Popular Science1 min lettiTech
Computers For The Win
HUMANS HAVE BEEN PLAYING games for centuries, but we’re still not perfect at them: We make mistakes, underestimate opponents, and can think only a few moves ahead. Computers have no such shortcomings. An artificial intelligence can master most of the
Popular Science1 min letti
Wow-abunga
The Revolution Core 32 helps hone your balancing skills. Perching on the 32-inch board atop the weighted roller is a challenge, but you can work your way up to rocking back and forth or even nailing rad kickflips. The electric Onewheel Pint can hit 1
Popular Science1 min letti
Making Baby Toys Less Busy
JESSICA ROLPH, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF LOVEVERY When my son was 6 months old, he had a toy that always caught my attention: When you pressed a button, a purple cow would pop out, music would play, and lights would flash. It mesmerized him, but I wasn’t
Popular Science1 min lettiPsychology
Horseplay—or Not?
HUMANS DON’T HAVE A MONOPOLY ON horsing around. Animals of all sorts use play to prepare for real-world situations—but their shenanigans can look pretty different from ours. You might catch baby rats mischievously battling to figure out how to fight,
Popular Science1 min letti
Dune Buddy
Electronic monitors in places like the front wheels and gearbox keep tabs on traction in real time. The driver selects one of four terrain modes—such as mud, rock, or trail—and the computer doles out just the right amount of power to each 30-inch tir
Popular Science1 min letti
How To Create A True Game Of Chance
LINDA SOHM, CO-OWNER OF MIDWEST GAME SUPPLY COMPANY The dice in your Monopoly set aren’t as random as you think. The black dots that number each side are hollow, so faces with more spots weigh less. When you roll, it’s more likely that a heavier side
Popular Science2 min letti
One Chair, Five Ways
THE PARALYMPICS—SO CALLED for the Greek prefix para, meaning “alongside”—give elite disabled athletes the chance to compete at the highest level. Not all contenders in the games, which typically run after the Olympics, use wheelchairs, but those who
Popular Science1 min letti
Turf Wars
Arrange the rubberwood pieces from the Kubb Empire standard size set into two rows, 26 feet apart. Players hurl six batons at their opponent’s formation until they’ve knocked over all the blocks. Then they can fire at the king in the middle of the pi
Popular Science1 min letti
We Are (all) The Champions
MICHELLE CLEERE, ELITE PERFORMANCE EXPERT I specialize in helping athletes develop mental skills to face challenges both in their sports and in life. I try to emphasize to my clients, most of whom are between the ages of 11 and 15, that they have to
Popular Science1 min lettiPsychology
There’s No Place Like Home
ATHLETES TEND TO DO BETTER on their own turf. But the factors that create the mythical home-field advantage are still somewhat mysterious. Referee bias, lack of travel-related fatigue, and the morale boost of fan attendance may contribute, yet expert
Popular Science1 min letti
Baby Driver Grows Up
Attached to a metal shaft, the forged steel head was about the same size and weight as its contemporary wooden cousins, but differed in one key way: It was hollow. That configuration kept the mass at the perimeter, making the club slightly more forgi
Popular Science1 min letti
Making Fetch Happen
KATIE LIM, DIRECTOR OF TOY DESIGN FOR SUPER CHEWER Appealing to a dog’s natural instinct to hunt is a great way to get them to have fun. We test all the contents we send to our BarkBox subscribers by observing pups in play sessions. We look for a lot
Popular Science3 min lettiSociety
Who Should Get To Compete As A Woman?
JOANNA HARPER’S RESEARCH STARTED NOT IN A LAB, but on the track. Though she didn’t have a background in sports science—she held a master’s in medical physics, and her work involved tailoring cancer radiation treatments—she was an athlete in a unique
Popular Science12 min letti
Hell? Yes!
It is 10°F outside of the wood-beamed shelter at St. Croix State Park, a 34,000-acre pine-and-oak expanse in eastern Minnesota. Hell, it’s cold inside, despite two fireplaces blazing, their smoke pulled into flared metal chimneys that resemble the bu
Popular Science1 min letti
Why Disney’s Massive Lines Feel So Short
WAITING IN LINE CAN TEST EVEN the most patient person, but the happiest place on earth can make the longest of queues fly by. All it takes is these three tricks of the mind—no Disney magic necessary. When you wait for Space Mountain, for example, wal
Popular Science2 min letti
How Will We Keep Astronauts Entertained?
THE LUCKY RESIDENTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL Space Station pull 12-hour shifts, including two and a half hours of gym time and six and a half hours of lab work, among other duties. They sleep eight hours, leaving another four for goofing off in zero grav
Popular Science3 min lettiPsychology
The Dolls That Changed The World
WHEN SCIENTISTS BRING dolls into the lab, the toys transcend their role as playthings. They can expose racism and unleash aggression. The humanoid forms are easy to identify with, allowing them to serve as scientific stand-ins and therapeutic compani
Popular Science2 min letti
Gaming The System
WHETHER IT’S BANKRUPTING your family in Monopoly or securing the last victory point against your buddies in Settlers of Catan, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of board-game triumph. We’ve collected experts’ best tips and tricks so you can domi
Popular Science2 min lettiPsychology
Does Practice Really Make Perfect?
IN 1993, SWEDISH psychologist K. Anders Ericsson set out to find the secret to turning a typical teen into a violin virtuoso. His answer? Practice: 10,000 hours of it. The figure, a simple average of a few prodigies’ regimens, stuck; journalist and a
Popular Science10 min letti
Kandy-kolored, Streamlined, And Definitely Around The Bend
It was the first Saturday of December 2018—tournament day—and he thought the cars he’d built could outperform anyone’s. They were compact. Sleek. Speedy. He watched anxiously as his pinewood derby racers took their spots at the top of a long, sloping
Popular Science1 min letti
Mind Over Muscle
IN THE 1996 FILM SPACE JAM, Bugs Bunny supplies his demoralized Looney Tunes teammates with Michael Jordan’s “Secret Stuff,” which delivers the boost they need to win the game. But unbeknownst to Daffy and the gang, it’s just water. The scene depicts
Popular Science1 min letti
What Fun Things Did We Learn Making This Issue?
PopSci’s team of fact-checkers makes sure that the big stories we print jibe with the evidence. In the process they often dig up some knowledge nuggets that normally wouldn’t make it to press. Here are their favorites. “Surfing’s Big Break,” page 60
Popular Science2 min letti
Anatomy Of A Laugh
THE OLDEST KNOWN JOKE DATES BACK NEARLY 4,000 years, and it’s a fart gag. The fact that we’ve been crackin’ wise for so long suggests there’s something innate about the need to laugh. Heck—chimps, rats, and perhaps even dolphins do it. Neuroscientist
Popular Science1 min lettiScience
What Happens When We Daydream?
IN THE MIDAFTERNOON slog of spreadsheets and deadlines, we tend to conjure up more pleasant scenes, like lush beaches with generously poured margaritas. How can our minds suddenly fly thousands of miles while our bodies remain tethered to office cubi
Popular Science1 min letti
Explain Game Theory Like I’m 5
THREE SLICES OF FRESH APPLE PIE SIT ON THE kitchen counter, and you and a trio of buddies are drooling over them. What do you do? Try to grab a piece right away, and you risk a tussle with a pal who makes the same move. Hesitate, and you might get no
Popular Science10 min letti
Surfing’s Big Break
ONE OF THE BEST SURF SPOTS in the United States to practice aerial tricks is in central Texas, some 200 miles from the Gulf Coast. On a brisk December day at the BSR Surf Resort, Caroline Marks was ripping a front-side air reverse. Aquamarine water s
Popular Science1 min letti
Behind The Cover
• The Rube Goldberg machine above is not the first that art and photography duo The Voorhes have created. But building one composed exclusively of playthings that fit on an 8-foot-by-8-foot bright-yellow wall while still leaving room for the text on
Popular Science2 min letti
What Makes Quiz Shows Timeless?
ON JANUARY 14, 2020, three Jeopardy! masterminds duked it out for a hefty cash prize and the title of Greatest of All Time. More than 13 million viewers watched Ken Jennings eke out a victory on the final clue. His response to a prompt for Shakespear
Popular Science2 min letti
Lane Brains
No matter how hard you try to spin the house balls at your local bowling joint, they rarely curve. That’s because they are simple spheres built for durability, not fancy moves. But a small handful of companies—among them Storm Bowling—create gear tha
Popular Science1 min lettiPsychology
Why Did We Evolve To Goof Off?
Playful behavior can help a species survive. Adult bonobos, for example, seem to make silly faces as a way of reducing tension with potential mates. Similarly, male polar bears sometimes fake-fight, which may help them to gauge the limits of their ow
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