry it as it takes
its rst airborne
images this spring

astronomy

ScopeS on
a plane!

COURTESY TOM TSCHIDA/NASA (2)

A telescope-toting 747 is About to become


Astronomys most versAtile tool
In the movies, opening the door on
a plane at 45,000 feet is disastrous.
But this spring it will be standard procedure on one 747one carrying a
telescope high enough to capture the
cosmos better than ever before.
Built into the tail end of a Boeing
747, the Stratospheric Observatory
for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) will
soar above the atmospheric water
vapor that blocks most infrared light
from ground observatories, to shoot
detailed images of star-forming nebulae, planets atmospheres and clouds
of organic molecules. The 2.5-meter
mobile telescopeoperated by NASA
and Germanys space agencywill best
the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes
by scanning the widest range of light
of any scope, from ultraviolet to the far
infrared. And because SOFIA is easier to

design and maintain than a space telescope, it could be built and operated for a
third of the cost.
Stargazing from a ying plane
is no easy feat, but the scopes nonpressurized, cooled compartment
should smooth the transition to similar
stratospheric conditions. And since test
ights in 2007 (which earned SOFIA
a Popular Science Best of Whats New
award that year), engineers added a collar around the scope to cut turbulence.
NASAs pilots will y the plane, but the
telescopes controls are integrated with
autopilot to capture steady images.
Although we changed the plane to y
the telescope, says SOFIA astronomer Dana Backman, when were
observing, the scope actually
ies the plane.
MARK WOLVERTON

flying first class NASA


modied this Boeing 747 to
house a 17-ton telescope.

>>>

MARCH The U.S. Air Forces scheduled rst hypersonic test ight of X-51A, a Mach-6 scramjet.

POPScI.cOM

>>>

MARcH 2010 popular science 33

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HEADLINES
med tech

Sweet SenSor

An implAntAble glucose sensor could help diAbetics leAd heAlthier lives

Nurses usually pluck splinters from peoples flesh, not put them
in. But a new rice-size implantable glucose sensor that monitors
blood sugar all day might mean less pain for diabetics.
A nurse would inject the sensor, called Glucowizzard, in a
patients wrist and fit him with a wristband that powers the chips
photovoltaic cells by flashing light pulses through the skin. The
chip works like conventional monitors: An enzyme reacts with
glucose in the blood and frees electrons in proportion to sugar levels. The chip senses the electrons and beams data to the bracelet,
which pings the user if sugar levels are extreme. Running continuously, it could detect problems that might be missed by current

finger-prick monitors, which are typically used only five times day.
The sensor would be replaced yearlythe expected life span
of an anti-inflammatory coating preventing the immune system
from attacking it. University of Connecticut researchers hope
to start clinical trials in two years and have the device on sale
by 2017. The tech can show the immediate effects of eating too
much sugar, which could be especially helpful for the 84 percent
of diabetics who are overweight or obese, says chemist Fotios
Papadimitrakopoulos, a project leader. Our device should help
people make educated choices, not just about taking insulin, but
about what they eat in the first place.SANDEEP rAVINDrAN

StatiStically Speaking: the diaBetes epidemic

23.6
million
Number of AMeRiCAns
with diabetes:

Emergency-room costs
attributed
to diabetes
every year:

good control of blood


glucose decreases eye,
kidney and nerve disease by

$3.9

Number of
glucosetesting strips
Americans
use every
year:

25% 6
About

lower-limb amputations of
diabetics per year:

71,000

Amount of blood Americans lose


every
year for
bloodglucose
testing:
gallons

1,600

bILLIoN

>>> MARCH Iran plans to switch on its rst nuclear power plant for civilian energy. Many countries worry that it is also trying to make nuclear weapons.

34 popular science mArcH 2010

brian kaas design

billion

p
PoPScI.com

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THe FuTure oF Drones

clockwise from top: General atomics aeronautical


systems; lockheed martin; Bae systems; aesir

Avenger

Embla

Inside the wild kingdom of the worlds newest and most


storm a burning building to a seven-ton weaponized
Mantis

Samarai
36 popular science MARCH 2010

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S-100 Camcopter

Demon
Excalibur

Vulture

Ion Tiger
Global Observer

spectacular species of unmanned aircraft, from swarming insect bots that can
spyplane invisible to radar By ERiC HAgERMAn
Phantom Ray

RQ-170 Sentinel

SkyLite

SensorFly
popsci.com populAR sCiEnCE 37

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THe FuTure oF Drones


new breeds of winged beasts
are lurking in the skies. Bearing
names like Reaper, Vulture and
Demon, they look nothing like their
feathered brethren. Better known as
unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs,
these strange and wily birds are quietly inltrating vast swaths of airspace, from battleelds to backyards.
With hundreds of different
species, from spy craft to airborne
sheepherders, UAVs have in the past
decade morphed into a full-blown
kingdom of creatures deserving of its
own taxonomy. Today 44 countries
y UAVs, according to P.W. Singer, a

fellow at the public-policy think


tank the Brookings Institution
and author of Wired for War. Last
year, the U.S. Air Force trained
more UAV pilots than ghter and
bomber pilots combined. Every
so often in history, theres a tech
that comes along that rewrites the
rules of the game, Singer says. I
describe this as a revolution.
But UAVs arent just multiplyingtheyre getting faster, stronger
and smarter with each generation.
The new Avenger hunt-and-kill
drone, for instance, is three times
as fast as the original Predator,

which has own more than half a


million hours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hand-launched Ravens favored
by the Army stream encrypted digital data, allowing many of the 7,000
birds currently in action to serve as an
instant communication relay. On the
civilian side, crafts like the hovering
Embla will be available to scout disaster sites as early as this summer.
You may not have actually seen
one yet, but you will (unless, of
course, it doesnt want to be seen). To
give you a leg up on identication,
heres your eld guide to the latest
UAV discoveries.

species:

PhAnTOm
RAy

specs
18.2 tons,
50-foot
wingspan

class:
stealth

species:

DEmOn

specs
220 pounds,
8-foot
wingspan

class:
autonomous
Habitat: Defense giant BAE Systems laboratory in London
Behavior: The Demon ies with no ns and almost no moving parts, so
it rarely needs repairs. Software makes it partially autonomous.
notable features: The entire body of the craft is shaped like a wing.
Dozens of thrusters situated on its top and bottom shape airow, replacing
the work typically done by tail ns and ailerons. Onboard software varies
the strength of each thruster to control pitch, side-to-side movement (yaw)
and roll. BAE Systems engineers hope to begin test ights this month.
diet: Standard jet A1 fuel

38 populAR sCiEnCE march 2010

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from left: the BoeinG company; Bae systems

Habitat: Edwards Air Force Base,


Lancaster, California
Behavior: Spawn of Boeing
Phantom Workss defunct X-45C,
this prototype jet-powered ying
wing has morphed into a test bed
for advanced UAV technologies,
including electronic warfare tools
like radar jamming, autonomous
aerial refueling, air-missile defense
and surveillance. Engineers expect
it to y at up to 40,000 feet. With an
anticipated cruising speed of up to
610 mph, the Phantom Ray will be
one of the fastest UAVs on record.
notable feature: Its unusual
shape allows it to evade radar.
diet: JP-8 jet propellant

species:

VULTURE
class:
High-altitude

from top: Jim wilson/lockheed martin; QinetiQ; the BoeinG company; aeroVironment; precedinG paGes, clockwise from top left: schieBel; Bae systems; Jim wilson/lockheed
martin; Bae systems; Jean-dominiQue merchet; ronen nadir/BlueBird aero systems; the BoeinG company; pei ZhanG/carneGie mellon uniVersity; aeroVironment; naVal research
laBoratory, washinGton, d.c.; mcardle productions

Habitat: A belt of relatively calm air


around 55,000 feet
Behavior: Lockheed martins design
for Darpas Vulture program can stay
aloft for ve years, turning lazy circles
above any patch of ground that needs
continuous monitoring. A suite of
day-and-night cameras can scan a

600-mile swath, sending data back


to handlers on the ground. The craft
will have to beat out species from a
Boeing-led consortium and Virginiabased Aurora Flight Sciences for a
second round of funding.
notable feature: The crafts
semiexible structure bends

specs
Weight
undisclosed,
300-foot-plus
wingspan

instead of breaking when winds cause


the long span to oscillate violently.
diet: Sunlight by day, battery-stored
energy by night

similar species: three other High-altitude flyers


Zephyr

Size: Less than 100 pounds,


75-foot wingspan
Habitat: 50,000 feet above Yuma,
Arizona, where London-based
manufacturer QinetiQ is testing
prototypes
Notable Feature: Made of carbon
ber and powered by paper-thin silicon
solar cells, the ultra-lightweight aircraft is
launched by hand and stays aloft for up
to three months.

boeing Hale (High


altitude long
endurance) concept

Size: 7 tons, 250-foot wingspan


Habitat: 65,000 feet above future
battleelds, where it will provide 24/7
surveillance and data communication
Notable Feature: The plane stays
up for 10 days, powered by a Ford
truck engine modied to run on
hydrogen fuel.

Global observer

Size: Weight undisclosed,


175-foot wingspan
Habitat: Made by Monrovia, Californias
AeroVironment, Global Observer will
circle up to 65,000 feet above battleelds,
disaster sites, bordersany locale in need
of aerial surveillance or a wireless data link
Notable Feature: Liquid hydrogen
powers an electric generator, which
drives four propellors.

popsci.com populAR sCiEnCE 39

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THe FuTure oF Drones

spY
pHoTo

RQ-170
SEnTInEL

specs
Weight
undisclosed,
estimated
wingspan
65 to 90 feet

species:

EmBLA

specs
11 pounds,
23.6-inch
diameter

class:
Hovercraft

class:
stealth

Habitat: Afghanistan and disaster


zones, starting in June, according to
British manufacturer Aesir. About
the size and shape of a spare tire,
the Embla lifts straight up from
the ground without the need for a
runway, making it more useful to
combat soldiers stationed in rough
terrain. Its diminutive size lets it
zoom down urban canyons to nd
hard-to-reach enemy hideouts, and
it can send video to a remote PDAsize controller, revealing potential
ambushes. Loaded with explosives,
it could even enter an enemy
compound on a suicide mission. yet
its not exclusively a military breed
Emblas maneuverability makes it a
good scout in emergency scenarios
too dangerous for humans to enter.

Habitat: migrating from its suspected


home base at Kandahar Aireld,
Afghanistan, this top-secret military
spy drone makes classied sorties
into enemy terrain.
Behavior: An offspring of Lockheed
martins Skunk Works program, the
RQ-170 Sentinel ies via satellite
link from a base in Tonopah, nevada,
but little else is know about it. In
unofcial photographs, it closely
resembles a 1945 Luftwaffe design
called the horten ho 229.
notable feature: Sensor pods
built into the edge of its wings probably
give it surveillance capabilities, and
the absence of a wing-mounted
weapons payload likely keeps it light
and off the radar.
diet: Jet fuel

Behavior: The Embla can


change direction on a dime, y
at 50 mph, and climb to 10,000
feet. It also has the ability to
hover in place to, for instance,
transmit encrypted hD video.
notable feature: Whereas a
ducted fan funnels air straight
down to generate lift, the Emblas
turbine sucks air in through its
top and forces it out through a
skirt-like wing. This design bends
the ow toward the ground. This
makes Embla strong enough to
carry cameras, weapons and
sensors on its belly, oriented
toward the terrain its watching.
diet: JP-8 jet propellant, run
through an internal combustion
engine, powers Embla for one hour.

species:

specs
35 pounds,
17-foot
wingspan

Ion TIger
class:
endurance

Habitat: European airelds, potentially, from which it could reach the middle
East, once the navy perfects the fuel-cell technology inside. It could y as low
as 1,000 feet without being heard on the ground, or as high as 14,000 feet.
Behavior: Its ability to stay aloft for 24 hours allows the Ion Tiger to encroach
on the terrain of much bigger birds, such as the Predator, and its small size lets
it get closer to a target to shoot footage with its lighter, cheaper camera.
notable feature: Its carbon-wrapped aluminum hydrogen tanks weigh
only about nine pounds each, which helps this UAV stay airborne longer.
diet: hydrogen ions
40 populAR sCiEnCE march 2010

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clockwise from top left: Jean-dominiQue merchet; aesir; naVal research laBoratory, washinGton, d.c.

species:

species:

exCalIbur
class:
Hunt-and-kill
Habitat: Future war zones, on land
and at sea. If Aurora Flight Sciences
can scale up the prototype, Excalibur
could be deployed on the battleeld
within ve years.
Behavior: Unlike Air Force drones,
which are own by operators stateside
and are in short supply, the Excalibur
can be remotely operated from
wherever its deployedthe mountains

of Afghanistan or the helipad of a


shipproviding immediate tactical
support to Army, navy and marine
troops. It can take off and land
without a runway and ies at 30,000
feet. Fitted with 400 pounds of laserguided munitions, including hellre
missiles, the hybrid turbine-electric
Excalibur strikes enemy targets up
to 600 miles away from its handler.

It can loiter and inspect the damage


with a suite of infrared or electrooptical surveillance cameras and
follow anyone who gets away.
notable feature: After takeoff,
the jet engine pivots in-line with the
fuselage, and the lift turbines retract
inside the wing section for forward
ight. It travels at a brisk 530 mph
twice as fast as a helicopter.
diet: JP-8 and lithium-polymer
batteries

specs
2,900 pounds,
21-foot
wingspan

species:

S-100 CamCopTer

from top: mcardle productions; franZ pflueGl/schieBel

specs
243 pounds,
10 feet long,
4 feet wide,
11-foot rotor

class:
Hovercraft
Habitat: Warships, borders, forest
res, mob scenes
Behavior: Made by Austrian
electronics manufacturer Schiebel,
the helicopter can take off and land
autonomously from a half-sized
helipad and y for six hours with
a 75-pound payload at 120 knots.
Fitted with its standard infrared and
daytime cameras, it can hover at up to
18,000 feet and watch anything from
troop movements to illegal border
crossings to spreading forest res.
notable Feature: Separate
controls for the vehicle and the
cameras or payload allow for complex
missions, such as deploying tear gas
over a crowd.
diet: 100 low lead aviation fuel
popsci.com
populAR
sCiEnCE
popsCi.CoM
popular
science
4100

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THe FuTure oF Drones


species:
specs
17 pounds,
7.9-foot
wingspan

SKyLITE
class:
stealth
Habitat: Israeli borders
Behavior: Equipped with cameras
and sensors, SkyLite typically ies up
to 36,000 feet, the same altitude as
commercial airplanes, providing
a birds-eye view of enemy terrain
and movement.
notable feature: Fits in a
backpack and can stay aloft for four
hours on a single charge
diet: Lithium-polymer batteries

species:

mAnTIS

specs
Weight
undisclosed,
66-foot
wingspan

Habitat: Up to 40,000 feet above


any battleeld, disaster site or
border, relaying intelligence data
back to controllers on the ground
Behavior: All a soldier will have
to do to send the self-piloted mantis
on a mission is push a button. From
there, it can calculate ight plans,
y around obstacles, and check
in with ground controllers when it
spots something interesting, like
smoke or troop movement. At the
end of the mission, it ies home and
lands itself. mantiss maiden ight
went off without a hitch in Australia
last October, an astoundingly fast
developmentit didnt even exist in
species:

avenger

specs
7.5 tons,
38 feet long,
64-foot
wingspan

class:
HunT-anD-Kill
Habitat: Flight-operations center for General Atomics
Aeronautical Systems in Palmdale, California, where its
performing nal test ights for prospective buyers
Behavior: The stealthy jet-powered Avenger is packed
with 3,000 pounds of surveillance equipment and lethal
munitions, such as laser-guided hellre missiles and
500-pound GBU-38 bombs. It can reach speeds of up to 530
mph, far faster than its spindly predecessors, the Predator
and Reaper. With fuel packed into every available nook of the
fuselage, it can loiter above a target for nearly 20 hours.
notable feature: Its internal weapons bay allows
for interchangeable payloads, such as next-gen wide-area
surveillance sensors.
diet: JP-8 feeds a 4,800-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney
Canadas PW545B engine.
42 populAR sCiEnCE march 2010

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2007. BAE Systems expects it to be


ready for sale within two years and
hopes to use it as a proving ground for
systems in its forthcoming automated
stealth bomber, the Taranis.
notable feature: mantis is
the rst in a new breed of smart
drones. A craft that can hone its
searches requires less bandwidth
than those that constantly stream
images. mantis can also monitor
itself for damagea sputtering
engine, for exampleand adjust its
electronics to complete a mission.
It can y up to 345 miles an hour
and operate for up to 36 hours.
diet: Jet fuel

from top: Bae systems; ronen nadir/BlueBird aero systems; General atomics aeronautical systems

class:
autonomous

Bats, Bees and other Feats of Biomimicry

from top: Bae systems; pei ZhanG/carneGie mellon uniVersity; lockheed martin; roBert wood/harVard school of enGineerinG and applied sciences

Dragonflies

ClaSS: Biomimetic
Size: Anywhere from a softball to a y
Habitat: Urban combat zones, circa
2020. With a $38-million grant from the
U.S. Army Research Lab, BAE Systems
has already delivered prototypes, with
more bots on the way this spring.
Soldiers will be able to hang these
craft from their belt loops and launch
them to see and hear high above their
heads and inside enemy buildings.

beHavior: Looks and


behaves like a dragony.
Picture robots with articulated
legs for crawling and wings
for apping.
Notable Feature:
Multifunction integration
for example, legs that double as
antennae and a body exoskeleton that
doubles as a battery
Diet: Undetermined

sensorfly

virtue of its sheer numbers. It works in blind


swarms, bouncing into walls and relaying
its location to others, collectively building
a map of its surroundings. It can y for
10 minutes with counter-rotating plastic
blades that lift it straight up.
Notable Feature: An algorithm that
corrects crude estimates of the speed and
location of other ies makes up for its
anemic Apple II-era CPU.
Diet: Lithium-polymer batteries; feeds by
landing on a charging pad

samarai

engineers can shrink it to three inches and


15 grams, the autonomous device could be
used to spy indoors.
Notable Feature: In the future, a
camera mounted on the central hub that
snaps a picture once every rotation will
collect enough images to stitch together
full-motion video.
Diet: Today, batteries; but engineers
plan to feed the next version propane,
which is light and readily available in the
military supply chain

ClaSS: Biomimetic
Size: 30 grams, 2.5 inches long,
6.5-inch diameter
Habitat: The Carnegie Mellon University
lab of engineer Pei Zhang, where it endures
abuses such as swats with a tennis racket
to test its durability. In ve years, swarms
could be helping rst responders search
rubble for survivors or gas leaks.
beHavior: The cockroach of the UAV
kingdom, the SensorFly is disposable by

ClaSS: Biomimetic
Size: 150 grams, 12-inch wingspan
Habitat: Lockheed Martins Advanced
Tech Laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland
beHavior: Like the spiraling maple-leaf
seedlingsmore commonly known as
whirlybirdsthat inspired it, the single
wing spins around a central hub to create
lift. A miniature jet engine provides thrust.
A tiny ap on the trailing edge of the wing,
its only moving part, controls direction. If

roboBees

ClaSS: Biomimetic
Size: About as big as an almond
Habitat: Harvard University research laboratory
beHavior: Perhaps in ve years, swarms of
automated RoboBees will pollinate owers
neglected by dying bee populations.
Notable Feature: Ultraviolet sensors
identify the same patterns on ower petals
as those used by real bees.
Diet: Small rechargeable fuel cell

popsci.com populAR sCiEnCE 43

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frontiers of MeDiCine

reBootinG
tHeBoDY
The ability to reprogram the immune system is one of the most
sought-after goals in medicine. Now researchers are closer
than ever to pulling it off in patients with Type 1 diabetes,
one of whom happens to be our correspondent

By catherine price

sign rests on the


windowsill in the ofce
of Jeffrey Bluestone,
director of the Immune Tolerance
Network and the Diabetes Center
at the University of California at
San Francisco. Measuring nearly
three feet across, it reads Club
Bluestone in pink and blue neon.
Its the sort of artifact youd expect
to nd in a bar. But Bluestone is a
world-renowned immunobiologist;
his father-in-law had the sign
made for him in the late 1980s
when Bluestone was working long
hours in his lab at the University
of Chicago. As the night wore on
and their energy faded, he and
his colleagues would turn out
the lights, turn on the sign and,
propelled by the power of Bruce
Springsteen, push forward with
their research. It was our version
of partying, he says.
Bluestone has worked in
that lab and ones like it for
almost 30 years, wrestling
with one of the most vexing
problems in medicine: how to
keep the immune system from
attacking the body itself. Its
been a challenging three decades.

Immune researchers work on a


biological defense system thats
comparable to the worlds greatest
military. This military has millions
of potential enemies but no clear
leader; instead its members are
on constant patrol, a hair trigger
away from launching an attack.
Its a recipe for anarchy. Yet the
majority of the time, the immune
system knows when to hold back.
Using processes we still dont fully
understand, a healthy persons
immune system is able to draw a
clear line between the bodys own
tissues, which it leaves untouched,
and invaders, which it identies
and destroys.
The immune system can also
be devastatingly destructive. The
bodys tendency to reject organ
transplants, attacking them as
if they were dangerous foreign
invaders, is well known. But
more prevalent are autoimmune
diseases, in which your immune
cells attack your own tissues and
organs. Left unchecked, these
malfunctions can result in one of
more than 80 known conditions,
including Type 1 diabetes,
rheumatoid arthritis, lupus,

44 popular science MARCH 2010

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multiple sclerosis, inammatory


bowel disease and psoriasis.
According to the Autoimmune
Related Diseases Association,
conditions like these affect more than
50 million Americans.
The perfect immune-modulating
drug would target only the
part of the system causing the
problem. As of now, however, most
immunosuppressive drugs work
by dampening the entire immune
system, which leaves the patient
susceptible to short-term problems
like infections and long-term
afictions as severe as cancer.
Bluestone, who is now 56,
has devoted most of his career to
improving on this crude, brute-force
approach. In the early days of his
club, he spent many of those long
nights tweaking an organ-transplant
drug called OKT3, which he and other
researchers thought might also be
useful for autoimmune diseases like
multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes.
The problem was, the drug had
severe side effects, including cases
in which it sent recipients immune
systems into a kind of overdrive that
could be fatal. Eventually, though,
working in mice, Bluestone and his

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worse over the course of a persons


life as the body nishes killing off
the cells that produce insulinit
would be a major breakthrough.
So in 2000, they launched a trial of
the modied drug.
Thats where I came in.
in the winter of 2001, my

senior year of college, strange


things started to happen to me.
I was insatiably hungry. I was so
thirsty that I had dreams about
Italian sodas and crept out of bed
at night to slurp water from our
bathroom faucet. Yet despite my
near-constant eating and drinking,
I lost 15 pounds. My eyesight
became blurry; I was dizzy and
tired. One afternoon in February,
after eating a plateful of food, I
began throwing up, and when I
didnt feel better after a day in
bed, my roommate insisted I go to
the student health center. There, a
doctor took one look at my list of
symptoms and ordered a bloodglucose test. When my bloodsugar levels came back at more
than 400 milligrams per deciliter
(normal is between 80 and 100),

46 popular science MARCH 2010

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the diagnosis was immediate: I had


Type 1 diabetes.
No one fully understands what
triggers Type 1 diabetesmaybe a
virus, maybe an environmental toxin.
Whatever the cause, the result is lifethreatening. Insulin is a hormone
that unlocks your cells so they can
access the glucose in your blood,
which provides them with fuel. Left
untreated, you essentially starve,
no matter how much you eat. Until
insulin was discovered in 1922, a
diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was a
death sentence.
I was diagnosed on a Saturday
morning, and no diabetes educators
were on duty at the student health
center where Id been admitted. So
a friend bought me a stack of books
on Type 1 diabetes, and I spent the
weekend learning as much as I could.
I was relieved to learn that Type 1 was
no longer terminal but less excited
to nd out that, unless I rigorously
controlled my blood sugars, the
disease could destroy my kidneys,
cause me to go blind, lead to heart
disease andin addition to a litany of
even more complications, including
foot amputationreduce my life

Courtesy Jimmy Chen/uCsF Diabetes Center; preCeDing pages: istoCk

colleagues succeeded in changing


the drugs structure to eliminate
these side effects. Then he began
investigating what else the drug
could do.
In 1987 he joined forces with
Kevan Herold, an endocrinologist
and researcher who was then a
colleague of Bluestones at the
University of Chicago, and the two
began exploring the drugs effects
in mice with Type 1 diabetes,
an autoimmune disease caused
when a class of white blood cells
called T cells mistakenly destroys
the cells in the pancreas that
produce insulin. As their research
progressed, they were thrilled
to nd that the drug halted the
progression of Type 1 diabetes in
the mice. Second, the new version
appeared to act like a guided
missile, targeting problematic
cells in the immune system
without handicapping the rest of
it. Bluestone and Herold began to
think it might be possible to use it
and other, similar drugs as shortterm therapies to reprogram the
immune system, permanently
coaxing it back to its original,
balanced state. In the world of
immunology, this is referred to
as immune tolerance. According
to Herold, it is the elds most
sought-after goal. And now, thanks
to a number of breakthroughs in
targeted immune therapy, that
goal seems closer than it has ever
been. Jordan Pober, the director
of the Human and Translational
Immunology program at Yale
University, is openly enthusiastic
about the state of the science:
Were in the midst of a revolution
in our ability to manipulate the
immune system.
By 1995, Bluestone and
Herold were eager to move from
mouse to man. They wanted to
see if the drug could also have a
positive effect on Type 1 diabetes
in humans. It wouldnt be a total
cure, but if the drug could stop the
normal course of the disease
which usually gets progressively

Until insUlin was DisCovereD in 1922,


tYpe 1 DiaBetes was a DeatH sentenCe.

frontiers of MeDiCine

Courtesy marC baJnoFF/JaCkson egen/ronalD n. germain/niaiD/nih

expectancy by seven to 10 years.


I also had to correct my own
misunderstandings about diabetes.
For example, I learned that Type
1, which may affect as many as
three million Americans and can
be controlled only by multiple daily
injections of articial insulin, differs
from the much more prevalent Type
2, which can often be managed with
a combination of diet, exercise and
oral medications. And how Type 1
diabetes, which most people think is
diagnosed just in children (thanks in
part to its former name, juvenile-onset
diabetes), can occur at any age.
More challenging was learning
to live with the disease. For although
articial insulin keeps me alive, its
not a cure. Controlling Type 1 is a
constant balancing act, requiring me
to carefully measure food and insulin
doses so that my blood-glucose levels
dont go too high and trigger the
long-term complications mentioned
earlier, which occur when chronic
high glucose levels damage blood
vessels. Conversely, if my glucose
levels fall too low, starving my brain
of its only source of energy, it could
cause seizures or a coma or even kill

me. Making things trickier still,


everything from stress to illness to
time of day affects glucose levels.
Managing diabetes is exhausting
and constant, and as your immune
system kills off your remaining
insulin-producing cells, it becomes
even more difcult to control.
I was desperate to go a
different route. As soon as I was
diagnosed, my mother, a registered
nurse, began looking for possible
clinical trials and stumbled
upon a reference to Herold and
Bluestones work. And so on a
cold February afternoon a week
after being diagnosed, my parents
and I traveled to the Naomi Berrie
Diabetes Center at Columbia
University Medical Center to meet
with Kevan Herold and learn more
about his study. My father was
hesitantthe immune system is
not something one usually wants
to mess around withand asked
Herold whether he thought the
potential benets of the drug were
great enough, compared with its
possible side effects, that hed give
it to his own children if they had
diabetes. Yes, said Herold, who

CELL-BOUND
Facing page:
Jeff Bluestone and lab
members;
above, in red,
the channels
along which
T cells move
in an animal
lymph node

is the father of three girls and has


Type 1 diabetes himself.
That was it. I signed the
liability waivers, did a series of
preliminary blood tests, and held
my breath as Herold drew a slip of
paper to determine whether Id be
in the drug group or the control.
Much to my relief, the paper said
drug. (The trial wasnt blind.)
Several days later, I began 12 days
of daily injections of a mysterious,
clear uid so cold that I could
feel it as it entered my veins. (The
control group took diagnostic tests
every six months, just like the
drug group, but they didnt receive
an actual placebo.) After the rst
dose, my blood pressure dropped
briey; soon the skin on my
palms began to peel. Other than
that, I saw no external evidence
of what the drug was doing. I
didnt care. For the rst time since
my diagnosis, I felt like I had an
opportunity to take back control
of my system.
researchers are always

careful not to assume that a drug


will act the same in humans as it
does in mice, but in this case, it
did. Even though I couldnt feel the
drug working, profound changes
soon began taking place inside my
bodys immune system, changes
that researchers are still trying to
understand. In short, my immune
system stopped killing off the cells
that make insulin.
Why this happens, Bluestone
and Herold are not exactly sure.
The latest theory is that the drug
has two important effects in Type
1 diabetes. First, it inhibits the
malfunctioning T cells that attack
the pancreas, preventing them
from killing the rest of the insulinproducing cells. The drug also
appears to increase the number
of a different population of
immune cells called regulatory T
cells, which are thought to act like
sentinels, patrolling the body and
calming down their hyperactive
cousins before anything gets out of
POPSCI.COM popular science 47

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frontiers of MeDiCine
MICROMACHINES
At right, the
insulinproducing
cells that a
Type 1 diabetics immune
system kills
off; below, red
blood cells
and a type of
white blood
cell called
a lymphocyte. Ideally,
lymphocytes
attack infected
cells, but
when they
malfunction
they are a main
component of
autoimmune
diseases.

From top: astriD anD hanns-FrieDer miChler/photo researChers; eye oF sCienCe/photo researChers

hand. The theory is that after the


drug regimen is nished and the
problematic T cells start to recover,
the newly beefed-up population of
regulatory T cells is better able to
hold them in check.
As I later found out, Bluestones drug is what is known as
an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody.
By binding to CD3 receptors on
the surface of the T cells, the
drug changes the way the cells
functionand, in a convenient,
unexpected twist, it seems to be
more active against the T cells that
are misbehaving.
I returned to the clinic every
few months for follow-up testing,
and whereas most people in the
control group slowly lost their
remaining ability to produce
insulin, my level of production
didnt just stay steadyit
increased. This didnt mean I
was cured; then, as now, I pay
fastidious attention to my meals,
activities and insulin doses. But
the fact that I have any ability
to make insulin means that my
disease is probably easier for me
to control than it would have been
had I not participated in the trial.
In 2002 Herold and Bluestone
published a paper in the New
England Journal of Medicine
announcing that one year out,
insulin production had been
preserved in nine out of the 12
drug recipients, compared with
two out of 12 people in the control
group. Whats more, several other
subjects were actually making
more insulin than they were when
they were diagnosed. The success
of anti-CD3 represented the rst
one-time treatment with minimal
side effects that had been shown
to stop the progression of Type 1
diabetes in humans.
The research community
welcomed the news. There was
a lot of enthusiasm about the
ndings and their implications,
says Teodora Staeva, the director
of the Immune Therapies program
at the Juvenile Diabetes Research

48 popular science MARCH 2010

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the advance of targeted

immune therapies reaches far beyond


the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.
After all, anti-CD3 monoclonal
antibodies might be more like
guided missiles than conventional
immunosuppressive drugs, but they
can still cause collateral damage.
Because they target a receptor
thats found on all T cellsnot just
the ones that are going after the
pancreasthey can have unwanted

side effects, such as reducing


peoples resistance to opportunistic
infections. On the other hand,
the fact that anti-CD3 isnt totally
precise means that it can be used
for a variety of diseases other than
diabetes. Versions of the drug are
already being tested for psoriasis,
Crohns disease and ulcerative
colitis, and theyre thought to hold
promise for rheumatoid arthritis
and multiple sclerosis as well. The
number of diseases potentially
affected is huge, Herold says.
The anti-CD3 monoclonal
antibodies have useful relatives,
toodifferent monoclonal
antibodies, each of which
binds to a different target and
therefore can be used to treat
a different disorder. Recently,
plenty of excitement has focused
on rituximab (the mab stands
for monoclonal antibodies), a
drug that affects the surface
of a different class of immune
cellsknown as B cellsand
was originally approved in 1997
for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Rituximab was rst tested as
a cancer drug, but it has since
been approved for rheumatoid
arthritis and has shown promise
in other kinds of autoimmune
diseases, including multiple
sclerosis. Moreover, in a study
on treatments for a type of
autoimmune vasculitis (a rare and
serious disease in which the body
attacks its own blood vessels),
rituximab was shown to be just
as good as, if not better than, the
typical immunosuppressive drugs
used to treat the disease. Like
many of these precisely targeted
treatments, it too had far fewer
toxic side effects.
Scientists have discovered
immune-programming qualities in
other drugs as well. For example,
tumor necrosis factor antagonists,
which act outside the cells to
inhibit inammation, have not
only revolutionized the treatment
of rheumatoid arthritis but have
also been shown to be effective

it woUlD Be tHe first tYpe 1 DiaBetes


treatMent to tarGet tHe CaUse.

Foundation International. Mario


Ehlers, deputy director of the clinicaltrials group at the Immune Tolerance
Network, concurs. People nally
saw that it was actually possible to
make a change to the course of the
disease without having to use really
toxic immunosuppression, he says.
Sometimes you dont know whether
something is going to work until you
try it, and then when it nally does,
youve got a road map that other
people can also use.
Use it they did. In 2005 a
different group of researchers, led
by the French diabetes researcher
Lucienne Chatenoud, published a
paper in the New England Journal
of Medicine demonstrating the
successful effects of a second
modied anti-CD3 drug in a trial
involving 80 people with recentonset Type 1 diabetes. Meanwhile,
Herold and Bluestone continued their
research. Last summer Herold began
a follow-up study including some of
the participants in my trial group,
and hes currently launching a study
to see whether anti-CD3 can actually
prevent diabetes in high-risk patients.
There are now two versions of antiCD3 monoclonal antibodies in Phase
III clinical trials (the second-to-last
stage) racing toward FDA approval,
helped in part by backing from the
pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly and
GlaxoSmithKline, and another one in
early development. If everything goes
smoothly, an anti-CD3 drug could
win FDA approval in as little as two
years, making it the rst approved
treatment ever that targets the cause
of Type 1 diabetes.

against a number of other diseases.


Theyre currently in trials for
conditions ranging from eye
disease and organ transplantation
to osteoarthritis and sepsis.
The potential that really good
drugs which have been developed
for one disease might have such
efcacy in other diseases is, I
think, a very exciting thing, says
Bluestone, who is known for being
cautious with his optimism.
several years after the trial
ended, I was asked to share my
experience with an audience of
people with diabetes at an event
sponsored by the University of
California at San Francisco. I meant
for my story to be inspiringIm
still making insulin! Look at
how great clinical research trials
can be!but instead I ended up
feeling like a jerk. Because the drug
still hasnt been approved, Im one
of just a handful of people in the
world who have had access to the
treatment. And even if the drug
were available, it would probably
help only people who had been
recently diagnosed and still had
some insulin-producing cells left,
which disqualied most of my
audience. It was as if Id walked
into a room full of people who had
lost their life savings and bragged
about how Id won the lottery.
But although Im fortunate to
have gotten the drug, my diabetes
has not been cured. For that to
happen, Id need replacements for
the insulin-producing cells that my
immune system knocked off. Since
there arent enough cadaver-donor
pancreases available to cover the
millions of Type 1 diabetes patients
in America, these replacements
would most likely come from stem
cells, those malleable creatures that
can morph into nearly any cell in
the body. The volume of cells Id
need is quite smalla teaspoons
worth would doand they could
be transplanted via injection in
a simple outpatient procedure.
[continued ON page 82]

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frontiers of MeDiCine

radical
cures
Blindness, brain cancer, vegetative states: These are among the most
hopeless conditions without curesyet. Now doctors are turning to
unorthodox methods to solve some of medicines most intractable
challenges. The early results are in, and they look promising
By corey Binns illustrations by John Macneill

RestoRing sight
Challenge: A genetic disease degrades sight
in children and blinds them by adulthood.
raDiCal Cure: Replace the defective genes
with healthy ones.
status: Three to ve years to FDA approval

Tami Morehouse was afraid to open her


eyes at the sound of her alarm clock every
morning. Her vision had deteriorated to a
brown haze over the past three years. She
couldnt tell the sky from the ocean or make
out peoples faces. The 45-year-old mother of
three knew that, eventually, she would wake
up one day and her world would be black. But
a couple of weeks after doctors injected one
eye with new genes, she could see the refrigerator door. Four months later, she watched
her 12-year-old daughter steal third base.
Morehouse has Lebers congenital amaurosis, a single-gene defect that prevents the
retina from producing the proteins that play
a vital role in maintaining the health of the
eyes light receptors. For most sufferers, vision
begins failing in early childhood. Without the
treatment, there is no question that she, or

any other sufferer of LCA, will eventually


go totally blind. But Morehouse was among
11 other LCA patients, ranging in age from
eight to 33 years oldI was the oldest,
blindest pioneer, she jokesin a recent
clinical trial at the Childrens Hospital of
Philadelphia. They received a shot of genes
near their retinal cells to repair their light
receptors. Although most of the participants entered the trial with vision similar to
the brown haze that Morehouse experienced, today at least six of the participants
vision has improved such that they are no
longer considered legally blind.
The therapy stems from nearly 20
years of research on hereditary blindness
in mice and dogs by Jean Bennett, a molecular geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. With additional
studies, Bennett says that she could have
a drug ready in three years that any retinal
surgeon could administer to cure LCA. But
shes not stopping there. Only ve children
born in the U.S. annually have the same
type of LCA as Morehouse, but focusing on

a rare single-gene defect is a good way


to develop a model for treating morecommon ailments. Our success shows
that this technique is possible, Bennett
says. We think this could be a platform for
a lot of different blinding diseases. Within
the decade, she says, therapies involving
similar eye genes could improve sight in
people with other mutations, such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.
Morehouse, like the other patients
in the rst study, received an injection
in only one eye (they left the other eye
alone as a control). Call me greedy, she
says, but I keep reminding my doctors,
Please dont forget my other eye. This
spring, Bennett and her colleagues hope
to continue to test the LCA gene therapy
in both eyes of younger patients. Bennett is currently applying for additional
funding for a larger trial and to nish
treating her rst 12 patients. She hopes
it comes soonthe new genes cant
help once all the retinal cells have died:
Its an emotional race for all of us.

50 popular science MARCH 2010

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Virus

HOW IT WORKS

Vitamin A

A virus carrying copies of the healthy gene


is injected near the eyes retinal-pigment
epithelium cells. The virus invades the cells,
which convert the new genes into the proteins that supply the rods and cones with the
vitamin A necessary to form the pigment that
absorbs light and allows a person to see.

Rods and cones


Retinal-pigment epithelium cells

POPSCI.COM popular science 51

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frontiers of MeDiCine

Waking Up the
Brain-DeaD
Challenge: Only 3 to 7 percent of patients in
vegetative or minimally conscious states recover.
raDiCal Cure: Jolt the brain back to life.
status: Active in one specialty clinic

Steven Domalewski had just released the


ball when the batter smacked it right back at
him, hitting his chest so hard that his heart
stopped. A doctor put the then 12-year-old
pitcher on life support and said that he would
never wake up from the vegetative state.
Then neuroscientist Philip De Fina heard of
the case and treated Domalewski with his
one-of-a-kind therapy. The boy woke up six
weeks later. Domalewskis rst doctor called
the recovery a uke. Were proud of our
record of ukes, De Fina says. He and his
colleagues have a lot of them: They wake up
84 percent of their patients from a minimally
conscious or vegetative state. The nationwide
rate is less than 7 percent.
When a patient like Domalewski comes
under the care of De Fina and Jonathan Fellus at the Kessler Institute in New Jersey,
he doesnt get the standard life-sustaining
drug treatments. Instead, patients get a
cocktail of therapies to jump-start their brain.
First the doctors prescribe stimulants that
boost mood-enhancing dopamine, as well as
brain-arousing drugs normally used to treat
depression, anxiety and Parkinsons disease.
Then its Narcan, a drug used to treat heroin
overdoses that prevents natural endorphins
from slowing a return to consciousness.
After two weeks, the doctors attach
electrodes to each wrist that send pulses to
the brain. The shocks draw blood to the brain,

increasing levels of oxygen and glucose


brain food critical for everyday function
by 20 percent. In week ve, patients receive
vitamins, amino acids, herbs and minerals
that decrease cell stress and promote normal synaptic transmission. This protocol
has woken 43 patients from vegetative
or minimally conscious states, with no
major negative side effects.
With 320,000 vets returning
from war with brain injuries,
the U.S. Department of
Defense has taken a
new interest in caring
for these patients and
has awarded De Finas
organization, the International Brain Research
Foundation, $6.4 million
to nd what makes the
treatment so effective.
But patients are still
the priority, Fellus
says. We want to
get results rst;
then well worry
about how
it works.

Thalamus

Electrodes

a cocktail
of therapies
jump-starts
patients
brains.

Median
nerve

HOW IT WORKS
Electrodes send electrical signals along the median nerve in
each wrist, up the spinal cord and to the thalamus, the main
relay station in the brain. The electrical activity excites the
brain and increases oxygen- and glucose-rich blood ow to
the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that controls cognitive function, personality and emotion. Scientists think this
helps stimulate new axon growth and rebuilds connections
between damaged areas of the cerebral cortex.

52 popular science MARCH 2010

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ReveRsing aUtism
Challenge: A mutation on the
X chromosome is the most common
known cause of autism.
raDiCal Cure: Inhibit a

receptor to slow brain activity to


normal levels.
status: Possibly entering Phase II
(human) trials this fall

Mark Bears mice werent well. They were


aggressive, slow learners, and kept convulsing in seizuresclassic signs of Fragile X
syndrome. But when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist tweaked
a single receptor in the mices brains, they
began acting as if they had never been sick.
Now he plans to do the same for people.
Fragile X syndrome, a single genetic
mutation on the X chromosome, is the most
common source of inherited mental impairment, affecting one in every 4,000 boys and
one in every 6,000 girls. Its also the most
common cause of autism. Although patients
may be able to pinpoint their parents car in

mGluR5

Protein

a parking lot, they cant perform most everyday tasks. Currently the only drugs available
for the syndrome treat the overt symptoms,
such as anxiety and aggression. Bears drug
works at the syndromes physical source.
While studying mice, he learned that the
disease allows a neurons mGluR5 receptor to send out a urry of signals telling the
cell to produce protein. The protein overload
causes a neuron to form many more connections to other neurons than normal, creating
chaos by spreading nerve instructions to
too many cells. Bears drug, called STX107,
inhibits the receptors to pare back the
overproduction of proteins associated with

STX107

HOW IT WORKS
Fragile X neurons lack the ability to
mute messages from the mGluR5
receptor, leading to an overproduction
of protein. STX107 binds to the receptor, dampens its productivity, and slows
protein production to a normal rate.

Fragile X to a normal range. His company,


Seaside Therapeutics, plans to test STX107
in patients this fall. If it works as well as
it did in mice, Bear says, it could be a rst
step to treating other causes of autism.

stopping BRain tUmoRs


that could add years to patients lives.
Parsas plan of attack is familiar: He
revs up a patients immune system to combat the extremely aggressive, persistent
cancer the same way a vaccine helps the
body ght the u. After Parsa removes the
tumor, he has a vaccine concocted from
proteins specic to that tumor plus a ferrying compound, called a heat-shock protein,
and injects it back into the patient over the
course of four weeks. This prepares the
immune system to produce ghter white
blood cells, called T cells, that nd and
kill any new cancerous cells with proteins

Challenge: The most common malignant brain


cancer kills more than 12,000 Americans a year.
raDiCal Cure: Inject a patient with proteins
from his tumor; train immune system to hunt cancer.
status: Entering Phase II trials

A diagnosis of glioblastoma is a death sentence. A surgeon can remove as much of the


brain tumor as is safe and prescribe chemoand radiation therapy, but the cancer will grow
back. The luckiest few live half a decade; most
survive just months. Now Andrew Parsa, a
neurosurgeon at the University of California
at San Francisco, has developed a treatment

matching those extracted from the tumor.


In Parsas rst study, in 2008, 12 vaccinated patients went on to live an average
of 10 months longer after diagnosis of a
recurrent tumor. Parsa began a new study
last November of 10 newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients and, so far, reports seeing the same quick immune response in
these patients that signals that the vaccine
is working. Treating the disease as early
as possible could extend their lives even
longer, he says. We have the potential
to turn this horrible cancer into a simple,
manageable chronic disease.

HOW IT WORKS
1. Remove as much of the glioblastoma tumor tissue [pink] as is safe. 2. Isolate proteins [blue, purple] specic to the brain tumor and
make into a vaccine. 3. Inject the patient with the vaccine. Antigen-presenting immune cells [light blue] introduce the tumor proteins
to T cells [orange]. 4. T cells seek out and destroy new cancerous cells with the matching protein signature,
while leaving healthy cells [green] alone.

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

DISCONNE
ViTal siGns

Your cellphone does not in itself cause cancer.


But in the daily sea of radiation we all travel,
there may be subtler dangers at work,
and science is only just beginning to
understand how they affect you
By James Geary pHoToGrapHs By JonaTHan WorTH

Per Segerbcks nearly electricityfree home. The photographer shot on


lm, using daylight, to avoid setting
off Segerbcks hypersensitivity.

54 popular science MARCH 2010

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CTED
per segerbck lives in a modest
cottage in a nature reserve some 75
miles northeast of Stockholm. Wolves,
moose and brown bears roam freely
past his front door. He keeps limited
human company, because human
technology makes him physically ill.
How ill? On a walk last summer, he
ran into one of his few neighbors, a
man who lives in a cottage about 100
yards away. During their chat, the mans
cellphone rang, and Segerbck, 54, was
overcome by nausea. Within seconds,
he was unconscious.
popsci.com populAR sCienCe 55

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VITAL SIGNS
Segerbck suffers from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), which means
he has severe physical reactions to the electromagnetic radiation produced
by common consumer technologies, such as computers, televisions and
cellphones. Symptoms range from burning or tingling sensations on the
skin to dizziness, nausea, headaches, sleep disturbance and memory loss.
In extreme cases like Segerbcks, breathing problems, heart palpitations
and loss of consciousness can result.
A cellphone has to be in useeither making
or receiving a call, or searching for a signal, when
radiation levels are highestfor it to have this
kind of effect on Segerbck. Phones that are on but
neither sending nor receiving usually dont produce
enough radiation to be noticeable. But its not the
sound of the phone that sets him off. Once, while
on a sailboat with friends, he recalls, he was on the
front deck when, unknown to him, someone made a
call belowdecks. Headache, nausea, unconsciousness.
When Segerbck is within range of an active
cellphone (safe distances vary because different
makes and models produce different radiation
levels), he experiences the feeling that there is not
enough room in my skull for my brain.
Sweden is the only country in the world to
recognize EHS as a functional impairment, and
Segerbcks experience has been important in
creating policy to address the condition. Swedish
EHS sufferersabout 3 percent of the population,
or some 250,000 people, according to government
statisticsare entitled to similar rights and social
services as those given to people who are blind or
deaf. Today, local governments will pay to have the
home of someone diagnosed with EHS electronically
sanitized, if necessary, through the installation of
metal shielding.

We are
bathed in a
sea of nonionizing
radiation,
says
professor
of medicine
John Boice.

SEA OF RADIATION

Electromagnetic elds (EMFs) are inescapable. We


are constantly exposed to them, mostly in the form
of either extremely low-frequency (ELF) radiation
from things like domestic appliances and power
lines or radio-frequency (RF) radiation from things
like cellular and cordless phones, telecom antennas,

and TV and radio transmission towers. Our bodies even


produce faint EMFs of their own, from the electrical
activity in the brain and heart.
Ionizing radiationthe kind produced by x-rays,
CT scans and nuclear bombscan do terrible damage
to the body. It is classied as a carcinogen. But ELF
and RF are types of non-ionizing radiation, which is
thought to be nearly harmless. Non-ionizing radiation
isnt powerful enough to break molecular bonds, so it
cannot directly cause the cellular damage that leads
to disease. This type of radiation is everywhere. We
are bathed in a sea of non-ionizing radiation, says
John Boice, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt
University School of Medicine and scientic director
of the International Epidemiology Institute, a
biomedical research rm in Rockville, Maryland.
This sea, most scientists agree, is harmless.
Cellphones are safe and conditions like EHS cannot exist,
they argue, because the EMFs involved are too weak
to have any health effect. The non-ionizing radiation
from cellphones has almost no known inuence on the
human body. In fact, the only universally recognized
effect of non-ionizing radiation is a very minor
heating of nearby tissue. The Federal Communications
Commission sets EMF limits for cellphonesmeasured
as specic absorption rates (SARs)below which
signicant heating does not occur. Segerbcks
symptoms and those of other EHS sufferers, according
to many researchers, may be either misdiagnosed
or imaginary. Some experts suggest that people like
Segerbck perhaps suffer from a psychological disorder,
or that their cases may illustrate the nocebo effect, in
which the expectation that something will make you sick
actually does make you sick. A review published last year
in the journal Bioelectromagnetics found no evidence
that hypersensitive individuals had an improved ability
to detect EMFs, and the study found evidence of the
nocebo effect in those same people.
The cellphone industrys position on the
subject is clear. The peer-reviewed scientic
evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless
devices do not pose a public-health risk, says John

VOICES ON THE LINE Opinions from the researchers. interviewed by christopher Ketcham
We really cannot say for certain what the adverse effects are in humans, but the indications are that there may
beand I use the words may bevery serious effects.The biggest concern about cellphones is the evidence
coming out of studies in Northern Europe, where cellphones were invented and where they have been used for a longer
period of time than in the U.S. These studies are pretty consistent in showing an increased risk of brain cancer and
tumors of the auditory nerve in individuals who have used cellphones for more than 10 years, but only on the side of
the head where the cellphone is used. Studies from Israel have also found tumors of the parotid gland, the salivary
gland in the cheek, but again only on the side of the head where the cellphone is used.
David Carpenter is director of the Institute for Health and the Environment and founding dean of the School of
Public Health at the State University of New York at Albany. He co-edited the 2008 Bioinitiative Report on cellphone risks.
56 popular science MARCH 2010

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siGnal sTrenGTH
Cellphones are one of a number of household items
that give off electromagnetic radiation

330 kilohertz
Very Low Frequency
Naval telecommunications
3300 kilohertz
Your cellphone gives off radiation
Low Frequency
largely through the antenna when
LORAN navigation systems
you make and receive calls and
3003,000 kilohertz
MedIuM Frequency
Cellphones
when it searches for a signal.
AM broadcast, ham radio
operate in the
330 megahertz
radio-frequency
HIGH Frequency
range of the spectrum,
International broadcast, ham radio
along with radar and FM
30300 megahertz
Very HIGH Frequency
radio broadcasts.
FM broadcast, cordless phones
3003,000 megahertz
uLTrA HIGH Frequency
Cellphones, microwave ovens, air-trafc radar
330 gigahertz
SuPer HIGH Frequency
Microwave relay, satellite
uplink, police radar

Daily life exposes us to radiation from


many sources, and electromagnetic
elds vary [the circled number is the
median eld strength]. The combined
effect is difcult to determine.

DAVVI.com

SourceS: Extremely Low Frequency Fields, World Health


Organization, 2007; Mantiply et al., Summary of Measured
Radiofrequency Electric and Magnetic Fields (10 kHz to 30 GHz) in
the General and Work Environment, Bioelectromagnetics, 1997

Walls, vice president of public affairs at CTIA


The Wireless Association, the international industry
body. In addition, there is no known mechanism
for [EMFs] within the limits established by the FCC
to cause any adverse health effects. A host of major
institutionsincluding the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, the International Commission on
Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the
American Cancer Society and the World Health
Organizationagree with this assessment. (Although
the ICNIRP says scientic assessment of the health
aspects of wireless devices should continue as the
technology becomes more widespread.)
Boice points out that data from cancer registries, such
as the National Cancer Institutes SEER program, shows
that brain-cancer rates havent gone up since the early
1990s. The trends are also relatively at from the mid1970s to the early 2000s in Denmark, Finland, Norway
and Sweden, where cellphones have been in use longer

than in the U.S. If cellphones were causing brain


cancer, an obvious uptick in reported cases would be
expected. If you look at the totality of biological and
experimental studies, Boice says, the vast amount
of evidence is that there is no association between
cellphones and malignancies.

WHaT iT Feels liKe

Segerbck was once an elite telecommunications


engineer. He worked for Ellemtel, a division of
the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, for more
than 20 years, leading an engineering group
that designed advanced integrated circuits for
prototype telecommunication systems. He used the
newest and most advanced computer and telecom
equipment available, the kind of stuff only Ericsson
and the Swedish military had access to. He was, as a
result, up to his eyeballs in a non-ionizing radiation
bath, from computers, uorescent lights and the

The nonionizing
radiation
from cellphones
has almost
no known
inuence
on the
body.

popsci.com populAR sCienCe 57

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VITAL SIGNS

Segerbcks employers installed


shielding in his
home, and medical authorities
issued him this
EMF-resistant suit.

telecom antenna located right outside his window.


He noticed his rst symptomsdizziness, nausea,
headaches, burning sensations and red blotches
on his skinin the late 1980s, a decade into his
telecommunications research work. All but two of the
20 or so other members of his group reported similar
symptoms, he says, although his were by far the most
severe. His EHS worsened and now, he says, even
radar from low-ying aircraft can set it off. Segerbck
is convinced that the perfect storm of EMFs in his
ofce, combined with potentially toxic fumes from
his brand-new computer, were responsible for his
condition. The company doctors didnt understand
what was going on, he says.
Agne Fredriksson, who managed Segerbcks
group at Ellemtel and retired from Ericsson in
2006, says a commonly reported symptom was
a feeling of heat in the face, which everyone
attributed to the new computer workstations.
When members of Segerbcks group started calling
in sick and people from other departments began
reporting similar symptoms, Fredriksson recalls,
thats when we started to look into what could be
done about it. There was a lot of worry from the

groups in which people reported the most symptoms.


A new ofce space was created for the worst-affected
employees; about half a dozen people shared this fully
shielded room. Others switched to different computer
workstations, while others managed by spending
less time in front of their screens. No one had ever
encountered anything like it before. Why are we so
special? Fredriksson remembers wondering. He later
learned that other companies faced similar situations at
the time, although that information remained internal.
Ericsson went to great lengths to keep Segerbck, a
key member of the rms design team, on the job. In the
early 1990s, the company installed metal shields around
his bedroom and study at home so he could sleep and
work without radiation exposure. To enable him to go
outside, medical authorities gave Segerbck an EMFresistant suit like the ones worn by engineers working in
close proximity to live telecom towers and high-voltage
power lines. The rm even modied a Volvo so he could
travel safely to and from work. His commutes ended
when cellphone towers began to spring up around
Stockholm in the mid-1990s, eventually forcing his
retreat to the woods.
In 1993 Ericsson produced a report, Hypersensitivity
in the Workplace, about what happened at Segerbcks
lab. In the foreword, Ellemtels vice president rjan
Mattsson and administrative chief Torbjrn Johnson
wrote: A new problem in the work environment
has appeared: hypersensitivity. When dealing with
traditional occupational injury, as a rule you can establish
a cause and effect relationship. Not so with regard to
hypersensitivity. When the rst serious cases occurred at
Ellemtel at the end of the 1980s, we were not prepared.
Soon, we came to look upon hypersensitivity as a
serious threat to the company business. . . . We started
wondering if we were faced with a modern-day scourge.
A year later, Ericsson closed the lab in which
Segerbck and his group worked. The company
dismissed Segerbck in 1999. He could not perform
the work he was employed to do, according to an
Ericsson spokesperson. Segerbck challenged the
dismissal in a Swedish labor court and lost. He admits

VOICES ON THE LINE


When a nerve is stimulatedsay, the optical nerve stimulated by lightall sorts of electrical activity goes on. The
nervous system uses electrical elds to function. It would be expected that certain extraneous electromagnetic
elds would affect the nervous system. If you apply a correctly tuned EM eld, youre going to affect nervoussystem function, which is going to affect all sorts of functions and behaviors. Some of my research in the 1970s found that
when you expose a frogs heart to EM frequencies that were modulated just so, you can produce arrhythmias in
those hearts and even stop the hearts. I also showed that EM frequencies could open the blood-brain barrier. This
means that substances in the blood can leak into the highly stabilized systems in the brain.
Allan Frey is a neuroscientist formerly with the GE Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University who
conducted some of the rst experiments showing the biological effects of radio-frequency radiation.
58 popular science MARCH 2010

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VOICES ON THE LINE


The Interphone study was initiated by the WHO agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, to have 16
case-control studies conducted in 13 countries to determine whether use of mobile phones is associated with head
or neck cancers. Until the Interphone study results are published, the best indicator of the likely result is shown in
the combined British and Nordic country study, which has over 60 percent of all the cases and controls that the full
Interphone study has. In this study, they found little evidence of any head or neck cancers among people
who have used their phones for less than 10 years. . . . It is not possible to make any conclusions at present
about the risks of mobile phones for more than 10 years.
Michael Repacholi was coordinator for the Radiation and Environmental Health Unit at the World Health
Organization from 1996 to 2006.

that there is no way to prove what caused his condition.


Its hard to know what is causing what, he says. No
one can say what made us feel ill. And it is impossible
for him to seek treatment in a medical facility. A trip
to the hospital, with all its electronic equipment, would
probably kill him, he says.
Ulrika Aberg, a Swedish physician specializing
in EHS who treated Segerbck in the early days
of his condition, has worked with more than 800
hypersensitive patients. She says shes seen a sliding
scale of symptoms, from sleep disturbance and dizziness
on one end to the more severe effects experienced by
Segerbck on the other. There is electrical activity going
on in all cells all the time, so its no wonder the whole
body [of an EHS patient] is affected, she says.
For those reporting milder symptoms, Aberg
suggests removing any wireless electronics from
the home, including cell and cordless phones and
wireless Internet connections. But that still leaves
people exposed to the wireless devices of others. There
are several hundred EHS refugees in Sweden, she
says, people who have had to move, some more than
once, to escape the effects of EMFs. She describes one
hypersensitive couple that lives in a mobile home so
they can quickly relocate if their symptoms worsen.
EHS is a controversial diagnosis, and many people
dont know or care about it, Aberg says. But many
[EHS sufferers] cant feel safe where they live. We
shouldnt produce more and more EMFs without
taking account of how people react to them.

WHAT WE KNOW

The main source of EMFs from cellphones is the


antenna, located inside the handset. When sending
signals and held against the side of the head, the phone
produces radiation that can penetrate into the brain. The
precise depth depends on the frequency of the EMFs; the
higher the frequency, the lower the depth of penetration.
Cellphones typically operate in a range of frequencies
between 800 and 2,200 megahertz. Radios and TVs
operate at slightly lower frequencies, and microwave

ovens and radar operate at higher frequencies.


Research into the health effects of EMFs started
in the 1950s, when scientists began studying medical
applications and radar. As microwave ovens started
appearing in kitchens in the 1960s, EMF research
entered the mainstream, and with the proliferation
of computer display terminals in the 1970s and
cellphones in the 1980s, the research really took off.
With every new device, people worry, says Michael
Repacholi, the former coordinator of the World
Health Organizations Radiation and Environmental
Health Unit and now a visiting professor at the
University of Rome. Repacholi launched the WHOs
International EMF Project in 1996 in response to
growing public concern. That groups conclusion:
There is no evidence to indicate any health effects
from cellphone EMFs. There was a clutch of lawsuits
in the mid-1990s alleging that cellphones had caused
brain cancer in specic individuals; none succeeded.
The Interphone project, a collaboration among 13
countries that carried out studies between 2000 and
2005 coordinated by the WHOs International Agency
for Research on Cancer, was set up to settle the matter
of whether cellphones cause brain cancer. It, however,
has been plagued by controversy over methodology,
bias and contradictory results. Interphone spans a
period during which cellphones and their use have
changed greatly. Children were not included in the
study, for instance, because cellphone use by kids was
low when it began in 2000.
Bias is a concern for all studies of this type,
says the head of the Interphone study, Elisabeth
Cardis of the Centre for Research in Environmental
Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain. We have from
the beginning made efforts to minimize bias as much
as possible, to identify and quantify any remaining
bias, and to try and take it into account in the most
scientic way, she says.
The results are inconclusive. A Danish Interphone
study of 106 cases of acoustic neuroma, a kind of
brain tumor, showed no elevated risk from long-term

A Swedish
physician
specializing
in EHS has
worked
with more
than 800
hypersensitive
patients.

popsCi.CoM popular science 59

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ViTal siGns
cellphone use, although only two cases were longterm users. A Swedish Interphone study of 148 cases
found a slightly elevated risk.
When the Interphone results are nally
released, after years of closed-door debate, they are
not expected to settle anything. In the end, Cardis
says, further studies will be needed to conrm the
Interphone results, particularly with regard to the use
of phones by children.

cause vs. promoter

Lets be clear: Cellphones are not like cigarettes.


There is a proven mechanism by which
cigarettes cause cancer, even if you live an
otherwise healthy life. There is as yet no proven
mechanism by which cellphones do the same.
Most experts say there is no such mechanism.
There is no dramatic evidence of a health
effect, says Michael Kundi of the Institute of
Environmental Health at the Medical University
of Vienna. Otherwise, we all would be terribly
sick. But, he says, there is another crucial
distinction to understand. Even though EMFs
are in all likelihood not cancer initiatorsthey

Although
EMFs are
probably
not cancer
initiators,
they might
well be
cancer
promoters.

dont cause cancer the way that tobacco doesthe


radiation might well be a cancer promoter, allowing
precancerous cells time to grow and metastasize,
especially in concert with other factors.
While most of the rest of the scientic community
argue that cellphones pose no health risks at all, Kundi
and others suspect that radiation from prolonged
cellphone use may indeed lead to an increased
risk of brain cancer. As to electro-hypersensitivity,
among the limited studies of EHS sufferers (who
are reluctant to subject themselves to hours in an
electronics-laden facility), some have shown that
cellphone-frequency EMFs do produce physiological
effects in some people, both those who report EHS
symptoms and those who do not (although the
EHS patients performed no better than chance
when asked whether they were being exposed).
A growing number of studies show that we may not
understand the effects of EMFs at all, especially the ones
that emanate from cellphones. We may have been asking
the wrong question. Research is beginning to shift from
asking, Do cellphones cause cancer? to asking, What
mechanism, if any, could cause an adverse health effect?
In 2001, doctors diagnosed Catherine Woollams, a
22-year-old Briton, with a glioblastoma, a brain tumor
of the type studied in connection with EMF radiation.
Her father, Christopher, had studied biochemistry at
Oxford, specializing in viruses and cancer, before going
into advertising. In the early 1990s, he helped develop
the launch campaign for Mercury One-2-One, one of
the rst digital cellphone services in Great Britain. After
Catherines diagnosis, he founded CANCERactive, a
charity that provides information on cancer treatments.
Catherine died in 2004.
Woollams has a surprisingly measured opinion of
the cancer risk in cellphone use. He says his daughter
smoked cigarettes, didnt eat well, and lived on her
cellphone. Are cellphones responsible for her death? I
dont think it helped, he says, but there is no single cure
for or single cause of cancer.
He argues that research should not focus solely
on brain cancer. It is very, very hard to prove a

cellpHone HaBiTs oF THe eXperTs


rony seger

christopher Woollams

michael repacholi

John Boice

weizmann Institute
of Science
I try not to exceed a half hour
or an hour a day, Seger says of
his cellphone use. Everything
is a matter of dosage. He
suggests keeping cellphones at
least 12 inches from the body
and using the speakerphone.

Founder and ceo of


cAnceractive
Woollams uses his cell sparingly
and puts it on speakerphone.
His older kidsaged 14, 23
and 26are encouraged to
only text at most. I dont want
them to carry the phone on their
bodies when they are on.

Former coordinator of
the wHos radiation and
environmental Health unit
Repacholi owns two cellphones
and says he has no concerns about
using them. For those who do, he
recommends using a hands-free kit,
which can reduce exposure levels by
a factor of between 10 and 100.

Vanderbilt university School of


Medicine and the International
epidemiology Institute
Boice makes approximately ve
cellphone calls a day. He uses a
wired earpiecenot for fear of
EMFs but because Im getting
older and dont hear so well
anymore, he says.

60 populAR sCienCe mARcH 2010

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

Paul WOOTTON

direct link, he says. The evidence is tenuous at


best. Woollams believes researchers should also
pursue the possible mechanisms by which EMFs
might impair the bodys overall defenses. He
suggests that the daily sea of EMFscombined with
other environmental factors, such as toxic chemicals
and poor nutritionmay have a collective inuence
on our health. I am far, far more worried about
how [cellphones] could lead to a diminution of the
immune system, he says. Mobile phones add to
the problems that bring about brain tumors. Phones
should carry a warning, the same as cigarettes.
Investigating the relation between cellphones
and health risks remains terribly difcult and
inconclusive. Brain-cancer studies are particularly
hard to conductthe tumors are rare and can take
decades to developbut they do exist. Most studies
have addressed either malignant tumors such as
glioma or benign tumors such as meningioma or
acoustic neuroma. Some studies have also focused
on salivary gland tumors. The majority have found
no link between cellphones and these types of
cancer. But a few have. Lennart Hardell of the
department of oncology at University Hospital in
rebro, Sweden, found increased risk for glioma and
acoustic neuroma after 10 or more years of regular
cellphone use. He concluded that current radiation
limits for cellphones are unsafe.
Other developments are also unsettling.
According to a 2004 report from the U.K. Ofce of
National Statistics, the rate of childhood brain and
spinal-cord tumors in Britain rose from just under
20 per million in the early 1970s to just under 30
per million in the late 1990s. Citing concern over
continuing uncertainties about possible health risks
of EMFs, the European Parliament has suggested
an awareness-raising campaign geared toward
young people between the ages of 10 and 20; the
French Ministry of Health, Youth and Sports has
warned against excessive cellphone use among
youngsters; and U.S. senator Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania, who survived a brain tumor, has held

Senate hearings on the issue. State legislators


in Maine are debating whether cellphones sold
there should display warnings about brain
cancer, and the municipal government in San
Francisco is considering requiring information
about radiation levels on cellphone packaging.
Study results are invariably criticized for
methodological failings, such as insufcient
sample size (many people need to be studied to
get a meaningful result) or recall bias (people
often incorrectly remember their past cellphone
use). A recent review of 23 cellphone/cancer
papers found that studies the authors rated as
of the highest methodological quality (mostly
by Hardell) reported an increased risk of tumors
in long-term cellphone users, whereas in studies
the authors rated as of lower methodological
quality the results actually showed a decreased
risk among cellphone users. Yet a different
review singled out Hardells results as most
likely the result of poor methodology.

A growing
number
of studies
show
that we
may not
understand
the effects
of EMFs
at all.

POSSIBLE THREATS

What, then, should we study? Kundi points out that


according to current research, cellphone radiation
does have non-thermal effectsbiological effects
beyond the mere heating of tissuethat could
inuence human health. Identify the mechanisms
behind these effects, he urges, and design phones that
dont produce them. There are three main lines of
investigation into non-thermal effects: the potential
inuence on melatonin production, gene expression
and intracellular signaling.
MELATONIN
Melatonin is mostly known as an antidote to jet
lag. Produced in the pineal gland of the brain, the
hormone regulates much of our sleep-wake cycle.
But it also has a crucial role as an antioxidant,
protecting against the DNA damage that can lead
to cancer and the neurological damage that can
lead to diseases like Alzheimers. EMFs have been

Ulrika Aberg

Elisabeth Cardis

Michael Kundi

Electro-hypersensitivity
specialist
Aberg removes her phones battery
when she visits patients. She advises
against wireless phones and wireless
computer connections at home
because, she says, you are exposed
to EMFs all day and all night.

Centre for Research in


Environmental Epidemiology
and head of Interphone
Cardis is not a heavy talker (I
have little time!) but says, If
consumers are worried about a
possible risk, the use of handsfree kits or earpieces is a very
good way to reduce exposure.

Institute of Environmental
Health, Medical University
of Vienna
Kundi dials on a landline whenever
available and suggests not using
cellphones where reception is
weak, because they boost their
signal to maintain connectivity, thus
increasing EMF exposure.

H Electromagnetic
waves from
the phones
antenna penetrate the brain
several centimeters deep.

popsci.com popular science 61

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VITAL SIGNS

Cellphone
radiation
has nonthermal
effects
beyond
the mere
heating of
tissue.

shown to suppress melatonin production in rats.


If suppression also occurs in humans, one of the
bodys defenses would be weakened.
Epidemiological studies have found an increased
risk of leukemia in people living near high-voltage
power lines. The IARC now classies extremely lowfrequency EMFs (such as those from power lines) as
a possible human carcinogen. Denis L. Henshaw, a
physicist at the University of Bristol in England, cites
evidence that power-line EMFs disrupt melatonin
production, thereby impairing the immune systems
ability to prevent and repair genetic damage.
Power lines operate at lower frequencies (around
50 hertz) than cellphones. But cellphones produce
regular pulses that fall in the extremely low-frequency
range of 1 to 300 hertz. It is therefore possible,
according to Henshaw, Kundi and others, that
cellphone EMFs could also have an effect on human
cells and, potentially, on melatonin production.
While acknowledging that some researchers have
found alterations in melatonin levels, former WHO
coordinator Repacholi says, It must be something
else, because [power-line EMFs] hardly penetrate into
the body. There is no mechanism by which the elds
could cause melatonin change. Counters Henshaw,
There are thousands of papers documenting the
effect of power-line EMFs. We dont know yet if this
is true for cellphones, but for power-line EMFs there
clearly are non-thermal effects.
GENE EXPRESSION
Research by Igor Belyaev, an associate professor
in the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and
Toxicology at Stockholm University, has shown that
EMFs can affect gene expressionthe mechanism
by which genes are activated and speak outin
human and animal cells. Belyaev exposed human
lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell involved
in the bodys immune response, to EMFs at 915
megahertz, a common cellphone frequency. The
samples were taken from healthy people and those
reporting EHS symptoms. In cells from both types

of subjects, Belyaev observed a stress response that


altered gene expression. The stress response induced by
EMFs at 915 megahertz disrupted the bodys DNA-repair
machinery, he concluded, thus making it harder to x the
kind of cellular damage that can lead to cancer. In other
research, Belyaev has found that cellphone-frequency
EMFs inhibit DNA repair in stem cells; DNA breaks in
stem cells are critical to the onset of leukemia and some
tumors, including gliomas.
Stress response does indeed cause changes in gene
expression; however, says Repacholi, lots of experiments
can nd effects, but that doesnt translate into the whole
organism, because the whole organism compensates. The
gap between a biological effect and an adverse health
effect is a big one.
INTRAcellular SIGNALING
Rony Seger of the Weizmann Institute of Science
in Rehovot, Israel, has found that EMFs in the
900-megahertz range also inuence intracellular
signaling pathwayshow cells talk to each other.
Working with rat cells, Seger and his colleagues found
that cellphone radiation changes the activity of certain
enzymes, prompting them to start producing free
radicals. Free radicals are rogue atoms that can cause
damage when they interact with DNA and other crucial
cellular components.
Seger emphasizes that the effect produces a small
amount of free radicals, which in themselves are not
harmful. But he also says that intracellular signaling
could be part of a more general cancer-inducing
mechanism that is not yet understood. It is possible
that this system could cause the activation of another
system, he says, which could in turn create a cascade
of intracellular events whose cumulative effect could
be harmful. He cautions, though, The amplication [of
the free radicals] has to be much stronger in order to
induce these adverse effects. Boice points out that free
radicals are produced all the time as a by-product of
our metabolism. The body has processes that take care
of them, he says. You cant extrapolate from a petri
dish to humans.

VOICES ON THE LINE


In the 1940s, kids shoe shops were equipped with shoe-tting machines that used strong x-rays, and wristwatches
in the 1950s glowed in the dark because they were coated with radioactive paint. At the same time, scientists and
doctors started to realize that the warm and beautiful sunshine actually can harm our cells and their DNA, leading to
the development of skin cancer. . . . We dont know what will happen when, 24 hours around the clock, we
allow ourselves and our children to be whole-body irradiated by new, man-made electromagnetic
elds for the rest of our lives. This question is more valid and important than ever, and it is up to our society, with
its governments, parliaments and authorities, to answer it.
Olle Johansson is an associate professor at the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology in
Sweden and has been investigating the health effects of man-made electromagnetic elds since the 1980s.
62 popular science MARCH 2010

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

WHAT WE DONT KNOW

Henshaw, Belyaev and Seger do not argue that


their work proves that EMFs either initiate or
promote cancer. They do insist, however, that
these non-thermal effects cannot be dismissed and
that they merit further study. We need to decide
now if there is a risk, Kundi says. If we know the
mechanism, then we can design phones not related to
increased risk.
Boice believes there is a need for continued
research into cellphones and EMFs. We should never
just assume, Oh, its non-ionizing radiation, so there
is no need for further research. But, he adds, we
have conducted studies, and the studies show there is
nothing going on.
Another study, the International Cohort Study
of Mobile Phone Users (COSMOS), might help
determine what, if any, future research is needed.
COSMOS will be monitoring some 250,000
Europeans over the next 20 to 30 years, looking at
potential links between cellphones and brain tumors
as well as EHS-like symptoms such as headaches,
sleep disorders, and neurological and cerebro-vascular
diseases. But results are not due until 2029 at the
earliest, and between now and then, the technology
will change and proliferate in ways we cannot
predict. A study under way at the IIT Research
Institute in Chicago, examining the effects of EMF
exposure on rats and mice over several generations,
should also provide important evidence. A similar
experiment, in which mice were exposed to cellphone
EMFs 24/7 across four generations, found no harmful
effects on the animals fertility or development. If
[the IIT Research Institute in Chicago study] doesnt
nd an effect, then were unlikely to nd anything at
all, Repacholi predicts.
In a recent report on EMFs and health effects,
the ICNIRP concluded, Whilst it is in principle
impossible to disprove the possible existence of
non-thermal interactions, the plausibility of the
non-thermal mechanisms . . . is very low. Still,
Seger says, there are more and more indications
that [non-thermal effects] must be real. What is the
mechanism? No one knows. If there is an effect, the
mechanism is absolutely new to science. We have to
start thinking about it in a different way.

THE DISCONNECTED LIFE

Segerbck is convinced that cellphones are dangerous.


Im an engineer, and even I dont know how to design
a phone that doesnt affect health, he says. Radiation
limits are all based on thermal effects, and thats wrong.
In the early stages of his condition, Segerbck was still
able to lead a fairly normal life. His daughter, Anna, was
just a child when he became ill. She used to run ahead
of him at home switching off all the lights in every
room before he entered. It is everyday family life that

Segerbck misses the most, something as simple as


the chat and laughter on the morning drive to school.
Today he cooks all his meals on a wood-burning
stove. The replace is his only source of heat. He
has electric lights, a phone and a computer, but their
power sourcea 12-volt batteryis buried in an
underground cellar about 30 yards from his house,
far enough away that the EMFs cant reach him. His
computer and his mouse are both surrounded by
metal plates so no radiation escapes. His neighbors
all know about his condition and (with occasional,
painful exceptions) know not to carry cellphones
near his house.
Segerbck is surprisingly sanguine about
his situation. Of course its a very sad thing that
happened to me, he says, but it can only be regarded
as an accident. I am a positive person, from a line of
very stubborn people able to survive under tough
conditions. He is determined, in his affable, softspoken way, to gain greater recognition and greater
credibility for EHS. Not by banning cellphoneshes
still too much a telecom engineer for thatbut by
somehow making cellphones safer. In fact, he even
takes some responsibility for being part of an industry
that designed devices he now believes are hazardous
to peoples health. Guys like me were so far ahead of
society, he says. We didnt know medicine. We didnt
think what we were developing could harm anyone.
Its hard to admit weve been wrong for so long.

We didnt
think what
we were
developing
could harm
anyone,
says Per
Segerbck.

James Geary, the former editor of Time Europe, wrote


about physical threats to the Internet in April 2009.
popsci.com popular science 63

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how 2.0

tips, tricks, hacks and do-it-yourself projEcTS

68
Build your own

70

miniature megaphone

72

Back up your computer


safely and cheaply

Theo Grays
homemade LEDs

SPECIAL EDITION
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED PopSci photographer John Carnett stripped a Polaris
RZR and rebuilt it with a mishmash of
partsand a powerful jet engine.

you
built
what
?!
TURN THE PAGE

John howell

to see how it works

4 wheels... 1 jet engine


! The h2Whoa Credo: dIY Can be dangerous.
we review all our projects before publishing them, but ultimately your safety is your responsibility.
Always wear protective gear, take proper safety precautions, and follow all laws and regulations.

march 2010 popular science 65

popSci.com

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

You builT WhaT ?!

[continued from preceding page]

The jeT-powered ATV


popSciS builder-in-reSidence ouTfiTS hiS four-wheeler wiTh A ScreAming Turbine

When John CarnettPopular Science staff photographer, inventor


and tinkerer-about-townbegan conding in people about plans
for his latest project, he found few allies. Not surprisingly, almost
no one wanted any part of his scheme to stuff a jet-turbine engine in
a Polaris RZR all-terrain vehicle. But Carnett, who grew up near an
aireld, remained undeterred.
His early attempts to procure a jet by calling manufacturers
proved futile. When he told them of his idea to put the engine
in a land-based vehicle, they inevitably hung up. He did nd a
few turbines for sale on eBay but decided that probably wasnt
the safest bet. Finally he turned to the gray market of turbine

Jet engine

hobbyists, ultimately deciding that a gas turbine was most


appropriate and secured a Garrett GTP 30-67 model, along with
some other parts, for $6,000. The 87-pound engine, made back in
the 1960s, was used in a power generator for the military.
In all, it took 10 months, more than $15,000 and countless
headaches to bring Project Whirl to life. And getting the other
parts together was a feat in itself. Fortunately, Polaris donated the
RZR out of curiosity to see what would become of it in Carnetts
workshop. He got parts such as the roll cage, suspension, wheels,
tires and lights gratis too. He also had to spend hours on the phone
with anyone he thought could help propel his invention to the next

Hydro
crossover

Air lter

Hydro
tank

Hydro
hoses

Gear-reductionbox oil pump

Gear-reductionbox oil cooler


p TimE: 10 months p coST: $15,000+

To build the Whirl, Carnett replaced the RZRs original engine with
a gas turbine connected to a custom gear-reduction box, which is
then connected to a pump that controls a hydraulic motor and the
transmission. The turbine runs a consistent 8,000 rpm at an output
shaft mated to the gear-reduction box, which drops the rpm output
to 3,650 (the speed required by the Eaton piston pump to which its
connected). The piston pump pressurizes the hydraulic fluid and is
attached to the final part of the hydraulic drive, a Sunfab hydraulic

motor. From there, a pulley mounted on the motor spins a threeinch-wide Gates transmission belt and a pulley connected to the
input shaft of the RZRs stock gearbox. A control stick installed in a
box between the seats runs the Sunfab motor and acts as a handcontrolled accelerator. The turbine requires 24 volts to jolt it into
action, so Carnett added two 12-volt batteries under the drivers
seat. All those parts connect to the turbine, mounted in the cargo
area of the RZR with a custom frame that ties into the stock frame.

66 popular science march 2010

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

john b. carnett

hoW iT Works

For more photos and video of the Whirl, go to popsci.com/whirl.

step. I would go through 20 or 30 days


at a time of total failure, Carnett says,
like the time he used the wrong hydraulic
uid, causing the starter motor to blow
up. Eventually someone instructed him to
use automatic-transmission uid instead
because its much thinner and better
suited to a jet engine.
Six weeks after an initial test run that
took him all of 20 feet from his driveway,
Carnett xed the design and found
himself driving ve miles around his
Philadelphia hometown, half expecting to
get arrested. Next he took the Whirl out
to the woods to let it roam in its natural
habitat. The beast gets seven miles to the

gallon on a mixture of three gallons of


regular gas to one gallon of diesel, and
it roars at a rock-concert noise level of
about 114 decibels. Topping out at just
over 60 mph, it isnt much faster than a
stock RZR, but the Whirls gas turbine
reaches maximum power in seconds
and stays at that level all the time, so
it can get up to its top speed almost
instantly even from a dead stop. And
the vehicle does some other things
a stock model doesnt: require the
driver to don ear protection, have a re
extinguisher at the ready, and wear a
ame-resistant Nomex suit.
cassandra clawson

how 2.0

5 Things You can do online . . .

if youre A
book loVer
1 make Trades

Get free books at PaperBackSwap.com.


Post titles youre willing to give away and
earn credits when other users take them.
When one of your listings is requested,
you can print a mailing label from the
sitejust pay the postage and pop it in a
mailbox. Then cash your credits in for any
of the more than four million books available from other members, at no charge.

2 Track Your sTaTs

Build an online catalog of your collection at BookBump.com. Search for books


you own, and the iTunes look-alike fills
in author and publisher information and
provides synopses, reviews and citations.
The site also lets you keep track of books
youve lent to friends.

3 socialize
AT THE CONTROLS
The view from the
Whirls drivers seat

Join Shelfari.com, the social network for


bookworms. Share your favorites and
see what others are reading to keep
apprised of new releases or old titles
you may have missed. You can rate your
reads, get recommendations from people with similar tastes, and join online
discussion groups.

4 borroW

from top: john b. carnett; john howell

ZERO TO SIXTY
Maintaining 100
percent power
all the time, the
Whirl can reach
its top speed
in an instant.

Stay home and rent books Netflix-style


with BookSwim.com. There are several
levels of membership, including three
books at a time for $24 a month and the
11-at-a-time $60 Devout Reader plan.
Best of all, the site has no late fees and
no cranky librarians to shush you.

5 hear The sTorY

Rest your eyes and have books read to


you for a change. Download free audio
books at LibriVox.org, where volunteers
record chapters of books and post
them on the Web for anyone to hear. All
the books are in the public domain, so
theres no digital-rights mumbo-jumbo
to worry about. You can also add to the
nearly 3,000-title library by donating your
own voice.amanda Schupak
popSci.com popular science 67

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

how 2.0

buildit

Raise YouR Voice

Make sure you get heard with a coMpact hoMebuilt Megaphone

Heres a project sure to head off your road rage.


Instead of silently fuming the next time youre stuck
in trafc behind some attention-decient driver who
fails to move when the light turns green, just give him
a friendly yet rm word of encouragement through
your DIY megaphone. Hell denitely get the message. The device projects your voice using a small

microphone connected to a preamplier and boosted


with a power-amplier circuit. It wont deafen anyone, but it can provide a step up to more than twice
your normal speaking volume. Of course, you dont
have to be on the road to use itthe megaphone
comes in handy anywhere you nd yourself needing
to send a message loud and clear.Dave Prochnow

get tHat guy aHead of you to move it!


a
d
B

a compact diy
megaphone
p time: 5 hours
p cost: $47.01
p easy
hard

usIng YOur megapHOne, YOu


pOlITelY remInD HIm TO mOve.

3
4
5

embarrasseD, He geTs THe


message anD HITs THe gas.

YOu prOceeD THrOugH THe


InTersecTIOn cOnTenTeDlY.

68 popular science MarCh 2010

PoPSCI.CoM

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

peter mcdonnell/linda de moreta represents; photograph: brian klutch

YOure In a HurrY, buT THe car


In frOnT Of YOu wOnT buDge.

download our schematic circuit


diagram at popsci.com/megaphone.
assemble the mic preamp kit [A] per the
instructions on sparkfun.com.
build the power amplifier [B],
which combines the output of the
two two-watt channels that are inside the
integrated circuit.
connect the nine-volt-battery clips
black lead to the mic preamps
gnd pin, and its red lead to one spst
switch [C]. wire the second pole of the
spst switch to the on/off pin for the mic
preamp kit. pressing this switch will
activate the microphone.
wire the positive lead from the
eight-aa-battery holders clip to the
second spst switch [D], and the negative
lead to the amps gnd pins. attach a wire
between the second pole of the switch
and the 12-volt power-supply pin. pressing this switch will fire up the amplifier.
insert all the components into the
project box, connect the speaker,
and install fresh batteries. press both
switches simultaneously to activate the
megaphone. adjust the potentiometer for
optimal voice quality and volume.

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

how 2.0

how 2.0

Gray

A Light
Mystery
MaTTer

The first light-emitting diodes went on


sale in 1962, and you could have any
kind you wanted as long as it was dim
and red. Green, yellow and orange came
next, but blue LEDs didnt debut until
1989. So it may surprise you that the
first LEDs, discovered in 1907, included
blueand were made of sandpaper.
Well, not exactly sandpaper, but
the same material as a lot of sandpaper
uses, synthetic silicon carbide (carborundum). If you touch two needles to
the surface of a crystal of silicon carbide
and run electricity through them, you
will sometimes see a very faint colored
glow. Silicon carbide is a semiconductor, and the needles on the surface
create a diode, a device that allows
electricity to flow in only one direction,
so it really is a light-emitting diode.
When radio-development pioneer
Henry Joseph Round noticed this glow
in 1907, he published a short paper
asking if anyone else had seen this and
could explain it. No one had a clue.
The first commercially practical
LEDs didnt arrive until a quantummechanical model for semiconductors
allowed engineer Nick Holonyak, Jr., to
design one with just the right electrical
properties to create usable light.
Science is full of things you can
see with your own eyes yet for which,
even today, there is no satisfactory
explanation. For instance, a compass
needle always points north. You might
know this happens because the Earths
magnetic field is oriented roughly along
its axis of spin. But why does the Earth
have a magnetic field, and why does it
point north? No one knows. We can see
it, describe it, and measure it, but we
cant explain it.Theodore Gray

CRYSTAL METHOD Large


silicon carbide crystals like this
(sometimes available for sale
on eBay) grow inside blast furnaces from a combination of the
silica lining and the carbon in
the coke that res the furnace.

70 popular science March 2010


PoPSCI.CoM

popular
science
together2010
to create
a higher voltage.
Also,00
the
achTunG Do not connect multiple batteriesMonth
battery can overheat if you short it out by touching the two needles together for too long.

www.storemags.com & www.fantamag.com

mike walker

although weve long seen


leDs glow, we havent always
known why it happens

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL A nine-volt battery creates a tiny patch of blue


light in a silicon carbide crystal. This is not a spark; its the same
electroluminescent effect that drives all LEDs.

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how 2.0

When it comes to preserving your data,


theres no such thing as overkill. Your safest
ask a
bet is actually to employ multiple methods.
Fortunately, most of them are cheapor free.
Start by leveraging the other computers
in your house. Microsofts free Windows Live
Sync tool (sync.live.com) will sync selected folders on your system, automatically or on-demand, with any other computer(s)
you own. Next, give that same data a safe haven online.
Backup services like Carbonite (carbonite.com) and MozyHome (mozy.com) provide secure, unlimited storage space for
around $55 per year. Just choose the data you want to protect,
and get on with your life; the software works in the back-

geek

ground to continually keep your backup version up to date.


Finally, you should invest in an external hard drive thats
at least as large as the drive inside your PC. (Weve seen oneterabyte models for less than $100.) Then pair it with a backup
utility like Macrium Reflect Free Edition (macrium.com), which
will make a full-system backup that you can restore in the
event of a meltdown. You can schedule the program to run at
regular times you designate or, if youre constantly updating
your data, you can even run it manually anytime.

RICK BROIDA writes the blog The Cheapskate (cnet.com/cheapskate) and is co-author of How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.

Got a question? Send it to uS at h20@bonniercorp.com.

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thereddress.co.uk

Whats the safest


and cheapest
Way to back up my
computer?

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how 2.0

So you never wonder


where you threw
your phone down
off the bottom of
1. Cut
an empty shampoo or

the pc decrapifier

new computers come with lots of fancy applications


pre-installedas well as lots of junk. the free PC decrapifier
software (pcdecrapifier.com) finds the extraneous programs that
commonly clog up new systems and gives you a list for simple
removal. if youre unsure of whether to get rid of an app, you
can set it up so that you can recover it in case you need it later.

PROJECT OF THE MONTH

the hack-a-sketch

conditioner bottle, and


cut a piece off the side
of the bottle the size of
your phone.

a picture-hanging
2. Stick
strip on the back of the

bottle and the connecting strip on the wall.

the bottle, and


3. Hang
connect the phones

power cable through


the bottles neck and
into a wall outlet.

have an idea for a


5-minute project?

WINDOWS APP OF THE MONTH

Send it to uS at h20@bonniercorp.com.

As a kid, Michael Krumpus spent hours drawing with his


Etch-A-Sketch. Now a 39-year-old software engineer, he
decided to mod his laptop with potentiometers, an Arduino
microcontroller board and
code he wrote so the
screen forms images that
look just like the toys. He
turns the two knobs to create a drawing exactly the
way the original does, and
the method of erasing is
the same tooall he has to
do is shake the computer.
For more details, go to
nootropicdesign.com.

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from left: Brian klutch (3); courtesy michael krumpus;


*originally posted by Mauricio Galindocohen on instructables.com

a cellphone
Wall dock*

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FYI

sometimes you just need to know

Can we dispose of
radioactive waste
in volcanoes?
Dumping all our nuclear waste in a volcano does
seem like a neat solution for destroying the
roughly 29,000 tons of spent uranium fuel rods
stockpiled around the world. But theres a critical
standard that a volcano would have to meet to properly
dispose of the stuff, explains Charlotte Rowe, a volcano
geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. And that
standard is heat. The lava would have to not only melt the
fuel rods but also strip the uranium of its radioactivity.
Unfortunately, Rowe says, volcanoes just arent very hot.
Lava in the hottest volcanoes tops out at around 2,400F.
(These tend to be shield volcanoes, so named for their relatively
[continued ON page 78]
at, broad prole. The Hawaiian Islands
Send your unsolvable questions to fyi@popsci.com.

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superstock; getty images

Riley Jameson,
Union City, N.J.

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fYi
[continued from page 76]

continue to be formed by this type of


volcano.) It takes temperatures that are
tens of thousands of degrees hotter than
that to split uraniums atomic nuclei
and alter its radioactivity to make it
inert, Rowe says. What you need is a
thermonuclear reaction, like an atomic
bombnot a great way to dispose of
nuclear waste.
Volcanoes arent hot enough to melt
the zirconium (melting point 3,371) that
encases the fuel, let alone the fuel itself:
The melting point of uranium oxide, the
fuel used at most nuclear power plants,
is 5,189. The liquid lava in a shield
volcano pushes upward, so the rods
probably wouldnt even sink very deep,
Rowe says. They wouldnt sink at all in
a stratovolcano, the most explosive type,
exemplied by Washingtons Mount St.
Helens. Instead, the waste would just sit
on top of the volcanos hard lava dome
at least until the pressure from upsurging
magma became so great that the dome
cracked and the volcano erupted. And
thats the real problem.
A regular lava ow is hazardous
enough, but the lava pouring out of
a volcano used as a nuclear storage
facility would be extremely radioactive.
Eventually it would harden, turning
that mountains slopes into a nuclear
wasteland for decades to come. And
the danger would extend much
farther. All volcanoes do is spew stuff
upward, Rowe says. During a big
eruption, ash and gas can shoot six
miles into the air and afterward circle
the globe several times. Wed all be
in serious trouble.BJOrN carEY

Why do ducks have orange feet?


Leonard Domhof, via e-mail

Actually, many species of ducks have


feetand legs!tinted a bluish green
or gray. But for the ducks that do have
orange feet, well, its all about attracting
the ladies. Chicks dig orange.
Kevin Omland is an evolutionary
biologist at the University of Maryland at
Baltimore County, and he knows as much
about mallard-duck coloring patterns
as anyone; it was his graduate thesis. I

78 popular scIence march 2010

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chris hepburn/getty images

looked at male mallards and thought,


gosh, they exhibit so many wonderful
colors, I wonder which ones females
care about, he says. Do lady ducks lust
after the males green head plumage?
Or maybe its the blue patches on the
males wings? Then again, what female
duck can resist a nicely proportioned
set of white neck tie feathers?
After four years of documenting
mallard courtships, Omland found
that none of those mattered. All
they cared about was the brightness
of the guys yellow-orange bill.
Bright orange coloring suggests that
a male duck, also known as a drake,
is getting all his vitamins, particularly
carotenoids, such as beta-carotene
and vitamin A, antioxidants that can
be benecial to the immune system.
This indicates that his behaviors
and genes are good enough for
him to recognize and eat the right
food, or that his immune system is
strong enough to produce bright
orange legs, Omland says. The
female sees this as a very attractive
trait to pass on to her offspring.
Omlands work only looked at
drakes bills, but he thinks theres
enough circumstantial evidence to
say that ducks check out each others
feet, too. Blue-footed boobies have,
obviously, very blue feet, and its very
well documented that they use their
feet in courtship and that females do
care about the coloration of males feet,
Omland says. Perhaps mallards, like the
boobies, have a foot fetish.b.c. M

fancy feet
Male mallards
with bright
orange feet
might have
greater success courting
ladies.

POPSci.cOm popular scIence 79

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frontiers of MeDiCine
[continued FRom page 49]

rebooting the body


Unfortunately, its not that easy. First, if
you put new insulin-producing cells into
my body, whether from a cadaver or stem
cells, they would probably be destroyed
by the same immune malfunction that
caused me to develop diabetes in the
rst place. And even if you got past that
roadblock, theres another problem, one
that arises anytime you try to transplant
foreign tissues or cells into the body:
rejection. Unless the cells come from your
own body or that of an identical twin, the
immune system treats the replacement
cells as foreign invaders and attacks them
just as it would a donor kidney or liver.
That means that any treatment derived
from stem cells is likely to require some
kind of immune-modulating drug to
succeed. This, not incidentally, is one of
the problems Bluestone is trying to solve
at the Immune Tolerance Network.
Its been nine years since I was
diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Ive
kept in touch with Herold, who is now
director of the Autoimmunity Center of

Excellence at Yale University, where he


also runs the Yale branch of a network
of diabetes researchers called TrialNet.
When he received funding last summer
to follow up with some of the original
study participants to see how long the
effects of the anti-CD3 drug might last,
I eagerly enlisted. The protocol, known
as a mixed-meal tolerance test, was
the same thing Id gone through in the
original study. After an overnight fast, I
gulped down a glass of Boost nutritional
drink, didnt take any insulin, and then
lay in bed for four hours with an IV
catheter in my arm so that the nurses
could draw multiple blood samples to see
how much insulin I was producing. The
result? Im still making a measurable
amount, which in the normal course of
the disease does not happen.
Unfortunately, my resistance is
fading. At nine years out, my insulin
levels are roughly half what they were
two years after the treatment, and I
worry that its just a matter of time

before my immune system nishes its


misguided job of killing off my insulinproducing cells. My hope is that an
anti-CD3 drug will gain FDA approval
soon so that I can get a second round
of treatment, potentially buying me
time until researchers like Bluestone
and Herold achieve the dream of every
person with diabetes: a cure.
Bluestone is just as impatient to
see an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody
nally come to market. And although
he is reluctant to make assumptions
Obviously it aint over till its overhes
hopeful that anti-CD3 may soon go into
much wider use. If it does get approved
in the next year or two, that would be
exciting, he says. I would nally feel that
what weve done would be able to have a
real impact on human health.
Catherine Price, a contributing editor for
PoPular Science, writes about diabetes
for publications including the New York
Times and A Sweet Life (asweetlife.org).

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MASTERCARD VISA AMEX DISCOVER CHECK

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Tens Of Millions
Of People Will
See These Pictures
And Do Nothing.

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A Healthy Diet During Pregnancy Can Help Prevent Birth Defects And Clefts. Diet is an important part of pregnancy. Eat a healthy diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables and foods fortified with folic acid. According
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Smile Train is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit recognized by the IRS, and all donations to The Smile Train are tax-deductible in accordance with IRS regulations. 2010 The Smile Train.

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POPSCI.COM POPULAR SCIENCE 91

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POPULAR SCIENCE DIRECT

AIR, SPACE & OUTERSPACE

THe

from the popular science archives

FuTure THen

July 1992

AIRWARE: MORE REMOTE-CONTROL


AIRCRAFT THROUGH THE YEARS

Ozone Drone
In 1992, research into the depleted ozone layer required eyes where
scientists couldnt go: 82,000 feet up. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
seemed to be the answer. Perseus, an unmanned power glider, was
unveiled in 1991 to search for ozone-killing chemicals over Antarctica.
NASA hoped the glider would soar higher than any previous propeller
plane. Piloted by radio controls and preprogrammed commands in its
onboard computer, Perseus wasnt subject to the whims of the weather
the way balloons were but could still move slowly enough to take samples.
Although it never reached 82,000 feet, in 1998 it set an unofficial altitude
record for a craft of its kind, at 60,280 feet, paving the way for later highflying gliders. To see the wild kingdom of UAVs that followed Perseus,
check out A Field Guide to Flying Robots on page 36.Kristyn Brady

COMMANd ANd CONTROL


December 1945

The product of a top-secret collaboration between


the U.S. Army and Navy in the final years of World
War II, Yehudi was a robot pilot installed in various
aircraft to translate a ground operators radio commands into flight by means of hydraulic pistons.

TRIcky TARgET

February 1959
For ground-to-air marksmanship training, the
20-inch-diameter Kingfisher drone could fool radar
screens on the ground into reading a huge bomber.
An onboard firing-error indicator recorded and
reported simulated hits and misses.

dRONE BEE

February 1971
During the Vietnam War, the American military
refined many forms of electronic warfare. By mounting a TV camera on the Teledyne Ryan Firebees nose
and adding larger wings, designers hoped to make
the target drone an all-purpose military tool [above],
but todays Firebee remains a target drone.

See all
of PoPScis

137 years

at popsci.com/
archives

POPULAR SCIENCE magazine, Vol. 276, No. 3 (ISSN 161-7370, USPS 577-250), is published monthly by
Bonnier Corp., 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. Copyright 2010 by Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved.
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