| Popular Science https://www.popsci.com/ Awe-inspiring science reporting, technology news, and DIY projects. Skunks to space robots, primates to climates. That's Popular Science, 145 years strong. Thu, 08 Jun 2023 01:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://www.popsci.com/uploads/2021/04/28/cropped-PSC3.png?auto=webp&width=32&height=32 | Popular Science https://www.popsci.com/ 32 32 Citizen scientists have taken photos of this boulder every year for three decades https://www.popsci.com/environment/exxon-spill-rock-alaska/ Thu, 08 Jun 2023 01:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546330
In 2022, rockweed was flourishing again.
In 2022, rockweed was flourishing again. Photo by David Janka/NOAA

In 1990, a scientist began visually documenting Prince William Sound’s recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. When funding ran out, volunteers took over.

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In 2022, rockweed was flourishing again.
In 2022, rockweed was flourishing again. Photo by David Janka/NOAA

This article was originally featured on Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at hakaimagazine.com.

David Janka stands at the helm of the Auklet, an 18-meter charter boat that’s traveled Alaska’s waters longer than the region has been an American state. It’s the peak of summer as he putters into Snug Harbor, a shallow curve in a shoreline of Knight Island walled by towering cliffs and stands of cedar, spruce, and hemlock. He steers toward the beach, aiming for a potato-shaped rock the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. He’s here to take its picture.

For 33 years, someone has traveled here each summer to photograph the unassuming boulder, nicknamed Mearns Rock. Collectively, the photos are an unexpected offshoot of one of the United States’ worst environmental disasters.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground on Bligh Reef, dumping 40 million liters of thick black crude into Prince William Sound. Oil spread to Snug Harbor, 80 kilometers away. Mearns Rock and all its marine denizens were “totally painted in oil,” says Alan Mearns, the rock’s eponym, who worked on the hazmat team for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the spill’s aftermath.

Fossil Fuels photo
Just two years after being coated in crude oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, this Volkswagen Beetle–sized boulder boasted a healthy crop of rockweed. Photo by Alan Mearns/NOAA

During the cleanup, Exxon crews and contractors power washed oil off shorelines into the ocean, where it was easier to corral. But the effort also ripped away marine life.

“Our concern immediately became, Is a cleanup going to be worse than leaving the oil on?” says Mearns.

In the end, Exxon washed some sections of the coast and left others untreated. Mearns Rock remained oiled. For the next decade, Mearns and a team of NOAA chemists and biologists returned to dozens of sites in the region to assess the ecosystem’s recovery from oil exposure and power washing. Mearns started photographing these research visits, using boulders like Mearns Rock as landmarks. When the larger study ended, Mearns and his NOAA colleague John Whitney secured funding to keep taking yearly photos until 2012. Since then, the project has survived on the enthusiasm of volunteers like Janka, who now consistently photograph eight of the original sites, stopping in when they’re nearby. The dedicated group has included skippers, scientists, and local coast guard volunteers.

Side by side, the 33 images of Mearns Rock look like a collection of a child’s yearly school photos. In one, the boulder boasts a thick topper of rockweed. Another year, it’s buzz-cut bare, followed by a stubbly growth of barnacles the next summer. Together, the photos demonstrate the dynamism of the intertidal zone, where mussels, barnacles, and seaweed clamor for real estate.

“There’s a lot that we can learn from a simple picture,” says Scott Pegau, a research manager at the Oil Spill Recovery Institute in Cordova, Alaska. This June, during an aerial herring survey, he’ll dock his floatplane in Shelter Bay, 20 kilometers southwest of Snug Harbor, to photograph two refrigerator-sized boulders named Bert and Ernie.

Fossil Fuels photo
By 1994, the seaweed had died back and mussels were elbowing in. Photo by Alan Mearns/NOAA

The decades-long photo series is also helping researchers understand the region’s natural variability, where the intertidal zone changes from boulder to boulder, bay to bay, year to year.

While mussels and barnacles rebounded to natural numbers within a few years of the spill, not all species were so lucky. Several populations still haven’t recovered, including a local killer whale pod. To this day, when Janka has guests on the Auklet, he can stop at certain beaches and find pockets of toxic oil just a spoonful of sand beneath the surface.

Janka has been intimately familiar with the oil spill since the night of the Exxon Valdez wreck. He shuttled journalists into the disaster zone during the five frenzied days after the spill, and he met Mearns when NOAA later hired him to ferry scientists to their sites. Though he retired from chartering this year, Janka plans to return to Mearns Rock to snap another photo this summer.

The Exxon Valdez proved to Janka the power of visual documentation. So many positive things happened because images of the spill were passed around the world, he says. The US government implemented oil spill legislation, formed citizen councils to oversee Prince William Sound’s oil industry, and legislated double-hulled tankers. “I don’t think that would have happened if there weren’t photographs,” he says.

Fossil Fuels photo
In 2002, barnacles dominated the rock’s surface. Photo by Alan Mearns/NOAA

The ongoing project feels less attached to the 1989 oil spill and more focused on the future, says Mearns, who retired from NOAA in 2018 but continues to steward the photo collection. Prince William Sound has made a tentative recovery but could be devastated again. Alaska’s waters are warming, new species are moving north, and rising seas are pushing the intertidal zone up the shoreline. A citizen council just flagged the Valdez oil terminal in Prince William Sound as an “unacceptable safety risk.” Who knows what the next 33 years will bring? The team is actively looking for volunteer photographers to keep the project running.

“I turn 80 this summer. I keep thinking, well, maybe I should back off. But I can’t. It’s fun,” Mearns says. As long as his friends keep sending photos, he’ll keep building the boulder albums, checking out each rock’s latest look as he adds another photo to the end of the line.

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified those responsible for cleaning the beaches. Exxon hired the crews that power washed oil off shorelines, not NOAA.

This article first appeared in Hakai Magazine and is republished here with permission.

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What to know about the anti-air missiles the US is sending to Ukraine https://www.popsci.com/technology/ukraine-us-anti-air-missiles/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 21:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546798
An AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile seen in Nevada in 2013.
An AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile seen in Nevada in 2013. Brett Clashman / US Air Force

The weapons include the AIM-7 Sparrow, a guided missile with a long history. It can be carried by an F-16.

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An AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile seen in Nevada in 2013.
An AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile seen in Nevada in 2013. Brett Clashman / US Air Force

On May 31, the Department of Defense announced $300 million worth of additional military aid to Ukraine. In this latest package are four kinds of anti-air missiles—meaning missiles meant to shoot down threats in the air—including the AIM-7 air-to-air missile.

The Air Intercept Missile-7 (AIM-7) Sparrow is a guided missile with its origins in the 1940s. It saw its first deployment in 1958, though the missiles of that era are a far cry from the weapons deployed today. The modern version, AIM-7M, substantially improved from early days, has been in service since 1982. It’s used by the US, NATO allies like Italy, Spain, Canada, and others, as well as countries like Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.

The AIM-7 is carried by aircraft to destroy other aircraft. In the May 31 package authorized for Ukraine, it is joined by three ground-based anti-air systems. These include Patriot missiles, which can target planes or cruise missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which are human portable and especially useful against low-flying targets like attack helicopters or strafing jets, and Avenger air defense systems. The Avenger mounts multiple Stinger launchers on a turret on the back of a HMMWV (better known as a Humvee) vehicle, and pairs those weapons with a heavy .50 caliber machine gun. This gives it range and flexibility against both aircraft in Stinger range, as well as a cheaper weapon that can hit other flying enemies, like small drones.

“Russia has continued to wage a brutal, completely unprovoked war against Ukraine, launching yet more airstrikes and bombarding Ukrainian cities across the country,” said National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby during a briefing at the White House. The release from the Pentagon paired that statement with the note that Russia recently launched 17 separate air assaults against Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in May.

“One of Ukraine’s most urgent requirements is ground-based air defense,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in the same briefing. “And this contact group will continue driving hard to help Ukraine defend the skies. In recent weeks, Russia has intensified its sordid bombardment of Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. And the Kremlin’s cruelty only underscores Ukraine’s need for a stronger, layered ground-based air defense architecture.”    

The three ground-based air defenses make sense in light of this specific call. The AIM-7, which fits into an overall approach of arming Ukraine against Russian aircraft, requires aircraft to launch it. This May, several months after Ukrainian’s president Zelensky asked for artillery, tanks, planes, and Patriot missiles, the Biden administration joined other nations in agreeing to provide F-16 fighter-bombers to the country. These single-engine fighters, used widely across the world, are more than capable of carrying AIM-7 missiles, and while the US models may feature more advanced weapons, the AIM-7 is able to get the job done.

While the exterior form of the Sparrow has remained largely the same for its decades of service, how the missile finds and tracks targets has changed massively over the years. The first Sparrow missiles “used a beam-riding guidance system, in which an aircraft’s fire-control radar would lock on to a target and the missile would fly along the radar beam,” wrote Norman Friedman, in a history of the weapon. That fixed-beam path meant pilots had to keep their plane and radar directed in the same path as when they fired the weapon. It was a plausible use case for jets against propeller-powered bombers, but locking a pilot into a fixed route against a maneuvering plane like an enemy jet would render the missile easily beatable.

In April 1959, Popular Science boasted of an early improvement to the Sparrow III, noting the supersonic guided missiles “packs 50 percent more wallop than its predecessor.” Sparrow IIIs saw action in Vietnam, but the missiles were designed as a way for fighter pilots to shoot down bombers beyond visual line of sight. Over the skies of Vietnam, instead, pilots encountered fast flying and turning fighters.  

The AIM-7M version in use today uses better radar and maneuvering, allowing it to track targets more closely and without requiring the firing jet to maintain a lock on the target. It’s a weapon that had success when used by US pilots in 1990’s Persian Gulf War, and one that would likely prove straightforward to use by Ukraine, once the weapon is attached to planes that can launch it.

This latest military aid is the 39th transfer of such equipment to the country, dating back to August 2021, when Ukraine’s war was limited to reclaiming the Donbas. That was before Russia’s full invasion in February 2022 transformed the ongoing war into an existential threat to Ukraine.

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Just about every type of Citizen watch is on-sale at Amazon right now https://www.popsci.com/gear/citizen-watch-amazon-fathers-day-deals/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 14:55:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546184
Citizen watch deal for father's day
Stan Horaczek

Just about every style of Citizen watch has a real discount right now.

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Citizen watch deal for father's day
Stan Horaczek

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Lots of watch “deals” you see online aren’t really deals at all. They look like bargains because stores sell models well below their original (and unrealistic) suggested retail prices. Right now, however, Amazon has some genuinely good deals on some really handsome Citizen watches. And, if you’re a Prime subscriber, you can still get most of them with plenty of time to spare, making them one of the more perfect Father’s Day gifts. We’ve picked out some of our favorites that have really solid discounts going right now:

Citizen Men’s Sport Luxury Eco-Drive Chronograph Watch $211 (Was $356)

Citizen

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Weekender Garrison Field Watch $114 (Was $225)

Citizen

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Citizen Men’s Classic Corso Eco-Drive Watch, Chronograph $178 (Was $395)

Citizen

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Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver Mens Watch $247 (Was $425)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Sport Casual Brycen Weekender Chronograph Watch $175 (Was $375)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Corso Classic Watch in Stainless Steel with Brown Leather strap $189 (Was $325)

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Citizen Men’s Sport Casual Brycen Eco-Drive Chronograph Watch, Super Titanium $287 (Was $575)

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Citizen Watches Men’s CA0621-05L Eco-Drive $133 (Was $190)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Sport Casual Brycen Weekender Chronograph Watch $197 (Was $375)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Weekender Garrison Field Watch in Black IP Stainless Steel with Brown Leather strap $130 (Was $295)

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Citizen Men’s Sport Casual Garrison 3-Hand Day/Date Eco-Drive Nylon Strap $144 (Was $206)

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Citizen Men’s Classic Eco-Drive Leather Strap Watch $136 (Was $195)

Citizen Eco-Drive Weekender Mens Watch, Stainless Steel with Polyurethane Strap $143 (Was $275)

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Citizen Men’s Promaster Sea Automatic Polyurethane Strap Watch $305 (Was $575)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Weekender Garrison Field Watch in Stainless Steel, Black Dial $167 (Was $250)

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Citizen Men’s Promaster Sailhawk Eco-Drive Watch $297 (Was $550)

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Citizen Men’s Sport Casual Garrison 3-Hand Eco-Drive Cordura Strap $203 (Was $295)

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Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Classic Watch in Super Titanium with Atomic Timekeeping $417 (Was $596)

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Citizen Men’s Sport Casual Avion Eco-Drive Chronograph Watch $252 (Was $395)

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Citizen Corso Eco-Drive Men’s Watch $256 (Was $395)

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Citizen Men’s Sport Casual Avion Eco-Drive Chronograph Watch $210 (Was $300)

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Citizen Men’s Promaster Dive Eco-Drive Watch $275 (Was $550)

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The best patio furniture in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/story/reviews/best-patio-furniture/ Tue, 20 Jul 2021 11:15:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/story/?p=279756
best patio furniture for dining
Arcwind, Unsplash

The best patio furniture complements your aesthetic, lifestyle, and surroundings.

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best patio furniture for dining
Arcwind, Unsplash

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Best wicker wicker patio furniture set with blue cushions Tangkula Patio Furniture Set 3 Piece
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Wicker patio furniture is a timeless, weather-enduring, and aesthetically pleasing pick to complete your outdoor space—this cushioned and sleek set certainly fits the bill.

Best metal cushioned rocking chairs SOLAURA 3-Piece Outdoor Rocking Chairs Bistro Set
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Ergonomically-designed for support and comfort, this modern set will endure any outdoor conditions without fading or weathering.

Best budget Outdoor Gear photo Grand Patio Premium Steel Bistro Set
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Stylish patio furniture doesn’t need to break the bank—this simplistic and rust-resistant pick is durable, yet affordable.

There’s nothing quite like spending time on the patio. Not only is breathing in fresh air good for your health, but relaxing outside, or laughing with friends and family while you dine under the stars really rejuvenates your being. To be able to do it all in your own backyard is just the icing on the cake. Your particular parameters—from size to climate to your aesthetic—will determine which outdoor furniture suits your space best. The best patio furniture will enhance your outdoor space and your experience.

How we chose the best patio furniture

Shopping for the best patio furniture is an exciting time. Think of your outdoor space as an extension of your indoor space, decor-wise. Once you’ve set it up to your liking, though, be warned: Neighbors, friends, and family won’t be able to stay away. Whether you want patio dining furniture or patio lounge furniture, prefer vintage wicker patio furniture or rustic wrought iron furniture, there are plenty of options. If you like a more mix-and-match vibe, shopping for individual pieces will help execute that vision. On the other hand, if you want a one-stop-shop, there are beautiful outdoor furniture sets to give you a cohesive look. If this area is going to be a focal point in your home and you want to be able to enjoy it season after season, invest in more durable materials. With that said, if you’re on a budget, you don’t need to break the bank. Always buy what you can afford. 

The best patio furniture: Reviews & Recommendations

Best wicker: Tangkula Patio Furniture Set 3 Piece

Amazon

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Natural wicker patio furniture can be very difficult to care for, and plenty expensive. And the all-weather, synthetic stuff has come a long way. Imagine having your morning coffee, reading the paper or having lunch at this dreamy set made from eco-friendly rattan—a.k.a. synthetic polyethylene wicker. It has the look of the natural stuff but is hardy enough for outdoors—has a pretty weave that can also stand up to any kind of precipitation. So can the all-weather cushions, which are detachable and machine-washable. 

Best metal: SOLAURA 3-Piece Outdoor Rocking Chairs Bistro Set

Amazon

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This high-quality metal patio furniture set is perfect for your patio, the porch, or poolside. Sure to last, the frame is made of rust-resistant painted iron, the table top is made of tempered glass, and the cushions are quick-drying. The ergonomically designed rocking chairs provide comfort and support, and the sponge cushions—offered in brown, gray, and red—are waterproof and fade-resistant. Additionally, there’s a fixed button clip to attach the cushions to the chair so there will be no sliding off of these bad boys, nor will the wind come and take them away. 

Best plastic: Keter Furniture Patio Chairs

Amazon

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If you’re a fan of mixing and matching furniture, this plastic patio furniture may work well for you. The chairs come in turquoise, gray, and white, and at 24 pounds each, they’re light enough to move around from your patio to your porch to your fire pit. The maintenance-free resin used to make these chairs is rustproof and weatherproof, so you can enjoy them year after year. As a bonus, there’s a built-in cup holder. Score! 

Best aluminum: GDF Studio Nealie Patio 4 Piece Outdoor Aluminum Chat Set

Amazon

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This gorgeous patio furniture set is perfect for lounging around with a good book or hosting happy hour with friends. It includes four pieces: a loveseat, two armchairs, and a table. The frame of the chairs is made of powder-coated aluminum, which resists rust and UV light; and the table is constructed from sturdy faux wood. Not only are the thick polyester cushions comfortable and cozy, they’re easy to clean, should one of those cocktails from happy hour spill.

Best budget: Grand Patio Premium Steel Bistro Set

Amazon

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This inexpensive patio set is the epitome of shabby chic. The frame is made from powder-coated steel, making it durable and rust-resistant. While the bars on the seat and back of the chairs are wide to offer some comfort, they won’t be as cushy as the more expensive sets. However, if a cheap patio furniture set that will last for multiple seasons is what you’re after, this is a great option. It’s offered in black, blue, red, mint, peacock blue, and yellow. 

Things to consider when shopping for the best patio furniture

When shopping for the best patio furniture, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration.  You want pieces that fit your space. There is so much available that you can absolutely find something that enhances your yard but doesn’t take over. Ask yourself what you’ll be doing more of: lounging or dining. This will determine whether lounge chairs, a three-piece set, a patio umbrella, or a dining set is the best option. If your indoor furniture is modern, consider extending that to your outdoor domain to create a cohesive style throughout. Lastly, your climate should determine what types of materials you pick, which will then give you an idea of pricing. 

The more weatherproof and durable your furniture is, the more expensive it will be; on the upside, it will last longer. The finer materials withstand climate changes and keep pests away. Similar to your indoor furniture, outdoor furniture can be an investment, and knowing you’re buying quality that will last year after year should ease your mind (if not your wallet).

Fabric and metal

Regardless of whether you plan to put your outdoor furniture in storage during the colder months, you’ll want all-weather patio furniture to withstand all the elements. The three best materials for outdoor furniture are wood, synthetic, and metal. What you choose will be based on your style preferences and lifestyle, as some require more care than others. For something low maintenance, teak wood is your best bet, as it can withstand even the harshest environments. (To maintain its color, just apply a teak protector.) Synthetics, a.k.a. plastic furniture, are the cheapest option. All-weather wicker looks nice and is easy to clean, and metal furniture, especially aluminum, resists rust and moisture damage. An additional way to protect your outdoor furniture is to use waterproof covers when it’s not in use. 

FAQs

Q: Why is patio furniture so expensive? 

Patio furniture is so expensive because of the quality of the materials used. Since the furniture sits outside, it needs to be able to withstand changes in weather; everything down to the screws should be rust-resistant and weatherproof. While it may seem like you’re dropping a pretty penny, your patio setup will last longer if it’s made of iron, aluminum, or teak. 

Q: What type of outdoor furniture is most durable? 

Metal outdoor furniture is more durable than wood or plastics. Wrought iron is the most durable and long-lasting type of outdoor furniture you can buy. It is also the heaviest. It’s been known to last decades, so it’s a great investment that you’ll be able to enjoy summer after summer. A close second is aluminum, which is extremely durable, lighter in weight, and more affordable. Natural wicker patio furniture tends to get degraded by weather the most quickly.

Q: How long should patio furniture last? 

Depending on the maintenance, materials, and climate, patio furniture can last more than 15 years. There’s no exact timeline because there are so many types of outdoor furniture, but you’ll know when it’s time for a replacement:  when the materials start to break down. If you live in a colder climate and don’t have storage space, look into purchasing covers to keep your outdoor pieces protected. 

A final word on shopping for the best patio furniture

Shopping for the best patio furniture brings you one step closer to realizing your outdoor oasis dreams. Consider what you can afford, but know that this is an investment that could potentially last for nearly two decades! Material is key, but your aesthetic is just as important, so as long as you find something that fits your vibe and is also durable, rust-resistant, and weatherproof, you can’t go wrong. Just be sure to purchase enough seating for your friends and family, because your house is going to become the one where everyone wants to be. All that’s missing is to get one of the best patio heaters, so you can enjoy your outdoor space even when it’s colder.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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The best beach chairs of 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-beach-chairs/ Mon, 10 May 2021 14:59:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=363408
best beach chairs
Şahin Sezer Dinçer, Unsplash

Chillout, wherever you are, with the best beach chairs on the market.

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best beach chairs
Şahin Sezer Dinçer, Unsplash

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Best backpack chair Blue floral backpack beach chair Tommy Bahama Backpack Cooler Beach Chair
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A built-in cooler and flip-over pillow let you fully relax at the beach.

Best beach hammock Desert stripes beach hammock with steel stand and carrying bad Best Choice Brazilian-Style Hammock
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This hammock easily folds for even easier transportation.

Best budget Yellow light weighted beach and camping chair Coleman Camping Chair
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Keep it simple with this lightweight, cheap beach chair

We’ve all done it: We go to the beach, bringing only a towel. “I can shape the sand into a sort of ground chair,” we tell ourselves, but it never really works out that way. So, instead of sinking into disappointment, grab a chair. The best beach chairs will allow you to enjoy the scenery, while also being durable and portable. Whether you’re on the best beach in the Pacific or in your yard next to the baby pool, take time to find the right size, style, and type of chair to best suit your needs.

How we chose the best beach chairs

When you’re shopping for the best beach chair, you want to be sure to snag a chair that will bring you hours of comfort, be durable enough to last at least through the summer, and be lightweight and collapsible for easy transport. Finding the best beach gear means asking yourself how and where you will be spending your time. If you plan on camping in a rustic, wooded coastal area, it may make sense to bring a portable beach hammock or easy-to-carry camping beach chair. If you have a smaller car or will be traveling on public transportation to your beach destination, you’ll want to opt for a smaller, low-profile beach chair—all the better if it has backpack straps.

The best beach chairs: Reviews & Recommendations

Best backpack chair: Tommy Bahama Backpack Cooler Beach Chair

Tommy Bahama

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This Tommy Bahama beach chair is a folding chair that allows for five reclining positions, as well as a pillow for sneaky naps. The backpack beach chair’s insulated cooler bag keeps snacks cool and free of sand.

Best zero-gravity chair: Amazon Basics Outdoor Zero-Gravity Lounge Folding Chair

Amazon Basics

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This sturdy zero-gravity folding chair will work at the beach, thanks to rust- and weather-resistant materials. Unlike some others, this option also includes padded armrests and a pillow to support your neck.

Best beach hammock: Best Choice Brazilian-Style Hammock

Best Choice Products

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This beach hammock comes with a stand, as well as a carrying case; the stand disassembles with no tools needed, so you can pack up and move it around if necessary. It comes in several colors, too, if you want to coordinate with your bathing suit.

Best camping chair: Helinox Sunset Chair

Helinox

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This camping chair packs all kinds of beach-friendly features, including UV-resistant ripstop fabric and a zippered carrying case. But it’s also only 3.5 pounds in weight, which, as for all the best camping chairs, makes it perfect for carrying around.

Best budget: Coleman Camping Chair

Coleman

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This highly rated, powder-coated, steel, low-profile Coleman chair weighs in at only 5.3 pounds. This folding chair comes with its own carrying bag for easy transportation and includes some storage options (a mesh pocket in the back, and a cup holder on the seat) as well.

Things to consider when buying the best beach chair

There are also some extra features to beach chairs that might make your day all the more relaxing, from cooler packs to cup holders and cellphone pouches. For ultimate comfort, there are even zero-gravity-style chairs, which allow you to recline and raise your feet.

Related: Grab the best beach umbrella to shade yourself from the sun’s harsh rays.

Looking for a chair and backpack combo?

A day at the beach will include, at minimum, a comfortable chair, a few snacks and drinks, and your towel. The easier it is to carry all of this, the more easy and carefree your day will be. The best backpack beach chairs include straps that make carrying your beach haul incredibly easy. Look for backpack chairs that are adjustable, allowing for reclining flat for naps, or sitting upright for eating and watching the waves. The best backpack beach chairs—these will be folding chairs—will have some fun extras built in to help you relax and minimize the overall amount of beach day packing you need to do. Look for built-in pillows, cup holders, and more; our recommendation even includes a foldable towel rack.

Looking for a chair that will be comfortable for your back?

The best beach chairs will be comfortable for all-day lounging and relaxing. So-called zero-gravity chairs distribute weight evenly and allow you to recline so that your legs are above the height of your heart. These are just about the comfiest patio chairs out there, and some of them will work just as well on the sand. In order for a zero-gravity chair to work as a folding beach chair, it must be fully collapsible and be made from durable, UV-resistant materials. Be sure to check with the manufacturer for size guides and weight limits. Some zero-gravity beach chairs even have extra features like padding, cup holders, and canopies to shade you from the sun.

Get a jealousy-inducing nap with a beach hammock

Few images conjure up quintessential relaxation more than stretching out in a hammock. While it may seem silly to bring a hammock to a crowded public beach, you’d be surprised how often you can use one on vacation: wooded beach areas, parks, lakes, and forests are all ideal for hammocks. The best beach hammock will be lightweight and easily packed, with a device that makes it easy to construct. Most portable hammocks are designed to hang between two trees, but if that doesn’t seem likely, you can find one with a stand, too. In that case, look for a stand that’s designed to be taken apart and transported. Often these stands even come with a travel bag with a shoulder strap to make carrying and moving easier. With their flexible fabric design, hammocks are a great choice if you think you might want to catch a nap. 

Looking for a chair that’s easy to carry?

For most of us, going to the beach involves lugging. You’re going to have to carry stuff—a lot of stuff—down to the sand. The best camping chairs are designed with this obstacle in mind. These have to be lightweight, because they’re going to be carried, sometimes over long distances. Nobody has to know that you’re actually reading a book on the beach, not trekking through the wilderness, in a camping beach chair. Look for camping beach chairs with tall backs; not all have this, and you’ll want to rest your head. Consider materials that are both washable and ventilated for warm summer days. 

Looking for beach chairs on a budget? 

Fortunately, there are plenty of budget folding beach chairs on the market. You’ll have to give up some features and styles; don’t bank on grabbing a zero-gravity chair or one with a high-tech folding camping frame for under $50. But there are still great options. Make sure to look for UV-resistant materials, which will keep the fabric from stretching and becoming brittle in the sun. These chairs may be affordable, but that doesn’t mean you want to replace them too often.

FAQs

Q: Are zero-gravity chairs good for the beach?

Zero-gravity chairs are good for the beach, but not all of them. These chairs are typically made of tough, weather- and water-resistant materials, and, of course, they’re super comfortable. But some of these chairs can be exceedingly heavy, which really reduces their utility as beach chairs. Look for UV-resistant fabrics, a lightweight (ideally 12 pounds or less), and rust-proof coating on any metal bits.

Q: Why are beach chairs so low to the ground?

Beach chairs are low to the ground to allow for more stability and comfort. When seated on top of the sand, the surface is soft and sometimes uneven, which can make things a bit…tippy. When low to the ground, your center of gravity also moves lower, making it harder to topple over. Plus, lower chairs have less material, which makes them more portable.

Q: Are camping chairs good for the beach?

The best camping chairs are a great choice for the beach because they are designed to be lightweight, foldable, and easy to carry. But make sure you really look at them: some camping chairs are too minimal, more like stools, and your use case is less about minimizing the weight of a camping pack and more about comfort and relaxation.

Related: Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Final thoughts on the best beach chairs

The best beach chairs will allow you to kick back, relax, and enjoy a full day at the beach. Whether you want to indulge in a zero-gravity chair to feel like a vacationing astronaut, set up a portable hammock, or just grab something lightweight for a long walk to the shore, you’ll find something here to make your beach day great.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best beach chairs of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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The best keypad door locks of 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-keypad-door-locks/ Thu, 30 Sep 2021 17:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=399495
best keypad door locks
Billy Cadden

Stop fumbling with keys and upgrade your home with a keypad door lock.

The post The best keypad door locks of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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best keypad door locks
Billy Cadden

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best Electronic Front Door Lock Schlage Camelot Keypad Deadbolt is the best electronic front door lock. Schlage Camelot Keypad Deadbolt
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Lots of advanced features make this a winner.

Best with WiFi Schlage Encode Deadbolt Smart Lock is the best Wi-Fi keypad door lock. Schlage Encode Deadbolt Smart Lock
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A robust mobile app offers ample control.

Best Electronic Deadbolt Kwikset Powerbolt Electronic Keyless Entry Deadbolt is the best electronic deadbolt door lock. Kwikset Powerbolt Electronic Keyless Entry Deadbolt
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Never forget to lock your door again.

Keypad door locks, once popular in commercial settings, have quickly gained traction in recent years with homeowners. The devices add convenience by eliminating the need to fumble with keys to get inside, and also allow homeowners to grant access to friends and family by programming temporary passcodes.

The best keypad door locks can also make your home more secure. Some, for example, automatically lock the door when you or a family member forget to flip the bolt. For even greater control, there are smart keypad door locks that allow you to remotely lock and unlock the door, program pass codes, and even track who’s coming and going. With so many options available, it can be difficult to find the right one. In this guide, we’ll review the factors you should consider when shopping for the best keypad door lock. 

How we chose the best keypad door locks 

We looked at a variety of factors while assessing dozens of keypad door locks options. We considered installation to determine how easily the average DIYer could set up the lock. We also evaulated how easy it was to program (and delete) codes as well as how many different codes the lock supported. 

A good keypad door lock shouldn’t require an IT pro to get it online and running, so we looked at how compatible the device was with smart devices, smart home systems, and home automation platforms—as well as ease of setup. Since most keypad door locks use a battery, we considered battery life as well; these devices are supposed to add convenience, not create more work by constantly requiring battery changes. 

Related: Best Doorbell Cameras

The best keypad door locks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best electronic front door lock: Schlage Camelot Keypad Deadbolt

SCHLAGE

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Why it made the cut: In addition to providing the programmability that most keypad entry door locks offer, Camelot also includes attractive add-ons, including its Flex-Lock feature, which stops the bolt from accidentally locking you out. 

Specs

  • WiFi Connectivity: No
  • Exterior Dimensions: 4.25 x 5.5 inches
  • Battery: 9-volt

Pros

  • Flex-Lock feature won’t lock you out
  • Various color options
  • Lighted keypad
  • Easy-to-open lever handle

Cons

  • Can fail in extreme cold

As much as keypads can help, they can also be a hassle: Many will auto-lock you out every time the door closes. Schlange’s Camelot offering features a Flex-Lock setting, which allows the user to stop the bolt from dropping and locking you out. It takes some getting used to (a switch on the interior side needs to be flipped vertically to activate the feature), but it’s definitely very useful. Activating it will stop the door from locking while you’re making trips back and forth to the car to unload groceries—or keep the kids from locking themselves out while they’re playing in the yard. 

The lever-style handle is what perhaps makes this the best electronic front door lock: The grip makes it easy to open the door with a load of groceries in both arms with a well-placed elbow.

Like other keyless entry locks, this model comes with two pre-programmed entry codes, but you can create up to 19 different four-digit ones for guests and kids, which are easy to add and delete. It also includes other necessities, such as an override key (in case you forget the code or the battery dies) and a lighted keypad for easier visibility at night.  And, with its seven finish options, it’s easy to match this doorknob with your own personal decor.  

Best WiFi: Schlage Encode Deadbolt Smart Lock

SCHLAGE

SEE IT

Why it made the cut: This smart deadbolt lock is easy to install and doesn’t require a smart home set up to work. A powerful smartphone app makes this one of the most user-friendly WiFi keypad door locks you can buy. 

Specs

  • WiFi Connectivity: Yes
  • Dimensions: 3 x 5 inches
  • Battery: 4 AA batteries

Pros

  • Does not require a smart hub
  • Numerous programming options via a dedicated app
  • Many finish options

Cons

  • Not compatible with some popular smart home systems

Most WiFi locks require a whole-home smart hub to tap into their wireless features. Not so with this model from Schlage, which allows you to access the lock remotely without going through a smart hub middleman. 

Schlage makes connecting the lock to your network easy—a signature of the best WiFi keypad door lock. Simply scan the QR code in the lock’s battery compartment and enter your WiFi password.  It connects directly to your network, so you can access it via the Encode app or with voice commands through digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also works with the Amazon Key delivery service, which allows you to grant access for couriers. Through the app, you can create up to 100 permanent or temporary access codes, schedule specific start and end times for each code, and get push alerts when the lock is locked or unlocked and by which user. 

The Encode comes in two different trim designs–the more decorative Camelot and the sleek Century–and four different finishes, making it relatively easy to match it to your home’s style. 

Best electronic deadbolt: Kwikset Powerbolt Electronic Keyless Entry Deadbolt

Kwikset

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Why it made the cut: Locks don’t secure anything unless they’re locked. That’s why we love the auto-locking feature that covers for those family members who forget to flip the bolt behind them. 

Specs

  • WiFi Connectivity: No
  • Dimensions: 4.75 x 2.75 inches
  • Battery: 4 AA batteries

Pros

  • Auto-lock feature
  • Affordably priced
  • Four batteries provide long battery life
  • Nifty rekeying feature

Cons

  • Interior panel is a bit oversized

Whether it’s a keypad lock or an old-fashioned manual deadbolt, no lock will work if you forget to lock it. That’s what makes this keyless deadbolt lock from Kwikset the best electronic deadbolt door lock around. It will automatically lock the door after 30 seconds, providing back-up for those absent-minded family members. As with other keypad door locks, the Powerbolt allows you to program multiple user codes (up to six) and then delete them as needed. 

While the attraction of devices like this is taking keys out of the equation, one of the top features of this lock is its manual key backup. It also lets you easily rekey the lock if the event the key gets lost or stolen: Just insert an included tool called the SmartKey and rotate the cylinder to remove and swap it with another Kwikset lock. 

At just 4.75 by 2.75 inches, the Kwikset is also more compact than most of its competition. That’s thanks to a five-button design with two numbers on each (for instance the 1 and 2 share a button) as opposed to the requisite 10. 

Best without a keypad: August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

August Home

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Why it made the cut: By making installation an easy 10-minute job that virtually anyone can handle, August’s smart lock is perhaps the most user-friendly model on the market. 

Specs

  • WiFi Connectivity: Yes
  • Dimensions: 2.8 inches in diameter
  • Battery: 2 CR123 batteries (included)

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • Works with most smart devices and home automation systems
  • Small profile

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Relatively short battery life

The beauty of this innovative smart lock from August Home Store is a design that requires virtually no installation at all. There’s no need to remove your old lock: Simply attach the device over the top of the existing deadbolt inside your home–it’s compatible with most models–then connect it to your WiFi or smart home system. This all takes around 10 minutes. 

You can operate it with a mobile app, most voice assistants, and smart home software such as Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings, and most home automation platforms like those from Logitech and Simplisafe. Unlike previous versions, which required a bridge to connect to the home network, this model features built-in Wi-Fi that eliminates the extra clutter. 

This fourth generation of August’s Wi-Fi smart lock is also trimmer than its predecessors: just 2.8 inches in diameter and 1.8 inches deep. The low-profile design also has other advantages. It installs only on the door’s interior, so there’s no need to worry about matching with your home’s exterior. And, since it doesn’t require any lock changing and is easy to uninstall, it’s one of the only smart door lock options that’s suitable for renters.

Best for a vacation rental: Ultraloq Smart Door Lock

ULTRALOQ

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Why it made the cut: Being able to change lock passcodes from afar and track who is accessing the property are…well…key features that perfectly suit the needs of someone renting vacation property remotely. 

Specs

  • WiFi Connectivity: Yes
  • Exterior Dimensions: 3 inches x 3 inches
  • Battery: 2 CR12

Pros

  • Can change access codes remotely via the app
  • Records access log
  • Can lock and unlock remotely
  • Compatible with digital assistants

 Cons

  • Some plastic parts

With the ability to change all of its settings from a remote location, the Ultraloq Smart Door Lock is probably the best keypad door lock for a vacation rental—especially for those managing properties from afar. While other door locks require the user to program and delete access codes directly from the lock, this one allows you to make changes from its compatible smartphone app, enabling you to give codes to renters, then delete them after they leave. You can also remotely lock and unlock the door. 

The lock connects via WiFi and is compatible with most digital assistants. It also has other useful features that should appeal to those renting out a property, including a complete log of when the lock was locked and unlocked and by whom. It also has an auto-lock feature, preventing irresponsible renters from leaving your property open when they leave. 

The Ultraloq Smart Door Lock features a compact design. It uses a circular code configuration that makes the outdoor panel smaller than other keypad door locks at just 3 inches by 3 inches. There’s also a mechanical key override in case you forget the code. 

What to consider before buying the best keypad door locks

Connectivity

More and more keypad door locks have smart capability, meaning they can connect to WiFi or a smart home hub. Smart keypads give you greater control over the lock, allowing you to lock and unlock the locks remotely, add and remove user codes, access user logs, and even set when codes are and aren’t active.

Battery life

Most but not all keypad door locks run off of batteries. Battery life depends on the keypad lock as well as how often it is used. When shopping for a keypad door lock, consider where it will be used and how often, then check the model’s estimated battery life to determine if it’s right for the job. Many electronic keyless locks will run for between 3 and 5 years on one set of batteries while others may last less than a year. While features such as auto-locking are nice to have, they do put more of a strain on the batteries. 

Extra security features

While some keypads offer a basic setup that allows you to open a lock with a code, others offer features to enhance protection. This includes automatic locking, which flips the lock after about 30 seconds to ensure that you or a family member doesn’t accidentally leave a door unlocked. Some door locks will also disable the keypad after a set number of failed attempts or even set off an alarm to scare away would-be intruders. 

FAQs

Q: How much does a keypad lock cost?

The cost of a keypad lock can vary significantly. Basic battery-powered keypad deadbolt locks run around $50, while high-end smart locks may cost as much as $300. This price difference is due to the fact that smart deadbolts have built-in wireless connectivity. Mid-tier models include keypad door locks with handles, which run for about $100. 

Q: Do keypad locks have batteries?

Most but not all keypad locks use batteries. Keypad locks that automatically turn the bolt when the correct code is entered as well as smart keypad locks require batteries. Manual keypad locks that require you to manually turn the bolt after entering the correct code require no power source, but we’re not recommending any of those. 

Q: Are keypad door locks safe?

Keypad locks are no more or less safe than a standard lock. Since keypad locks have backup keys as a failsafe, both a keypad lock or standard lock can be picked. If you choose a model that connects to your home WiFi, be sure your network is private and secure. 

Final thoughts on the best keypad door locks

If you’re looking to upgrade the locks on your front door, it’s tough to beat the quality and functionality the Schlage Camelot Keypad Deadbolt offers. It gives you added control with the ability to program numerous passcodes while also including a useful Flex Lock feature that helps ensure your door is locked when it should be. If your budget allows you to make the leap into a smart keypad door lock, Schlage’s Encode Deadbolt Smart Lock is easy to set up and is supported by a robust app that gives you refined control over access to your home.  

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best keypad door locks of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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The best cannabis essentials for 2023 https://www.popsci.com/gear/best-cannabis-essentials/ Wed, 19 Apr 2023 20:20:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=534082
A lineup of cannabis essentials on a white background
Amanda Reed

Ditch your bar cart for a cannabis cabinet—and pack it with these essentials.

The post The best cannabis essentials for 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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A lineup of cannabis essentials on a white background
Amanda Reed

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best grinder A Santa Cruz Shredder grinder on a blue and white background Santa Cruz Shredder
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This aircraft-grade aluminum grinder granulates the stickiest of the icky.

Best infuser system LEVO C Levo C
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Create cannabis-rich oils for homemade edibles in an easy and low-key process.

Best handheld vaporizer A silver PAX mini on a blue and white background Pax Mini
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An intuitive ingestion device that’s discreet and direct.

So you want to smoke weed—either for medicinal or recreational purposes—and you’re looking for a place to start. Sure, you could walk into that headshop down the street, but they most definitely sell counterfeit Puff Bars, and you feel a little claustrophobic surrounded by all that expensive glass. Plus, the college kid behind the counter is a little bit too close in age to your own kid. Thankfully, we at Popular Science share how science shows up in our everyday life, and cannabis and its extracts are quite scientific. Consider this an essentials list of what you’ll want to keep on hand for your next sesh, or what to buy to get started. Move over bar cart, cannabis cabinet has entered the chat!

Remember that every state has different laws regarding cannabis use, so check them out before using. Once you can hit “Add To Cart” with confidence, we’ve cultivated Spotify playlist for both sativa and indica strains to help make sure every hit is a hit.

Best rolling tray: Santa Cruz Shredder Hemp Rolling Tray with Spout

Santa Cruz Shredder

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Learning how to roll a joint is a journey all its own, but procuring a solid rolling tray is an essential first step. You can use it as a surface to stuff your cones and pack handheld vaporizers or bowls without getting cannabis everywhere, thanks to high curved edges that prevent mess. A spout makes it easy to put any leftover ground cannabis back into your grinder or storage container. We like this one from Santa Cruz Shredder that has both, and is made of biodegradable hemp. If you’re looking for rolling tray that doubles as decor, we love this glass Keith Haring rolling tray from Higher Standards that could pass as a catch-all plate in your foyer. 

Best rolling papers: Blazy Susan Rolling Papers

Blazy Susan

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The Blazy Susan rolling papers are fun to look at, thanks to their bright pink hue, but they’re also some of the best rolling papers on the market. They’re vegan, non-GMO, and made from high-quality wood pulp. They also burn slowly and evenly, which prevents canoeing. We recommend starting with 1 ¼-inch papers if you’re new to rolling (and we won’t judge you if you pick up some pre-rolled cones, in case of difficulties or time constraints). And if you are inviting like-minded friends over for a social smoke, grab one of the company’s namesake spinning rolling trays (available in colorful plastic and limited edition woods), with its specialized inserts and cuts for every manner of supplies, accessories, and end products.

Best cones: Edie Parker Crush Cones in Excite Mint

Edie Parker Flower

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These aren’t your average cones. These cones from Edie Parker come in a variety of flavors, including peach, grape, strawberry, and banana. We’re personally huge fans of the mint flavor for a cool fresh taste while taking a hit. Simply pack your ground cannabis into the cone, ignite, find the flavor pearl in the filter tip, crush, and inhale. They also are great to pull out and pass around at a party. Of course, if you don’t need a fun flavor with your joint, we love Blazy Susan’s cones. We’re fans of the Shorty size, which makes for a perfect joint for yourself when you’re seshing alone. 

Best handheld vaporizer: PAX Mini

PAX

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There are many benefits to vaporizing cannabis compared to igniting it. Vaporizers use convection, conduction, and sometimes even both to heat your weed to release those sweet terpenes and cannabinoids. The result is better for your lungs and provides a more consistent flavor and aroma. It’s also less stinky than other means of ingestion. You can use the already vaped bud (ABV) in edibles since the vaporizing process decarboxylates, or decarbs, the cannabis. The PAX Mini is our favorite handheld vaporizer and one of the easiest to use. Simply click the top once, wait until the purple light turns green, and inhale. You won’t have to worry about temperature either—the PAX Mini will cool down when not in use and heat up when it’s picked back up. Concentrates might not be your jam (yet!), but the PAX Plus comes with a concentrate chamber to enjoy the wax, shatter, or budder of your choice. Speaking of …

Best for concentrates: Puffco Peak Pro

PuffCo

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Dabbing is cool because it involves torches and fire, but it’s also dangerous for just that reason. The Puffco Peak Pro solves that by ditching the fire, making for a more approachable and beginner-friendly device. The instruction manual is easy to read and follow—you don’t have to be a dabbing expert to use the Peak Pro. It’s also Bluetooth-app enabled for customized temperature and color settings. If you’re looking for something more handheld that’s less expensive, the company’s Proxy Travel Pipe is for you. Its silicone body is shatterproof and comes with a pocket for tools, like a loading tool or a cotton swab for cleaning. 

Best splurge: Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid

Storz & Bickel

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The Rolls Royce of tabletop vaporizers, the Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid is absolutely worth its almost $700 price tag, thanks to its high-quality materials and workmanship that gives you a long service life. The Volcano Classic is cheaper (and just as good), but the temperature dial doesn’t list the actual temperature. The Hybrid changes that, letting you know exactly when it’s warm enough for use. You can choose to ingest via the included Tube Kit (which is a hookah-type hose) or the classic Valve Balloon. If you have an Android phone, you can control the Volcano Hybrid with your phone using the S&B app. We personally only bring out the Volcano Hybrid on special occasions, and it definitely makes for a conversation starter among stoners. 

Best waterpipe: Session Goods Bong

Session Goods

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Waterpipes are usually … kind of ugly. Not the Session Goods Bong, which is modern, durable, and easy to clean. The included cleaning caps and mouth cover prevent spills when you’re cleaning—just fill it with some isopropyl alcohol and a little salt, shake, and you’re all good. The bong itself is made of sturdy borosilicate glass, and a silicon foot cover hides your nasty bong water, acts as a water line, and protects your piece. Two included bowls—small and large—let you choose how much you want to consume. Plus, nine colors let you coordinate your bong to your living room color story. And who doesn’t love color coordination?

Best pipe: Laundry Day Tanjun pipe

Laundry Day

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Pipes are a great introductory tool for beginners, but they aren’t always the prettiest. Laundry’s Day’s Tanjun—and their other collection of smokeware—is meant to be displayed on your coffee table and ogled when passed among friends. It has all the pipe basics—bowl, carb, mouthpiece—and is made of borosilicate glass for toughness. Use the pipe as an incense holder when it’s not in use. 

Best hemp wick: Twisted Bee 100% Organic Hemp Wick

Twisted Bee

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It’s fine to light a bowl with a lighter, but sometimes you don’t want to breathe in the butane it emits. The smoke is much hotter when using a lighter, and it burns off more cannabinoids and terpenes. Hemp wicks solve this problem by being a flame conduit, which creates a cleaner flavor and a more flavorful hit. This one from Twisted Bee uses organic hemp with a natural beeswax coating that doesn’t interfere with your flower’s flavor. You can even use it for crafting. Since you get 200 feet of it, you won’t have to worry about running out. 

Best lighter: Clipper Lighter

Clipper

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Sure, everyone is familiar with the BIC lighter for ignition needs. Step up to a Clipper, which is windproof, water-resistant, and refillable, making it more friendly to the earth compared to its lighter brethren. You can also replace the flint, and there’s a poking tool for packing down hand-rolled cigarettes. Plus, the Clipper wheel is easier to strike compared to BIC lighters.  

Best joint holder: The Clinger

The Clinger

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I personally have dug into my ludicrously capacious bag, the eyes of the group on me, searching for a lighter that is evading my clutches. It’s a humbling experience—one that you don’t have to go through with The Clinger, which is smell-proof, crush-proof, holds a king-sized joint, and hugs your lighter like it’s their friend. It can hold a BIC or a Clipper lighter and fits easily in your pocket. You won’t have to worry about digging for a lighter or accidentally smashing a joint ever again.

Best grinder: Santa Cruz Shredder

Santa Cruz Shredder

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This grinder is made of solid aircraft-grade aluminum and has a scratch-free finish for long-lasting use. Thirty-two diamond-shaped sharp teeth pulverize even the stickiest cannabis to make a fluffy and even grind. We recommend a three-piece grinder that separates the flower from the kief, the potent trichomes that have broken away and separated from the flower. You can use those the add a little zhuzh to your joints and bowls. A magnetic lock system protects your cannabis from moisture and spillage, meaning you can take it to and fro without any worries. It’s a pricey grinder, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Best cleaner: Grand Master Smoke

Grandmaster Smoke

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You can use isopropyl alcohol and a little salt to clean your pieces. However, we’re also fond of Grand Master Smoke. This cleaner has taken the crustiest bongs and turned them good as new. Simply pour the liquid into a large container or leakproof bag, add your piece, wait 1-3 hours (try soaking overnight for heavily used pieces), drain out the excess liquid from the piece, rinse with warm water, and you’re done! It also helps deodorize your pieces so they aren’t so stinky. And no one wants to hit from a stinky bong!

Best 510 battery: Ooze Twist Slim Pen 2.0

Ooze

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I’ve certainly used 510 batteries that work, but aren’t made of quality materials. And who keeps track of that proprietary charger that they all come with? The Ooze Slim Pen can be charged using this proprietary charger, but you can also use a micro USB cable. (Which you probably have a million of around your house). You can draw the pen in two ways: by pressing the button down and inhaling, or just by inhaling thanks to auto draw. It shuts off after 12 minutes of inactivity, saving you battery in the long run. And, you can adjust the voltage for a customized experience

Best infuser system: Levo C

Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

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One of the knocks against making homemade edibles—beyond the ever-growing number of high-quality premade options—is infusing oil or butter with your flower, which can be a smelly operation. Levo’s C is a countertop appliance makes the process easy. All you need to do is fill its herb pod with bud (up to one ounce) and the glass basin with oil or butter (up to one liter). Once your ingredients are set, you place the glass basin onto the Levo C’s heating pad, select a time and temperature, and wait for the infusion to complete. Making infused oil or butter using this method won’t be quicker than a traditional method, but the results will be more consistent since the temperature will be regulated. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about standing around and stirring the flower constantly to ensure a proper result.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best cannabis essentials for 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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What to do when wildfire smoke fills the air https://www.popsci.com/health/how-to-live-with-wildfire-smoke/ Mon, 26 Jul 2021 22:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=384203
Mountains and a pine forest covered in wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke can be a little scary, especially when you're not used to it. Dave Hoefler / Unsplash

Checking the air quality before you go out is as important as checking the weather.

The post What to do when wildfire smoke fills the air appeared first on Popular Science.

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Mountains and a pine forest covered in wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke can be a little scary, especially when you're not used to it. Dave Hoefler / Unsplash

Wildfires are an annual occurrence along the West Coast, igniting anywhere from Alaska down to southern California. But both the intensity and length of fire season have grown in recent years, driven in part by the drought conditions and high temperatures of an ever-warming planet.

And even if you live nowhere near the Pacific, or anywhere else that’s burning, you can still feel the effects of wildfires hundreds of miles away: hazy conditions and air quality alerts have descended on the Midwest and reached as far as the East Coast. It may be the first time your local weather has suffered as a result of fires happening somewhere else—but it won’t be the last. That’s why it’s crucial that you understand when to worry about wildfire haze, and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Check air quality

Depending on where you live, the sky might have taken on an orange tint in recent days. This is due to extremely diffuse wildfire smoke: the result of winds in the upper atmosphere blowing tiny burnt particles across the continent.

“Small particles in the air can travel hundreds of miles,” says Zab Mosenifar, medical director for the Women’s Guild Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “While the immediate danger is within a 25-mile radius of a fire—depending on the winds—particles travel and float in the air for up to two weeks after the fire is out.”

These ultrafine particles of burnt organic matter are too small to see with the naked eye, but can still cause hazy conditions and lower the air quality far from the fire itself. To check the air quality in your area, enter your zip code, city, or state into the search bar on the front page of AirNow. This data-focused site is a partnership involving numerous federal, tribal, state, and local government agencies, and uses sensors around the country to provide accurate and up-to-date information about the cleanliness of your local air. The site also offers general recommendations for what to do if the air quality index (AQI) at your location is dangerously high, so make sure to follow them, as well as any other instructions from local authorities. 

Follow some general smog advice

If you’re not used to seeing your location’s AQI reach unhealthy orange alert level, these conditions can feel alarming. At this point, members of vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, and people with asthma and other respiratory conditions may want to stay inside. But for most low-risk people, your outdoor air will be safe to breathe in moderation.

“For the vast majority of people… it’s more annoying than life-threatening,” says Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist and preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Simply walking outside and doing what we normally do, for the average person probably isn’t going to be a big deal.”

[Related: Living in the same city doesn’t mean breathing the same air]

This means that if you aren’t a member of a high-risk group, you don’t need to postpone going to the grocery store, walking your dog, and other day-to-day activities at the slightest sign of smog. The human body has a natural filtration system that protects our lungs from dust and debris every day. 

“We all have a little bit of nose hair, and there’s mucus in the upper airway that dust sticks to like a fly would to flypaper,” says Cowl. “The problem with the very small particles is that they can bypass those normal mechanisms and you tend to inhale those particular particles deeper into the lungs.”

The key, therefore, is avoiding strenuous outdoor activities and using a few common-sense tips to keep your exposure to particles low. This is especially important for members of vulnerable groups.

As the AirNow dial points farther to the right, into the red, purple, and maroon levels, even people who have a low risk of being affected might want to stay indoors. If the world looks hazy through your window, make sure you check AQI levels and stay up to date with the information and recommendations from local authorities before stepping outside.

What to do when air quality worsens

  • Complete necessary chores and activities as normal.
  • Make sure your home and car windows stay closed, and use a recirculating air system if you have one. This will help keep airborne particles away from your breathing space.
  • Keep your pets indoors when possible. “Animals, especially dogs, can have an even stronger reaction to smoky air than humans,” Mosenifar says.
  • Continue to use medication, including your inhaler, as recommended by your doctor.
  • Monitor local air quality by paying attention to local alerts and nationwide statistics.

What not to do when the air quality is bad

  • Don’t contribute to poor air quality by burning candles, cooking over campfires, or incinerating lawn waste inside or outside of your home. In Cowl’s words, “every little bit does count.”
  • Avoid riding your bike to work or doing any strenuous outdoor exercise while your local air quality is in the “moderate” (yellow) category or worse.
  • Most cloth and paper masks, even those that fit well, are not designed to protect you from the ultrafine particles in wildfire smoke. Still, N95 respirators and tight-fitting KN95s could still be useful if you have to be outside for a prolonged period of time, or if you don’t feel comfortable not covering your face.
  • Resist dropping big money on an expensive air filtration system. Smoky conditions will improve with a little time, wind, and precipitation.
  • Don’t ignore the leading causes of wildfires: human actions and a warming climate. Look into how you can help fight these trends by practicing fire safety and working to combat the climate crisis.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 26, 2021. 

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Look inside London’s new Super Sewer, an engineering marvel for rubbish and poo https://www.popsci.com/technology/london-super-sewer-tideway-tunnel/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 19:08:50 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546652
When tunneling concluded in 2022, a composer, Rob Lewis, performed in the future sewer.
When tunneling concluded in 2022, a composer, Rob Lewis, performed in the future sewer. Tideway

The main component of the enormous infrastructure project is a 15-mile tunnel. Once it's operational, the River Thames should be much cleaner.

The post Look inside London’s new Super Sewer, an engineering marvel for rubbish and poo appeared first on Popular Science.

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When tunneling concluded in 2022, a composer, Rob Lewis, performed in the future sewer.
When tunneling concluded in 2022, a composer, Rob Lewis, performed in the future sewer. Tideway

There is an enormous and serpentine new concrete-lined tunnel beneath London. For most of its 15.5-mile journey, it mirrors the curves of the River Thames, lurking as a subterranean shadow of the famous waterway, but well beneath it. Its job, when it’s up and running, won’t be to serve as a transit system for subway trains, or vehicles, or people—although a BBC reporter has biked in it and a composer has played the cello in it

Its purpose will be to carry a huge amount of sewage and wastewater, and if its impressive specs are any indication, it will do an excellent job at that stinky but important task. And in the process, if all works according to plan, it will result in a much cleaner Thames. Here’s what to know about this engineering feat beneath London.

The main tunnel has a diameter of about 24 feet across.
The main tunnel has a diameter of about 24 feet across. Tideway

The problem: sewage in the Thames

Like other cities, London has a sewer system that combines both rainwater runoff and sewage from homes and businesses. The system dates to the 1860s; Londoners can thank Joseph Bazalgette for the sewer’s creation, which followed an unpleasant event in 1858 called the Great Stink. 

“He designed the system to cope with a population of four million people,” says Taylor Geall, the communications manager with Tideway, the company building the new sewer. “Now, the population is nine million.” 

Here’s the problem. A combined system can work well if it doesn’t rain very hard. But if it does, the pipes become maxed out, and the runoff water and the sewage still need to go somewhere. In this case, it intentionally goes into the Thames, at spots called combined sewer overflows, or CSOs. 

[Related: The tallest building in the world remains unchallenged—for now]

Untreated sewage spewing into a river is never a good thing, and the more it happens, the worse the situation is. “Back in Bazalgette’s day, that happened quite infrequently,” Geall says. “But now, because we’ve paved over so much, and the population is so much higher, that it only takes a small amount of rain for the system to fill up. And rather than the system backing up into homes, and streets, etcetera, there are outfalls in the river wall and so it gets poured directly into the Thames, and that’s like untreated sewage and rainwater.” Those outfalls are the CSOs.

Geall says that annually, an estimated 44 million tons of rainwater and sewage flow into the Thames. Deborah Leach, the CEO of the environmental group Thames21, provides a similar estimate for the total spillage: around 43 million tons. “Sewage is a huge component of it,” she says. “We’re not just talking the odd little bit of dirt here and there—it’s massive.” 

With that discharge comes problems. “We are still seeing these stinking foreshores that you last saw back in Victorian times,” Leach says. “It makes it a horrible place to be.” 

And of course, pollution takes a toll on wildlife. “It’s just heartbreaking to see the fish kills coming down the river sometimes,” she adds. That typically happens in June, because sewage-eating bacteria in the water cause “clouds” of the river to become deoxygenated, she says. “They come to the surface—you can see them gasping to breathe.”

Then there are wet wipes, which like the sewage and rainwater flow into the river through the overflow outlets. “We’ve got big mounds of them in the River Thames,” says Leach. “They’re horrible.” 

One place where the wipes congregate is near west London’s Hammersmith Bridge. “You can see layer upon layer upon layer of wet wipes, building up,” she adds. “It’s just disgusting.”

London is not alone with this type of problem. New York City features a sewer network that is approximately 60 percent the combined type, meaning that sewage spills into the waterways when the system is overwhelmed. And Paris is dealing with something similar, aiming to make the Seine cleaner before the Olympics in 2024. That infrastructure project involves a tank for rainwater that Time describes as “mammoth.”

To build the new sewer, Tideway used six giant tunnel boring machines. The biggest of them are about 26 feet wide.
To build the new sewer, Tideway used six giant tunnel boring machines. The biggest of them are about 26 feet wide.

The solution: a gigantic tunnel, and other infrastructure

The centerpiece of the London project is the massive main tunnel, which is about 15 miles long and slopes gently downwards from west to east, an incline that means its contents will also flow eastward. Incredibly, the tunnel has an internal diameter of nearly 24 feet across, and in the east, where it’s deepest, it’s about 217 feet below the surface. “It is ridiculously big,” says Geall, of Tideway. “It’s a strange environment to be in.”

But the sewage and rainwater and wet wipes will be right at home. In addition to the main tunnel, other infrastructure will intercept more than two dozen of the combined sewer overflow points and channel the liquid from them into the big winding tunnel deep below London. In other words, instead of going into the Thames, it’ll go into the new sewer system. Once it’s in there, the crap will all flow eastwards. Its final destination is a big facility called Beckton Sewage Treatment Works. The Super Sewer doesn’t replace Bazalgette’s original creation; it augments it. 

The tunnel is not up and running yet, but once it is, the company estimates that the 44 million tons of rainwater and sewage that spill into the Thames annually will be reduced by 95 percent. Geall says that the entire system altogether, which includes the main tunnel and shafts, has a capacity to hold about 56.5 million cubic feet of liquid, or 422.7 million gallons.

The total cost of the project, he says, is 4.5 billion pounds, which is around 5.6 billion US dollars. Meanwhile, the company faced criticism last year for the high salary its CEO is being paid.

A map of the sewer's route. For much it, it mirrors the Thames, above.
A map of the sewer’s route. For much it, it mirrors the Thames, above. Tideway

The project is about 85 to 90 percent complete, according to Geall, and even if it doesn’t officially wrap up until 2025, he says that in 2024 they’ll begin testing diverting flow away from the river and into the tunnel. “In reality, the Thames will begin to be protected next year,” he says.

Leach, of Thames21, says that she thinks “it can’t come soon enough.” 

“A hard engineering solution doesn’t come naturally to an environmental charity, but it’s simply the practical solution that needs to be built,” she adds. “It requires these nature-based solutions and wetlands as well.” In that sense, she highlights the ongoing need for natural additions to the landscape, like additional wetlands and rain gardens.

“I think everyone’s looking forward to seeing the river cleaned up,” she says.

Watch a video about the project, below. 

The post Look inside London’s new Super Sewer, an engineering marvel for rubbish and poo appeared first on Popular Science.

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Prototype airline seat would make the skies friendlier to passengers in wheelchairs https://www.popsci.com/technology/wheelchair-airplane-seat-delta/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546599
Air 4 All prototype wheelchair seat in airplane cabin
The convertible seat can accommodate passengers' wheelchairs without changing cabin configurations. Air4All

A convertible seat that allows for passengers' own wheelchairs could soon come to Delta flights.

The post Prototype airline seat would make the skies friendlier to passengers in wheelchairs appeared first on Popular Science.

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Air 4 All prototype wheelchair seat in airplane cabin
The convertible seat can accommodate passengers' wheelchairs without changing cabin configurations. Air4All

A UK-based design consortium has unveiled a promising new prototype that could dramatically ease flight travel for wheelchaired passengers with mobility restrictions. At this week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, a design and accessibility rights collaborative called Air 4 All showcased its patented alternative airliner seat which can easily convert as needed to fit travelers’ personal wheelchairs.

According to the US Department of Transportation, airline company personnel mishandled or damaged nearly 11,400 travelers’ wheelchairs in 2022 alone. As Insider also noted earlier this month, many of these devices can cost thousands of dollars, and are often  specifically tailored to individual owners. Meanwhile, disabled airline passengers often must transfer multiple times across wheelchairs and other various transportation methods from arrival, to airport terminal, to plane seating.

[Related: How different wheelchair designs can help Paralympians excel.]

Air 4 All’s prototype, however, could vastly simplify this process by allowing many to use their same wheelchair throughout the majority of their travels, including boarding and sitting within a plane. “An innovation like this in air travel provides those with reduced mobility a safe and comfortable way for them to travel and remain in their own power wheelchair,” Chris Wood, an Air 4 All partner and founder of the Flying Disabled consultancy group, said in a statement.

The new patented prototype seat features multiple pieces which are able to convert into a wheelchair-accessible configuration, such as a seat that can flip up and a removable back cushion. From there, a wheelchair can easily be backed into the open space and attached in place. What’s more, the convertible seat doesn’t sacrifice standard plane amenities, such as a headrest, console tray tables, or cocktail tables. Additionally, anyone can sit in the space regardless of accessibility needs, and each seat can be installed into planes without changing existing cabin configurations.

[Related: The FAA just made East Coast flight routes shorter.]

Following its exhibition this week, Air 4 All’s new seat is scheduled to head for final design and validation. Once certified, the consortium plans to begin testing and certifications processes, after which passengers could soon see the seats arriving on Delta planes.

Of course, actually flying within the current airline ecosystem is another situation entirely. Despite the recent launch of 169 new flight routes along the East Coast, the airline industry has faced serious criticism for outdated technology and procedures—most notably the massive wave of cancellations that hit Southwest travelers over the 2022 holiday season. Still, the pending installation of wheelchair accessible seating is a welcome addition to any plane… whether or not it takes off on time.

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This concept cruise ship will have solar-paneled sails, an AI copilot, and zero emissions https://www.popsci.com/technology/hurtigruten-zero-emission-ship/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546520
Sea Zero Cruise ship Concept, sails fully extended
The ship's three retractable sails will be covered in solar panels. VARD Design

Hurtigruten Norway hopes to have their sustainable liner hit the high seas by 2030.

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Sea Zero Cruise ship Concept, sails fully extended
The ship's three retractable sails will be covered in solar panels. VARD Design

Today’s cruise ships are environmental nightmares. Just one vessel packed with a veritable petri dish of passengers can burn as much as 250 tons of fuel per day, or about the same emissions as 12,000 cars. If the industry is to survive, it will need to adapt quickly in order to adequately address the myriad ecological emergencies facing the planet—and one Norwegian cruise liner company is attempting to meet those challenges head-on.

Earlier today, Hurtigruten Norway unveiled the first designs for a zero-emission cruise ship scheduled to debut by the end of the decade. First announced in March 2022 as “Sea Zero,” Hurtigruten (Norwegian for “the Fast Route”) showed off its initial concept art for the craft on Wednesday. The vessel features three autonomous, retractable, 50m-high sail wing rigs housing roughly 1,500-square-meters of solar panels. Alongside the sails, the ship will be powered by multiple 60-megawatt batteries that recharge while in port, as well as wind technology. Other futuristic additions to the vessel will include AI maneuvering capabilities, retractable thrusters, contra-rotating propellers, advanced hull coatings, and proactive hull cleaning tech.

[Related: Care about the planet? Skip the cruise, for now.]

“Following a rigorous feasibility study, we have pinpointed the most promising technologies for our groundbreaking future cruise ships,” said Hurtigruten Norway CEO Hedda Felin. Henrik Burvang, Research and Innovation Manager at VARD, the company behind the ship concept designs, added the forthcoming boat’s streamlined shape, alongside its hull and propulsion advances, will reduce energy demand. Meanwhile, VARD is “developing new design tools and exploring new technologies for energy efficiency,” said Burvang.

With enhanced AI capabilities, the cruise ships’ crew bridge is expected to significantly shrink in size to resemble airplane cockpits, but Hurtigruten’s futuristic, eco-conscious designs don’t rest solely on its next-gen ship and crew. The 135-meter-long concept ship’s estimated 500 guests will have access to a mobile app capable of operating their cabins’ ventilation systems, as well as track their own water and energy consumption while aboard the vessel.

Concept art of zero-emission cruise ship sailing in Norway
Credit: VARD Design

Next up for Hurtigruten’s Sea Zero project is a two-year testing and development phase for the proposed tech behind the upcoming cruise ship, particularly focusing on battery production, propulsion, hull design, and sustainable practices. Meanwhile, the company will also look into onboard hotel operational improvements, which Hurtigruten states can consume as much as half a ship’s overall energy reserves.

Hurtigruten also understands if 2030 feels like a long time to wait until a zero-emission ship. In the meantime, the company has already upgraded two of its seven vessels to run on a battery-hybrid-power system, with a third on track to be retrofitted this fall.  Its additional vessels are being outfitted with an array of tech to CO2 emissions by 20-percent, and nitrogen oxides by as much as 80 percent.

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Get cool savings on hot TVs with up to 30% off select Amazon Fire models https://www.popsci.com/gear/amazon-fire-tv-summer-deals/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 16:55:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546544
An Amazon fire TV on a blue and purple background
Amanda Reed

If you're not a fan of being sweaty, upgrade to an Amazon Fire TV for a cool, air-conditioned hermit creature summer.

The post Get cool savings on hot TVs with up to 30% off select Amazon Fire models appeared first on Popular Science.

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An Amazon fire TV on a blue and purple background
Amanda Reed

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

There are some summer days when it’s just too hot to do anything. Sure, you could go set up a backyard pool, but that involves moving your body. Instead, stay comfortable indoors with a new Amazon Fire TV, which is up to 30% off.

Amazon Fire TV 50″ 4-Series 4K UHD smart TV $309.99 (Was $449.99)

Amazon

SEE IT

This TV is the Goldilocks of smart TVs: it’s not too big, and it’s not too small. Support for 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, HLG, and Dolby Digital Plus means you can watch nature documentaries and comedies in vivid clarity. Even better, you don’t even need cable since you can stream live TV on your device. The 4-Series doesn’t support hands-free voice control, but you can use the remote to summon Alexa to check the weather or launch your streaming apps. Four HDMI inputs allow you to connect your favorite gaming consoles and audio equipment, like this JBL soundbar that’s 25% off.

There’s no shortage of televisions, but these Fire TVs combine quality with price. The one thing worth sweating is whether you’ll miss these deals, so snag one before it’s too late.

Here are some other choice Fire-compatible products that are on sale:

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A new shot can be a safe and effective alternative to surgical spaying https://www.popsci.com/environment/gene-therapy-contraception-cat/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546510
Four kittens standing in grass. Less invasive measures could protect stray cats and the environment.
Less invasive measures could protect stray cats and the environment. Deposit Photos

Keeping feral-cat populations under control is important for protecting animals and the planet.

The post A new shot can be a safe and effective alternative to surgical spaying appeared first on Popular Science.

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Four kittens standing in grass. Less invasive measures could protect stray cats and the environment.
Less invasive measures could protect stray cats and the environment. Deposit Photos

A staggering 80 percent of the world’s 600 million estimated domestic cats are stray or feral animals. These cats face a number of problems including cars, infectious diseases, and predators. As game show host Bob Barker said at the end countless episodes of The Price is Right, spaying or neutering can help control the homeless pet population, in addition to overcrowding at shelters. Not to mention, keeping the feral cat population in check minimizes the risk of the critters preying on wild animals and threatening the ecosystem

[Related: Culver City is home to a unique cat versus coyote conflict.]

Now, a potential new method of kitty contraception that uses long-lasting injections to prevent ovulation is showing early promise. According to a study published June 6 in the journal Nature Communications, a single dose of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) gene therapy can induce long-term contraception in domestic cats. This potentially provides a safe and effective alternative to surgical spaying. 

AMH is a naturally occurring non-steroidal hormone produced in the ovaries of female mammals and inside the testes in males. Scientists had previously researched AMH as a way to protect ovarian reserve in those undergoing chemotherapy. This background helped the authors discover that raising AMH levels beyond a certain threshold suppressed the growth of ovarian follicles. This effectively prevents ovulation and thus conception. 

After switching their attention from rodents to felines, the team created an adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapy vector that has a slightly altered version of the feline AMH gene. The Food and Drug Administration has approved human therapies that use similar AAV vectors to deliver therapeutic genes.

“A single injection of the gene therapy vector causes the cat’s muscles to produce AMH, which is normally only produced in the ovaries, and raises the overall level of AMH about 100 times higher than normal,” co-author and associate director of the Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories at Massachusetts General Hospital David Pépin said in a statement. Pépin is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

In the study, six female cats were treated with the gene therapy at two different doses, while three cats were the controls. The team brought a male cat into the female colony for two four-month long mating trials. They followed the female cats for over two years, assessing the effect of the treatment on reproductive hormones, ovarian cycles, and fertility.

According to the results, all of the control cats produced kittens, but none of the cats that received the gene therapy got pregnant. Important hormones like estrogen were not affected by surprising ovarian follicle development and ovulation. The team didn’t observe any adverse effects on the treated female cats, showing that the gene therapy should be safe and well tolerated at the doses tested. 

[Related: Declawing cats is harmful. Do this instead.]

“The treatment maintained high AMH levels for over two years, and we’re confident that those contraceptive levels will be sustained in the animals for much longer,” co-author, veterinarian, and Massachusetts General Hospital research fellow Philippe Godin said in a statement. Godin added that more studies in a larger number of cats are needed to confirm these promising findings.

The team also notes that this technology may be a bit ahead of its time, as the infrastructure needed to produce enough doses to sterilize millions of cats with gene therapy has yet to be built. 

“Our goal is to show that safe and effective permanent contraception in companion animals can be achieved using gene therapy,” said Pépin. “And we hope that as the manufacturing capability of producing viral vectors increases with the rise of gene therapy in humans, delivering this contraceptive in the field to control unowned outdoor cat populations will become feasible.”

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These air purifiers are actually on sale right now at Amazon and Best Buy https://www.popsci.com/gear/air-purifier-amazon-best-buy-deals/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 15:50:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546537
air purifiers composited
Stan Horaczek

Avoid the fake discounts that pop up when demand for air purifiers increases.

The post These air purifiers are actually on sale right now at Amazon and Best Buy appeared first on Popular Science.

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air purifiers composited
Stan Horaczek

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

If you’re in North America right now, there’s a decent chance wildfire smoke is affecting you. Here in New York, the air quality is rather awful, so many people are rushing to buy air purifiers. While we have recommended some of the best air purifiers, we know price is a consideration. And while many retailers rush to apply misleading “discounts” to air purifier models, there are some deals out there to be had if you know where to look.

We haven’t personally tested every model on this list, but the selections presented here represent discounts below the products’ usual prices. And we’ve stuck to reputable brands with solid reputations because you definitely want your air purifier to actually purify the air if you’re going to shell out your cash to get it.

LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Bedroom $39 w/ coupon (Was $49)

Levoit

SEE IT

This very simple air purifier relies on a dual-filter HEPA system to pull particulates out of the air. It can handle a roughly 130-square-foot space and operates extremely quietly. With the coupon applied, this is the cheapest it has been in some time. So, if you’re looking for a simple, quiet solution to clean up the air in your office or bedroom, this is a solid deal.

BISSELL® air280 Max WiFi Connected Smart Air Purifier with HEPA & Carbon Filter Large Room $189 (Was $299)

Bissell

SEE IT

If you want a larger model that will handle a much bigger space, Bissell’s whole-home solution is considerably cheaper now than a month ago. It can handle spaces up to 1,350 square feet with one air change per hour. Put it in a smaller room, and it’ll refresh the air even more often.

More air purifier deals

We expect a lot of people are buying a lot of air purifiers right now, so these deals might not hang around as long as the smoke in the air. iI you see something you want in stock, we say snag it.

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The best water flossers in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-water-flossers/ Mon, 20 Sep 2021 12:27:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=395704
best water flossers
Billy Cadden

Upgrade your oral hygiene with a pressure washer for your mouth.

The post The best water flossers in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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best water flossers
Billy Cadden

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Best Overall The Waterpik is the best water flosser. Waterpik WP-660 Water Flosser
SEE IT

A comprehensive option that will work for most mouths.

Best for Braces Belmint is our choice for best water flosser. Belmint Water Flosser
SEE IT

Swappable heads handle tricky jobs.

Best for Travel This Oral B flosser is the best water flosser. Oral-B Cordless Portable Oral Irrigator
SEE IT

A built-in battery makes it great on the go.

Some of us find joy in gum maintenance, but for those who don’t, a water flosser can make taking care of your mouth less of a chore. Studies show that flossing prevents gum disease and improves overall oral health. We know it’s important, but it’s not everyone’s favorite activity. One way to make flossing more efficient, convenient, effective, and pleasant? The water flosser. 

Instead of using a string to get in between your teeth, water flossers are oral irrigators that use high-pressure water streams to remove plaque, bacteria, and food from your gums. Think of it as a pressure washer for your mouth. In order to help you pick the best option for you, we selected five of the best water flossers on the market so you can improve your oral hygiene and make your dentist proud.

How we chose the best water flossers

Pressure is paramount when choosing the best water flosser. We want to ensure that your water flosser has enough intensity to blast that plaque, without causing discomfort. We also looked at key features such as reservoir size and portability, so you have options depending on your needs.

We considered a wide swath of information, including outside reviews to determine the models for inclusion. We analyzed products for their tip types, so that we could offer you suggestions for different types of use. Finally, we looked at the value for the price. We don’t want to recommend a bunch of products that are absurdly pricey if they’re not going to make you smile.

The best water flossers: Reviews & Recommendations

Best overall: Waterpik WP-660 Water Flosser

Waterpik

SEE IT

Why it made the cut: This is the most professional-grade quality on the market, with clinical studies to back it up.

Specs

  • 10 pressure settings
  • 7 tips
  • 1.5-minute reservoir

Pros

  • Has ADA seal of approval
  • Suitable for braces and dental work
  • Comes with multiple brush tips

Cons

  • Not cordless 
  • Yes

The Waterpik is basically a one-stop shop for all things gum health. It features 7 color-coded flossing tips for a variety of needs. Advanced pressure control offers 10 customizable settings to suit your mouth. A dishwasher-safe, 22 oz reservoir for 90 seconds of flossing time. 

There are also some features that improve the overall experience outside of the specific cleaning chops. A power switch on the wand makes it easy to handle. A one minute timer makes sure you’re getting in enough scrubbing time. It offers two modes: Floss and Hydro Pulse Massage, for gum stimulation. 

This flosser is suitable for braces, implants, and other dental work. Plus, the tips rotate 360 degrees so you get a total clean. It’s also clinically proven to remove 99.9% of plaque by more than 70 scientific research studies. It has everything you need.

Best for braces: Belmint Water Flosser

Belmint

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Why it made the cut: This water flosser has eight brush tip attachments, making it useful during all stages of your orthodontic journey.

Specs:

  • 8 tips
  • 10 pressure settings
  • 3-minute reservoir

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple flossing tips
  • Large water tank capacity
  • Adjustable pressure settings
  • Great for deep gum cleaning

Cons

  • Loud
  • Requires a power outlet

Adding features without adding dollar signs, this multifunctional water flosser is perfect for a mouth full of braces. It has a 600ml water tank for several minutes of continuous flossing, and features 10 pressure settings so you can easily adjust to a lower pressure when you get your braces tightened. 

With up to 1700 pulses per minute, it’s also powerful enough to blast those food particles out (a must when dealing with chunky braces). 

This water flosser includes: 3 Classic Jet Tips, 1 Orthodontic Tip, 1 Dental Tip, 1 Periodontal Tip, 1 Tongue Cleaner, and 1 Toothbrush. While braces aren’t super pleasant, at least your flossing can be. Switching tips is an extremely simple process you can do on the fly.

Best for kids: Waterpik Water Flosser for Kids

Waterpik

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Why it made the cut: It comes with a brush attachment for braces and 20 fun stickers to decorate their new hygiene toy.

Specs

  • 3 pressure settings
  • 2 tips
  • 1 minute reservoir

Pros

  • Comes with brush head attachment for braces
  • Small design for small mouths
  • Great pressure
  • Travel-friendly
  • Fairly priced

Cons

  • Might be too small for older kids/teenagers
  • No power button on wand

Convincing kids to floss can be tricky. This model is small enough to easily fit into a young mouth, but powerful enough to effectively remove plaque, build up, and food particles, this water flosser for kids is a great product your child will actually want to use.

The Waterpik Water Flosser for kids comes with a 15-ounce water capacity, three pressure settings, an orthodontic tip for children with braces, and a classic jet tip for general use. It also has 20 fun removable stickers labels for kids to decorate their flosser to help encourage them to actually use it.

Because it’s so tiny (5.4 x 4.4 x 6.8 inches), it’s also super easy to travel with. This is a huge bonus to keep your kids flossing on vacations, at camp, and at grandma’s house.

Best for travel: Oral-B Cordless Portable Oral Irrigator

Oral-B

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Why it made the cut: Lightweight, portable, and cordless, this water flosser is great for ensuring your gums get adequate care on the road.

Specs:

  • 3 flossing modes
  • 2 tips
  • 4-ounce reservoir

Pros

  • Cordless
  • Lightweight
  • Good for sensitive gums
  • Water reservoir is easy to access
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Small reservoir, needs to be refilled more often
  • No carry case included

This cordless water flosser from Oral-B features unique nozzle technology for maximum cleaning power. The cordless handle houses a long-lasting, rechargeable battery for portable use and comes with a stationary charger, which makes it a convenient option when you’re traveling.

Besides convenience, we chose this flosser for its multiple stream settings (multi-jet, focused, and rotational) and customizable flossing modes (intense, medium, or sensitive). The 90-degree nozzles make it easier to access hard-to-reach areas, providing a more comprehensive clean.

While the reservoir is pretty small (4 ounces), it makes it a lighter-weight option for taking with you on the go.

Best budget: H2ofloss Dental Water Flosser

H2ofloss

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Why it made the cut: This upgraded version now offers less noise than previous models, and customizable settings at a great price point.

Specs

  • 6 pressure settings
  • 12 tips
  • 2.5 minute reservoir

Pros

  • Quieter than previous models
  • Budget-friendly
  • Comes with enough tips for the whole family
  • Overheat protection feature
  • Customizable, good for braces and dental work

Cons

  • May leak
  • No On/Off switch on handle

HF-9 is the newest, most upgraded model from H2ofloss; it’s a much quieter system with a smoother operation than its predecessor. It also features 6 pressure settings, ranging from 5-110 PSI to better suit your needs.

With 1200 pulses/minute, this frequency is forceful enough to do the job without causing pain or discomfort. The water flosser also comes with overheat protection function, it will automatically stop working when overheated to promote a safer experience.

With 12 multifunctional tips (4 jet tips, 2 tongue cleaning tips, 2 orthodontic tips, 2 periodontal tips, and 2 nasal tips), this flosser is easy to customize and can be used with braces, implants, crowns, or periodontal pockets. All of this at a really great price point.

Things to consider before buying a water flosser

If you’re new to water flossing, it can be overwhelming to decide on which product is best for you. Here’s what to look for:

Type

Before you begin shopping for a water flosser, you may want to know the types of flossers on the market so you can choose the best product for your intended use.

Countertop: These are usually the bulkiest options because they tend to come with the most features. Since they’ll primarily be staying put on your countertop, they are not best for travel or easy portability, but are great for a range of pressures and options. 

Cordless: These are generally best for travel and on the go use, or if you don’t have a lot of counter space to spare. They might not have as much power and pressure as the traditional countertop, but they are great for convenience.

Flossing toothbrush: Just as the name suggests, this is a water flosser-toothbrush combo. It has water flossing capabilities on the brush head so you can get an all-in-one experience.

Water pressure

This affects how powerful your water stream will be. Depending on your gum sensitivity, too much pressure might be uncomfortable and could even cause bleeding. You want to make sure you purchase a water flosser with enough pressure to be effective, without causing pain. This can be tricky since there’s no hard metric companies offer to judge that’s easy to compare, but the different types of tips can give you a hint about what to expect.

Reservoir capacity

While some water flossers feature reservoirs with enough space to last 60 seconds of flossing time, others may be smaller or bigger depending on the model. How long the water lasts also varies depending on attachments and pressure.

Portability

If you intend to travel with your water flosser, you’ll want a product that’s compact and easy enough to move around. Look for cordless models, and/or products that come with cases.

Tip type

There are several brush heads depending on your needs: Regular, Orthodontic (for braces), Plaque Fighting (great for more severe cases of plaque) and Toothbrush tips are the most common.

FAQs

Q: Which is better: water flossing or string flossing?

It depends. While research from the National Library of Medicine does show that water flossing may be more effective in fighting gum disease, and is better for reaching periodontal pockets and plaque, the argument is really about which method you’ll actually do. 

If you don’t enjoy water flossing, you won’t reach for the water flosser and consequently, won’t floss at all. So, the best method is the method that you’ll be most consistent with.

Q: What are the cons of water flossing?

Some people find water flossing to be a bit messy, especially at the beginning when they’re first getting used to the product. It’s also a more expensive purchase than string floss, and can be bulky and take up a lot of space in your bathroom.

Q: Do dentists recommend water flosser?

Yes. According to the American Dental Association, the Waterpik water flosser, specifically, has shown to be safe and efficient in removing plaque. It’s also been shown to help prevent and reduce gingivitis.

Q: Can you share a water flosser?

You can share a water flosser if you use your own brush tip. Think of it like sharing a toothbrush (yuck!). So, we recommend sharing the base or wand but switching out the heads for each member of your household.

Q: How much does a water flosser cost?

It ranges! Budget options can range between $40-$50, while more premium models can be well over $100.

A final word about the best water flossers

Water flossing is an effective alternative to traditional flossing to reduce plaque and help prevent gingivitis. The Waterpik, specifically, is our best overall recommendation since it received the American Dental Association seal of approval.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best water flossers in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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This ancient civilization literally used their heads to move massive logs for miles https://www.popsci.com/science/how-to-move-lumber-with-your-head/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546256
a big pile of logs
It's never easy to move such massive logs—but some ancient people used their heads. Deposit Photos

Plus other fun facts from The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week.

The post This ancient civilization literally used their heads to move massive logs for miles appeared first on Popular Science.

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a big pile of logs
It's never easy to move such massive logs—but some ancient people used their heads. Deposit Photos

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcastThe Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits AppleSpotifyYouTube, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every-other Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

FACT: Pueblo peoples might have moved huge logs for over 60 miles by strapping them to their heads

By Sandra Gutierrez G. 

Researchers always seem to be wondering how ancient civilizations moved big stuff around, but they rarely get the opportunity to try their theories empirically. 

Enter a team of anthropologists and physiologists from the University of Colorado Boulder. In the true spirit of experimental science, they strapped 136-pound logs to their heads to figure out how Pueblo peoples from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico might have carried the timber necessary to build their extraordinary architecture. 

Chaco Canyon was the most important political and ceremonial center for the Ancestral Puebloans. There, they built their famous stone and adobe dwellings along the cliff walls, ritual structures called kivas, as well as semi-circular constructions known as great houses. 

Scientists calculate that 200 thousand timbers were used in the construction of this particular site—but there are no trees anywhere nearby. In 2001, tree-ring experts at the University of Arizona used chemical analyses and discovered that the wood in the Puebloan constructions was sourced from mountain ranges at least 46 miles away—the furthermost, Chuska mountains, are 62 miles away from Chaco Canyon. 

Puebloans had no wheel, no draft animals, nor any other type of modern carriage system that we know of. Plus, archeologists have not found scrape marks on the grounds around Chaco Canyon that would hint at the logs being dragged or pushed. So, logs as big as 16 feet and 190 pounds had to be carried by hand. 

There have been a number of theories but the researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder tested the one proposing that the timbers in the Chacoan constructions were actually moved only by a few people at a time using tumplines: a technique that involves carrying a load on the lower back by strapping it to the head. 

Three of the four authors of this study trained for three months to figure out if the theory was humanly possible and how long would it take them to transport a 132-pound pine timber over 15.5 miles using tumplines made out of nylon webbing and foam padding. 

Considering small breaks every 20 minutes and longer breaks every two and a half miles, researchers completed the test in a total time of 9 hours and 44 minutes, walking at an average speed of 2.8 miles per hour.

So yes, tumplines are a perfectly feasible method of carrying heavy timbers over long distances. Researchers say the tumplines were “surprisingly comfortable” and communication was key to coordinating the walk and avoiding the timber from swaying.

FACT: Wolves can help humans get into fewer car crashes 

By Rachel Feltman

Anyone who’s spent time driving in an even vaguely rural area knows that deer have a preternatural ability to get hit by human cars. In 2021, a study in Wisconsin found an interesting connection between the all-too-common phenomenon of deer collisions and the presence of wild wolves. According to 22 years of data, having wolves around means people hit deer less often. 

You might assume that’s because the wolves ate the deer. After all, deer populations have a tendency to run amok if there aren’t predators keeping them in check. Wolves eating deer could explain a six percent reduction in crashes, according to the study. But the researchers saw a 24 percent drop.

That remaining three-quarters of the impact came from “a landscape of fear.” Wolves tend to follow whatever the clearest path is in a wooded area, like a stream. When humans come in and build up the landscape, that means artificial clearings for things like roads, pipelines, and rail tracks. Deer are known to change their behavior and location to avoid predators. So when wolves are in town, they roam the roadside—and deers stay off the streets. 
The study estimates that wolves save Wisconsin about $10.9 million in losses each year by preventing car crashes, which more than covers what the state pays out to people who lose pets or livestock to wolves, which tends to be the biggest public objection to letting their populations bounce back. The researchers also noted that there were other potential economic benefits they hadn’t calculated, like the lowered risk in lyme disease transmission we see when deer populations are well managed.

FACT: Sometimes articles published in academic journals are totally made up

By Ali Hazelwood

In 1996, NYU physics professor Alan Sokal wrote and submitted a scholarly paper to the journal Social Text. The paper was accepted and published—and after a few weeks Sokal revealed that the paper was a hoax: it was full of nonsense and jargon, and he’d written it to demonstrate the pitfalls of the academic peer-review process.

The post This ancient civilization literally used their heads to move massive logs for miles appeared first on Popular Science.

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The best insect repellents of 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-insect-repellent/ Fri, 30 Apr 2021 20:59:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/story/?p=362232
A brown mosquito caught behind a green leaf.
Syed Ali, Unsplash

Don’t let pests run—or ruin—your life. The best insect repellents will keep your skin protected and ward off bug-borne illnesses.

The post The best insect repellents of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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A brown mosquito caught behind a green leaf.
Syed Ali, Unsplash

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best overall thermacell insect repellent Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller
SEE IT

No application is required for this wide-range tabletop bug repellent, which offers over five hours of protection with each charge.

Best for babies Mosquito wipes to prevent mosquito bites Cutter Family Mosquito Wipes
SEE IT

These towelettes make putting on bug repellent quick and easy and give parents greater application control for small kids that want more playtime.

Best budget DEET OFF spray insect repellent OFF! Deep Woods Insect & Mosquito Repellent
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This aerosol spray doesn’t feel greasy or oily upon application.

Whether we’re in the middle of nature or in the comfort of our own homes, biting bugs can wreak havoc on humans and pets, so effective insect repellant is the first defense. It’s a proactive way to keep the rude critters away before these scores of Davids leave their mark on our sensitive Goliath skin … or do even more serious damage. But it can be overwhelming to browse through rows of sprays, lotions, wipes, bracelets, and even electronic bug control options. We’re here to help you find the best insect repellents that really, genuinely work.

How we chose the best insect repellents

What do solar generators, tents, and coolers have in common? They’re all things you enjoy outdoors—or at least you should enjoy outdoors, insect adversaries allowing. That’s why we’d argue that effective repellent is one of the most important things you can pack on a camping trip—without it, you’d be itchy, uncomfortable, and putting yourself at risk of getting a bug from a bug. We turned to reviews, recommendations, and user testing to find the best insect repellents.

The best insect repellents: Reviews & Recommendations

The best insect repellents will help you reduce your calamine lotion and anti-itch cream use. Here are the ones we found:

Best overall: Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller

Thermacell

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Why it made the cut: No application is required for this wide-range tabletop bug repellent.

Specs

  • Volume: .33 fluid ounces
  • Form: Liquid
  • Scent: No
  • Active ingredient: Metofluthrin

Pros

  • No application
  • Long-range coverage
  • Rechargeable

Cons

  • Reviews say refills tend to deplete quickly

This rechargeable mosquito repeller from Thermacell gives you a 20-foot protection zone. Its refills are long-lasting (from 12 to 40 hours), and the spray-free design makes for a more comfortable gathering. One charge gets you 5.5 hours of continuous mosquito protection. The metofluthrin-based repellent is scent-free and has been independently tested and EPA-reviewed for safety. Additionally, it’s covered by a two-year warranty that can be extended an extra year with item registration.

Best picaridin: Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent

Sawyer Products

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Why it made the cut: Get 14 hours of protection against bugs with this non-greasy, non-scented lotion bug repellent.

Specs

  • Volume: 4 fluid ounces
  • Form: Lotion
  • Scent: No
  • Active ingredient: Picaridin

Pros

  • Long-lasting
  • Scent-free
  • Repels ticks

Cons

  • Spray not as effective as lotion

This bug repellent is completely fragrance-free and offers a stronger defense against biting flies than most DEET products. The lotion offers longer-lasting protection on skin, while the pump spray lingers longer on clothing. The lotion protects from mosquitos for up to 14 hours and provides eight hours of protection against flies and gnats. The spray provides 12 hours of protection against mosquitos and the same level of protection against flies and gnats. It is non-greasy and dries quickly. Additionally, it won’t damage synthetic coatings, and you can use the spray on clothing, backpacks, and more.

Best for babies: Cutter Mosquito Wipes

Cutter

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Why it made the cut: These wipes make putting on bug repellent quick and easy for more playtime.

Specs

  • Volume: N/A
  • Form: Wipes
  • Scent: Yes
  • Active ingredient: DEET

Pros

  • Non-greasy
  • Clean scent
  • Easy-to-use

Cons

  • Only 15 wipes

These wipes use a 7.15 percent DEET-based formula to keep mosquitoes away. They’ve got a cooling, clean scent, and don’t feel sticky, greasy, or oily on the skin. You can use them on your face, ears, and neck, which usually go untreated. A resealable packet keeps them moist and allows you to take them on the go. They repel against mosquitoes, deer ticks, gnats, biting flies, fleas, and chiggers. You can use it on children two months and older. And, DEET will not damage nylon, cotton, or wool, but it can damage some synthetic fabrics. You’ll have to buy multiple packages for heavy use since each pack only contains 15 wipes.

Best premium: Thermacell LIV Smart Mosquito Repellent System

Thermacell

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Why it made the cut: Get on-demand protection season after season with this yard system.

Specs

  • Volume: N/A
  • Form: Liquid
  • Scent: No
  • Active ingredient: Metofluthrin

Pros

  • Wide coverage
  • Customizable placement
  • Effective

Cons

  • Expensive

Protect your entire backyard from mosquitos this summer with the LIV Smart Mosquito Repellent System. You can choose between three, four, or five repellers to place around your property lines, and each kit includes a smart hub, mounts, 24-foot cables, and ground stakes. The amount you receive of each depends on the size of the kit you purchase. Each repellent can last for 40 hours and uses scent-free, heat-activated metofluthrin as its active ingredient. The Smart Hub connects multiple repellers and can be controlled using the LIV+ app. The kits are expensive to purchase (it ranges from $699-$899) and the refills are pricey too—as a six-pack is $120. However, if you want to eradicate bugs from your outdoor entertainment spaces, it might be a worthy investment.

Best for dogs: Wondercide Flea, Tick, and Mosquito Spray

Wondercide

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Why it made the cut: This plant-based insect repellent smells great and keeps your pooch pest-free.

Specs

  • Volume: 4 fluid ounces; 16 fluid ounces; 32 fluid ounces, 1 gallon
  • Form: Spray
  • Scent: Yes: Lemongrass; peppermint; rosemary; cedarwood
  • Active ingredient: Essential oils

Pros

  • Not harmful to your pet
  • Wide variety of sizes
  • Plant-based

Cons

  • The scent might irritate skin

This flea and tick control is so much more than an insect killer. It uses pet-safe plant-based essential oils to combat pests at all stages of their life cycle. As an added bonus, it won’t harm birds, bees, and butterflies that eat insects that have been treated with the product. You can use it on your pooch, or you can use it on yourself. If your pet has sensitive skin—especially cats—the scent might irritate your pet. Bathe your pet in soap and discontinue use if your pet experiences a negative reaction.

Best budget: OFF! Deep Woods Insect & Mosquito Repellent

OFF!

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Why it made the cut: This long-lasting, non-greasy insect repellent comes in a two-pack for more bang for your buck.

Specs

  • Volume: 4 fluid ounces
  • Form: Aerosol
  • Scent: Lemon
  • Active ingredient: DEET

Pros

  • High DEET concentration
  • Non-greasy feel
  • Scent not overpowering

Cons

  • Propellant can leave a white residue on clothes

This DEET OFF insect repellent approaches the maximum level of protection with a concentration of 25 percent, and it’s especially effective at repelling deadly and/or annoying mosquitoes, along with ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers for long periods of time. Its powder-dry insect-repelling formula protects without feeling oily or greasy, and its lemon scent is light and pleasant. Use caution when spraying on or near fabrics, as its included propellant can leave a white residue. It can be washed off easily, however.

What to consider when buying the best insect repellents

So how do you go about choosing the best insect repellent your money can buy? There’s a wide variety, which vary in effectiveness, application style, and whether their effects are scientifically proven. (Mosquito repellent bracelets, for example, are an option but experts are not unanimously sold on their effectiveness.) 

Before settling on any product, it’s important to read the label and look for one of three key ingredients: DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin. Some experts are less than enthusiastic about natural insect repellents, like citronella, because their active ingredients aren’t as effective. That doesn’t make them useless, but they’re not ideal as a primary protector; they’re best used in tandem with the stronger stuff. Also, beware of products that combine sunscreen and bug repellent. Since sunscreen has to be reapplied every few hours, you’ll risk overexposing yourself to the chemicals in repellent.

When applying insect control, be sure you cover only exposed body parts, using only the recommended dose. Keep it away from cuts and bruises and, when using it on your face, rub it in using your hands and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and ears. At the end of the day, wash it off using soap and water, and if you’ve sprayed it onto your clothing, keep them in a separate wash pile. The best insect repellent is also often some pretty harsh stuff: it can damage leather, vinyl, and some synthetics, so proceed with caution when applying bug spray directly to fabric.

DEET vs. picaridin

DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, in case you needed to know for a Jeopardy! question or bar trivia) is the most widely used active ingredient in insect repellent, and it offers a strong defense against mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies. The amount used in most products ranges between 10 percent and 100 percent, with a protection time of two hours to 10. The level of protection maxes out at a concentration of 30 percent, with higher levels only increasing the protection time. Control-release DEET can keep working for up to 12 hours.

DEET, which was developed by the United States Army during the 1940s, is perfectly safe to use if you follow the instructions that come with it. It’s considered the old faithful of the best insect repellent, but you have to be sure to handle it carefully and keep it away from your sunglasses and trekking pole grips since it doesn’t always mix well with plastics. It can also cause some temporary numbness in your lips if it comes into contact with them, so be careful when applying.

Picaridin is the synthetic version of a repellent found in pepper plants, and it’s often mentioned alongside DEET as a prime active ingredient in insect repellent. The maximum protection of picaridin is reached at 20 percent concentration, with spray and lotion forms providing different lengths of protection. In insect repellent spray, it can keep you covered against mosquitoes and ticks for 12 hours and flies for eight. In lotion form, it can protect you from mosquitoes and ticks for 14 hours and flies for eight.

Picaridin has a few advantages over the older competitor, DEET. When dealing with mosquitoes and ticks, picaridin is similarly effective as DEET, and it’s actually a bit more effective on flies. Picaridin also has less of an odor, and when used in the best insect repellent, it doesn’t do any damage to plastics and other synthetics.

Can kids use insect repellent?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, insect repellent used on children should not contain any more than a 30 percent concentration of DEET, and insect repellent shouldn’t be used at all on babies younger than two months. Picaridin is also generally safe to use on children, though it can irritate their eyes and skin. To avoid exposing kids to these fairly serious chemicals, you might want to consider an alternative like essential oil insect repellent, but keep in mind that repellents with plant oils as a main active ingredient offer fewer hours of protection than DEET and picaridin products.

To further protect babies from the effects of bugs outdoors, cover their strollers with netting. When applying the best insect repellent to children, adults should follow the same safety guidelines when applying it to themselves.

How do I protect my pets from insects?

Collars, pills, chewables, and drops provide pets with varying levels of pest protection. DEET can be toxic to dogs, especially in large quantities, so it’s best to avoid using DEET insect repellent on dogs, or even on yourself if you’re hanging out with a dog. (They do like to lick skin, remember.) Natural bug repellent is a safer option, but some essential oils are harmful to dogs, so it’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian before using any of them.

The safe list for dogs generally includes citrus, soybean oil, and geranium oil, and you can apply those to their coat or collar. Another option is filling your yard with plants like basil, catnip, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, and rosemary as a mosquito repellent for dogs. But dog owners beware: Plants such as geranium, citronella, and garlic can be dangerous if eaten by dogs, and if you have a cat, essential oils can be especially toxic, causing an upset stomach and damage to the liver and central nervous system.

How much will you have to pay for bug protection?

The best insect repellent won’t set you back very much—if it’s designed for humans. Solid options can be found for under $10. But specially formulated bug control for pets tends to be a bit more expensive; it can even approach the $100 range. Home systems can also get pricey, and can go for around $600-$700 dollars.

FAQs

Q: What is the most effective insect repellent?

The most effective insect repellent will contain either DEET or picaridin as an active ingredient. DEET has been in use for longer and is more effective as a tick repellent, while picaridin provides a stronger defense against flies. Picaridin also has a milder odor and doesn’t dissolve plastics, as DEET can.

Q: What is the most effective natural insect repellent?

The most effective natural insect repellent is probably lemon eucalyptus oil. It is the essential oil cited most frequently by experts; a 32 percent solution can provide 95 percent protection against them for three hours. Citronella, on the other hand, has a minimal effect at best, when you’re talking about candles and torches.

Q: What smell do mosquitoes hate the most?

The smell mosquitoes hate the most is a relatively lengthy list that includes DEET, lavender, peppermint, citronella, garlic, lime, basil, clove oil, and eucalyptus. Considering how many things they hate, it’s clear they really must love biting humans to overcome all of those scents!

Final thoughts on the best insect repellents

The best insect repellent is likely to include one of the two power ingredients, those being DEET and picaridin. It doesn’t take a high concentration of either to maximize bug control, but the higher the concentration, the longer you’ll be protected. Natural insect repellent is an alternative to these, but they’re not always as effective. Since DEET poses a danger to dogs, natural bug repellents are a better pet option, but you have to be careful to stay away from toxic plants and essential oils that might threaten their health.

The post The best insect repellents of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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A popular ‘compostable’ bioplastic isn’t as biodegradable as it seems https://www.popsci.com/environment/pla-plastic-compost-biodegradable/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546308
PLA is only compostable under specific high-temperature conditions that “cannot be found in nature.”
PLA is only compostable under specific high-temperature conditions that “cannot be found in nature.”. DepositPhotos

Marketing PLA as an 'ecological solution' is misleading, according to experts.

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PLA is only compostable under specific high-temperature conditions that “cannot be found in nature.”
PLA is only compostable under specific high-temperature conditions that “cannot be found in nature.”. DepositPhotos

The use of plastic across all facets of human life has grown more and more pervasive in the last few decades, resulting in a surge in global environmental pollution. More than half of the amount of plastic produced from 1950 to 2017 became plastic waste, which harms ecosystems, livelihoods, and food security around the globe. In the United States alone, about 35.7 million tons of plastic were generated in 2018. Exploring potential alternatives to conventional petroleum-based plastics, like bioplastics, is necessary to mitigate pollution and reduce the waste stream.

Bioplastics are usually made from extracted starches, oils, and sugars from renewable sources such as corn and sugarcane—like poly(lactic acids) or PLAs. Others are made from polymers produced by microorganisms, like polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs. PLA, one of the most commonly used bioplastics, has similar functionalities to conventional plastic and is considered to be recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable. “Biodegradable” means that it can be degraded naturally by microorganisms, while “compostable” means it is biodegradable in industrial composting operations. However, new research shows that PLA might not be as environmentally friendly as initially thought.

[Related: Why the recycling symbol is part of a ‘misinformation campaign’.]

Because PLA is applied extensively in single-use items and often touted as an alternative to conventional plastics, the authors of a recent PLOS One study looked into the biodegradability of textiles made of PLA in marine waters. The authors found that PLA showed no sign of environmental degradation even after spending 428 days under natural marine conditions. If consumers are buying PLA thinking it’s an ecological solution to plastic items since it biodegrades under normal conditions, they are being misled, says Sarah-Jeanne Royer, visiting scholar at the UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography who was involved in the study.

She adds that PLA is only compostable under specific high-temperature conditions that “cannot be found in nature.” Therefore, the material needs to be properly disposed of and composted to be biodegradable. PLA may be industrially compostable, but since it doesn’t degrade easily in the environment, it demonstrates the potential to be a marine pollutant. The authors conclude that the common practice of referring to industrially compostable materials as “biodegradable plastic” could mislead consumers and increase the amount of plastic waste in the environment.

There is a tendency to assume that bioplastics are biodegradable since they are made from biological materials. However, if they are designed to mimic the structure of conventional plastics, they can last in the environment just as long. In fact, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) discourages the use of “bioplastic” and instead pushes for “bio-based polymer” to avoid misleading individuals that any polymer derived from biomass is inherently environmentally friendly.

Royer says potentially misleading terminology about what is biodegradable or not can affect the environment. Some consumers may think of “biodegradable” and “compostable” as interchangeable, but these materials can often end up in the waste stream just like conventional plastic items. To avoid misconceptions, companies promoting PLA can inform consumers how to use and dispose of their products and let them know the conditions under which the material will biodegrade. “This information should not be hidden and hard to find,” says Royer. “The right labeling is important as it is counterproductive to buy PLA and then discard it in the wrong way.”

In general, a material should be tested under different conditions and scenarios to assess its biodegradability, says Royer. More importantly, it must be tested “under realistic scenarios, such as the natural environment, where these types of materials might end up.” For instance, PLA can be biodegradable under composting facilities, while cellulose-based textile fibers can biodegrade under normal oceanic conditions, she adds.

[Related: Earthworms can break down bioplastic, for better or for worse.]

While the idea of bioplastics can be promising, they’re not the end-all solution. Addressing plastic pollution does not mean using more biodegradable and compostable plastics, but rather, generating less waste in general. Royer says PLA is used for single-use items most of the time, something consumers should avoid using at all costs. 

“Creating a product needs a lot of energy and resources, and using it only a few minutes and then discarding it does not make any sense,” she adds. “If consumers really need to buy a biodegradable bioplastic, then they should make sure to have access to composting facilities, which is not always easy.”

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Elevate your gameplay and pay only $49.99 for this wireless ergonomic gaming mouse https://www.popsci.com/sponsored-content/wireless-ergonomic-gaming-mouse-deal/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=545891
A ergonomic gaming mouse on a white background
Stack Commerce

The MOJO M2 provides high performance, comfort, and customization.

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A ergonomic gaming mouse on a white background
Stack Commerce

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

The MOJO M2 Performance Wireless Gaming Mouse will keep your wrist comfortable with a 70-hour battery life, and it’s on sale for $49.99.

Whether you’re a casual gamer enjoying quick gaming sessions or a hardcore enthusiast embarking on non-stop marathon rounds, the gaming experience can vary greatly. But no matter what, the time spent on the computer can result in wrists, hands, and arms working overtime, requiring a high-quality mouse to keep up. The MOJO M2 Performance Wireless Gaming Mouse is a great contender in bringing comfort to your wrist whenever you gear up to play another round on the computer.

The redesigned ergonomic structure of the MOJO M2 caters to dedicated gamers seeking a mouse with a harmonious blend of weight distribution, exceptional performance, and unmatched comfort. By keeping your arm more relaxed, you’ll reduce your wrist’s rotation and give it a break during gameplay, helping to maintain optimal control and prevent damage and straining on your wrist.

And with a lag-free 2.4GHz wireless connection, 16K DPI optical sensor, and highly customizable software, you’ll have comfort and a competitive edge. Whether engaged in an intense FPS battle or a fast-paced MOBA match, the M2’s wireless functionality will allow you to move and react swiftly without any input delay.

Battery life is always a concern when it comes to wireless gaming peripherals. With its energy-efficient design, the MOJO M2 can last up to an impressive 70 hours on a single charge, allowing you the freedom to enjoy extended gaming sessions without the need for frequent recharging. When it’s time to power up, connect the USB charging cable, and you’ll be ready to go again.

The MOJO M2 also offers six programmable buttons, allowing you to customize your gaming experience. With the ability to assign functions to these buttons, you can quickly execute complex actions, giving you an advantage over your opponents. Create custom macros and shortcuts to streamline your gameplay and gain a competitive edge.

The MOJO M2 Performance Wireless Gaming Mouse is available at best-on-web pricing of only $49.99 (reg. $59). So whether you’re a casual gamer or a competitive esports enthusiast, the MOJO M2 is an excellent choice that won’t break the bank.

Prices subject to change.

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Wildfire smoke is choking the eastern United States https://www.popsci.com/environment/wildfire-smoke-air-quality-eastern-us-june-2023/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546504
The Downtown Manhattan skyline stands shrouded in a reddish haze as a result of Canadian wildfires on June 6, 2023 in New York City. Over 100 wildfires are burning in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and Quebec resulting in air quality health alerts for the Adirondacks, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York, and Western New York.
The Downtown Manhattan skyline stands shrouded in a reddish haze as a result of Canadian wildfires on June 6, 2023 in New York City. Over 100 wildfires are burning in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and Quebec resulting in air quality health alerts for the Adirondacks, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York, and Western New York. Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nearly 100 million people across numerous states are affected by the dangerous conditions.

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The Downtown Manhattan skyline stands shrouded in a reddish haze as a result of Canadian wildfires on June 6, 2023 in New York City. Over 100 wildfires are burning in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and Quebec resulting in air quality health alerts for the Adirondacks, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York, and Western New York.
The Downtown Manhattan skyline stands shrouded in a reddish haze as a result of Canadian wildfires on June 6, 2023 in New York City. Over 100 wildfires are burning in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and Quebec resulting in air quality health alerts for the Adirondacks, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York, and Western New York. Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The dangerous smoke from more than 100 wildfires burning in Quebec, Canada is drifting south into the United States. The smog can cause burning eyes and headaches, making it dangerous to go outside, particularly for those with asthma and heart diseases. 

[Related: Here’s exactly how wildfires are polluting our air.]

New York City had the worst air quality of any major metropolitan area late last night on Tuesday June 6, according to IQAIR. The city has since dropped to second place in terms of air pollution in the world following New Delhi, India.

Early on Wednesday June 7, New York City’s air quality was considered “very unhealthy,” according to the US Air Quality Index. This metric is maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New York City’s AQI was 226 out of a maximum of over 300. The EPA characterizes this level as Code Purple, which means elevated health risk for all groups. 

In a health advisory, NYC officials urged at-risk residents to wear high-quality masks outdoors and try to stay indoors. 

“If you are an older adult or have heart or breathing problems and need to be outside, wear a high-quality mask (e.g. N95 or KN95),” the office of Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.

“Currently, we are taking precautions out of an abundance of caution to protect New Yorkers’ health until we are able to get a better sense of future air quality reports,” Adams said.

Nearly 100 million people across numerous states are affected by the dangerous conditions, with sunrises turning red under gray skies. The smoke is expected to continue with air quality alerts issued for New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, VermontNew Hampshire and as far south as Washington DC and North Carolina.

This fire season is shaping up to be among the worst in Canadian history, and the province of Quebec is seeking international support to help fight the fires. With 480 wilderness firefighters on the ground, Quebec can fight around 30 fires, Quebec Premier François Legault told the Associated Press on June 5. Usually, he said, firefighters would come from other provinces to help.

“When I talk to the premiers of other provinces, they have their hands full,” Legault said in a press briefing in Quebec City.

Climate Change photo
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of smoke billowing from the wildfires burning in Quebec on June 3, 2023. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory.

Wildfire smoke has very tiny particulate matter, or PM2.5. This is an extremely small pollutant, but is the most dangerous. It can travel deep into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream. In addition to wildfires, tiny particulate matter comes from sources like dust storms and the combustion of fossil fuels. Studies have linked it to numerous health problems including heart diseases, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 4.2 million premature deaths were associated with fine particulate matter in 2016.  The concentration of PM2.5 in NYC was over 10 times the guideline set by the WHO.

[Related: Less ice in the Arctic could mean more wildfires in the US.]

“If you can see or smell smoke, know that you’re being exposed,” William Barrett, the national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association told CNN. “And it’s important that you do everything you can to remain indoors during those high, high pollution episodes, and it’s really important to keep an eye on your health or any development of symptoms.”

To live with wildfire smoke, experts suggest learning how to check and monitor air quality early and often, in addition to closing windows, using air filtration if possible, and keeping pets indoors. It is also feasible to build your own air purifier for as low as $30.

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How to make sure you never miss someone’s birthday https://www.popsci.com/diy/remember-birthday/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546444
Hand holding a cupcake with purple frosting, sprinkles and a birthday candle.
If you can't fit another birthday in your head, let these apps help you remember and celebrate with your loved ones. Isabella Fischer / Unsplash

Use these apps and features to help you remember all those special occasions.

The post How to make sure you never miss someone’s birthday appeared first on Popular Science.

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Hand holding a cupcake with purple frosting, sprinkles and a birthday candle.
If you can't fit another birthday in your head, let these apps help you remember and celebrate with your loved ones. Isabella Fischer / Unsplash

Wishing somebody a happy birthday requires little effort on your part, but it immediately makes your friends and family feel appreciated and cared about.

But if your brain cannot handle yet another important date, your ever-loyal smartphone offers a host of ways to stay on top of birthdays and other special occasions. Just make sure you use at least one of these approaches to avoid missing someone’s big day.

Social media can help you remember birthdays

Checking your social media accounts is a good way of staying on top of birthdays. In the Facebook app, tap your profile picture (top right), then the magnifying glass icon, and search for birthdays. Tap the top result to see a list of your friend’s recent and upcoming birthdays.

[Related: How to set phone reminders for anything]

Snapchat will display a cake icon next to your contacts in the main chat list when it’s their birthday—swipe left from the camera screen to see it. You can also tap on a friend’s avatar to get to their profile page, and if it’s their big day, you’ll see an It’s Their Birthday! graphic. Unfortunately, you can’t look up birth dates in advance.

Other social networks are less helpful. Twitter will display people’s birth dates on their profile pages but only if they’ve provided the information. There’s also no list or notification you can use: to know if it’s somebody’s birthday, you’ll have to visit their page to find out. Instagram is even less helpful and doesn’t display birthdays at all, so you’re out of luck. Unless someone specifically puts their date of birth in their bio or uploads a ‘happy birthday to me’ post that you notice.

Android and iOS features that will help you remember birthdays

Google has added a birthdays feature to its Contacts app, which comes built into Pixel phones and is available for devices by other manufacturers. Open the app, tap Highlights, and you’ll see recent and upcoming birthdays for your contacts. The same panel lets you set a notification for any of these birthdays, or send a message to someone celebrating one more year of life.

Of course, Google isn’t guessing here—this feature relies on the information provided by your contacts. If you want to add birthday info yourself, you can open a contact page, tap the pen icon (top right) and then tap Significant date. Enter the birth date and make sure it has a Birthday label underneath. You can also store dates such as anniversaries in the same way. On the main Highlights menu, the app may also prompt you to add birthdays to your contacts more easily. If you see the notification to Add birthdays, tap it and then tap the birthday cake icons you see next to each of your contacts. 

The listings in the iOS Contacts app also have a birthday field you can fill in. On a contact page, tap Edit and then tap add birthday to enter the date. The iOS Contacts app doesn’t remind you about birthdays, but the iOS Calendar app can, which brings us neatly to…

Use calendar apps to remember birthdays

Open up the Calendar app on iOS, tap Calendars, and then check the Birthdays entry to see all the birthdays for contacts that have this information saved with them. From iOS Settings, head to Calendar, Default Alert Times, and Birthdays, and you can choose if and when you get notifications about birthdays, as well as see them listed in the Calendar app.

Google Calendar offers similar integration with Google Contacts. In Google Calendar, tap the three horizontal lines (top left) and make sure the Birthdays calendar is checked (tap Show more if you can’t see it). There’s no way to manage notifications for these events in Google Calendar, as these alerts are handled in Google Contacts.

There’s nothing to stop you from creating your own birthday calendars in the iOS or Android Calendar apps, which would give you a bit more control over formatting (like colors) and let you set different notifications for each birthday. But you’ll need to maintain them manually, which may involve a lot more work than you’re willing to input. The same goes for any other third-party calendar app that you might be using.

Other apps to help you remember birthdays

There are quite a few third-party apps dedicated to the task of helping you remember birthdays. The aptly named Birthday Reminder & Countdown for iOS is free, but you can also pay $2 a year to remove ads. As well as notifying you when someone has a birthday, it can count down the days and tell you what age everyone is. You can manually input birthday data or import it directly from the iOS Contacts app.

[Related: Little kids think birthday parties actually make you get older]

Over on Android, we like Birday, which is open source, as well as easy and completely free to use. You can enter birthday data manually or import it from Google Contacts, and the app can track everyone’s age, count down to specific birthdays, and show you all of your friends and family’s special days on a year planner as well. 

Countdown+ Widgets (for Android and iOS) puts the emphasis on counting down to birthdays or any other event you’re interested in. You can import data from the calendars on your phone or from Facebook, customize the countdowns in numerous ways, and see all upcoming events in a simple list. You’ll also be able to remove ads after paying a one-off fee of $2, which will also allow you to back up your data and get even more customization options.

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A spacecraft engineer’s wisdom from Mars 2020 and a disaster-stricken island https://www.popsci.com/science/the-boy-who-reached-for-the-stars/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546465
NASA Perseverance rover being readied indoors for launch for the Mars 2020 mission
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover being prepared for encapsulation in the a payload facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 18, 2020. NASA/KSC

'The Space Mechanic' illustrates the importance of taking risks, close to home and millions of miles away.

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NASA Perseverance rover being readied indoors for launch for the Mars 2020 mission
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover being prepared for encapsulation in the a payload facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 18, 2020. NASA/KSC

Excerpt from The Boy Who Reached for the Stars: A Memoir by Elio Morillo. Published by HarperOne. Copyright © 2022 HarperCollins.

On September 20, 2017, Category 5 Hurricane María hit my beloved Puerto Rico, hovering over the island for the next 48 hours, uprooting trees, causing power and phone outages, and inflicting catastrophic devastation throughout the land. It was a terrifying stretch of time when those of us with loved ones in the path of this

destruction could only hope and pray they were okay. As we waited to get any type of news, my fix-it mentality kicked in—I needed to do something to channel my helplessness into action. I joined forces with a Puerto Rican who worked in another team at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to begin collecting donations, so we would be ready to ship them out as soon as it was possible. Relief washed over us both when the worry laden silence was finally broken and we heard from our respective families and friends. More than anything, they had suffered material damage to their homes and surrounding streets, but everyone within our circles was okay otherwise. Rosa and Sonia described the experience as a powered-on jet engine sucking everything up into the air.

As more news was released of the extent of the damage people had suffered, my friend and I continued to organize donation efforts in Los Angeles. It was all we could do at the time. I had to carry my worry while I continued to work. I was assigned to avionics and thermal functions testing. In simple terms, the rover has two brains: its main day-to-day brain and what I call its lizard brain. The lizard brain is always running in the background, ready for fight or flight. It checks to make sure that the main computer, or main brain, is working well. If something goes south with the main brain, then the lizard brain can go through particular states to keep the system at a basic level of safety, putting the rover in a partially autonomous configuration that allows us time to figure out what to input to safely reconfigure its hardware.

The rover’s thermal behaviors are what helps keep it alive overnight, when Mars temperatures can drop to −100°F or lower, depending on the season. There are particular instruments and mechanisms that can only operate within a specific range of temperatures.

If they become too cold, we must be able to heat them up. If they’re too warm, we have to stop using them or actively cool them down to the range we want them to operate in. As we gradually entered an all-hands-on-deck phase ahead of our July 2020 launch date, I knew that if I was going to be an effective and successful member of the team, I needed to make the conscious decision to put my work first, but not before making my all-important pit stop to spend Christmas with my family.

We were developing the capabilities, the hardware, all of it, to fulfill a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars, but NASA HQ still hadn’t given the okay to add it to the Mars 2020 mission.

This time we met up in Florida. My grandparents, who didn’t travel often, joined us from New York. And I got to reunite with Sonia and Robert, who were temporarily living in the area while they sorted through Hurricane María’s damage back home. While my abuelo made sure the TV and music were set up and ready for our gathering, my abuela got busy in the kitchen, whipping up her famous casuela or caldo de bola together with extra sides to keep us all fed, full, and happy. My tías and tíos would give them a hand while making fun of each other and roasting my cousins. And a round of Telefunken (a game similar to rummy) was always in order, with bets of up to two dollars per person per round.

The highlight of this break wasn’t just spending quality time with my relatives and chosen family; it was also getting the chance to take my 91-year-old grandfather and my brother to the Kennedy Space Center—a first for the three of us. Walking into the center and suddenly being in the presence of all this antiquated hardware took my breath away. The exhibit featuring the Saturn V launch vehicle made me feel so small. I was mesmerized by how the 1950s team was able to design the stunning hardware displayed before me with the limited technology they had access to in comparison to what we have now. Sure, they had a relatively bigger budget and thousands of people working on one problem, which is not a luxury we enjoy, but they didn’t have our software and automated procedures, and they were doing it all for the first time. As if taking all of this in wasn’t enough, being there as a NASA engineer, walking the entire center by my grandfather’s side, with me as our tour guide, explaining each piece before us, was an unparalleled full-circle moment for me. I stopped several times, glanced at my grandfather, and quietly asked, “Abuelo, are you okay? Would you like us to sit down for a little while to rest?” but he outright refused any break, likely pushed forward by a sense of pride for his walking abilities as well as the sense of wonder that had taken hold of us all as we witnessed this history-making equipment. It was an unequivocal reminder of the legacy I was now helping build with the Mars 2020 mission.


Inspired by the history I had witnessed at the Kennedy Center, and with a renewed sense of purpose, I was more eager than ever to dive even deeper into the mission at stake. February 2018 found me interacting with the Ingenuity helicopter for the first time, more specifically its base station, a component of the helicopter system that would live on the rover. This is the piece of hardware that would communicate with the helicopter on Mars. We were developing the capabilities, the hardware, all of it, to fulfill a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars, but NASA HQ still hadn’t given the okay to add it to the Mars 2020 mission. So we were operating with the hope this green light would eventually be given, and we kept plowing ahead on the rover side, considering how we’d carry the helicopter, how we’d communicate with it, how we’d operate it from this base station. Initially, many of the people on the integration side of the rover were against the idea of integrating the helicopter as a separate system, because that meant it would also have its own separate battery. What if its battery caught fire while cruising through space or on the Mars surface? How would that damage the rover itself? “There’s no way the helicopter will work” was one line of thought. The other: “There’s no way you’ll be able to get all of this work done in time.” And the third: “This helicopter will be a distraction from the rest of the science the rover has to accomplish.” Was it a risk to do this tremendous amount of work for a helicopter that might never launch? Yes, but it was one some of us were willing to take.


As the summer neared, I set my mind on Puerto Rico and the risks and sacrifices they had been forced to take when Hurricane María hit their shores. The island had far from recovered from the damage sustained a little less than a year earlier, and my colleague (turned girlfriend) and I were still eager to help in any way we could. I decided to use my social media to reach out to teachers in Puerto Rico to see how we could help that summer. I quickly received a reply from a University of Michigan friend whose mom had a colleague, Marisa, in need of some help. With the community’s blessing, she and her husband had decided to take over an abandoned school in Los Naranjos, a neighborhood in Vega Baja, located near Dorado, and turn it into a community center. The local residents had lost so much during the hurricane that she was hell-bent on making a difference. Now they were looking for volunteer to get the center off the ground. My girlfriend and I created a three-day STEM program for kids between the ages of eight and 15, called Ingenieros del Futuro (Engineers of the Future). The activities we planned introduced the kids to basic engineering concepts and revolved around three themes: robotics, electricity, and rockets. I set up a GoFundMe to help pay for some of the materials, while we paid for everything else out of pocket.

When we arrived, seeing the devastation firsthand threw me off my orbit and momentarily pushed me into an impotent void. As I painstakingly drove through intersections where the traffic lights had gone dark due to the lack of power, I slowly took in the trees scattered around the area like giant twigs, displaced rooftops, cut-down electricity cables, and attempted to store this harrowing data in a corner of my mind so I could find my way back to our main focus: the kids. I’d give myself time to process this emotional oscillation later, when I returned home.

The Boy who reached for the Stars book cover. Silhouette of a NASA engineer in front of a blue starry sky. Text is in white with Mars replacing the "o" in "boy."
Courtesy of HarperOne

We immediately got the kids working and building several projects—a basic robot, an electric car that used a solar panel to power it, a satellite model, and a wind turbine—to illustrate robotics, sustainable energy, and space exploration. We also scheduled outdoor time to give their brains a break and burn some energy playing soccer with us. For the last project of their three-day journey, I taught them how to build a rocket with a two-liter plastic bottle and a few other readily available components. I had also purchased a bottle launch system that pumped up the rockets and had a trigger that allowed each kid to send their own rocket into the air.

Once it reached a certain height, a parachute they had built into their system with their own hands deployed, safely landing their creation. Their excitement during each launch, descent, and landing, about further engaging with technology and pursuing opportunities in STEM, gave me hope for the people of Puerto Rico. The island currently has to import most of its food, despite once being fully reliant on its own agriculture sector. With agritech becoming more accessible, combined with the development of hydroponics, vertical farming, and more, I see this as a potentially booming sector for Puerto Rico in the future. But they will need dedicated STEM workers to make it happen. The same goes for the ever-controversial power grid. As energy storage and solar, hydro, and wind power become more accessible, microgrids will thrive, and so will the jobs related to those renewable systems.

Sinergia Los Naranjos is still active in the community. Marisa successfully launched a kitchen for folks to run catering businesses, and her husband, Ricardo, runs a reef restoration effort where many of the kids participate and get scuba training. Workshops occur in partnership with local student groups from nearby universities, mostly through grassroots funding and efforts. These kids have the power to build a better future, and I hope to continue to be able to come alongside them and encourage these developments through outreach, philanthropy, and policy influence.


By the spring of 2019, I was working with a few team members to test the capability of our rover to charge the helicopter battery through its base station while traversing space. Batteries, including those in computers and cell phones, left uncharged for a long period of time lose their properties and can’t regain their full charging potential.

Similarly, overcharging a battery and leaving it stored for a long period of time will degrade its lifetime. We had to figure out the sweet spot for the helicopter battery, then find how to measure that charge and, based on that, how to charge it from the rover battery.

Once we figured this out through tests and failures and finally verified what worked, we had to come up with the sequence of steps that needed to be taken to charge the helicopter while flying through space. It was a complicated set of tests that took up a lot of our time but was essential to the helicopter’s functionality and safety.

That summer I began to write and execute integration procedures for the helicopter deployment system, which is the assembly at the bottom of the rover that would hold the helicopter and deploy it. The system consisted of a tiny robotic arm with a motor that would keep the helicopter upright so that it could be successfully dropped onto the Martian surface. After testing this capability and gathering the necessary parameters, we determined that we could indeed deploy it on Mars. A short while after this, JPL finally approved the addition of the helicopter to the Mars 2020 mission. We got the green light. Like most times in my life, the risk proved to be worth taking.

Buy The Boy Who Reached for the Stars by Elio Morillo here.

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Why scientists have a hard time getting money to study the root causes of outbreaks https://www.popsci.com/health/money-to-study-outbreak-causes/ Wed, 07 Jun 2023 01:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546172
Understanding what conditions prime pathogens to leap from animals to people could help us prevent outbreaks.
Understanding what conditions prime pathogens to leap from animals to people could help us prevent outbreaks. DepositPhotos

Government and groups that award grants to scientists favor research that’s high tech and treatment oriented rather than studies that seek to understand why contagions leap from animals to people.

The post Why scientists have a hard time getting money to study the root causes of outbreaks appeared first on Popular Science.

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Understanding what conditions prime pathogens to leap from animals to people could help us prevent outbreaks.
Understanding what conditions prime pathogens to leap from animals to people could help us prevent outbreaks. DepositPhotos

This article was originally featured on ProPublica. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

The outbreaks keep coming.

Mpox, the virus formerly known as monkeypox, last year crossed borders with unprecedented speed to infect nearly 90,000 people. In the past year, Ebola killed at least 55 in Uganda, and a related, equally deadly virus called Marburg emerged in two countries that have never seen it before. Now, scientists are worried that a dangerous bird flu that’s been jumping to mammals could mutate and spread among humans.

These viruses all came from wildlife. Understanding what conditions prime pathogens to leap from animals to people could help us prevent outbreaks. After COVID-19 showed the world the devastation a pandemic can bring, you’d think this type of research would be among the hottest areas of science, with funders lined up far and wide.

That’s not the case. As ProPublica has shown in a series of stories this year, global health authorities focus far more attention and money on containing outbreaks once they begin rather than preventing them from starting in the first place. This mindset has hindered scientists who study the complex dynamics that drive what’s known as spillover, the moment a pathogen leaps from one species to another.

Australian researcher Peggy Eby and her colleagues have shown that it is possible to predict when spillovers are going to happen by closely tracking bats that spread contagion and patiently observing changes that shape their world. This groundbreaking research on the often-fatal Hendra virus relied on decades of Eby’s field work, some of which she did without pay. Early on, one government funder told her that the project she proposed wasn’t a “sufficiently important contribution.” She and her colleagues had to cobble together a mishmash of different grants and keep impatient funders happy. Their work, published late last year in the journal Nature, highlights ways to intervene and potentially prevent outbreaks.

Scientists want to unlock similar mysteries involving other infectious diseases, but research like this is difficult to do and even more difficult to fund. Here are some of the obstacles that stand in the way:

High-tech research overshadows old-school field work.

Government and scientific funding organizations typically reward cutting-edge technologies, such as using machine learning to build models. But those are only as good as the information fed into them — data that someone like Eby has to collect through painstaking groundwork. Many of Eby’s most important insights have come from visiting and revisiting bat roosts over many years, and there was nothing high-tech or novel about her method: a keen eye, a pair of binoculars, a pen and a notebook.

Funders prize novelty over exploring existing theories.

Some funders prioritize totally new ideas. Eby and her colleagues have found that bats shed more Hendra virus after being stressed by food shortages, which have increased as people cut down native trees that once provided the nectar the bats like to eat. Sarah Olson, director of health research at the Wildlife Conservation Society, has long wanted to conduct similar research on bats suspected of carrying the Ebola virus in the Republic of Congo. Developers have cleared swaths of forest in recent years to build roads and housing, and Olson wants to understand how that’s affected these bats.

Olson has applied for grant after grant since 2015 but has struggled to get sufficient funding. Even before she applied, an employee at the National Science Foundation told her the study wouldn’t be novel enough because she wasn’t exploring an entirely new theory. Rather than strengthening her case, Eby and her colleagues’ prior work weakened Olsen’s chances. A spokesperson for the National Science Foundation said the agency could not comment on specific grants. Speaking generally, the spokesperson wrote, “The most competitive proposals are those that advance broad, conceptual knowledge that reaches beyond the specific system under study.”

Olson has lined up Congolese researchers who are willing to collaborate. “We can do it,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting funding and the interest.”

Funders’ focus is often too narrow.

If you want to predict and prevent an outbreak, you have to answer big questions: What causes spillover? Why this year and not another? How does a changing environment influence animals and their interactions with humans? Experts across disciplines are needed, but cross-disciplinary vision is hard to find among many of the most prominent funding agencies.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for example, focuses on research to develop treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests and to understand viruses at the molecular level. Conservation and environment-focused grants rarely include human health in their scope.

Olson pitched her study on Congolese bats to the National Institutes of Health. She got rejected, she said, because grant reviewers said that it wasn’t clear how the bat results could be linked to human infections. An NIH spokesperson said the agency doesn’t comment on specific grants, adding, “It is incumbent on investigators who want to study overlapping interests of animal and human health to clearly describe the relevance of their proposed research to the advancement of human health.”

Eby and her colleague, Dr. Raina Plowright, a professor of disease ecology at Cornell University, smacked into these same silos when their applications for grant after grant were shot down. An animal foundation, for instance, said it wasn’t within its mandate to care about diseases that jumped to humans.

Thomas Gillespie, a professor of environmental sciences at Emory University, wanted to investigate whether stress affects when cave-dwelling bats in Costa Rica shed leptospirosis, a type of bacteria that can be deadly to humans. A joint program from the National Science Foundation and the NIH said the project was “too ambitious,” he recalled. Gillespie and his colleagues tried for a different NIH grant, but reviewers complained the focus was too much on animals and not enough on humans, he said. In the end, he and his colleagues stitched together funding from a museum, a nonprofit and private foundations, but they had to scale back the project to stay within budget.

Long-term research doesn’t fit into short-term grants.

Research grants typically last two to three years, which is not enough time to observe how climate change, food shortages, habitat loss and deforestation are affecting animal behavior. For their Hendra research, Eby and her colleagues analyzed data that spanned 25 years. To support that long-term data collection, Eby sometimes took on contract work, such as helping local governments figure out how to deal with bats that people in the area considered a nuisance.

Plowright won a grant from an arm of the Department of Defense, but it only allowed two years for collecting field data. “They needed us to wrap things up and show results to justify our funding,” Plowright said. That schedule is the norm, not an outlier, in science.

Some key programs are one-offs.

It’s not just that grants are short term. Some of the rare grant-giving initiatives that focus on prevention don’t last long either.

The Hendra virus researchers received some of their biggest financial support from a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program that was unique in its scope and vision. Called Preventing Emerging Pathogenic Threats, the program sought to understand the reasons contagions spread from animals to people. The ultimate goal was to devise strategies to protect U.S. troops in places where there are endemic and emerging infectious diseases, according to Kristen Jordan, the deputy director for the DARPA Biological Technologies Office. Unlike many others, this program was designed to support multidisciplinary research and was squarely focused on prevention. In 2018, it funded five projects, including the Hendra virus research.

But that’s it. After five years, the program is wrapping up for good. “We look to our government partners to pick up the pieces, if they so desire,” Jordan said. “We are ready for the next hard problem; there are many we need to address.”

Similarly, a program at the NIH called the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases is among the few that fund scientists across disciplines who are trying to understand spillover. Established in 2020, the program plans to award $82 million over five years. That’s not as much as it sounds. Consider that the NIH receives more than $3 billion annually for HIV and AIDS research. Jean Patterson, the scientist who helps oversee the program, said that when the five years is up, she and her team have to make the case to NIH leaders that their program should continue or it will be dropped.

Money is scarce, even for solutions.

When researchers uncover ways to prevent outbreaks, getting funders to implement those solutions is no sure bet. Emily Gurley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, succeeded in winning government funding to piece together how the Nipah virus jumped from bats to people in Bangladesh. She and her colleagues figured out a way to interrupt the transmission of Nipah, the virus used as the model for the disease in the movie “Contagion.”

Gurley and her team used infrared cameras to determine that bats were drinking sap that residents were collecting in pots attached to date palm trees. People caught Nipah when they drank sap contaminated by infected bats.

Across multiple studies, Gurley and her colleagues showed that bamboo skirts covering the pots were cheap and easy to make, accepted by local sap collectors and effective at keeping out bats. With a proven solution in hand, Gurley wanted to roll this out in other parts of Bangladesh where bats spread Nipah, but she said no U.S. or international agency would step up to fund that work. The Bangladeshi government tells people not to drink raw sap, but this is a long-standing tradition that may be hard to eliminate.

Gillespie, the Emory professor, said that government and private scientific funding groups need to prioritize research into prevention, so we can learn how best to head off deforestation, habitat loss and other causes of spillover. “We have to do something now, or we’ll end up in an era of pandemics,” he warned.

The post Why scientists have a hard time getting money to study the root causes of outbreaks appeared first on Popular Science.

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The best microscopes for kids in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-microscopes-for-kids/ Sat, 21 May 2022 13:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=444714
Microscopes for kids sliced header
Stan Horaczek

Keep your young ones confidently curious about science.

The post The best microscopes for kids in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Microscopes for kids sliced header
Stan Horaczek

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Best overall AmScope Beginner Microscope STEM Kit is the best overall microscope for kids. AmScope Beginner Microscope STEM Kit
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An excellent kit filled with tools to help kids explore the world close-up.

Best for 10-year-olds OMAX-MD82ES10 is the best microscope for 10-years-old. OMAX-MD82ES10
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A high-quality microscope that will let kids feel like full-fledged researchers.

Best for young kids Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kids Microscope is the best microscope for young kids. Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kids Microscope
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A great option for curious toddlers that want to get up close and personal with household objects.

When most people think of microscopes they think of labs, schools, and serious research facilities—they don’t think about kids. But there are plenty of great options when it comes to fostering an interest in science at home. If you have a curious kid looking for a fun activity that revolves around exploration and learning, a microscope is a great option for an exciting gift. Before you inspire your little scientist to get up close and personal, however, it’s important to understand which make and model will be right for their interests and maturity level. We’ll walk you through some of the features to look out for and recommend some of the best microscopes for kids on the market.

How we chose the best microscopes for kids

To select the best microscopes for kids of all ages, we paid particular attention to each model’s durability and magnification power. Children under seven won’t be able to use the features a more advanced microscope will offer, and older children might be disappointed by more rudimentary features made for younger kids, so we looked at light sources, stereo/compound power, and other technical specs to ensure a range of options to suit the spectrum of budding biologists. Finally, we searched for products with special features or science kits so your kids could start a scientific adventure the minute they open the box. We compiled our personal research and experience with online user impressions and critical consensus to select the best microscopes for kids.

The best microscopes for kids: Reviews & Recommendations

There are a lot of ’scopes to scope, so here are the ones whose profiles we choose to magnify.

Best overall: AmScope Beginner Microscope STEM Kit

AmScope

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Why it made the cut: With a 52-piece set that kids can use right out of the box, this microscope is a great introduction to full-scale STEM research.

Specs

  • Magnification: 120x-1200x
  • Age Range: 8+
  • Dimensions: 15.75 x 14.57 x 5.12 inches 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Accessory kit 
  • Adjustable magnification
  • Carrying case included

Cons 

  • Not suitable for younger kids

This beginner kit from AmScope includes a power monocular compound microscope with a color filter wheel, magnification ranging from 120x-1200x, LED light illumination, and a stain-resistant metal frame. Inside the ABS carrying case, you’ll also find a pair of tweezers, collecting vials, a Petri dish, prepared slides, Eosin dye, and more. You’ll even find a shrimp hatchery with Brine Shrimp eggs, so your kid can start their first science project immediately. If you’re looking for even more fun, grab AmScope’s World of the Microscope book, which includes additional projects and activities. This kit is recommended to be used under adult supervision and is unsuitable for preschool-aged kids. 

Best for 10-year-olds: OMAX-MD82ES10

OMAX

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Why it made the cut: A professional digital microscope that will give older kids the confidence and training to go further in their STEM journey. 

Specs

  • Magnification: 40x-2000x
  • Age Range: 10+
  • Dimensions: 9.06 x 7.09 x 12.99 inches 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Professional quality 
  • Built-in 1.3MP Camera 
  • Swiveling binocular head 
  • Impressive Magnification

Cons 

  • Pricey
  • Not suitable for younger kids

If you’re looking for one of the best digital microscopes for kids or the classroom, this option from OMAX is more advanced lab equipment than a lot of starter kits. It features eight levels of magnification: 40x, 80x, 100x, 200x, 400x, 800x, 1000x, and 2000x, making it the most powerful microscope on our list. It’s strong enough to show your budding biologist protozoa, cell walls, bacteria, and more. This digital compound microscope can connect via USB to Mac and Windows computers, and the built-in camera can take pictures and record videos of your findings so your kid can share their discoveries at the next family gathering. 

If you’re not ready to spend that multifunctional model money but want a digital microscope, consider this wireless model from Skybasic with 50x-1000x magnification and WiFi connectivity

Best for young kids: Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kids Microscope 

Educational Insights

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Why it made the cut: The GeoSafari Jr. Kids Microscope is a great way to introduce science and discovery to young children; it’s constructed with small hands in mind encouraging independent learning without sacrificing functionality. 

Specs

  • Magnification: 2.5x-8x
  • Age Range: 3-6
  • Dimensions: 1.12 x 8.1 x 10 inches 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Inexpensive 
  • Binocular eyepieces suitable for kids 
  • Comes with 12 prepared slides 
  • Large viewing area

Cons 

  • Won’t be as fun for older siblings 

This microscope from GeoSafari Jr. is an incredible way to introduce your kids to a wonderful new world full of zoomed-in discoveries. It’s designed explicitly with preschool-aged children in mind and features a large focus knob to help kids get used to magnification, starting with 2.5x and expanding to 8x. Two large eyepieces are comfortable and easy to use, eliminating the need to coordinate closing one eye. A push-button LED light and large viewing plate make this microscope easy to use; kids can independently place household objects and outdoor finds within view, plus, you can help them use the 12 included slide plates for a more advanced experience. One of the best for 5-year-olds, My First Microscope comes in two bright colorways, is made from lightweight yet durable plastic, and is battery operated so you can take it outdoors on a nice day. 

Best portable: Carson MicroBrite Plus Pocket Microscope

Carson

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Why it made the cut: Weighing only 0.15 pounds, this pocket microscope is a great way for kids to get closer to nature during hikes, camping trips, and other outdoor adventures. 

Specs

  • Magnification: 60x-120x
  • Age Range: 6+
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 0.79 x 1.97 inches 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Magnification power 

Cons 

  • Works best on flat object 
  • Can be hard to use for little kids

This compact pocket microscope is an excellent way to explore the outdoors with your kids. While a little trickier to operate than some models made specifically for kids, it’s a great option for looking at leaves, insects, flowers, and more. An aspheric lens forces light rays to converge at a single focal point, allowing for more precise imaging aided by a bright LED light. With a magnification power range between 60x-120x, you’ll see some incredible detail, though it’s recommended that your kids start at the lowest magnification and work their way up. Using the MicroBrite to look at relatively flat objects resting on a flat surface is best, especially for kids still working on keeping a steady hand.  

Best kit: Omano JuniorScope Science Kit

Omano

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Why it made the cut: A microscope is a great gift, but the JuniorScope Science Kit comes with five fun experiment cards that will keep your kids entertained after they inspect what they find around the house.

Specs

  • Magnification: 40x-400x
  • Age Range: 6+
  • Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 14 inches 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Comes with experiments 
  • Good value 
  • Suitable for a wide age range

Cons 

  • Larger objects can be challenging to view 

This microscope kit from JuniorScope comes with three magnification levels, a glass lens, dimmable LED lighting, and a large EZ focus knob allows kids to operate the magnification levels independently. The full kit includes five fun experiment cards that will walk your kids through different ways to inspect various specimens, including insects, human bodies, plants, and crime scenes. Alongside the cards, this kit includes forceps, a Petri dish, dropper, test tube, blank slides, prepared slides, lens paper, and more. Look no further if you want a complete kit to guide a scientifically-minded kid. 

Best budget: National Geographic STEM Kit

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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Why it made the cut: A full microscope kit for under $40 that includes mineral chips, prepared plates, a lab guide, and more.

Specs

  • Magnification: 40x-400x
  • Age Range: 6+
  • Dimensions: 12.05 x 11.05 x 6.81 
  • Light Source: LED

Pros 

  • Inexpensive
  • Comes with tools and activities 
  • Soft eyepiece 

Cons 

  • Build feels a little cheap

This kit from National Geographic is an affordable way to gift a microscope, equipment, and built-in experiments. The microscope itself features a soft eyepiece, large focus knob, and fixed lens, while the full kit comes with six plant slides, six blank slides, slide case, lab guide, pipette, tweezers, specimen dish, and more. It also comes with six mineral chips, including Pyrite, Amethyst, Rose Quartz, Blue Clacite, Geode, and Green Fluorite. We can confirm that adults and children alike will enjoy getting close to these sparkly rocks. The National Geographic STEM kit delivers a full gift set without breaking the bank. 

What to consider when buying the best microscopes for kids

Just because kids can use these microscopes, that doesn’t mean their construction is completely different from lab-level models. They are still tools that come with technical specifications, and it’s important to understand how they work so you can confidently choose the right one for your young scientist. 

Magnification and eyepiece

Microscopes are designed to zoom in on organisms and other matter, but the magnification power will differ across various models. Generally speaking, the younger the child, the lower the magnification power should be because powerful optics can be more difficult to operate. Microscopes with a 5X to 400X magnification power will be great for younger kids. Higher magnification, above 400x, should typically be reserved for kids over eight. These optics are also directly related to eyepiece type. A monocular eyepiece is used by one eye and can magnify up to 1000X. A binocular microscope supports more powerful magnification and uses both eyes, reducing eye strain. 

Traditional or digital 

You’ll likely see the words “traditional” and “digital” used to describe two different microscope types. A traditional model is probably best if you’re looking for an at-home microscope. A digital unit looks at the plate using a camera, projecting the image onto a screen—helpful for classroom settings or larger families with lots of young kids reluctant to take turns, but not the typical kitchen table use case. 

Stereo or compound

Stereo and compound, also known as high or low power, describe the materials the microscope is designed to inspect. Stereo microscopes are considered low power and are great for exploring small surfaces in more three-dimensional detail: think coins, seashells, and rocks. Compound, high-power microscopes will give you a better look at living organisms, like plant matter, and rely on super small sections of the material to be put on a plate for closer inspection. 

Longevity and durability  

Traditionally, microscopes use small halogen or fluorescent bulbs to illuminate their subjects. If finding replacement bulbs fills you with dread, consider LED options, which are powerful, bright, and last for years. 

Of course, the light source won’t matter if your microscope is made from fragile material and placed in the hands of a well-intentioned yet clumsy kid. Look for strong metals or thick, durable plastics. For kids under 5, grab a model with special safety features—like rubberized grips, padding around the eyepiece, rounded edges, and other features designed to be operated by small, inexperienced fingers. Of course, you can worry less about child-friendly design and more about magnification for older kids. 

Accessories and kits 

Ensure your microscope has all the tools necessary for full functionality; appropriate accessories might include plates, Petri dishes, pipettes, tweezers, etc. If you are gifting a microscope but are unsure how to use it in a fun, engaging way, go for a microscope kit with additional accessories. These kits typically include a variety of experiments or guides to get your scientific explorer started. As they grow, you can get them a telescope under $500 to look at the larger aspects of our universe.

FAQs

Q: How much do the best microscopes for kids cost?

The best microscopes for kids range from $14-$300 based on their features, materials, and quality.

Q: At what age can children use a microscope?

A child can start exploring microscopes as early as three years old. While you shouldn’t put a top-of-the-line research tool into the hands of a toddler, many early-childhood-aged children can interact well with a simple microscope designed for kids. As they get older, you can introduce more complex ideas and, therefore, more complex models to their play and learning. Kids as young as 9 or 10 can successfully operate more advanced binocular-style microscopes to great effect. 

Q: What can you see with a 20x microscope?

A 20x microscope will give you a closer look at the ridges and details on plant specimens, insects, shells, rocks, and other objects around the house. It’s a magnification level that will suit younger children well, though older children might be slightly disappointed. If they hope to zoom in on truly microscopic details, you’ll need a more powerful magnification; fine detail creeps in closer to 200x. 

Q: What microscope magnification is needed to see bacteria?

To see bacteria, you’ll generally need a compound microscope with at least 1000x magnification. A select few, like algae and yeast, can be seen between 200x-400x. You will likely need the right material to stain the bacteria first and experiment with the lens size. Too much magnification can lead to difficulty keeping samples in focus, and too little magnification will lead to blurry, unfocused viewing. 

Final thoughts on the best microscopes for kids

Shopping for the best microscope for kids shouldn’t be a process of trial and error, especially if you know what will suit the age of your little STEM explorer. As long as you don’t buy anything too advanced for smaller kids or too rudimentary for late-elementary to middle school students, you’re on track to deliver an amazing gift that will provide entertainment and learning. Consider the technical specs, pay particular attention to magnification, and think about any extra accessories that could go a long way. You’ll be conducting scientific research experiments with your future doctor/environmental scientist/zoologist/biologist/botanist in no time. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission 

to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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Super semen could be one reason why primates evolved to masturbate https://www.popsci.com/environment/primate-masturbation-evolution/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 23:01:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546329
A monkey laying on a tree smiling.
Primates evolved to be prime masturbators. Deposit Photos

Self-pleasure occurs all across the animal kingdom, but it’s still unclear why primates in particular evolved autosexual behavior.

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A monkey laying on a tree smiling.
Primates evolved to be prime masturbators. Deposit Photos

Despite centuries of taboo and titillation, masturbation in primates appears to serve an evolutionary purpose. A study published June 6 in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, found that self-stimulating increases reproductive success and helps primates avoid sexually transmitted infections (STI), at least in males. 

[Related from PopSci+: These sex toys are designed to heal, one orgasm at a time.]

Self-pleasure is common across the animal kingdom, but is particularly frequent in primates including humans. The behavior was considered by some scientists to be either pathological or simply a by-product of sexual arousal. Recorded observations were also too fragmented to fully understand masturbation’s distribution, evolutionary history, or adaptive significance. 

In this new study, a team of researchers built a dataset on primate masturbation from close to 400 sources, including 246 published academic papers, and 150 questionnaires and personal communications from zookeepers and primatologists. To understand why and when the practice evolved in both females and males, the authors tracked the distribution of autosexual behavior across primates.

They found that masturbation has a long evolutionary history amongst primates, and was likely present in the common ancestry of all monkeys and apes, humans included. What was less clear is whether the common ancestor of other primates—lemurs, lorises and tarsiers—masturbated, largely because there was less data on these groups.

The team tested multiple hypotheses to better understand why this seemingly non-functional trait would evolve. According to the postcopulatory selection hypothesis, masturbation aids successful fertilization that can be achieved in various ways. 

Masturbation without ejaculation can increase arousal before sexual intercourse, which may be a useful tactic for low-ranking primate males that are likely to be interrupted during sex. 

Masturbation with ejaculation allows males to shed their more inferior semen, which leaves the fresh, high-quality semen available for mating. This super semen may be more likely to outcompete the semen of other males, which is necessary in primate communities with steep competition for mates. The study found support for this second hypothesis, namely that male masturbation co-evolved within multi-male mating systems where competition between males is high.

[Related: Scientists think they found a 2,000-year-old dildo in ancient Roman ruins.]

According to the pathogen avoidance hypothesis, male masturbation reduces the chance of contracting an STI by cleansing the urethra with ejaculate. The team also found evidence to support this hypothesis, with the data revealing that masturbation in males co-evolved with high STI load across the primate tree of life.

The significance of female masturbation remains less clear. While it is frequent, fewer studies and reports describe female self-pleasure.The team argues that more data on female sexual behavior is needed before understanding masturbation’s evolutionary role in females. 

“Our findings help shed light on a very common, but little understood, sexual behavior and represent a significant advance in our understanding of the functions of masturbation,” study co-author and University College London anthropologist Matilda Brindle said in a statement. “The fact that autosexual behavior may serve an adaptive function, is ubiquitous throughout the primate order, and is practiced by captive and wild-living members of both sexes, demonstrates that masturbation is part of a repertoire of healthy sexual behaviors.”

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The best Brother sewing machines in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/gear/best-brother-sewing-machines/ Thu, 16 Jun 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=449198
The best Brother sewing machines
Stan Horaczek

The best equipment yields the best results, and Brother sewing machines are well-known in the world of sewing, quilting, and crafting for their quality and innovative features.

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The best Brother sewing machines
Stan Horaczek

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Best Overall Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine is the best overall. Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine
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This model is a solid, mechanical sewing machine that offers automated functioning for multiple sewing purposes.

Best Budget Brother LX3817 Sewing Machine is the best for the budget. Brother LX3817 Sewing Machine
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Here’s a mechanical model that won’t stress the wallet while it offers versatile functioning and ease of use.

Best Computerized Brother XR9550 Sewing and Quilting Machine is the best computerized. Brother XR9550 Sewing and Quilting Machine
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A computerized machine with 165 built-in stitch options along with push-button stitch selection and automated functions.

A great Brother sewing machine meets the needs of the user and provides years of dependable service. Brother Industries Ltd. (the company that manufactures Brother sewing machines) traces its history back more than 100 years. In 1908, Kanekichi Yasui founded the Yasui Sewing Machine Company, working at his home in Nagoya, Japan. He repaired industrial sewing machines and manufactured machine parts for local use. When Yasui’s sons inherited his company, they changed the name to Yasui Brothers’ Sewing Machine Company, and the company title was eventually shortened to Brother.

Throughout its 114-year history, Brother Industries has developed into a global leader in sewing machine design, innovation, and manufacturing. Currently, the company offers one of the most advanced line-ups of innovative machinery for home-sewing pursuits. Its models include reliable sewing machines for basic projects and state-of-the-art, computerized models designed for advanced embroidery, quilting, and crafting. Consumers rely on the best Brother sewing machines to provide quality, value, and features for both utilitarian and creative purposes. Here are our picks of the best Brother sewing machines in the company’s impressive line-up.

How we chose the best Brother sewing machines

We drew on personal experience, peer suggestions, and public opinion in selecting six Brother sewing machines for our recommendations. We then narrowed it down to 11 different models and accessed the in-depth product details and specifications available on the Brother-USA company website. Then, we selected Brother products that are easily available and read the product descriptions, user impressions, and FAQs on retailer sites. Knowing that various readers bring an array of needs, preferences, and monetary resources to the search, we tried to assemble a diverse assortment of Brother sewing machines for our list.

We considered both computerized and mechanical sewing machines. Although the computerized models exhibit advanced technological features, many users prefer simple operating procedures and easy maintenance of mechanical machines. Additionally, we looked for both computerized and mechanical models that provide automated processes such as needle threading and buttonhole making, as these features make sewing easier and more pleasurable.

The best Brother sewing machines: Reviews & Recommendations

As a guiding principle, we searched for Brother sewing machines to meet the needs of beginning sewers, those who engage in basic sewing projects, and those with more advanced skills and experience in quilting, crafting, and fashion design. We endeavored to present Brother machines that meet the requirements of these various types of sewists. 

Best overall: Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: The Brother XM2701 sewing machine offers versatility as it provides automated features and numerous built-in stitches for advanced sewists, along with ease of operation for beginners. 

Specs

  • Weight: 12.6 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 12.1 x 5.9 x 15.3 inches
  • Number of built-in stitches: 27

Pros

  • Automatic buttonhole function
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Both decorative and straight built-in stitches
  • 6 interchangeable feet included

Cons  

  • Not computerized

The Brother XM2701 sewing machine is easy to operate, making it a viable choice for beginners. On the other hand, it boasts a wide array of stitch options and automated features that appeal to experienced sewing enthusiasts. Stitch options include multiple decorative and quilting stitches along with basic, straight stitches for seams and basting. With 27 built-in stitches and 63 stitch functions, users can create crafts, fashions, home decor items, and quilts. 

Although not a computerized machine, the XM2701 offers several automated features to make sewing projects go more smoothly and quickly. For example, the automatic needle threader eliminates the frustration and eye strain of threading the needle by hand. An automatic, 1-step buttonhole function saves time and ensures consistent, professional-looking results. Additionally, the task of winding the bobbin is an automatic process.

Several convenient features make the XM2701 a popular and versatile sewing machine. The jam-resistant, drop-in bobbin is located on the top of the machine to speed up the sewing process. An LED light brightly lights the work area. The free arm feature also makes it easy to manipulate the fabric when sewing cuffs, sleeves, and pants. 

The XM2701 model includes six interchangeable feet to accomplish multiple sewing tasks: Buttonhole foot; Zipper foot; Zigzag foot; Narrow hemmer; Blind stitch; and Button-sewing foot.

Best computerized: Brother XR9550 Sewing and Quilting Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: With computerized, push-button stitch selection and automatic functioning, the Brother XR9550 sewing machine offers advanced features for quilters, crafters, and hobbyists, as well as sewing artists. 

Specs

  • Weight: 10.14 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 20 x 13.5 x 17.9 inches 
  • Number of built-in stitches: 165

Pros

  • Extra-wide sewing surface for large projects
  • Push-button stitch selection, including decorative stitches and alphanumeric fonts
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Protective hard case included

Cons

  • Not the best choice for beginners

For the avid sewist who is ready to take their craft to a more sophisticated level, the Brother XR 9550 computerized sewing machine provides numerous features to spark the imagination and facilitate creative success. The machine offers 165 built-in stitches. These include utilitarian and decorative stitches along with heirloom stitches. Choose from among eight different buttonhole styles, and the machine will automatically sew a tailored buttonhole around any button. For monogramming and personalizing projects, a selection of 55 alphanumeric stitches facilitates automatically sewing letters, numbers, and symbols onto fabrics. 

Numerous features of this machine provide ease of operation, taking the stress and frustration out of sewing. The built-in stitches are clearly marked on the front of the machine. Simply push a button for the computerized stitch-selection function, and a backlit LCD display shows the appropriate choice. Additionally, this machine includes an automatic needle threader and a jam-resistant, top drop-in bobbin.

Quilters appreciate the drop-feed feature that facilitates free-sewing for quilting. The work surface is illuminated with a bright LED light, and the extra-wide table allows quilters to handle bulky fabrics and large projects. Alternatively, sewists can use the free arm to sew sleeves, cuffs, and trouser legs.

The XR9550 includes seven interchangeable sewing feet along with accessories: Zigzag foot; Buttonhole foot; Button-sewing foot; Overcasting foot; Blind stitch foot; Monogramming foot; Quilting foot; Protective, hard cover; and an Instructional DVD.

Best for embroidery: Brother SE1900 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: Sewists can achieve artist-quality results in creative DIY projects by choosing from 138 built-in embroidery designs in the Brother SE1900 sewing and embroidery machine.

Specs

  • Weight: 22.1 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 23.19 x 11.54 x 13.43 inches 
  • Number of built-in stitches: 138 embroidery designs + 240 built-in stitches

Pros

  • Large number of built-in embroidery designs and stitches
  • Built-in memory for imported embroidery designs
  • Built-in memory for personal, custom-designed stitches
  • LCD touchscreen display

Cons

  • Not the best choice for beginners

Take your sewing and crafting projects to the artist level with the Brother SE1900 computerized sewing and embroidery machine. Select from among 138 built-in embroidery designs and see them displayed on the large-size, full-color, LCD touchscreen. Alternatively, users can import new designs and save them to the machine. Additionally, the machine can combine designs and store them in its memory. Measuring 5 inches by 7 inches, the embroidery field provides ample versatility for creative sewists. A hoop is included to facilitate larger embroidery designs, so users are limited only by their imaginations.  

The 240 built-in stitches inspire customizing many crafting, quilting, and garment-making activities. Among the stitch options, the SE1900 offers 11 built-in fonts for monogramming and personalizing the original projects. Additionally, 10 styles of buttonhole stitches facilitate automatic sewing of precisely sized buttonholes.

Several convenient features of this computerized machine take the effort and frustration out of sewing pursuits. The advanced, automatic needle threader eliminates threading the needle by hand. Instead, the thread inserts precisely through the eye of the needle with a simple press of a lever. The jam-resistant feature facilitates a consistent thread feed from the top drop-in bobbin, preventing the work delays that come with tangled threads. With a maximum speed of 850 stitches per minute and labor-saving features for smooth operation, sewing on the SE1900 is an enjoyable and inspiring experience.

To facilitate a broad array of sewing tasks, this machine includes eight interchangeable sewing feet: Blind stitch foot; Buttonhole foot; Button fitting foot; Zipper foot; Zigzag foot; Monogramming foot; and Overcasting foot.

Best for beginners: Brother CP60X Computerized Sewing Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: The easy-to-use Brother CP60X computerized sewing machine is a top choice for beginners to embark on a learning adventure in sewing, quilting, and crafting.

Specs

  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 16.26 x 6.65 x 12.21 inches 
  • Number of built-in stitches: 60

Pros

  • Utilitarian and decorative stitches built in
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Durable metal frame
  • Capable of sewing denim and thick fabrics

Cons

  • Not capable of monogramming

Use the Brother CP60X computerized sewing machine to embark on a lifelong hobby of sewing, crafting, and quilting. It offers straightforward, easy-to-use operating procedures, suitable for beginning sewers. An array of 60 built-in stitch options is prominently displayed on the front of the machine. Choose by simply pressing a button, and the information shows up on the clearly visible LCD screen. In addition to decorative and heirloom stitches, the machine offers a selection of seven auto-size, buttonhole stitches. 

With a fixed needle bar, this machine is particularly well-suited for beginning sewers. The needle remains fixed in place to ensure clean stitching and even seam lines. Additionally, the 2-step, automatic needle threader accurately pushes the thread through the eye of the needle. It saves time and frustration so that beginners can enjoy their sewing activities. 

The CP60X is a versatile sewing machine for multiple purposes. With its heavy-duty frame and exceptionally smooth feed system, the machine handles denim and other thick fabrics without snagging. A favorite feature of quilters, the drop-feed system allows free-motion sewing. Additionally, the machine facilitates free-arm sewing for constructing shirts, cuffs, and trousers. 

This CP60X provides an ample collection of accessories to get started with a sewing hobby. These include a 3-piece needle set, bobbins and a bobbin cover, a quilt guide, and a bilingual instruction manual. The included supply of seven interchangeable feet facilitates multiple types of sewing tasks: Blind stitch foot; Zigzag foot; Buttonhole foot; Button sewing foot; Overcasting foot; Zipper foot; and Monogramming foot (used for decorative stitches only).

Best for quilting: Brother XR3774 Sewing and Quilting Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: With built-in stitches for utilitarian and decorative applications, automatic features, and an extra-wide table that accommodates quilts, the Brother XR3774 is a standout machine for quilters.

Specs

  • Weight: 15.87 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 15.3 x 5.8 x 12 inches 
  • Number of built-in stitches: 37

Pros

  • Wide work surface for bulky quilts and large sewing projects
  • One-step buttonhole function
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Jam-resistant, drop-in bobbin

Cons

  • Not computerized

Here’s a mechanical sewing machine with automated features and a large workspace for bulky projects. The large throat area and the extra-wide work table make the Brother XR3774 sewing and quilting machine a viable choice for quilters. For projects other than quilts, sewists may utilize the free arm. This feature facilitates sewing sleeves, cuffs, trousers, and skinny jeans. 

In addition to providing ample space for quilting, this machine offers ease-of-use through several automated functions. The 1-step buttonhole stitch automatically turns out perfectly sized buttonholes. An automatic needle threading system eliminates the frustrating task of threading the needle by hand. Simply press a lever on the side of the machine and the thread inserts precisely through the eye of the needle. Additionally, the top drop-in bobbin winds automatically, and it’s jam-resistant to ensure a smooth, continuous feed of thread. 

The XR3774 includes 37 built-in stitches that produce 74 stitch functions when applied to various sewing tasks. These include both utilitarian and decorative stitch options for multiple sewing and quilting purposes. The 37 pre-set stitches are prominently displayed on the front of the machine. Select a unique stitch pattern by simply turning a dial to the appropriate number. 

This machine includes an ample supply of accessories to facilitate varied sewing and quilting activities: Walking foot; Blind stitch foot; Zigzag foot; Zipper foot; Buttonhole foot; Button sewing foot; Spring-action quilting foot; Narrow hem foot; Wide table, detachable work surface; Hard cover to protect the machine when not in use; and an Instructional DVD. Here are more of our picks for the best sewing machines for quilting.

Best budget: Brother LX3817 Sewing Machine

Brother

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Why it made the cut: The Brother LX3817 is an affordable machine for the sewing hobbyist, offering ease of operation and versatile features for basic sewing tasks and creative projects.

Specs

  • Weight: 10.36 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 17x 7 x 14 inches 
  • Number of built-in stitches: 17

Pros

  • 17 built-in stitches
  • 4-step buttonhole function
  • LED light for well-lit workspace
  • Jam resistant bobbin

Cons 

  • Not computerized
  • Not as many built-in stitches as other machines

Available at a budget-friendly price, the LX3817 sewing machine provides an array of features to suit the needs of beginners, as well as experienced sewing hobbyists. It’s a full-size machine with 17 built-in stitch options. These include straight stitches, zigzag stitches, blind hem stitch, and couching stitches. The stitch choices are clearly marked on the selection dial, located on the front of the machine. Simply turn the dial to choose the desired stitch patterns for constructing garments, sewing crafts, and embellishing home decor creations. 

In addition to the 17 stitch options, the LX3817 provides a 4-step buttonhole function. With a quick turn of the dial, users may select the appropriate stitches to produce consistent, auto-size buttonholes, lending a professional look to finished projects. 

Several features make this machine a pleasure to use. The work area is well-lit with an LED light and the bobbin cover is transparent for visually monitoring the thread supply. The jam-resistant feature means that the thread on the drop-in bobbin does not become entangled. A convenient control dial lets users adjust the upper tension to avoid loose stitches or fabric puckering. The machine’s design also facilitates free-arm sewing for cuffs, sleeves, and trouser legs. 

This machine includes four interchangeable feet: Zigzag foot; Zipper foot; Buttonhole foot; and Button-sewing foot. The LX3817 includes all necessary parts to ensure success on multiple sewing and crafting projects, including: Darning plate; Bobbin cover; Bobbins; Set of 3 needles; and an Instructional DVD.

What to consider when buying the best Brother sewing machines

With many options to choose from, it can be daunting for any consumer to select the most appropriate Brother sewing machine for their purposes. Here are several factors to consider before making a selection:

Computerized or mechanical?

Brother Industries manufactures both mechanical and computerized sewing machines. The mechanical models tend to be easier to operate and maintain. They’re durable and reliable, offering basic sewing features for beginners and hobbyists. As an added bonus, many of the mechanical models include automatic functions for ease of use. On the other hand, some sewists prefer the advanced technological capabilities of computerized sewing machines. Especially for embroidery, crafting, and quilting projects, computerized machines can’t be beat.

Built-in stitches

As a standard feature, all Brother sewing machines include varying arrays of built-in stitches. These range in style from straight, utilitarian designs for basting and sewing seams to complex, decorative stitches for the artistic embellishment of garments, quilts, home decor, and crafts. The built-in stitches offered by the Brother sewing machines reviewed here range from as few as 17 to as many as 240 options. Advanced, computerized machines include alphanumeric fonts among their built-in stitches to facilitate monogramming and customization of sewing projects. Additionally, the Brother sewing-and-embroidery machines include built-in embroidery designs with memory capability for importing or creating additional options. 

Automatic features

In addition to computerized and mechanical operating systems, shoppers might consider the availability of automatic functions on various Brother sewing machines. These features make the machines easier to use and increase the enjoyment of sewing as a pleasurable activity. Many of the Brother machines offer automatic needle threading. This function saves time, frustration, and eye strain, eliminating the need to thread the needle by hand. Additionally, including a 4-step or 1-step buttonhole function is a time-saver for sewists as it tailors a buttonhole of the precise size and shape for every button.

FAQs

Q: How do you thread a Brother sewing machine?

You thread a Brother sewing machine by following the steps in the instruction manual. First, turn off the machine. Then raise both the presser foot and the needle. Pull up the spool pin on top of the machine and place a spool of thread on it. Pass the thread toward you in the groove on the thread guide, and a spring will catch the thread. Pass it through the take-up lever from right to left. Bring the thread behind the guide above the needle. Thread the needle from front to back.

Q: Are Brother sewing machines good for beginners?

Several models of Brother sewing machines are good for beginners. A beginner might enjoy learning to sew on the XM2701, the LX3817, or the CP60X models. These machines offer versatile features with easy-to-use operating procedures. Prefer another brand? Check out the best Singer sewing machines.

Q: How do you use a Brother sewing machine?

A Brother sewing machine may be used for sewing garments and home decor items from original designs or from commercial patterns. Alternatively, it can be used for creating and embellishing craft projects or making quilts. Select a Brother sewing machine that exhibits the qualities to meet your needs, Then, follow the directions in the instruction manual or DVD that comes with the machine. 

Q: How do you set up a Brother sewing machine?

You set up a Brother sewing machine by following the steps in the instruction manual or DVD that comes with the machine. Reading the manual or watching the DVD before setting up the machine is a good idea. Place the sewing machine on a clean, flat work surface to get started. Attach the power cord and the foot-pedal cord. Place a spool of thread on the thread pin and follow the markings for the thread path, culminating in threading the needle automatically or by hand. Wind thread onto the bobbin and drop the bobbin into its case. 

Q: What’s the easiest sewing machine to use?

The easiest sewing machine to use is a mechanical model with clearly marked stitches, thread guides, and stitch-selector dial. Computerized models with numerous stitch options and advanced, automatic features may be more complex in their operating procedures.

Q: How do I choose a good sewing machine?

You can choose a good sewing machine by deciding the type of sewing projects you wish to undertake. Perhaps you’re a beginner who wants to learn basic sewing techniques. On the other hand, you might be an experienced quilter or crafter who needs a more advanced machine. After determining your needs, research sewing machines on the manufacturers’ websites. Investigate options at a local dealer’s store, if possible. Additionally, it helps to read consumer reviews and ratings.

Q: How much does a Brother sewing machine cost?

Brother sewing machines vary in cost from approximately $130.00 for a basic, mechanical machine to $900.00 for an advanced, computerized sewing machine that creates colorful, artistic designs on fabric. Computerized machines that provide versatile features for sewing, crafting, and quilting range in price from approximately $200.00 to $400.00.

Final thoughts on the best Brother sewing machines

Many sewists appreciate the straightforward operating procedures and simplified maintenance of a non-computerized sewing machine such as the Brother XM2701 model. It’s a popular, mechanical machine that provides an ample selection of built-in stitches, automatic needle threading, and buttonhole making. Overall, the XM2701 offers value and versatility for multiple sewing and crafting activities.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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The best vacuums for stairs in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-vacuums-for-stairs/ Thu, 03 Mar 2022 18:07:42 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427743
Best Vacuums for Stairs
Stan Horaczek

Clean upstairs, downstairs, and on every stair in between.

The post The best vacuums for stairs in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Best Vacuums for Stairs
Stan Horaczek

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Best budget Best Vacuums for Stairs Bissell Zing
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The Bissell Zing is a durable, no-nonsense corded vacuum with a long reach.

Best overall Best Vacuums for Stairs Dyson V11 Torque Drive
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The Dyson V11 Torque Drive is an incredible vacuum with a serious price tag.

Best for carpet Best Vacuums for Stairs Shark Cordless Pet Plus with Anti-Allergen Complete Seal
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The Shark Cordless Pet Plus digs deep for pet hair and dander, but will also get deep dirt out of carpets.

Cleaning technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the smart home era—we have app-enabled cleaning devices and self-emptying robot vacuums—but finding a vacuum for stairs remains a serious challenge. Household staircases are typically very high-traffic areas and can build up dust and debris quickly—especially if you have pets or kids in the mix. There are tons of vacuums on the market designed to make your day-to-day vacuuming routine as easy and streamlined as possible—but we’ve taken it upon ourselves to test and research some of the absolute S-tier options to help pick out the best vacuums for stairs.

How we chose the best vacuums for stairs

There are thousands upon thousands of highly rated vacuums on the market—which made narrowing our list down to just seven picks quite a feat. We wanted to choose a set of vacuums that worked for various lifestyles and household needs, including carpeted and hardwood flooring, homes with pets and kids, and winding or unconventionally shaped staircases.

To make our selections, we looked at hundreds of high-quality consumer reviews to learn about the little details that manufacturer descriptions don’t tell you, as well as tapping into our own testing to hone in on the absolute best of the bunch. We focused on crucial features like weight and bulk, suction power, and battery life for cordless models. We also kept budget in mind, examining vacuums at various price points to see where a little extra money makes a big difference and where it buys flashy features you don’t necessarily need.

The best vacuum for stairs: Reviews & Recommendations

The best vacuums for stairs will depend on your specific lifestyle and household—which is why we’ve included a spectrum of different vacuums to suit a variety of needs and budgets best. Read on to find the best vacuum for your household.

Best overall: Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Handheld Portable Vacuum Cleaner

Dyson

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Why it made the cut: The Dyson V11 Torque Drive might be pricey, but it’s slim, ultra-lightweight, and offers superior suction power that makes it worth every penny.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.2 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hardwood floors
  • Weight: 6.68 pounds
  • Battery life: 60 minutes

Pros

  • Features up to an hour of run time
  • Includes various options to best suit different flooring
  • Extremely lightweight and easy to maneuver

Cons

  • You have to hold down the power button
  • Very expensive

A longtime favorite for its sleek, powerful, and wildly expensive vacuums, the latest Dyson V11 series is leagues ahead of the company’s original stick vacuum design—and happens to be one of the very best vacuum cleaners on the market right now. Of the two models available, we like the Dyson V11 Torque Drive, which features an LCD digital display that monitors performance and battery life.

The V11 Torque Drive has more than twice the suction power of similar cordless vacuums and offers an hour of run time between charges, making it a decent option for all flooring types and square footage. The cutting-edge stick vacuum also weighs in at less than 7 pounds, allowing for easy maneuverability on staircases and beyond. 

It isn’t perfect, though. Like most other Dyson models, the V11 requires holding the power button down rather than simply flipping a switch. It’s a minor annoyance that might sour you on spending hundreds of dollars on it.

Speaking of which, the main drawback for the V11 Torque Drive and its screenless cousin, the V11 Animal—any Dyson product, for that matter—is the price. Depending on the retailer, the Dyson Torque Drive costs $699.99 or more. That’s a lot more money than most vacuums. You definitely get a higher class of product but it will be a serious barrier for most people.

Best for hardwood: Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum (3061)

Bissell

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum has impressive suction, a lightweight design, and a removable handheld mode, which makes it great for cleaning stairs.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.26 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Battery life: 20 minutes

Pros

  • Super lightweight design for superior ease of use
  • Great price point for the quality
  • Converts to a handheld vacuum

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Does not include a wall mount or stand

The Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum ranks high in our books for delivering solid suction for a basic cordless vacuum. Though it costs less than $150, the Featherweight Cordless offers a lightweight, ergonomic design similar to more expensive models from other brands. The powerful suction and lightweight design make this vacuum great for hardwood and laminate flooring.

It’s also quite versatile, with the ability to convert from a stick vacuum to handheld mode that can get into the nooks and crannies of your staircase without having to lug the whole frame up and down. That said, at just 5.8 pounds, the full-sized vacuum is extremely easy to maneuver.

The only big downside to consider is its terrible battery life. At just 20 minutes per charge, you won’t cover very much ground in one sitting. It also lacks any wall mount or stand, which can make charging trickier than it needs to be.

Best for carpet: Shark Cordless Pet Plus with Anti-Allergen Complete Seal

Shark

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Why it made the cut: Designed to trap allergens like dust and pet dander, the Shark Cordless Pet Plus digs deep into carpets for the best clean possible.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.21 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 7.17 pounds
  • Battery life: 40 minutes

Pros

  • Anti-allergen seal
  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • Converts to a handheld vacuum

Cons

  • Not as powerful as other stick vacuums
  • Top-heavy design

The Shark Cordless Pet Plus features an “anti-allergen seal” to ensure 99.9 percent of allergens it sucks up, including particles of dust and pet dander, stay trapped in the vacuum. Its brush roll features long panels called “powerfins” rather than traditional brush bristles, which Shark claims can help the vacuum dig dirt out of carpet. They also prevent the vacuum from getting jammed up with pet hair and other debris that can accumulate in carpets or rugs.

Studies suggest carpets can harbor more dust and allergens than non-carpeted flooring and might even decrease the air quality in the home or office space. As such, the Pet Plus should be a well-appointed option for ensuring minimal particles are able to escape into the air.

Customers tend to praise the Shark adamantly, but some note that the lightweight design feels a bit top-heavy while in use. This might make the maneuverability on stairs slightly more difficult while getting used to the vacuum’s unique shape and design.

Best lightweight: Eureka RapidClean Pro

Eureka

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Why it made the cut: The Eureka RapidClean Pro is among the lightest vacuums on our radar, and features a proprietary “swivel steering” feature that makes it especially maneuverable.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.18 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 5.26 pounds
  • Battery life: 40 minutes

Pros

  • Great price point for the quality
  • Compact, ultra-lightweight design
  • Very quick 40-minute recharge time
  • Combo floor vac and handheld

Cons

  • The suction power could be improved
  • Harder to repair than other vacuums

Eureka RapidClean Pro is a game-changer for those looking for an ultra-lightweight design that can easily go up and down the stairs without feeling like you’re doing a workout. The 5-pound vacuum is easy to carry and converts into a handheld mode to maximize mobility. Off the stairs, the RapidClean Pro features a special “swivel steering” head that allows for better maneuvering as you clean.

The RapidClean Pro’s 40-minute battery life is strictly average, but it only needs 40 minutes to recharge, which means you can rapidly clean large spaces.

One thing to note, especially if you plan to keep this vac around for a while. According to customer reviews, replacement parts can be hard to come by and often cost nearly as much as a new vacuum, so don’t expect to get a decade out of this one.

Best for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum

Amanda Reed

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser features a “triple-level” filtration system and motorized brush tool that works to remove embedded hair and dirt.

Specs

  • Form factor: Handheld
  • Capacity: 0.18 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and upholstery
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Battery life: 17 minutes

Pros

  • Includes a variety of tools for carpets, upholstery, and hardwood flooring
  • “Triple-level” filtration system
  • Features a surprisingly large dustbin for a handheld

Cons

  • Terrible battery life
  • Handheld vacuum isn’t ideal for whole-house cleaning

Pet owners must work harder to ensure their floors stay clean and free of dander and debris—there’s no way around it. Thankfully, brands like Bissell cater specifically to those with furry friends at home who don’t want to settle for less than the best in cleaning technology. The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser features great features for picking up hair and dander, including a motorized brush tool that digs them out of carpet and upholstery seamlessly and a “triple-level filtration” system that traps allergens in its bag. Of course, powerful suction is also a major weapon for cleaning all dirt and dust, whether you have pets or not.

Customers rave over the quality and suction power that this small but mighty hand vacuum offers, but reviews lament the short battery life—a mere 17 minutes between charges. If you’re looking for a full-size vacuum that also works well on stairs, check out our “best for carpets” pick, the Shark Cordless Pet Plus, which has similar pet-friendly features.

Best cordless: Samsung Jet 90

Samsung

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Why it made the cut: The high-tech Samsung Jet 90 offers next-level innovation and convenience.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: .21 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 6.87 pounds
  • Battery Life: 60 minutes

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Dual replaceable batteries 
  • Auto-empty dustbin

Cons

  • Requires more assembly than the average vacuum
  • Very expensive

The Samsung Jet 90 was made to outperform the average vacuum and do so stylishly. It feels like every element of the vacuum has a special feature: There’s an auto-empty dust bin for easy disposal, a five-layer filtration system that keeps 99.999 percent of allergens out of the air, and an advanced turbo-action brush head that allows for quick and easy cleaning on multiple surfaces at once (great for staircases with runners or carpet).

While it generally excels, some features stand out more than others. The Jet 90 features a charging stand that can recharge two batteries, so you can recharge and replace one to extend its long battery life. (It only comes with one battery, so you’ll need to buy a second to make that happen.)

Like the Dyson V11 Torque Drive, the Jet 90 costs a lot more than most of the competition, but it’s hard to ignore that it improves conventional cordless stick vacuum design in many ways.

Best budget: Bissell Zing Bagless Canister Vacuum (2156A)

Bissell

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Zing Canister Vacuum might not offer the same bells and whistles as more expensive models on the list, but it’s powerful for its price and features a hose that makes navigating staircases simple.

Specs

  • Form factor: Canister
  • Capacity: 0.53 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 10.23 pounds
  • Battery life: N/A

Pros

  • Incredible price point for the quality
  • Features very good suction power
  • The canister is large and easy to clean

Cons

  • Heavier than other vacuums on the list
  • Doesn’t include spinning brush attachment

The Bissell Zing Lightweight is one of the best budget-friendly vacuums for stairs that we’ve come across. The large canister-style vacuum, which stores dirt in a large, wheeled-base, and features a hose for sucking up dirt, offers incredible suction power and durability that should last for years without requiring maintenance or replacement parts. Additionally, the dirt cup filters and post-motor filter help to capture particles before they hit the air. Its filters can also be hand-washed and reused for years without worrying about the quality or efficiency waning.

Between the corded power solution and heavy canister design, the Zing is not the most convenient solution for stairs. With a generous 15-foot power cable and a 4-foot, 8-inch hose, you have a lot of room to maneuver. Plus, the corded design also means that you won’t have to wait around for your vacuum to charge or worry about replacing a battery, long-term.

Customers love the Bissell Zing for its surprisingly high-quality design and reliability at such a low price but notice it lacked certain attachments, including a spinning brush. As such, the vacuum head sits directly on the floor, making it difficult to pick up larger debris or crumbs.

Things to consider when buying a new vacuum for stairs

Having a robot vacuum is great … until it pleads for help in the form of beeps and/or an automated voice message from a very nice robot person. When shopping for a vacuum with stairs in mind, you’ll want to check a handful of factors to ensure you purchase something that’s right for your particular needs and routines.

Weight

The first thing you’ll want to consider is whether you’ll feel comfortable carrying your vacuum up and down the stairs regularly. Some of the bestselling upright vacuums can weigh up to 20 pounds, which might not sound like that much. Still, it’s enough to make things difficult when you pick it up and put it down repeatedly on each step, not to mention the possibility that it might slip as you clean, especially on winding staircases. 

If you’re cleaning a lot of stairs, we recommend getting a lightweight vacuum that you can easily carry. If you have a large vacuum already that works for you, you could always get a handheld vacuum specifically for the stairs and other hard-to-reach places. Upright vacuums, though heavier, usually offer significant sucking power and are much more effective for carpeted surfaces, so we generally wouldn’t recommend them as your primary cleaner.

Corded or cordless?

You’ll also want to decide whether you want to opt for a cordless vacuum or something that plugs into the wall. Many modern vacuum cleaners feature cordless designs that make vacuuming the staircase much easier and safer than having to watch under your feet for a cord. 

That said, most cordless vacuum cleaners have terrible battery life. Many last under an hour on a single charge and take many hours to fully recharge. Based on our testing, a good option should last at least 40 minutes. While you may not need them to last all that long, there’s nothing worse than having your vacuum die on you mid-clean.

Corded vacuums also tend to last much longer than their cordless counterparts. Most cordless models feature rechargeable internal batteries, which will last many years but can’t be easily replaced when they lose the ability to hold a charge.

Cleaning hardwood vs. cleaning carpet

Vacuuming rugs and carpeted areas require an entirely different approach than vacuuming hardwood flooring. Carpets require more suction power to clean deeply and require a vacuum that can trap common household allergens, such as dust and pet dander, which get trapped out of sight in the depths of the textile.

Attachments

Vacuum attachments might seem like a frivolous add-on or freebie, but they can be useful tools to help you clean parts of your home that might be otherwise inaccessible. The most common vacuum attachments include:

  • Extension wand: a slim, elongated attachment that makes getting into hard-to-reach places much more feasible.
  • Upholstery tool: a wide-mouthed piece that targets upholstered items and fabrics like mattresses or furniture.
  • Crevice wand: similar to the extension wand, the crevice wand has an angled opening that allows you to suck debris from tight edges and window sills.

FAQs

Q: How much does a vacuum for stairs cost?

Deciding how much to spend on a vacuum is a personal decision and may depend on budget, the size of your home, and how often you clean. You can get vacuums at various prices, ranging from $30 to nearly $1,000. Many of the basic cordless models on our list cost between $100 to $200. You can get a basic corded model for less, but you may find the power and build quality of the vacuums gets less consistent as the price tag decreases.

Q: Are cordless vacuums good for stairs?

Cordless vacuums are generally much more convenient but especially helpful for cleaning stairs. Dragging a corded vacuum up and down your staircase can quickly become a safety hazard if you aren’t careful of your footing. That said, it’s important to remember that corded vacuums require much less maintenance and last longer since they don’t rely on a battery for power.

Q: Which vacuum lasts the longest?

The lifespan of a vacuum cleaner depends on a whole slew of factors, including quality, brand, style, and how well you take care of your vacuum. Most cordless vacuums will require a new battery or some other kind of maintenance after about five years, while corded vacuums can last up to a decade or more with proper care.

Q: Is Shark better than Dyson?

In a word, no. Dyson vacuums usually outperform Shark models regarding both suction power and air filtration. That said, Shark vacuums work well and are generally much more affordable than a Dyson, often costing hundreds more than the average vacuum. For many people, buying a Shark vacuum (or another brand) makes more sense than buying a Dyson because of the cost.

Q: How often should you buy a new vacuum cleaner?

It depends. According to Consumer Reports, vacuums last eight years on average. Some top-shelf vacuums can last up to a decade. Sometimes, vacuums can last even longer than that. One member of the PopSci gear team vividly remembers using a ’60s-era Electrolux Automatic G canister vacuum as a kid in the early 2000s. See if you can fix the problem before tossing.

Final thoughts on the best vacuums for stairs

Although they tend to be on the pricey end, there’s a reason that Dyson vacuums have a cult-like following: They really are some of the best on the market for their maneuverability and suction power alone. The Dyson V11 Torque Drive will make vacuuming stairs (and the rest of the household) a breeze—even if you have a carpeted staircase or share your home with pets.

That said, you don’t need to spend nearly $1,000 on a vacuum cleaner to get your house spic and span. I have personally owned the Bissell Zing, our budget pick, for over a decade, and it’s never required any maintenance. There may be better vacuums out there, but you can do the job with nearly any vacuum if you put your mind to it.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission 

to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best vacuums for stairs in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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The best ergonomic chairs in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-ergonomic-chair/ Mon, 17 May 2021 11:59:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=364172
The best ergonomic chairs will help support your body while you work.

The best ergonomic chair can help keep you productive, focused, and pain-free all day long.

The post The best ergonomic chairs in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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The best ergonomic chairs will help support your body while you work.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best overall A black office chair with black sliding wheels. Steelcase Gesture Chair
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Adjust the seat depth, arms, height, and recline on this ergonomic office chair.

Best premium The Herman Miller Aeron Chair is the best overall. Herman Miller Aeron Chair
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A tried-and-true office staple for 20 years, this chair is a serious but rewarding investment for desk workers who spend long hours sitting down.

Best for tall people The SIHOO M18 is the best ergonomic chair for a tall person. SIHOO M18 Ergonomic Office Chair
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This chair is designed with a multi-dimensional headset and adjustable lumbar support for big and tall people.

Sitting in a cheaply designed office or desk chair can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain, poor circulation, increased fatigue, lack of concentration, and digestive issues—but an ergonomic office chair can help. Whether you’re working with a makeshift setup at home or the company chairs just aren’t cutting it, an upgraded seat is one of those office essentials that can make a difference in your general well-being and overall health, especially over time. And there isn’t one ergonomic chair to rule them all, so we have created this guide to help you identify what fit and features will work best for your body. From extra lumbar support to kneeling chairs, we’ve got you covered; say goodbye to cramps, creaks, and crankiness with one of the best ergonomic chairs to improve your posture, comfort, and, ultimately, your mood.

How we chose the best ergonomic chairs

To find the best ergonomic chairs on the market, we looked to long-respected brands, including Herman Miller and Steelcase, as well as new solutions. Our list reflects qualities people look for in a computer chair, such as one designed with sustainable materials, or just a good office chair to help relieve back pain. We also considered user reviews, functionality and adjustability, aesthetics, and price in compiling our list.

The best ergonomic chairs: Reviews & Recommendations

Office workers spend more than 73 percent of the workday sitting, according to a 2022 study. Prolonged chair time can lead to neck and back pain and decrease energy and productivity. While it’s still a good idea to decrease the time sitting, ergonomic desk chairs can make the experience easier on your body and help with back support. While you can do a few things to prevent harmful effects from long hours of sitting down, one of the best ways to support your joints and muscles is to invest in the best ergonomic chair for your body. 

Best overall: Steelcase Gesture Chair  

Steelcase

SEE IT

Specs

  • Materials: Polyester, steel
  • Weight: 78 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 400 pounds

Pros

  • Designed with technology that mirrors the movements of your spine
  • Reclines into four positions
  • Elegant design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Users say the chair can be hard
  • Little lumbar support

The Steelcase Gesture Chair is, perhaps, the best ergonomic chair on the market. It’s fully adjustable and easy to maneuver. You can move the seat depth forward or backward, change the tilt tension, and move the seat up or down, all using simple built-in knobs. The seat has four recline lock positions, and its wheels work on carpet flooring. The armrests can be rotated 360 degrees, and the 3D Liveback support technology is designed to mimic the movements of your spine as you change positions. The seat cushion is the perfect blend of soft yet structured, with a flexible perimeter to relieve pressure points. A 12-year warranty will keep you and your chair in business for many days to come, plus it’s available in well over 50 fabric and color options so that you can maintain the perfect home office aesthetic along with a complementary computer desk.

Best premium: Herman Miller Aeron Chair

Herman Miller

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Specs

  • Materials: Elastomeric, polyester, polyurethane, aluminum 
  • Weight: 43 pounds 
  • Weight capacity: 350 pounds

Pros

  • Industry standard-bearer
  • Comes in three sizes to suit different heights and weights
  • Designed with adjustable lumbar support

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May not work in more traditional settings

The Aeron Chair by Herman Miller is the best for an ergonomic mesh office chair (and ergonomic office chair, to be honest). It is just as supportive as other high-end models, with increased breathability and moisture control. It comes in three sizes—A, B, and C—corresponding to various height and weight ranges. Once you select the right size, you can add on additional features such as fully adjustable arms, a tilt limiter/seat angler, adjustable Posturefit support, and quiet castor options. Manipulate the lumbar support to best suit your back. A tried-and-true office staple for 20 years, this chair is designed for desk workers who spend long hours sitting down, making it a great addition to an ergonomic desk

Best eco-friendly: Steelcase Karman Chair

Jen McCaffery

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Specs

  • Materials: Intermix mesh, aluminum
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 350 pounds

Pros

  • Made from recycled materials 
  • Sleek design
  • Lightweight
  • Comfort adjustment dial added

Cons

  • Lumbar support is a separate purchase
  • Supports less weight capacity than other ergonomic chairs

Mesh is a standard feature in office chairs. But Steelcase elevates the breathable weave with a proprietary textile called Intermix in its new Karman Chair. The name is inspired by the weightlessness of the Kármán Line, where the Earth’s atmosphere meets space. The material in this new offering from Steelcase chairs combines yarn and filaments together to create a weave that responds to your body. 

The Karman is designed with a mechanism that automatically senses your weight to provide the right support for your back when you recline. It also features a new comfort dial that adjusts the tension by up to 20 percent. Users can also customize the chair when ordering, choosing between height adjustability, 4-way adjustable arms, or an armless model. You can also purchase a cushion for extra lumbar support for an extra $57. 

The Karman Chair is also designed with sustainability in mind. At 29 pounds, this chair is lighter than many options on the market. It is made from 25 percent recycled and 75 percent recyclable material. Design enthusiasts will also appreciate the ability to choose between 13 colorways and several frame finishes.

Best for tall person: SIHOO M18 Ergonomic Office Chair

SIHOO

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Specs

  • Materials: Polyurethane, steel
  • Weight: 42.5 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 330 pounds

Pros

  • Designed with adjustable headrest
  • Provides lumbar support you can adjust
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • May not work for very tall or heavy people

Finding comfortable seating can be particularly challenging if you’re tall. SIHOO has designed a chair for people from  5’6″ to 6’2″ that you can adjust to fit every part of your body. This chair is designed with a headrest that’s multidimensional, allowing you to adjust the support of your neck. If you’re looking for a lumbar support office chair, you can also fine-tune the degree of support with a dial. The SiHOO M18’s sleek design and eye-catching colorways (like orange) also allow it to double as a gaming chair. And for all the support it provides, it comes in at a very budget-friendly price.

Best drafting chair: Flash Furniture Mid-Back Drafting Chair

Flash Furniture

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Specs

  • Materials: Plastic, plywood, mesh, foam, metal 
  • Weight: 33 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 250 pounds

Pros

  • Provides lumbar support
  • Height-adjustable
  • Affordable
  • Comes in 12 colorways

Cons

  • No head support
  • Not made with sustainable materials

This mid-back drafting chair has all the essential features every ergonomic chair needs and more. A ventilated curved back supports the spine, and the waterfall edge relieves pressure on the thighs. Plus, there is a height-adjustable chrome foot ring. A tilt lever can lock the chair into an upright position or allow for some rocking, while the tilt tension knob controls resistance. The seat can be raised up to 30 inches from the floor, and the dual caster wheels are easy to move with. When you rest your elbows on the padded flip-up arms, you can help increase circulation—or you can flip them up to create a larger seating area. It comes in a variety of colorways, and you can even find a more traditional office chair counterpart should you need an additional model.

Best kneeling chair: Varier Variable Balans Original Kneeling Chair  

Varier

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Specs

  • Materials: Birch, fabric
  • Weight: 13.97 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

Pros

  • Classic design
  • Lightweight
  • Made with sustainable materials

Cons

  • No back or neck support
  • Not ideal for larger people

The Variable Balans was designed by Peter Opsvik, a significant designer and part of popularizing and implementing the ergonomic kneeling chair in homes and offices. Made from high-quality, flexible wood, this chair is exquisitely designed to support your body and relieve pressure. Unlike many other models, note that this unit does not need an additional crossbar—a testament to the thorough engineering that went into the design. It weighs under 14 pounds and comes in eight different colors to complement your style. This chair certainly finds strength in simplicity, allowing you to find your balance and improve back pain. It’s also a great option if you’re looking for a desk chair with no wheels. If you’re not sure a desk stool is for you, but you want to try an ergonomic kneeling chair before committing to a higher-end model, check out the Office Star Kneeling Chair to get started or find more top-rated kneeling chairs.

Best under $400: HON Ignition 2.0

HON

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Specs

  • Materials: Plastic 
  • Weight: 42 pounds 
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

Pros

  • Fully adjustable
  • Affordable
  • Provides lumbar support

Cons

  • No neck support
  • Not made from recycled materials

The HON Ignition 2.0 is a budget ergonomic chair that has many of the adjustable features valued in high-end chairs. It has a breathable mesh back, as well as customizable back recline, height, and seat positioning. The armrests are also fully adjustable to move up, down, towards, and away from your body. It even has an option for lumbar support, which can be moved up or down depending on your lower back’s comfort needs. While it may not be as plush as some of the other models listed here, it should do the trick when elevating a regular office chair. If this price point is still just a little too high for you, take a look at this budget ergonomic chair from Modway, which also has select adjustable features, including armrests, seat height, and tilt.

Things to consider when shopping for the best ergonomic chairs

The best ergonomic chair will support your neck, shoulders, arms, and back, keeping your spine aligned and your joints in the proper position. A great chair should keep you comfortable even during a long workday and help prevent additional strain from sitting for extended periods. While shopping, keep in mind any bad habits you’re trying to change—like posture—as well as any particular areas where you want extra support. You’ll also want to think about your work and find a chair that complements your desk or workspace. Knowing where to get started on your search can be a bit tricky, so we’ve compiled the best ergonomic chairs to help you get started.  

Adjustability

The best ergonomic chair needs to be able to support your body weight, height, and alignment needs over time. To achieve long-term functionality and comfort, invest in a chair that will keep your computer monitor at eye level, your wrists straight, your hands at or below elbow level, your knees in line with your hips, and your feet flat on the floor or footrest. With that in mind, getting a chair with an adjustable seat height is critical. It’s also important that you’re able to adjust your armrests back and forth, as it will lead to optimal hand and elbow placement regardless of limb length, especially if you tend to lean forward. In this position, without an armrest, your back muscles have to do all the work to keep you upright, which will, of course, lead to further strain. You can even go a step further and look for 360-degree rotation, which is particularly great for those who can’t hold the perfect sitting position all day long (we’re looking at you, crossed-legged sitters and hunched-over hand writers). 

We recommend grabbing a model with additional seat depth, back support, or reclining tension customization for maximum comfort. Many desk chairs will allow you to push back and recline, which can be good for relieving stress and pressure throughout your back and hips. Adjustable tension means you won’t have to continuously push back in order to retain that reclined position, resulting in a more comfortable, relaxing experience overall. These extra features will help you address your spine’s specific needs.

Breathability

Ergonomic mesh office chairs are an excellent way to get the support you need without overheating. They can also be easier to get in and out of, which is particularly helpful for those with hip or knee pain. Additionally, mesh chairs are lighter, less bulky, and easier to clean than other fabrics. A high-quality model should be light and springy with just the right amount of flexibility, almost like sitting in a hammock.

While some mesh chairs can be expensive, we think it’s worth it to invest. Low-quality mesh design can create more problems than it solves; your weight won’t be evenly distributed if the mesh is too stiff. If the mesh sags, your back and bottom won’t have enough support. Durable, pliable mesh should be able to lightly contour the body, lifting it from the seat and supporting it from behind without giving way or sinking. If extra airflow and a lightweight design are what you seek, but the high price point of quality, full-mesh models are a deterrent, try looking for a chair that boasts a mesh back and upholstered seat for the best of both worlds.  

Back support

For most of us, back pain has a lot to do with our posture and sitting positions. If you tend to slump forward, creating an exaggerated curve in your spine, chances are your lower back and hips will be stiff long before the end of your workday. To offset the effects of poor posture, look for a chair with additional lumbar support, which will often take the form of a cushion or indentation that contours to your lower back and creates a slight arch, making it harder for you to slouch forward. Take a look at the back of any chair you’re considering and look for that signature S-curve shape. If you see something with a flat back or bowl instead, you might want to consider another option. 

Drafting chairs

Those with specialized professions that don’t utilize a typical desk can benefit greatly from a well-designed drafting chair. The principles behind healthy sitting are still the same for those who use higher work surfaces, including standing desks, so you might need a few additional features to keep your spine in alignment. 

Seat height-adjustability is super important when it comes to drafting chairs; make sure you go for a flexible model with a pneumatic gas lift for easy adjustments. Equally important is the inclusion of a sturdy 360-degree footrest ring. With a drafting chair, there is no chance your feet will be able to rest on the floor, at least not while working at a tall desk; however, the best way to alleviate pain and pressure is to keep your feet flat on a surface squarely underneath your knees. Adjustable tilt tension can also be a key player when it comes to sitting comfortably in your drafting chair. Being up high means more support or resistance might be useful when you want to lean back. Finally, be sure to pay attention to all the features of a regular ergonomic office chair, i.e., armrests, lumbar support, and other customizable options.

Kneeling chairs

Just like active-sitting chairs, kneeling chairs force you to engage your muscles in order to stay upright; they are the quickest way to strengthen your core and improve posture, which, as previously mentioned, is one of the best things you can do to relieve back pain. The best ergonomic chair forgoes any back support and evenly disperses your weight between your spine, thighs, and shins for a sitting experience that is just as comfortable as a traditional model while naturally encouraging better posture. Cushy pads protect your knees and shins, so aside from getting used to your new, healthy sitting position for a few days, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort or pain. After a few weeks of continuous use, you’re likely to notice some sizable changes when it comes to the way you sit. 

There are a few options for kneeling chairs—if you want even more flexibility when it comes to sitting positions, opt for a kneeling rocking chair, which will let you put your feet flat on the floor and recline. If you aren’t sure you’re ready to go totally backless, you can look for one that offers additional mid- or high-spine support. You can even find kneeling chairs that come with casters so you can easily maneuver around your ergonomic workstation. Just keep in mind that you cannot adjust the seat height on a kneeling chair, so make sure you measure your desk height and purchase accordingly. They also can pair well with certain portable desks.

Price

The best ergonomic chairs often come with a high price point, for a reason—these models are built to last for years without degrading or losing their support over time. Practically every part of a solid ergonomic chair is adjustable, which also accounts for cost. However, there are undoubtedly several chairs out there that are more affordable. Make sure you look at the specs of budget ergonomic chairs, checking in on adjustability and lumbar support first. Typically the first thing you sacrifice with a less pricey option is the number of customizable features, like armrests, seat tilt, and more. That doesn’t mean that the chair won’t do a good job supporting your spine, but it does mean that you might sacrifice a little bit of overall comfort. Another way to get a quality chair is to buy used. Though you will probably sacrifice any included warranty, many high-quality, pre-owned chairs are resold through office liquidators and more; this way, you can get an expensive chair for practically half the price.

FAQs

Q: Why are ergonomic chairs so expensive?

Ergonomic chairs are more expensive because of the built-in adjustments. Essentially each chair has the potential to be a few different chairs in one when you consider their additional seat height, tension, armrests, lumbar support, and any additional customizations. These chairs are also designed to last many years, whereas budget ergonomic chair can show visible signs of wear and tear after a year or two of consistent use, leading to a greater cost over time.

Q:  Is an ergonomic chair worth it?

Yes, ergonomic chairs are definitely worth it. When you think about all the hours you spend sitting down at your desk, it only makes sense to invest in a chair that won’t deteriorate your physical health and overall comfort over time. You want to be able to enjoy activities after work, and an ergonomic chair will help you do so. Your body will thank you years down the road.

Q: How do I choose the best ergonomic chair?

To choose the best ergonomic chair for you, first consider your budget, and then look for an option within your price range that offers the most in terms of adjustments and customizations. Think about any specific issues you want to work on, such as back pain or improving posture. Always look for a chair that explicitly provides lumbar support and ensure it suits your height and weight. Or, if you experience uncomfortable sweating during the day, look at an ergonomic mesh office chair. Consider your situation, and you’ll make the right decision.

Final thoughts on shopping for the best ergonomic chairs

You should now be well on your way to finding the best ergonomic chair for you and your workstation. Always look for adjustable features and ensure the chair you’re interested in will provide lumbar support for your lower back. Also, keep in mind that making a sound investment in your physical health is never a bad idea, so try your best to find a well-constructed model that will stand up to the test of time—your back will thank you. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best ergonomic chairs in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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The best air quality monitors in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/gear/best-air-quality-monitors/ Thu, 28 Jul 2022 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=458568
Best air quality monitors sliced header
Stan Horaczek

What contaminants are lurking in your air? Knowing what to expect, at least, can be a breath of fresh air.

The post The best air quality monitors in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Best air quality monitors sliced header
Stan Horaczek

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best Overall Temtop M2000 2nd Generation is the best air quality monitor overall. Temtop M2000 2nd
SEE IT

The ability to test many things in one device, with consistent results and audible alerts, makes this monitor our top pick.

Best Smart Atmotube Pro Portable is the best smart air quality monitor. Atmotube Pro Portable
SEE IT

Impressive accuracy, and handy app alerts, help this keychain-sized monitor work well across a wide variety of temperatures and humidity.

Best Indoor Outdoor Davis Instruments AirLink is the best indoor outdoor air quality monitor. Davis Instruments AirLink
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This multienvironment-friendly unit offers easy-to-read graphs and charts, Weatherlink.com integration, and compatibility with Davis weather stations.

Nothing beats a breath of fresh air, but air can be contaminated by chemicals, soot, wildfire smoke, and other forest fire byproducts, making an air quality monitor a valuable tool. Even those with the best noses can have difficulty telling how good their local air is, especially with odorless gasses and “Volatile Organic Compounds” (VOCs) from products or processes lurking, so what are you to do? You could call in an air quality professional … or you can begin to do your own tracking with one of our picks for best air quality monitors.

How we selected the best air quality monitors

Largely, selecting the best air quality monitors was more a matter of hitting the research shelves than the shopping cart button. With such a product, the customer sentiment and manufacturer-supplied specs really mean a lot less than in-depth product analysis from researchers and experts that were able to compare consumer-facing products with laboratory-grade equipment. This results in a thin product selection, but I was able to identify five air quality monitors that I can confidently recommend.

The best air quality monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

What is the best air quality monitor? The best air quality monitors have been tested from official sources and come in various shapes, styles, and working methods. While the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation is the top pick for air quality monitor, due to its ease of use and robust testing ability, our four other monitors might be right for you depending on your circumstances. In any event, these five air quality monitors have both proper testing and current availability in the market.

Best overall: Temtop M2000 2nd Generation

Temtop

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Why it made the cut: The Temtop M2000 2nd Generation tests for a wide variety of pollutants, has built-in calibration, and includes an audible alarm.

Specs

  • Measures: CO2, HCHO (formaldehyde), PM2.5/PM10, Temp., Humidity
  • AQ-SPEC report: High consistency
  • Type: Handheld 

Pros

  • Tests many things all in one device
  • High consistency across many devices
  • Has an audible alarm for when levels rise too high
  • Tried and tested by several school systems

Cons

  • Doesn’t work in temperatures below freezing

The Temtop M2000 2nd Generation is a relatively easily operated handheld air quality monitor that has been widely used. It has been used by the New York State Education Department, and the United Federation of Teachers has used it to measure carbon dioxide levels in schools in efforts to fight Covid-19.

The 2nd Generation product improves upon the original Temtop M2000 by adding a data export feature. This is really useful because, as mentioned by the AQ-SPEC report, where the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation suffers losses in accuracy, it makes up for it with high levels of consistency. Even across multiple Temtops, the reading levels should be consistently similar in the same situation. This means that you can pinpoint exactly when contaminant levels have started rising, even if you have to have a replacement device.

I’m also particularly pleased that it attempts a calibration system. While the accuracy, consistency, and difficulty for average users feel a bit daunting, the system’s overall capabilities are more than enough to begin with. Part of the calibration process being that you leave the device outside for lengthy periods is also annoying but manageable.

In reality, the main concern is the device’s limited capabilities during the colder months. Without being able to function below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the supposed “indoor-outdoor” nature of the device is cut off for many months of the year for those of us too far North or South of the equator. Luckily, in-home monitoring will still work year-round.

Finally, if you like the look of the M2000 2nd Generation, but are looking for something quite a bit cheaper, our budget choice also comes from Temtop. The Temtop P20 has reduced features but also a reduced price tag.

Best smart: Atmotube Pro Portable 

Atmotube

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Why it made the cut: The Atmotube Pro attaches directly to your backpack or belt clip and alerts your phone directly when there’s a problem.

Specs

  • Measures: PM1/PM2.5/PM10, VOCs, Temp., Humidity, Barometric Pressure
  • AQ-SPEC report: High accuracy, high precision
  • Type: Wearable

Pros

  • Impressive accuracy counts
  • Handy app alerts
  • Works well across a wide variety of temperatures and humidities
  • Keychain size

Cons

  • Shorter battery life than hoped for

The Atmotube Pro Portable is a keychain-size air quality monitor that won’t take up much space and can be put just about anywhere or come with you. All of the data collected will be at your fingertips via the Atmo app, available free for Android and iOS devices.

The app will give you your personal stats, access to personal and global maps, and a personalized series of articles to help you understand air quality. You can also export your device’s data as a CSV file for further analysis.

According to the Atmotube’s AQ-SPEC results, the device is quite accurate, ranging from 86% to 98% across various conditions. The AQ-SPEC report also notes that the device is highly consistent across various environmental conditions, saying that heat and humidity had “minimal effect” on the device’s precision. Despite its small size, the Atmotube Pro delivers at a high level.

One of the bigger disappointments with the Atmotube Pro is the battery life. As expected of such a small device, the battery is also quite tiny. When the device is set to take measurements only once every 30 minutes, you can squeeze about a week out of the little battery. However, when you crank that up just a notch, the battery dies much more quickly. This is very unfortunate when using a device that, by its very nature, you want to set up and forget about. Fortunately, if the device isn’t meant to be mobile, you can keep it plugged into the charger while it is running.

Davis Instruments

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Why it made the cut: The AirLink is made for both indoor and outdoor usage, provides beautiful charts, and works well with other Davis Instruments systems.

Specs

  • Measures: AQI, Temp., Humidity, Dew Point, Heat Index
  • AQ-SPEC report: Highly accurate for PM1.0/PM2.5, but not for PM10, consistent
  • Type: Indoor or outdoor

Pros

  • Weatherlink.com integration
  • Easy-to-read graphs and charts
  • Installs easily both indoors and out
  • Integrates into your Davis weather station

Cons

  • Poor PM10 reading

The Davis Instruments AirLink comes with a heavy-duty body that can be conveniently placed in indoor or outdoor environments. If you want it in your house, place the machine on a desk or table. It has four safety feet to reduce the chances of it sliding off smooth surfaces. Alternatively, mount it outside (near an outlet) and attach the provided weather-resistant cover.

If you’re into more than just air quality monitoring, you’ll really appreciate the extra things the AirLink tracks, such as dew point and heat index. You’ll also be happy to note that it will connect with weatherlink.com and can integrate with your other Davis weather station products. These services are also available on your phone via the WeatherLink app.

I really appreciate that the output looks professional but still feels closer to what you might expect from a cable weather station than what your average lab coat wearer would be reading. The only thing I was disappointed with is that, as per the AirLink’s AQ-SPEC report, the PM10 readings weren’t too accurate. Really, though, this is just a small trade-off for a good home system and typical consumers will be more than happy with this machine.

Best portable: Sensirion SPS30

SENSIRION

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Why it made the cut: The Sensirion SPS30 is a no-frills machine dedicated to particulate matter testing.

Specs

  • Measures: PM1.0/PM2.5/PM4.0/PM10
  • AQ-SPEC report: High precision
  • Type: Portable

Pros

  • Small size
  • 8-year lifetime
  • Long-term stability and contamination-resistance
  • Moddable

Cons

  • Drab UI makes interpreting data difficult

If you want to feel like you’re really in the lab, the Sensirion SPS30 might be right up your alley. Right from the moment I opened the company’s product introduction video, I felt instantly reintroduced to the lab environment I once came from.

Where this really shines is the Sensirion SPS30’s great moddability. For example, some users are soldering them on bikes for CanAirIO, a citizen science project dedicated to building a citizen network for monitoring air quality worldwide. The simple USB port connection and loads of data quickly generated by the device lend it to lots of projects. Other possibilities include pairing it with air conditioners, smart home devices, HVAC equipment, and more.

Where this “lab environment feel” really doesn’t shine is the UI. If you’ve ever worked with in-company software or any niche data-collection devices, you probably already know what I mean. You sure get a lot of data, but it isn’t going to look beautiful or come easy to read. Check out the company’s demonstration video for an up-close look at the graphs provided by the machine before deciding whether to purchase.

As for the Sensirion SPS30’s AQ-SPEC report, the key thing to know is that the device is highly precise across temperatures and humidity levels. While PM1.0 and PM2.5 levels were highly accurately measured in field and laboratory testing, PM10 levels were shown to be highly inaccurate in the field trials.

Best budget: Temtop P20

Temtop

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Why it made the cut: This budget solution will take care of all of your basic air quality monitoring needs.

Specs

  • Measures: PM2.5, Temp., Humidity
  • AQ-SPEC report: Higher precision at low temperatures
  • Type: Desktop or mountable

Pros

  • Highly accessible interface
  • Everything needed for wall mounting included
  • Can double as a nice desk or wall clock
  • Exportable data

Cons

  • Limited pollutants measured, but still great for price
  • Low battery life

Considering that a laboratory-grade air quality tester can cost thousands of dollars, it would seem impossible to make a competitive one in the two-digit range. However, with Temtop’s P20, that isn’t true.

The Temtop P20 can measure PM2.5 pollutants. While it’d be nice to measure other pollutants or even other sizes of particulate matter, doing one thing well is quite impressive for the budget tier. The P20’s AQ-SPEC report tells us that the machine’s precision is most accurate when the local temperature is lower. That being said, the measurements indicate an accuracy of over 90% for most conditions at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

You’ll probably enjoy having the Temtop P20 around, as it is also a rather nice LCD screen clock. To take a bit of the mystery out of the reading counts, a cute smiley face interprets the PM2.5 levels as good, fair, or poor. Another smiley face interprets your local humidity levels in a similar manner.

While the device can be mounted on the wall and includes the screws needed to do so, I recommend using the back stand and using it as a desk monitor. On the wall, the numbers, time, and smiley faces will probably prove somewhat tricky to see clearly. This will also help you keep it plugged into a charger because the battery only lasts for about 6-8 hours on a single charge.

Finally, those of you interested in data will rejoice. Much like the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation, our top choice of air quality monitor, the Temtop P20 has USB connectivity to export the collected data in CSV format. 

Things to consider before buying the best air quality monitors

One thing to note from the current research is that air quality monitors for public usage are still an emerging market. As such, there are a lot of claims about accuracy that are either demonstrably false or haven’t been thoroughly checked by scientists or any actual regulatory board. With all of this in mind, here are the key things to remember when buying an air quality monitor:

Target pollutant

In a fantasy world, an air quality monitor could sniff out any potential harm in the air and let you know. Unfortunately, air quality monitors in the real world must be designed to target specific contaminants. While it is never a mystery what pollutants an air quality monitor tracks—as they are nearly always prominently displayed in the specs and ads—you may find yourself overwhelmed with a few new terms. Here’s a quick mini-guide to get you up to speed on air pollution vocab:

PM: PM stands for “particulate matter” and measurements of it can tell you how many liquid or solid particles of varying sizes are in your air. The particles are measured in microns, given after the “PM.” For example, PM2.5 tests for the amount of particles that are approximately 2.5 microns in your air. The makers of the Atmotube report that PM1 particles are typically emissions from factories and vehicles, PM2.5 particles usually come from fires and combustion, and PM10 particles are from pollen, mold, and fine bits of old plants and insects. You’ll find that PM2.5 is a common measurement taken by portable air purifiers.

AQI: This stands for Air Quality Index and is a popular, but somewhat outdated, method for measuring air quality. Essentially, the AQI measures pollutant levels for a wide variety of substances, gives them each a score from 0-500, and reports the highest one. It doesn’t matter if only one pollutant is high or if several are, only the top one is getting reported. Still, the data is historically known and the conversions for each pollutant can still be useful. If you want to play around with the system, a handy AQI calculator is available for you.

VOCs: These are “Volatile Organic Compounds” and largely come from human sources. The EPA warns that sources of these contaminants include household cleaners, building materials, and standard office equipment. They also have found that these pollutants are consistently found in much higher concentrations in indoor settings. VOCs are a big part of why our recommended floor cleaners focused so heavily on ingredients. Certain high-end air purifiers, such as the Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde, are specifically equipped with sensors attuned to these byproducts we bring into our homes as we upgrade furnishings and electronics, etc.

Scientific usage

Before making any purchase of something as important as an air quality monitor, be sure to check out how the product is perceived by experts. That can be as simple as running a Google search with “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” followed by the product name or trawling through the depths of the “Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center” (AQ-SPEC) website.

AQ-SPEC provides comprehensive data on air sensors after real-world field trials. While AQ-SPEC reports explicitly state that they are not an endorsement of a particular monitor, the evaluations are free for the manufacturer if the sensors are “low-cost” and meet basic selection criteria. As a result, simply bothering to submit a sensor for an AQ-SPEC report is a sign of a manufacturer’s good faith in their product.

All of the air quality monitors on our list have a detailed AQ-SPEC report. Unfortunately, these reports can be a bit dense and read more like a Ph.D. journal submission than a consumer-facing report. I’ve attempted to condense these reports down into the relevant bits, but if you’ve got any interest, you’re highly encouraged to parse through them yourself as well.

Accuracy & consistency

Accuracy and consistency feel very similar at a glance but affect our perceptions of an air quality monitor in big ways. As you might be able to gather from a recent analysis by the Berkeley Lab, accuracy is going to be difficult to maintain. However, high consistency will make these machines still quite valuable sources of information for your home.

Part of this comes down to calibration, which laboratory equipment undergoes frequently. Take the humble pH machine, for example. Back in my lab days, I remember calibrating this machine nearly every day I would use it, using specialized liquid solutions. Now imagine calibrating something that measures air … at home. It appears that cheap calibration is on the way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy or reliably done by the average person.

The result is that we have to expect some loss of accuracy when high-quality calibration isn’t feasible. Depending on what is being measured, this might not necessarily be too much of a problem. For example, your home thermometer is likely about 1 degree off, but it is still enough to tell you that you have a fever. The key is getting something accurate enough for your purposes.

Perhaps more important is consistency. While several consumer-grade air quality monitors have a bias, especially after being run for multiple days, if that bias is consistent, we can still get extremely useful information. For example, if your reading for Carbon Dioxide suddenly skyrockets above what you are used to getting, you know you have a problem.

FAQs

Q: How much do air quality monitors cost?

Air quality monitors can cost anywhere from around $80 to a few hundred dollars. Depending on their specifications, laboratory-grade air quality monitors can cost over $2,000 and quickly get into the several-thousand-dollar range. Routine maintenance and calibration can also become regular expenses for these high-level machines. Fortunately, our selection of the best air quality monitors has been tested against these professional machines and fares relatively well.

Q: Can an air quality monitor detect mold?

An air quality monitor can be a mold detector but won’t be able to tell you that you have mold. Molds are typically detected by PM10 sensors, as are other particulate matters, like pollen. So, an air quality monitor that can test for PM10 particles will be able to detect mold particles in your air but not tell you that those particles are mold.

Q: What is the best way to monitor air quality in industrial dusty rooms?

The best way to monitor air quality in dusty industrial rooms is to get your dust problem under control quickly. When you can see you have a problem with air quality, you are less in need of an air quality monitor and more in need of an air purifier.

Final thoughts on the best air quality monitors

Getting a high-quality air quality monitor doesn’t have to be for laboratory professionals alone. While the world of personal air quality monitoring is still emerging, there are still some great products out there. Combining the most stringent testing circumstances with ready commercial availability produced a list of exactly these five air quality monitors, so we’re sure customers will find satisfaction from something on this list.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best air quality monitors in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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The best electric toothbrushes of 2023 https://www.popsci.com/story/reviews/best-electric-toothbrush/ Sun, 10 Oct 2021 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/uncategorized/best-electric-toothbrush/
Ramp up your oral hygiene with one of the best electric toothbrushes.

Bring the shine back to your teeth with an electric toothbrush that vibrates, pulses, and times your brushing for better oral health.

The post The best electric toothbrushes of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Ramp up your oral hygiene with one of the best electric toothbrushes.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Best overall The Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 Electric Toothbrush is the best rated. Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 Electric Toothbrush
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With multiple speeds, intensities, and a built-in timer, customize your tooth care.

Best sustainable Suri makes the best electric toothbrush that's made with sustainable materials. Suri Sustainable Electric Toothbrush
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This beautiful sonic toothbrush is built with plant-based heads, replaceable parts, and comes with a UV travel case for easy disinfection.

Best for kids quip Kids Electric Toothbrush is the best electric toothbrush for kids. quip Kids Electric Toothbrush
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The quip provides simple functions with a handle design that helps you control your brushing.

Electric toothbrushes take some guesswork out of caring for your pearly whites. These battery-operated brushes vibrate or spin to clear plaque. All you have to do is hold the toothbrush at the right angle and apply gentle pressure. Some may have extra features like power settings, pulse settings, or smart features that measure bristle pressure. Some include a travel case that can be taken on the road. With these and other things in mind, we’ll guide you through the basics and share our recommendations for the best electric toothbrushes. 

How we chose the best electric toothbrushes

I’m a big fan of electric toothbrushes and have used a number over the years. When I pick an electric toothbrush, I look at the following four factors: 

  • Modes: Does the brush have enough modes for adequate cleaning? A single mode could work as long as it’s strong enough for most users. However, extra modes could offer broader functionality for those focused on keeping great dental hygiene. We preferred brands that offered options.
  • Bristle action: Does the vibration or oscillation effectively maintain contact with the teeth and help remove plaque? This is an important consideration we factored into our picks.
  • Battery life: Most people need at least a few days’ worth of battery life between charges, especially if they travel. I looked for models that give users the freedom to brush away from a cord or extra batteries. 
  • Performance: Does the brush clean well? Do the settings work together with the brush head design to remove plaque effectively? I looked for brushes where the whole package sums to strong performance.

The best electric toothbrushes: Reviews & Recommendations

Most electric toothbrushes include a built-in timer that runs for the American Dental Association (ADA) recommended two minutes. Your toothbrush’s timer may include notifications every 30 seconds to tell you when to change brushing locations. But the features, and price, can increase as far as you feel comfortable. Here are our picks to help you separate the best from the rest.

Best overall: Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 Electric Toothbrush

Why it made the cut: This Philips model has features that let you customize the brushing experience and protective features like a pressure sensor, making it one of the best electric toothbrush models on the market.

Specs

  • Speeds: 3
  • Intensities: 3
  • Power source: Built-in, rechargeable battery

Pros

  • Built-in pressure gauge helps protect gums and enamel
  • Up to 3 weeks of battery life, depending on brush settings
  • Quadracer timer alerts you to move to different tooth quadrants

Cons 

  • A few units have shown poor durability

The Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 Electric Toothbrush strikes a balance between extra features and price. It includes three speed settings and three intensities, allowing users to customize their brushing experience. 

It also includes a built-in pressure gauge that triggers an orange light if you’re pressing too hard. This feature helps protect gums and enamel from damage. The Philips electric toothbrush’s built-in Quadracer timer runs for two minutes and includes thirty-second alerts, so you know when to change areas on the teeth. Finally, we love the long battery life this brush has. 

Sadly, this model does have a few reports citing units with poor durability. A few have had button durability issues, while others had problems with brush heads falling off. While these issues are uncommon, they are worth noting.

Best sustainable: Suri Sustainable Electric Toothbrush

Suri

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Why it made the cut: This elegant toothbrush is designed with plant-based heads and recyclable parts. It provides 33,000 sonic vibrations per minute and a UV travel case disinfects the brush.

Specs

  • Speeds: 1
  • Intensities: 2
  • Power source: Built-in, rechargeable battery

Pros

  • Made with plant-based and recyclable parts
  • Beautiful design
  • 40-hour battery life
  • Comes with UV cleaning case

Cons

  • Can only replace parts from company

Brushing your teeth is one of the non-negotiables of life, but like taking out the garbage, it’s not typically a highlight of the day. But the Suri Electric Toothbrush elevated the experience for me. Created with the idea that “our daily rituals should be in harmony with our planet,” the toothbrush features plant-based heads and bristles and an aluminum body that can be taken apart so any parts that stop working can be repaired. Unlike bulkier options on the market, its design is sleek and appealing. It comes in three colors (Midnight Black, Sea Mist, and Winter Fern), and Suri provides a magnetic mirror mount for your bathroom.  

Although Suri has designed its toothbrush for sustainability, the device doesn’t skimp on useful tech. Its 33,000 sonic vibrations per minute tickled my mouth and made me look forward to brushing. With both a cleaning and polishing mode, the brush has a two-minute timer and haptic feedback every 30 seconds to let you know when to move on to another section of your mouth. Afterward, my mouth felt like I had gotten a professional cleaning.

What really makes the Suri stand out, however, is its travel case, which features UV-C light that disinfects your toothbrush within one minute. Like the mirror mount and the USB charging stand, the case design is thoughtful and sleek enough to easily tuck into a backpack, carry-on, or purse, for that matter. The brush also recharges within four hours and provides an impressive up to 40 hours of battery life. 

You might expect a premium price for a toothbrush made with sustainable materials and the latest tech. Thankfully, though, the Suri is priced in the same range or is less expensive than many other sonic toothbrushes on the market. — Jen McCaffery

Best water-flosser combo: Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Professional Flossing Electric Toothbrush

Why it made the cut: The SonicFusion saves space and time by employing a water flosser and electric toothbrush combo—the power of two devices rolled into one. 

Specs 

  • Speeds: 3
  • Intensities: 10
  • Power source: Built-in, rechargeable battery

Pros

  • 10 pressure settings to clean sensitive teeth
  • Built-in timer with 30-second pacer
  • Works on brush, floss, and combo modes

Cons

  • May require a surge protector

The Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Professional Flossing Electric Toothbrush has a head that functions as a toothbrush, water flosser, or both at the same time. With 10 pressure settings, even people with sensitive teeth can find a setting that water flosses without irritation. 

A bestseller for many years, the SonicFusion also includes many of the same high-end features found with other electric toothbrushes, like a two-minute timer, a 30-second pacer, and a travel case. You can even add mouthwash to the reservoir for extra dental treatment while you brush and floss. 

Watch out for power surges while you use this device. Surges have been known to cause this flosser to stop functioning. However, a responsive customer service team can help fix this known issue if this happens. 

Best for kids: quip Kids Electric Toothbrush

Why it made the cut: The quip electric toothbrush gets bonus points for a simple design that kids love and a decluttering holder that parents appreciate—definitely the best electric toothbrush for kids.

Specs  

  • Speeds: 1
  • Intensities: 1
  • Power source: AAA batteries

Pros

  • Rubberized handle grip for better control
  • Storage container declutters bathroom counters
  • Charge lasts three months

Cons

  • Relatively pricey replacement heads
  • Batteries not rechargeable

The quip Kids Electric Toothbrush excels at brushing with the basics. This kid-sized brush has only one setting and one intensity, providing kids with the very basics without any additional confusing features. A rubberized handle helps little hands stay in control as they learn good oral hygiene. 

Regarding storage, the quip Electric Toothbrush includes a holder that attaches to the mirror to save counter space. It runs on three AAA batteries, potentially running up to three months (but it never hurts to keep some rechargeable batteries handy). 

A downside of this brush is that the replacement heads get pricey fairly quickly, whether you get them by subscription or at an alternative seller. This means this kid’s toothbrush might not be as affordable in the long run. 

Best for braces: Oral-B Pro 1000 CrossAction Electric Toothbrush

Why it made the cut: The Pro 1000 made the cut for its ease of use and the effectiveness of its oscillating action when cleaning orthodontic braces.

Specs

  • Speeds: 1
  • Intensities: 1
  • Power source: Built-in, rechargeable battery

Pros

  • Compatible with a wide range of Oral-B replacement toothbrush heads
  • Bristle and head design cup the tooth for better cleaning coverage
  • Built-in 2-minute timer

Cons 

  • Timer doesn’t automatically shut off the toothbrush
  • Only one mode

The best electric toothbrush for braces, the Oral-B Pro 1000 CrossAction, uses an oscillating action with vibration. It’s a slightly different action from most toothbrushes, but it works well for moving under and around braces. This model is also compatible with many of Oral-B’s brush heads. 

The Oral-B Electric Toothbrush keeps things simple with one mode and a single intensity. A timer offers thirty-second warnings when it’s time to change the area of your mouth you’re brushing. However, the toothbrush doesn’t automatically turn off when two minutes are up. A longer vibration signals the end of the cycle, but the toothbrush continues to vibrate, so you do have to remember to turn this toothbrush off manually.

Best budget: Gleem Battery Power Electric Toothbrush

Why it made the cut: The Gleem looks and functions like a more expensive electric toothbrush, yet it has just the right features to keep it at an affordable price. 

Specs 

  • Speeds: 1
  • Intensities: 1 
  • Power source: Disposable AAA batteries 

Pros

  • Simple, 1-speed design
  • Memory function lets you stop the cleaning and pick up where you left off
  • Compact traveling case

Cons

  • Strong vibrations in the handle

The Gleem Electric Toothbrush cuts brushing down to the basics. It has one speed, one intensity, and a built-in timer. The only extra feature is a memory function that remembers where you were in the last brushing cycle so that you can pick up where you left off. It’s powered by disposable AAA batteries, making it a good option for travelers or those looking to save on counter space. The slim travel case is an appealing bonus. 

We love this affordable electric toothbrush, especially for travel. However, be warned that it has strong handle vibrations that may interfere with the vibrating head. 

Things to consider before buying an electric toothbrush

Battery type and run time

Electric toothbrushes usually have either a built-in, rechargeable battery or they use disposable batteries. The better battery type is largely a matter of personal preference. However, if you have an older bathroom that does not have an electrical outlet, a model with disposable batteries could be more practical.

Run times for either battery type vary from two days to several months. Battery life is affected by the settings used too. If you use a toothbrush at the highest vibration setting and brush three times a day, you’ll go through your battery faster than if you brush gently and only twice a day. Longer battery life and run times make brushing less of a hassle, especially when traveling. 

Smart features

Smart electric toothbrushes connect to an app via WiFi or Bluetooth. These toothbrushes use the app to time each brush session and may even automatically place orders for replacement heads. 

Some models track the areas of your mouth that have been brushed and make recommendations for areas that you consistently miss. There are also smart toothbrushes that can gauge the pressure applied to your teeth. These extra features can help you improve your brushing skills. However, they add dollars to the toothbrush’s price. 

Bristle motion and type

The bristles of an electric toothbrush come in the same varieties as manual toothbrushes: they vary by stiffnesses, shape, size, and configuration. Consider how the different bristle and head designs affect the performance. 

For example, electric toothbrushes with larger heads cover more area but might be too big for a child’s mouth. Others may include rubber components that buff while brushing. Consider what kind of cleaning you want the brush to do, and whether the extra features will help you with your oral health care.

Some designs, like electric toothbrush/water flosser combos, let you brush and floss with the same machine. If you’re considering a water flosser as part of your routine, these combos can save you time and money.

Cleaning modes

Some people prefer to stick to the basics and focus on a single cleaning mode. Others prefer to customize their brushing experience. Electric toothbrushes with several speeds or pulse settings let users find brushing motions that feel good for them and provide the best results for their specific oral hygiene needs.

FAQs

Q: How much does an electric toothbrush cost?

The cost of an electric toothbrush depends on what features it provides. A comprehensive system for daily oral hygiene, such as the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Professional Flossing Electric Toothbrush, costs about $179. But you can also maintain your oral health with a more budget-friendly option, such as the Gleem Battery Power Electric Toothbrush, for less than $20.

Q: How do I choose an electric toothbrush?

Start by deciding on your budget. Some people happily spend hundreds on a toothbrush they’ll use for 10 or more years. Others might want something a little easier on the wallet. Afterward, consider the sensitivity of your teeth and gums. A single speed and intensity model might work well if your mouth isn’t overly sensitive. However, sensitive teeth and gums may require specialized lower settings that only come with more expensive brushes. Finally, consider the kind of action you want—oscillation, vibration, or both. Both work equally well, but some people prefer one over the other. 

Q: How can I remove tartar from my teeth without going to the dentist? 

The best way to remove and keep tartar from forming is to go to the dentist for regular cleanings. Then, brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Good oral hygiene prevents tartar from forming in the first place, so it doesn’t need removal by you or the dentist. Most home remedies for tartar removal will just as easily damage your gums and enamel as remove tartar. We recommend regular dental visits paired with consistent tooth care at home.  

Q: Do electric toothbrushes damage teeth?

Electric toothbrushes can damage teeth the same way a manual toothbrush can, though they are no longer more likely to damage teeth than their manual counterparts. Bristles that are too stiff can damage the enamel or irritate the gums. Over-aggressive brushing with an electric toothbrush can also damage teeth and gums in the same way manual brushing can. However, the timers on many electric toothbrushes are designed to counteract this by reminding you to move on to the next quadrant.

Final thoughts on the best electric toothbrushes

The Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 Electric Toothbrush offers the best mix of features and functionality. It’s got just enough extras to give you options but isn’t so loaded with features that you feel like you’re waving a magic wand in your mouth. If you want an upgrade that cuts down on bathroom appliances, the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Professional Flossing Electric Toothbrush brushes, flosses, and applies mouthwash. It has a higher price point and a storage commitment but makes up for it by excelling at providing all-in-one home tooth care.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The post The best electric toothbrushes of 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

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Duck yeah, Apple’s next autocorrect update makes it easier to swear https://www.popsci.com/technology/apple-autocorrect-update/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 20:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546383
Apple iPhone icons showing one text message alert
iPhones' autocorrect will soon understand when you really meant to type 'that' word. Deposit Photos

Unfiltered expletives are coming to iOS 17 this fall.

The post Duck yeah, Apple’s next autocorrect update makes it easier to swear appeared first on Popular Science.

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Apple iPhone icons showing one text message alert
iPhones' autocorrect will soon understand when you really meant to type 'that' word. Deposit Photos

There were a lot of announcements crammed within Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote address on Monday, but amid $3,499 augmented reality ski goggles and a brand new 15-inch MacBook Air was nestled a pretty big “ducking” deal—Apple’s next iOS launch will feature a smarter autocorrect capable of, among other things, recognizing your attempts to spice up texts with a certain expletive.

[Related: Here’s a look at Apple’s first augmented reality headset.]

“In those moments where you just want to type a ‘ducking’ word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too,” Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, said during WWDC’s showcase. As BBC noted on Tuesday, the more linguistically natural ability will come via Apple’s latest AI advancements, which are purportedly better at predicting words and phrases by learning which terminology you use the most—including, if it comes to it, swear words.

The technology behind autocorrect AI is what’s known as a “transformer model.” First detailed in 2017 by Google software engineer Jakob Uszkoreit, transformer models are neural networks that learn context via treating linguistic aspects like vocabulary and sentence patterns as data points, then calculating each likely ensuing word or phrase as users type. These machine learning advancements have exploded in recent years via much hyped, often controversial predictive text AI such as OpenAI’s GPT and Google Bard.

[Related: Smart ways to manage software updates on Windows and macOS.]

But according to Cindy Blanco, a Learning Scientist and Senior Manager of Learning Content for the popular language tutoring service Duolingo, Apple’s forthcoming feature is unequivocally a welcome one. “Expletives are a completely natural, normal part of language—whether we like it or not. They serve a number of linguistic and emotional functions, even including alleviating pain,” Blanco tells PopSci. “It’s pretty typical for written language standards to lag behind what comes natural to us during in-person communication, so this feels like a win for those of us typing how we talk.”

For now, however, Apple users remain far from “zero ‘ducks’ given.” iOS 17 is only scheduled for public beta testing next month, with a full release not expected until sometime later this fall. 

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675 million people still didn’t have access to electricity in 2021 https://www.popsci.com/environment/united-nations-sdg-report/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546305
Factory emitting pollution at sunset
The UN's latest report paints a grim picture of progress towards sustainability goals. Deposit Photos

A new report from the UN on Sustainable Development Goals progress shows the world is 'off track.'

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Factory emitting pollution at sunset
The UN's latest report paints a grim picture of progress towards sustainability goals. Deposit Photos

In 2015, the United Nations announced a series of interdependent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meant to provide a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” In the years since, the UN and various partner organizations have released periodic progress reports that assess global movement towards these benchmarks. The latest annual recap, published on Tuesday, focuses on SDG 7’s aim at providing “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy” to the world, alongside universal access to clean cooking and electricity, doubling historic levels of efficiency improvements, and increasing renewable energy usage by the end of the decade.

The UN’s 2023 assessment of efforts so far? Not great.

According to the Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report, the world’s current pace is simply not en route to achieving “any of the 2030 targets.” Although the commission acknowledges some regions’ improvements in various areas such as renewable energy availability, the number of people globally lacking electricity access is likely to have actually increased for the first time in decades due to the ongoing energy crisis exacerbated by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The report also explains the most pressing factors styming progress towards SDG 7 include the uncertain global economic outlook, high inflation, currency fluctuations, the growing number of countries dealing with debt distress, and supply chain issues.

[Related: 1 in 5 people are likely to live in dangerously hot climates by 2100.]

At humanity’s current trajectory, nearly 2 billion people will still lack clean cooking facilities in 2030, with another 660 million without reliable electricity access. The report’s summary notes that, according to the World Health Organization, over 3 million people die every year due to illnesses stemming from polluting technologies and fuel that increase exposure to toxic household air pollution.

“We must protect the next generation by acting now,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said in a statement. “Investing in clean and renewable solutions to support universal energy access is how we can make real change.” “Clean cooking technologies in homes and reliable electricity in healthcare facilities can play a crucial role in protecting the health of our most vulnerable populations,” Ghebreyesus added.

[Related: Extreme weather and energy insecurity can compound health risks.]

There is at least one bright spot in the discouraging report, however. According to the UN Statistics Division, even accounting for recent electrification slowdowns, the number of people lacking electricity has halved over the past ten years—down to 675 million in 2021 versus around 1.1 billion in 2010.

“Nonetheless, additional efforts and measures must urgently be put in place to ensure that the poorest and hardest-to-reach people are not left behind,” explained Stefan Schweinfest of the UN’s Statistics Division in the UN’s statement. “To reach universal access by 2030, the development community must scale up clean energy investments and policy support.”

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NASA’s journey to a strange metal asteroid should finally begin in October https://www.popsci.com/science/psyche-mission-launch-october/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546295
NASA's Psyche probe should blast off to an asteroid later in 2023.
A NASA probe approaches giant metal asteroid 16 Psyche in this concept art. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Psyche mission has a launch date again, after software problems and COVID-era delays.

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NASA's Psyche probe should blast off to an asteroid later in 2023.
A NASA probe approaches giant metal asteroid 16 Psyche in this concept art. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission will send a small probe to a unique metal asteroid—a curious object that may be the exposed heart of a former planet. But to prepare for the 280-million-mile journey, engineers have had to attend to a million little details over the course of years of planning and construction. Working those out took more time than anticipated: NASA delayed Psyche’s launch last year, prompting concerns about the mission’s future and triggering an investigation into what caused the set back. On Monday, NASA announced that Psyche is thriving and on track for a new launch date in October 2023.

“The 2023 launch date is credible, and the probability of mission success is high,” said A. Thomas Young, chair of the independent review board that assessed Psyche’s missteps, at a news conference. NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Director Laurie Leshin confirmed the fall blast-off: Psyche is “green across the board, and on track for October launch.” Of the 18 weeks to go until launch, seven are buffer time—a pretty impressive margin for such an intense engineering project.

Psyche, announced in 2017, was first delayed in June 2022 when issues with its flight software arose during testing. NASA commissioned the review board soon after, which delivered its findings last fall. The review cited issues across the entire laboratory—understaffing, a lack of experienced managerial oversight, budget strain, and the COVID-19 pandemic—as factors contributing to the mission’s woes. JPL’s reckoning with this review had ripple effects, including the controversial indefinite pause of the VERITAS mission to Venus.

[Related: 5 ways we know DART crushed that asteroid (but not literally)]

Now, in May 2023, the review board has reassessed JPL’s readiness. The Psyche debacle may have raised questions about the ability of JPL to juggle building more than a dozen spacecraft, but NASA officials emphasized the concerns plaguing the center’s operations has been addressed. The progress made at JPL is “not only outstanding, but world-class as determined by our review board,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

JPL’s changes include hiring more experienced staff (including luring back talent that left JPL for commercial spaceflight companies), reorganizing the engineering teams to focus on high-priority work, and updating their hybrid work policy to bring more people back in-person to the lab. “We’ve overcome our workforce issues, our missions are staffed,” said Leshin.

[Related: The asteroid that created Earth’s largest crater may have been way bigger than we thought]

If Psyche leaves Earth as scheduled in the fall, it will arrive at the asteroid 16 Psyche in 2029. The mission will hopefully reveal information about how planets form, and will confirm if 16 Psyche is the leftover metal core of a failed planet as hypothesized. Some companies even see the Psyche mission as a potential first step toward mining asteroids for precious metals, as the space rock contains approximately 10 quintillion dollars worth of materials. 

And things are looking up for other missions, too—especially since JPL recently delivered the NISAR Earth-radar satellite on schedule and is making good progress for next year’s launch of Europa Clipper. The laboratory’s strong progress is a good sign for the hopeful restart of VERITAS, which would be a huge win for planetary scientists and a monumental return to our sister planet.

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Apple released a ‘spatial computer.’ Here’s what that means. https://www.popsci.com/technology/apple-spatial-computing/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 17:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546357
Apple Vision Pro being worn by someone typing
Apple's Vision Pro at work. Apple

It looks like something out of "Minority Report."

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Apple Vision Pro being worn by someone typing
Apple's Vision Pro at work. Apple

On Monday, Apple unveiled the Vision Pro—its long awaited augmented reality headset. Rather than selling it as a virtual reality headset or even as AR goggles, the company is calling the new device its “first spatial computer.” Apple CEO Tim Cook even tweeted: “Welcome to the era of spatial computing.” So let’s dig in and look at what on earth (or in the metaverse) spatial computing is. 

First, a few specs so you can understand what the Vision Pro is capable of doing. The new high-tech device resembles a pair of ski goggles and is packed with 12 cameras, five sensors, and two 4K displays. While it is capable of immersive VR experiences like gaming, it is mostly designed to be used for augmented or mixed reality. To achieve this, the cameras on the outside of the device will capture footage that’s displayed in real-time on the screens inside it. That’s how digital elements, like email apps, FaceTime video calls, and everything else can appear as if they’re floating in the physical environment surrounding you. Apps can be controlled with your gaze, hand gestures, and your voice—or with a keyboard and mouse. All this tech doesn’t come cheap: The Vision Pro will go on sale next year for $3,499. Now, on to what this all means for the future of computers. 

Although “spatial computing” has had a few different definitions, it is essentially an extension of virtual and augmented reality. A spatial computer is a device that enables the physical and digital to co-exist and, in some cases, interact. So, instead of only being able to use apps on your smartphone or laptop, spatial computers—like the Vision Pro—allow you to check your email anywhere you want in the world around you. Your email app can appear to be projected on a wall, floating off to your left, or attached to your wrist. Similarly, instead of having to rely on a keyboard or mouse, you can typically interact with a spatial computer using voice commands, your gaze, and physical movements, as if the objects you can see are real.

In announcing the Vision Pro, Apple’s marketing materials show how the company thinks spatial computing could fit into modern life. The examples the Cupertino company gives are pretty instructive, if nothing new. 

In what it calls “extraordinary new experiences”, Apple says the Vision Pro can provide “an infinite canvas for apps at work and at home.” In other words, instead of being limited by the screen real estate your smartphone or monitor provides, you can be more productive by having apps occupy the entire three-dimensional space in front of you. You aren’t stuck with the one or two monitors that fit on your desk, but can have apps fully surrounding you.

Similarly, if you want entertainment instead of productivity, the Vision Pro “can transform any space into a personal movie theater with a screen that feels 100 feet wide.” And unlike in a regular movie theater, you can even play video games on it. (There’s also Spatial Audio to provide the surround sound.)

None of these featured capabilities are particularly revolutionary, considering devices like Meta’s Quest line of VR headsets and Microsoft’s Hololens. However, Apple’s execution seems to be on another level. The hands-on feedback from the tech press suggest that Apple has solved some of the problems that have prevented VR and AR headsets from going mainstream. 

Firstly, the screens and cameras are high enough resolution that things work without being blurry. According to Nilay Patel for The Verge, “It was totally workable for reading text in Safari.” Similarly, the video passthrough just worked. “It appeared with zero latency and was sharp, crisp, and clear. I happily talked to others, walked around the room, and even took notes on my phone while wearing the headset—something I would never be able to do with something like the Meta Quest Pro.”

Second, because the Vision Pro will work as a VR screen for Macs as well as be able to run some iPhone and iPad apps from the start, it will likely launch as a far more capable general purpose spatial computer than anything that has come before. From day one, you will be able to check emails, make FaceTime calls, send iMessages, browse the web, fill in spreadsheets, and do huge numbers of your daily computing tasks—but all through a spatial interface. The price will be a big barrier, but it’s the first spatial computer that could see widespread adoption.

Of course, there is one big question mark hanging over the Vision Pro—and spatial computers in general. Is using AR goggles to do general computing tasks something anyone really wants? And is there enough of a productivity benefit that it’s worth wearing a large pair of goggles? 

While Apple appears to have got closer to making a mainstream spatial computer than any company has before, it’s still unclear if the Vision Pro is an expensive solution still trying to find a problem to solve.

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Extinct human cousins may have beat us to inventing burial rituals https://www.popsci.com/science/homo-naledi-bury-dead/ Tue, 06 Jun 2023 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=546253
An entrance to the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave system, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa. Newly found grave sites and wall engravings have led a team of archeologists to reevaluate the meaning-making capacity of an early human ancestor, Homo naledi.
An entrance to the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave system, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa. Newly found grave sites and wall engravings have led a team of archeologists to reevaluate the meaning-making capacity of an early human ancestor, Homo naledi. Jeff Miller

New preprint studies continue to spark the debate surrounding which species was the first to practice purposeful burial.

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An entrance to the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave system, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa. Newly found grave sites and wall engravings have led a team of archeologists to reevaluate the meaning-making capacity of an early human ancestor, Homo naledi.
An entrance to the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave system, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa. Newly found grave sites and wall engravings have led a team of archeologists to reevaluate the meaning-making capacity of an early human ancestor, Homo naledi. Jeff Miller

Since its initial discovery was announced in 2015, an extinct hominid species named Homo naledi (H. naledi) has been making anthropological waves. Now, three new preprint studies published June 5 in the journal eLife and presented at the Richard Leakey Memorial Conference suggest that these human cousins may have buried their dead and carved symbols into cave walls, showing that they were capable of complex behavior despite their smaller brains. 

[Related: New Species On Human Family Tree Discovered In Ancient Mass Grave.]

While the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, some outside scientists believe that more evidence is needed to challenge what is already known about how complex thinking evolved in humans. If these new findings are true, it would overthrow the current belief that humans are the only species to bury their dead.

H. naledi’s brain is roughly one-third the size of the human brain. Previously, most scientists believed that the mental capacity behind burial, making marks, and other more complex cultural behaviors required a bigger brain, like those of the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens

“It’s not how big your brain is, it’s how you use it and what it’s structured for,” study co-author and University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist John Hawks said in a statement. Hawks has helped lead the H. naledi  team since its beginning.

The fossil remains of the species were first uncovered about 10 years ago in the Rising Star cave system northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. Since then, team members have descended into the tight underground caves that they say show this species in a new light. 

One study describes the potential intentional burial sites that held fossilized remains of children and adults in the fetal position and buried in shallow holes in the ground. One of the other studies describes a series of marks carved into the cave’s limestone walls that include cross-hatched lines, squares, and triangles. 

Additionally,  H. naledi  had a smaller frame based on the skeletons that have been excavated. Archaeologists estimate that the average  individual weighed less than 90 pounds and was under five feet tall. This small stature would have helped them navigate the extremely narrow and cramped passageways in this cave system. Some of the cave system’s labyrinth of passages are as narrow as seven inches and are located 300 feet underground. 

The bones found in the cave are between 236,000 and 335,000 years old, which is older than the graves at Qafzeh cave in Israel. These 92,000-year-old graves are commonly cited as the earliest known examples of human burial.

[Related: Humans and Neanderthals could have lived together even earlier than we thought.]

“This is a great moment in human history,” Lee Berger, the South African paleontologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence who co-wrote all three papers, told The Washington Post. Berger said people have wondered, “‘What will we do when we meet another culture as complex as us?’ Well, you just did.”

Berger has drawn criticism in his three-decades-long career for announcing or publishing research before gathering sufficient supporting evidence. He, in turn, has criticized the practice of waiting years to share discoveries with the public, calling it “elitist,” according to The Washington Post. 

These new findings show that the caves still have more to offer scientists working to understand human evolution, according to Hawks. The team hopes to have more trained eyes and experts into the caves to search for more evidence. 

“We have to approach it like an escape room. We have to study every hidden detail now,” Hawks says. “This whole cave system might be part of some kind of cultural space.”

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The best air purifiers for 2023 https://www.popsci.com/story/reviews/best-air-purifiers/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 15:59:00 +0000 https://stg.popsci.com/uncategorized/best-air-purifiers-2/
A lineup of the best air purifiers on a white background
Amanda Reed

Whether you’ve got pets, allergies, or worries about wildfire season, you can look forward to better air quality with one of our well-filtered purifier picks.

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A lineup of the best air purifiers on a white background
Amanda Reed

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Best for large rooms Mila Smart Air Purifier Mila Smart Air Purifier
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This all-purpose smart air purifier adapts to room size and comes with a carbon monoxide detector and sleep and white noise modes.

Best HEPA A product image of the Coway Tower True HEPA Air Purifier
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This HEPA model features four layers of filtration in a stylish design.

Best for allergies InvisiClean Aura II Air Purifier InvisiClean Aura II Air Purifier
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Certified to keep you safe from dangerous levels of ozone gas.

Air purifiers suck in pollen, dust, smoke, other allergens, and even viruses—pummeling them and then circulating clean, filtered air. It sounds simple enough, but not all purifiers are created equal, and there isn’t one that’s right for every person. Your particular environment and the size of your home are huge factors in choosing the best option for you. Is allergy season wreaking havoc on your sinuses? Do you live in a smoggy city? Has wildfire smoke been wafting through, blanketing everything in an unnatural haze? In short, even the finest filters aren’t guaranteed to fix all that ails you and your home. But if you’re wondering whether air purifiers are really worth it … we think so. They can help distribute cleaner air, and that’s always a good thing, considering the link between air quality and health. So, read on as we clear the air on what we think are the best air purifiers.

How we chose the best air purifiers

As pet owners and parents, we’ve experienced our fair share of smells and toxins—and that’s just from inside the house. To create this list of the best air purifiers, we relied on peer recommendations, critical reviews, online research, user impressions, and plentiful personal testing. We also examined what each air purifier claims to eliminate from the air, HEPA square footage, and MERV ratings.

The best air purifiers: Reviews & Recommendations

Pollen, pet dander, smells, smoke, germs, and other airborne goblins are no match for the best air purifiers. This list includes quiet air purifiers, ones that double as humidifiers, and even ones that claim they can help with a majority of airborne pathogens.

Best overall: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: This three-in-one smart device automatically adapts to changes in air quality and humidity.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 400 square feet
  • Dimensions: 36.66 x 11.02 x 12.23 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes
  • Max decibels (dB): 59.8 dB

Pros

  • Connectivity with Siri and Alexa
  • Three products in one
  • Air quality reporting

Cons

  • Expensive

Between its TikTok- and Insta-famous Airwrap multistyler to its line of powerful vacuums, Dyson has made a name for itself in sucking—which we don’t mean negatively. The Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde proves yet again that Sir James Dyson really knows what he’s doing when it comes to pushing air out and in. This air purifier uses an intelligent sensing system and Air Multiplier technology to purify, humidify, and cool the air. You don’t even need to touch the stylish, distinctive unit—it automatically senses and reacts to changes in air quality and humidity (we’ve watched one enthusiastically spring to life time and time again after a particularly aggressive sauté session in the kitchen). It even features a solid-state sensor to detect and destroy formaldehyde emitted by household items—a boon if you’re in a newly renovated/refurbished space, as fresh carpet and new mattresses are emitting odd things.

You don’t have to worry about airborne baddies getting re-released into the air since the entire purifier-humidifier is fully sealed to the HEPA H13 standard. If you love numbers, neat tech, and data, this machine will tickle your brain when it reports your air quality in real time on the LCD screen and DysonLink app (which you can use to tweak/schedule usage). The filters are low-maintenance and easy to replace, and the machine features a deep-clean cycle to get rid of mineral build-up and bacteria that may be lurking in the water system. Although it’s almost $1,000, you’re getting three devices for the cost of one. Talk about smart.

Best for large rooms: Mila Smart Air Purifier

Mila

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Why it made the cut: This mold- and carbon monoxide-detecting air purifier comes in different filter configurations for custom air purification.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 1,000 square feet 
  • Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 15 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes
  • Max decibels (dB): 62 dB but lowers to 24 dB while in room

Pros

  • Stylist
  • Small
  • Carbon monoxide, mold detection, and white noise machine built-in

Cons

  • Reviews note excessive air quality notifications

This classy, app-controllable large room air purifier adapts to the size of whatever room it’s placed in. It also looks great in any room it’s placed in. The filter has 45 square feet of HEPA, and with 447 CADR, it’s effective in rooms up to 1,000 square feet. Additional features include a sleep mode and white noise so that it won’t interfere with your sleeping habits. The device also features a carbon monoxide detector. It will monitor your room’s humidity and let you know if it detects any mold. If you’re not a fan of notifications, disable them if you go with the Mila—reviewers note that the Mila app sends lots of alerts.

Best for small rooms: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Bedroom

Levoit

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Why it made the cut: Take this lightweight, compact air purifier from room to room to experience dual-filter, three-stage filtration in your entire home.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 161 square feet
  • Dimensions: 6.69 x 6.69 x 10.43 inches
  • App connectivity: No
  • Max decibels (dB): 52 dB

Pros

  • Aromatherapy
  • Dual-filter, three-stage filtration
  • Specifically targets hay fever

Cons

  • Not for large homes

The Levoit promises to help relieve allergies, congestion, and sneezing and is our pick for the best small air purifier. Although we can’t vouch for the unit’s specific efficacy against rhinitis, we can vouch for the fact that it has three filters (one more than most other units): HEPA for dust, pollen, and dander; carbon for odors; and polyester for lint and hair. One fun additional feature is that this one has an aromatherapy option if you’d like a little lavender to help lull you to sleep at night.

Best for quiet: Blueair Blue Pure 311i Max

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: Particles down to .1 microns are no match for this quiet-but-powerful air purifier.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: Up to 929 square feet
  • Dimensions: 19 x 12.5 x 12.5 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes
  • Max decibels (dB): 50 dB

Pros

  • Removes particles down to .1 micron
  • Stylish
  • App connectivity

Cons

  • Reviews note occasional problems with auto-sensing

Blueair makes svelte cylinders with Scandinavian style packed with highly effective electrostatic and mechanical filtration. The Blue Pure 311i Max is HEPASilent but deadly … against microbes in the air. This stylish, small air purifier features five fan speeds and a one-touch auto mode with a fine particles (PM 2.5) sensor to monitor concentration and adjust speed according. This air purifier can clean a 387-square-foot room in 12.5 minutes and a 929-square-foot space in 30 minutes (there are both larger and smaller models, so something for every home). And, it snags all those particles (99.97% of them down to 0.1 micron) all nearly undetected, clocking in at 23 dB on low/night mode—louder than a quiet natural area with no wind but softer than a whisper. And it never runs above 50dB, which makes it QuietMark certified and perfect for a bedroom, TV room, any room … plus it’s only 8 pounds, so it’s easy to move around while you decide between your study and your yoga studio (or realize it’s easiest to buy two).

Is it working? We barely hear it. But we also don’t hear ourselves sneezing and wheezing and complaining about our watery eyes, so we’re going with yes. If we need more confirmation, we can look at a five-color LED that changes according to Air Quality Index (AQI), or we can reference an app that gives insight into indoor vs. outdoor pollution and lets you control mode, tweak LED Brightness, set a schedule, and more (assuming the 311i Max and your phone are connected to WiFi). And if we don’t want it to be working, Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility let us turn it off with voice commands if our phone isn’t convenient. While some reviews note that the auto-sensing feature is not as accurate as they hoped, we’ve observed the Blue Pure 311i Max react firsthand thanks to a low smoke-point cooking oil incident or two. It was lively even from across a loft apartment—and helped with the post-coming odors. And the washable pre-filter fabric cover (shown above in “Stockholm Fog” color, quietly complementing some audio-video gear) meshed effortlessly with the decor to boot.

Best HEPA: Coway Tower True HEPA Air Purifier

Coway

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Why it made the cut: Stylish-meets-powerful with this True HEPA air purifier that features four levels of filtration.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 330 square feet
  • Dimensions: 10.5 × 32.7 × 10.7 inches
  • App connectivity: No
  • Max decibels (dB): 52 dB

Pros

  • Real-time air sensing
  • Washable pre-filter
  • Air quality indicator

Cons

  • Noisier compared to other air purifiers

Multiple fan speeds, a timer, an air-quality assessor, and a filter-replacement indicator light make this the best HEPA air purifier—not just quiet and effective, but user-friendly. At just under $200, it’s neither cheap nor exorbitant for an air purifier, and it’s also aesthetically pleasing. Reviewers note that this air purifier is noisier than most.

Best with UV light: Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier

Germ Guardian

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Why it made the cut: This quiet air purifier uses CARB-compliant UVC light and titanium dioxide to reduce airborne bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 153 square feet
  • Dimensions: 10.25 x 6.75 x 21.5 inches
  • App connectivity: No
  • Max decibels (dB): 61.2 dB

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Reduces odors
  • Pre-filter traps allergens

Cons

  • UV light can be bad for the environment

UVC light (the most destructive of all the UVs) in an air purifier works as a UVGI—ultraviolet germicidal irradiation—disinfection method by attacking the DNA of cells floating through the air, like mold spores, viruses, and bacteria. (This means, like all other filters, it cannot do anything for particles that have settled into fabric). An activated charcoal filter reduces odors. The 22-inch purifier filters air four times per hour at maximum speed in rooms up to 153 square feet. The four fan speeds, whisper-quiet operation, and CARB compliance make this air purifier an especially good pick for allergy sufferers. California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliance means you can rest easy about its environmental footprint.

Best for allergies: