| 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. Tue, 28 Nov 2023 22:45:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.2.2 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 The best outdoor speakers in 2023 https://www.popsci.com/gear/best-outdoor-speakers/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 22:45:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592540
The best outdoor speakers in 2023
Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

We’ve looked at all sorts of weatherproof speakers to find the ones that hit all the right notes. Here's what's in while you're out.

The post The best outdoor speakers in 2023 appeared first on Popular Science.

The best outdoor speakers in 2023
Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

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Best overall Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker

A balance of sound and style help the AW6500s to stand out.

Best portable outdoor speaker Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

A long-lasting outdoor speaker you can take anywhere, anytime.

Best budget Pyle 3-way Mini Box Speaker System Pyle 3-way Mini Box Speaker System

A pair of powerful, water-resistant speakers that’ll only set you back $30.

Our yards and patios often have just as much decorating TLC as our indoor spaces, so why shouldn’t they have a set of outdoor speakers, too? Outdoor speakers can turn open-air space from just rocks into the rock and roll garden party of your dreams or allow chill tunes to accompany the natural breeze and rustling leaves. But bringing the boom beyond a climate-controlled room can be challenging. We’ve assembled a list of the best outdoor speakers, from pairs that require permanent wiring to portable options that’ll make your neighbors wish they were on your guest list.

How we chose the best outdoor speakers

The only thing predictable about the weather is its unpredictability. But good outdoor speakers should reliably produce a sonic landscape while withstanding the elements. The PopSci team combined our collective experience testing speakers of all sorts with user feedback to create a list anchored in brands with innovative audio engineering and products that fit a range of price points.

The best outdoor speakers: Reviews & Recommendations

We’ve selected speakers for people who want higher sound quality and a more permanent setup in their outdoor oasis. Most will take running speaker wire to an indoor setup, installing mounting brackets, and adjusting the aim until you create a sonic sweet spot. Keep in mind that it takes more speakers outside than it does inside to create the same sound. If installing passive speakers sound like too much work, revisit our best portable party speakers.

All these speakers boast weatherproofing and durable casings. Still, when you dive into user guides, most manufacturers recommend installing them where they have some protection from the elements to prolong how long they will last and make sure the mounting angle doesn’t allow water to pool. Beach and coastal residents may also want to look into how speakers fare in the salt air. Beyond that, just add friends and snacks and the perfect playlist to keep the energy up.

Best overall: Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker

Definitive Technology



  • Dimensions: 8.88 inches by 14.44 inches by 9.25 inches
  • Weight: 9.2 pounds
  • Drivers: 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, 6.5-inch round BDSS bass mid/woofer, 5.5 by 10-inch pressure-driven bass radiator
  • Power range: 10-200 watts
  • Frequency response: 40Hz to 30kHz


  • Can be oriented horizontally or vertically
  • Comes in black or white
  • Galvanized steel mounting brackets included
  • Can stick to one or add many to the setup
  • 5-year warranty


  • Higher end of price scale per speaker
  • Relies on receiver/amp to have Bluetooth/WiFi compatibility

Definitive Technology makes some of our favorite indoor tower speakers, but they’re a luxury for the living room. We recommend the Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker to ensure you have great sound during patio party season. Packed into an installation-friendly form and for about $300 each, this passive speaker rocks a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and pairs a  6.5-inch Balance Double Surround Sound System mid-woofer with a 10-inch passive bass radiator, resulting in bumping bass whether you’re aiming to be the center of the block party or keep the next great barbecue at a neighbor-respecting volume.

Designed to withstand rain, snow, and heat, the AW6500 is housed in a PolyStone casing and an aluminum mesh grill that can be mounted horizontally or vertically. The included steel mounts allow for 360-degree rotation, so you can fill the space with sound whether you’re working with one or several to fill a vast backyard. According to DT’s user guide, a pair covers about 200 to 400 square feet.

Best speaker disguised as a rock: Klipsch AWR-650-SM Indoor/Outdoor Speaker




  • Dimensions: 11 inches by 15 inches by 17 inches
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Drivers: Two 3/4 inch polymer dome tweeter, 6.5 inches dual voice coil polymer woofer
  • Power range: up to 50 watts
  • Frequency response: 60Hz to 20kHz


  • UV-resistant enclosure
  • Can be mono or stereo
  • Available in granite or sandstone
  • Comes with 3-foot pre-attached speaker cable
  • 5-year warranty


  • You got a rock

Speakers come in three very broad groups: eye-catching statement designs, traditional enclosures that don’t bring attention to themselves, and then some designs meant to blend in completely. The Klipsch AWR-650-SM Indoor/Outdoor Speaker looks like a rock that is somehow eye-catching but also could vanish into a rustic setting. Whether the granite colorway suits your mountain vista or the sandstone better complements your desert panorama, the Klipsch AWR-650-SM is the best design to be put on the ground where conventional loudspeakers can’t go. The fiberglass enclosure houses two 3/4-inch tweeters and 6.5-inch subwoofer that can be configured for use as a single dual-channel speaker or a pair of single-channel speakers when connected to your receiver or amp. Each rock will set you back about $330, though they seem oddly addictive. Many users note they purchased one and then went back for more.

Best landscape speakers: Furrion Aurora 4.1 Veranda Series Outdoor Landscape Speaker System




  • Dimensions: Speakers without stake 6 inches by 7.5 inches by 8.9 inches; Subwoofer 16 inches by 26.8 inches
  • Weight: Speakers 2.7 pounds; Subwoofer 31 pounds
  • Drivers: 0.75-inch marine-grade PEI with 10-inch dual voice coil long throw
  • Power range: 50 to 150 watts
  • Frequency response: 80Hz to 20kHz


  • Weatherproof
  • Can cover 3,500 square feet
  • Multiple mounting options


  • Expensive
  • Installation will take considerable work

When your outdoor living takes place primarily off the patio, the Furrion Aurora 4.1 Veranda Series Outdoor Landscape Speaker System might be the investment for you. For about $1,800, the system includes a 10-inch DVC subwoofer and is rounded out by four two-way speakers to help cut through ambient noise and create your own immersive soundtrack. The weatherproof fluorocarbon components can be mounted in the ground with stakes, tucked discreetly in plants, or mounted on trees. The 150-degree pivoting arm allows for plenty of flexibility as you aim to eliminate sound dead spots, no matter how irregularly shaped a yard may be. The system is compatible with most two-channel receivers or amplifiers, but expansions require additional Furrion brand speakers and subwoofers. Two sets—that’s two subwoofers and eight speakers—can cover 3,500 square feet.

This kind of installation may require digging or trenching, so the company recommends checking with the dig agency in your area before picking up a shovel.

Best for live performances: SOUNDBOKS4—Bluetooth Performance Speaker

Billy Cadden



  • Dimensions: 20.87 inches by 15.55 inches by 29.17 inches
  • Weight: 34 pounds
  • Connectivity: XLR or Bluetooth


  • Loud
  • 40 hours of battery life (charges in 3.5 hours)
  • Portable if you’ve got the space
  • Customizable EQ and sound modes


  • Larger and harder to transport
  • Only battery-powered

The Soundboks 4 performance Bluetooth 5.0 speaker isn’t for your apartment, main casual speaker situation, or even something you want to toss in your car for a quick trip camping. You could absolutely use it for all of these scenarios, but it is likely overkill, and certain design aspects could prevent challenges—not to mention your need to have extremely understanding neighbors. That being said, the speaker is perfect for a smaller patio party or tailgating and allows you to add up to five other Soundbok speakers if you’re throwing a full-on rager in your backyard. Able to reach up to 126dB while maintaining audio clarity—just into the uncomfortable/damaging level—you don’t have to worry about people talking getting in the way of your cha-cha slide number.

If you are going into the wood or a setting requiring a speaker that can stand up to the elements, the Soundboks 4 has you covered with silicone ball corners that prevent the powdered aluminum frame, steel honeycomb grill, and an IP65 waterproof rating. The built-in carrying handles also make the 34-pound speaker fairly easy to pick up and place in your car if you did need to transport it.

The companion smartphone app gives you all the typical controls over a connected speaker including multiple sound mounds, the ability to customize the EQ, and connecting multiple other speakers. While we don’t love that the speaker is ONLY battery-operated, you can buy more batteries for extra battery life. But to be fair, you get up to 40 hours out of each charge, and we can’t imagine most people needing more than that. If you do, you’re probably on a longer trip and have portable power stations or another type of generator to re-up the battery.

One other standout feature is the speaker’s microphone and instrument input. Perfect for streaming your favorite Spotify artists, you’ll also have a chance to plug in an electric guitar, DJ controller, or vocal mic to host a show or perform. All in all, this is a solid multi-purpose speaker that can be used for anything, but its size might get in the way of some use cases.

Best portable outdoor speaker: Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Tony Ware



  • Dimensions: 6.38 inches by 4.7 inches by 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.36 pounds
  • Battery life: 17 hours
  • Bluetooth range: 180 feet


  • Portable
  • Can be wirelessly linked with other UE speakers
  • Waterproof, IP67 rating
  • Onboard controls
  • NFC pairing for Android 8.0 and later


  • No WiFi
  • No voice assistant
  • No microphone
  • No aux port for other sources

The wired life isn’t for everyone, which is why Bluetooth speakers are so popular. For the very digital, the Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM offers 360 degrees of big, bassy sound in a durable but attractive package for about $300. In either charcoal or cotton white, the EPICBOOM is a shockproof, dustproof, waterproof device that can be immersed in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Forget poolside; the EPICBOOM can be in the pool. (Its little sibling, the Wonderboom, is also one of our picks for a swim or a soak, as it’s one of the best shower speakers.)

The EPICBOOM needs to be paired with a phone to stream music, but it excels at this. The speaker itself features buttons for fast play, pause, skip, and volume changes, so wet or dirty hands don’t have to handle a comparatively delicate smartphone to change the vibe. The BOOM app adds additional controls, like customizable EQ and connecting several UE BOOM devices together to create a dispersed sound system on the fly.

While some Bluetooth speakers can serve as an access point for voice assistants or pull double-duty as a phone speaker, the EPICBOOM focuses on music and playing music only. However, the EPICBOOM’s battery life is a decent 17 hours, so it will likely last longer than your favorite playlist. Still, anyone aiming to party all night and every day will need to keep a USB-C charger handy (and maybe some comfy patio furniture and some of the best deck lights).

If it’s a smart speaker you’re after, the Sonos Move 2 costs $150 more but adds more connectivity alongside durability (and if you really love the multiroom Sonos ecosystem and are tired of moving things around, the best splurge is to install Sonos by Sonance Architectural speakers, which are $900 a pair).

Best budget: Pyle 3-way Mini Box Speaker System




  • Dimensions: 3.75 inches by 5.25 inches by 3 inches
  • Weight: 2.63 pounds
  • Drivers: 1-inch superior dome tweeter, 3.5-inch aluminum injection cone with 1.75-inch-wide dispersion cone midrange with bass reflex vent
  • Power range: up to 200 watts
  • Frequency response: 70Hz to 21kHz


  • Inexpensive
  • Quick connect/disconnect terminals
  • Waterproof; IP-44 rating
  • Corrosion and stain-resistant mesh grills


  • May want to upgrade the included speaker wire
  • Relies on receiver/amp to have Bluetooth/WiFi compatibility

File the Pyle 3-way Mini Box Speaker System under “good things in small packages.” For about $30, this pair of small speakers features are marine-grade, so they can be mounted outdoors on the patio, near a pool, or on a boat without worrying about splishes or splashes. The speaker system is waterproof with stain and corrosion-resistant mesh fronts. These little guys come with removable mounting and can be attached horizontally or vertically. They’ll deliver good sound for the price, but people who want to flood a large yard with tunes may want to look elsewhere. However, this could be a pro depending on whether your neighbors like to lodge complaints. A few users also suggest ditching the included but thin speaker wire for an upgraded one.

Want the best value on something really whimsical? You can hang a 2-pack of the pohopa 20W lantern-shaped waterproof Bluetooth speakers with built-in LED color lights for less than $175.

What to consider when buying outdoor speakers

We love making the great outdoors greater by adding music. As you shop for outdoor speakers, start by thinking about the size and shape of the space you want to fill, what elements the speakers will operate in, and your price point.

Weather resistance

If you’ve ever mistaken water-resistant hiking boots for waterproof ones, you’ll understand the difference between weatherproof and waterproof. Water-resistant boots are good for the occasional puddle or light rain, but crossing a stream will quickly lead to soaked feet. Weatherproof and waterproof speakers are similar. All of the selections in our list have weatherproofing—resistance to elements and more durable, sealed housing—but truly waterproof speakers come with an IP rating. Generally, manufacturers recommend finding spots to mount outdoor speakers that have some protection from the elements, like under an awning or a covered patio. For more extreme climates, like beaches and deserts, look for additional information about how speakers deal with salt air and sand. So, can you leave outdoor speakers in the rain? Many of them, yes. But look at those ratings to be sure.

Installation options

Do outdoor speakers require amplification? It depends. Portable outdoor Bluetooth speakers are best for setting up a sound system without installing amps or anything else. However, more permanent options will require patience and expertise running speaker wires between the outdoor speakers and the indoor A/V components (and sometimes drilling a hole through a wall). The upside is higher sound quality and a wider source selection.

The size and layout of the outdoor space will also dictate some system features. Many systems include wall mounts that allow for adjustable angles, though a space with no walls may need speakers that can go on the ground or on stakes. Little spaces, like a condo patio, don’t need as many watts as trying to turn a large yard into the daytime version of your favorite club.


Q: Which speaker is best for the outdoors?

What speaker is best for your space depends on the size of your space and mounting possibilities. A full concert sound in a vast backyard will require a system with more watts and multiple speakers working together. Frequent pool partiers should prioritize waterproof speakers, while someone with an aversion to wiring should stick to Bluetooth speakers.

Q: Can these speakers be connected wirelessly?

It depends on the speaker. While there are some wireless outdoor speakers, most outdoor speaker systems are passive, just pushing out the sounds of an external amplifier. If you want to connect outdoor speakers to a streaming platform, you must ensure the amplifier has that capability or connect a compact streamer to the AVR.

Q: Can I recreate the same great sound I have inside when I’m outside?

Probably not without a lot of effort. Outdoor speakers contend with more ambient noise—traffic, dogs barking, neighbors, possibly airplanes flying over—and then they have to be durable on top of that. While an indoor system prioritizes sound quality, an outdoor speaker makes some sonic tradeoffs to enhance durability and weatherproofing. Plus, there’s just the reality that a closed room allows you to have an optimized environment and seating arrangement in front of your stereo turntable setup, lets you add in components such as subwoofers to compensate for and reinforce specific frequencies, and just isn’t as diffuse as being outdoors, so can produce more clarity at lower decibels. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get good sound for a good time.

Q: How much do outdoor speakers cost?

This depends on their size and components. Our recommendations range in price between $30 and $1,800.

Final thoughts on the best outdoor speakers

Elevate your outdoor experience by turning it into a concert-in-waiting. Investing a little extra effort into installing outdoor speakers on your porch, patio, or garden offers a higher sound quality while setting a vibe. For durable, traditional aesthetics, consider the refined audio performance of the Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker or the budget-friendly Pyle 3-way Mini Box Speaker System. The Klipsch AWR-650-SM adds a touch of whimsy by disguising itself as a rock, seamlessly blending into its natural surroundings. For larger landscapes or irregular spaces, the Furrion Aurora 4.1 Veranda Series delivers harmonious melodies that resonate far and wide. If portability is a priority, the Soundboks 4 cranks up the volume for dynamic live performances, while the Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker ensures your outdoor gatherings stay waterproof and musically vibrant. Unleash the potential of your outdoor oasis by dragging out a packed cooler and entertaining surrounded by speakers that make every note count.

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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Toyota just electrified its popular compact pickup https://www.popsci.com/technology/toyota-2024-electric-tacoma-pickup-truck-details/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 21:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592831
2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: White truck on the side of the road at sunset

A hybrid engine-motor combination boosts the torque on the latest-generation pickup truck.

The post Toyota just electrified its popular compact pickup appeared first on Popular Science.

2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: White truck on the side of the road at sunset

Toyota finally gave the Tacoma pickup truck a glow-up in its fourth generation after eight years, including an important powertrain update: the Tacoma is available as a hybrid for the first time. 

First introduced for model year 1995, the Tacoma was equipped with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission matched with three gas engine options (four or six cylinders).  The Tacoma was 199 inches long and could tow between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: A profile view of a red truck
Kristin Shaw

The 2024 Tacoma is 14 inches longer from stem to stern than the 1995 truck. It’s built on the same global truck platform as the Tundra (all new for 2022), Sequoia (which launched its third generation for model year 2023) and the redesigned Land Cruiser, unveiled earlier this year. 

And Toyota says the Tacoma’s new i-Force Max hybrid powertrain, offered as an option on the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited trims and standard on TRD Pro and Trailhunter variants, is the most powerful powertrain ever offered on a Tacoma. 

Take a look at the no-longer-secret recipe behind the 2024 Tacoma, including the new engine/motor combination. 

More torque, better off-road capability

The new Tacoma’s hybrid setup starts with the same 2.4-liter engine found in the gas-only trims. In the i-Force Max versions, a 48-horsepower electric motor sits between the engine and eight-speed transmission. If that configuration sounds familiar, it’s because Toyota equipped its Grand Highlander (launched earlier this year) with a 2.4-liter hybrid powertrain, too. The Grand Highlander Hybrid Max is the fastest and quickest in the lineup, providing 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque in the SUV. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: a look at the engine

In the new Tacoma, the hybrid setup produces 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than double what the original V6 could provide in the 1995 Tacoma; even more impressively, it’s significantly more than the 265 pound-feet in the outgoing 2023 model with a V6. Great torque numbers are essential for effortless off-roading, as the rotation helps the vehicle power up and over hills and boulders.

Some trims of the 2024 Tacoma are available with a multi-link rear coil suspension, replacing the leaf springs from the previous generation. Leaf springs are sturdy and preferred for more heavy-duty hauling, but the coil springs offer more flexibility and cushion for the ride. They’re a bit more expensive, which is why they’re an option on the higher grades. The three least expensive trims (SR, SR5 XtraCab and TRD PreRunner) will still come standard with leaf springs. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: a look at the suspension from underneath

Tacoma fans know that the compact truck was already quite capable off-road, climbing rocks and hills like a mountain goat. However, after driving a 2021 model back to back with the new 2024 hybrid version, I can attest that the additional torque makes a noticeable difference. On an off-road course near Malibu, California, I scaled steep ascents and crawled over rock piles, and it’s clear that chief engineer Sheldon Brown and his team have smoothed out the edges. 

And it’s quieter, too

2024 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck first drive: a white truck driving through a dirt road

A smoothed-out ride is even more clear on the asphalt. Tackling the twisty curves of Mulholland Drive, the interior of the Tacoma Limited was hushed, and Brown says technologies like active noise cancellation ensure a quiet cabin. This technology reduces the overall noise, vibration, and harshness, commonly referred to as an acronym: NVH. The study and adjustment of noise and vibration characteristics has become an art form, and Toyota put extra time and money into improving the in-cabin experience in the upper trims of the Tacoma. 

“We’re also using electronic sound enhancement, or ESE, to supplement what we’re hearing through the exhaust system,” Brown says. “We use specialized software that is paired with the exhaust type: the standard OE exhaust or you might choose our performance exhaust, which is an option. So it not only sounds good, but it cancels out any of those noises and vibrations that otherwise might make their way in.”

Some industry analysts have accused Toyota of taking too much time to get into the electrification stream, but the fact is that the Japanese company has been pumping out successful hybrid powertrains for decades. Now that the Tundra, Sequoia, and Tacoma are all available with an engine/motor combination, the 4Runner and Land Cruiser can’t be far behind. 

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FDA authorizes at-home chlamydia and gonorrhea test for the first time https://www.popsci.com/health/chlamydia-gonorrhea-at-home-testing/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 20:30:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592820
A photomicrograph of Chlamydia trachomatis taken from a urethral scrape. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe and costly reproductive and other health problems.
A photomicrograph of Chlamydia trachomatis taken from a urethral scrape. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe and costly reproductive and other health problems. CDC/Dr. Wiesner, Dr. Kaufman/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Accessible testing for the infections may help curb the STI epidemic, but there is still a long way to go.

The post FDA authorizes at-home chlamydia and gonorrhea test for the first time appeared first on Popular Science.

A photomicrograph of Chlamydia trachomatis taken from a urethral scrape. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe and costly reproductive and other health problems.
A photomicrograph of Chlamydia trachomatis taken from a urethral scrape. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe and costly reproductive and other health problems. CDC/Dr. Wiesner, Dr. Kaufman/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized the first at-home tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The Simple 2 Test is available over-the-counter and costs between $58 and $99 per kit. Results are returned within a week and officials with the FDA hope that it helps curb the country’s STI epidemic.

[Related: A guide to preventing, spotting, and managing STIs.]

Bacteria causes both gonorrhea and chlamydia. While HPV is a more prevalent STI, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most commonly reported STIs in both the US and other countries. According to the FDA, roughly 1.6 million cases of chlamydia and over 700,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2021. The STIs cause painful urination and bleeding between menstrual periods. They are generally easily treated with antibiotics, but if left unattended, both gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause serious health complications, including infertility.

Rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis have skyrocketed over the past 20 years. The increase is at least partially driven by a lack of funding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget to fight the spread of STIs. Public health officials believe that easy and more accessible testing for STIs is one of the necessary tools needed to combat the country’s STI crisis.

“This authorization marks an important public health milestone, giving patients more information about their health from the privacy of their own home,” Doctor Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release on November 15. “We are eager to continue supporting greater consumer access to diagnostic tests, which helps further our goal of bringing more health care into the home.”

The Simple 2 Test kit can be purchased online at LetsGetChecked’s website. It comes with tools to collect urine specimens or vaginal swabs. The patient then uses a prepaid shipping label to send the specimens to a lab. Users also must complete an online questionnaire. After two to five days, the patient can view the results online. If the test is positive or the results are invalid, users can arrange a telehealth consultation with a healthcare provider.

Doctor Matthew Golden, Director of the  Seattle King County public health departmen’s HIV and STI control program, told NBC News that FDA is catching up on regulating an industry that has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

[Related: This ‘morning after’ pill could prevent STIs from unprotected sex.]

“At some level, the horse has left the barn,” said Golden. He noted that self-testing kits have been widely used for years, but “some of those tests, how well they perform is not well known. So cleaning this up makes sense.”

University of Hawaii STI expert and medical consultant at the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Diamond Head STI/HIV Clinic Alan Katz told Stat News that the Simple 2 Test uses the same investigative procedure that clinicians use to diagnose chlamydia and gonorrhea.

“This option is exceptionally useful for individuals who live in rural areas or are geographically distanced from a clinic where STI testing can be done and there is no telehealth option available,” Katz said. “If a person screens positive, they can then contact a healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment.”

While unapproved home tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea have already been on the market, The Simple 2 Test is the first to go through the FDA’s approval process. The approval could potentially make it easier for future such tests to clear the FDA’s regulatory pathway.

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Keep track of your keys, wallet, and other Cyber Monday purchases with up to 46% off Tile trackers https://www.popsci.com/gear/tile-bluetooth-tracker-amazon-deal/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 19:26:10 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592744
A Tile Bluetooth tracker two-pack on a plain background
Amanda Reed

Phone? Wallet? Keys? You can make sure you have them all with this post-Cyber Monday Tile Bluetooth tracker deal at Amazon.

The post Keep track of your keys, wallet, and other Cyber Monday purchases with up to 46% off Tile trackers appeared first on Popular Science.

A Tile Bluetooth tracker two-pack on a plain background
Amanda Reed

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Losing a wallet and/or keys is a humbling experience. You tear through your home, lifting things up and putting them down, only to realize that they were in a hoodie pocket this whole time. As if! And you’re not alone in this ritual, which is why trackers make great gifts to yourself or someone you love. They help keep track of those everyday carries—along with all the new tech and toys someone snagged for Black Friday/Cyber Monday—and can be the perfect stocking stuffer thanks to this Tile Bluetooth tracker deal at Amazon.

Tile Starter Pack (Mate/Slim) $29.49 (Was $54.99)



Tile’s Mate and Slim help you find two of the most important things to have on your person: your keys and your wallet. Use the Tile app (For iOS and Android) to ping your Tile when it’s in range, or ask your smart home device to find it for you. You can also view its location on a map and add your contact information to the Tile Network so someone can contact you if they find your lost item. It has IP67-rated water resistance in case it faces a quick dip in a puddle.

Here are more Tile deals you’ll find enticing:

Prefer Apple native tech? AirTags aren’t as deeply discounted right now, but they are equally handy.

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Female Taricha newts are more poisonous than males https://www.popsci.com/environment/female-newts-poison/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592705
An orange California newt sits on a rock. The amphibians are endemic to California.
California newts are endemic to California. They live through the coast and coast range mountains from Mendocino County to San Diego County. Adam Clause/University of Georgia

Tetrodotoxin is more than a poison. It may also be a mating signal.

The post Female Taricha newts are more poisonous than males appeared first on Popular Science.

An orange California newt sits on a rock. The amphibians are endemic to California.
California newts are endemic to California. They live through the coast and coast range mountains from Mendocino County to San Diego County. Adam Clause/University of Georgia

The newts of the genus Taricha come armed with a powerful neurotoxin that they excrete from their skin called tetrodotoxin. The toxin is a chemical defense used against predators. In a study published November 28 in the journal Frontiers in Amphibian and Reptile Science, a team of biologists describes how female Taricha newts produce more tetrodotoxin than males. The findings suggest that tetrodotoxin is not only a line of defense, but also a kind of signal. 

[Related: Poisonous animals probably took their sweet time developing unappetizing bright colors.]

“It had long been considered that newts’ toxin concentrations do not change in their lifetime and that males and females tend to have the same toxin concentrations. Now, we have shown that female newts actually contain more toxin than male newts,” study co-author and University of California, Davis ecologist and evolutionary biologist Gary Bucciarelli said in a statement. “We observed significantly greater and more drastically fluctuating toxin concentrations in females, which may have numerous causes, like mate selection.”  

Totally toxic traits

Tetrodotoxin is also found in the deadly blue-ringed octopus, pufferfish, and some shellfish and amphibian species. In sexually reproducing animals, sexually dimorphic traits like canine tooth size and vibrant color can be a key to reproductive fitness and their survival. These differing traits are believed to increase an individual’s chances of producing the next generation of offspring.

Scientists already knew that Taricha newts had other sexually dimorphic traits, such as mass, size, and tail height, so they were curious to see if toxin production also differed between the sexes. 

In the study, the authors took tetrodotoxin samples from more than 850 newts across 38 different sites in California. They noted the sex, size, mass, and tail height for all of the animals, and if the female newts were pregnant. The newts that had been captured and released were also marked so that they could know if they had been previously sampled. 

Next, the team analyzed their skin to quantify how much of the toxin was found in males compared to females. They also looked at the relationship between sexually dimorphic variables  like size and tail height and how toxin levels changed at the study sites where they could sample more than once across the breeding season. 

Understanding how these toxins work could help biologists understand more about the newts’ reproductive strategies and aid in conservation measures. A recent study found that two out of five amphibians are threatened with extinction and they continue to be the most threatened class of vertebrates on Earth. 

Femme fatale

The authors found that the females carried more toxins than the male newts. While tetrodotoxin levels generally fluctuated in both sexes, the change in females’ levels of toxin was larger. This means that female newts are likely more dangerous than males. 

[Related: How we can help the most endangered class of animals survive climate change.]

“For would-be predators, these higher concentrations pose a serious threat,” said Bucciarelli. “Taricha newts should not be handled unless by knowledgeable personnel, because they can contain up [to] 54 milligrams of tetrodotoxin per individual. Doses up to 42 micrograms per kilo of bodyweight can lead to hospitalization or death.”

The tetrodotoxin also appeared to interact with some of the other sexually dimorphic traits. The heavier newts produced higher levels of the toxin than the lighter newts and the median concentration of toxin was always higher in females regardless of size or weight. The physical resources needed to produce the toxin are possibly invested differently by females than males. Their skin may also be able to carry more of the toxin.

The higher levels of tetrodotoxin might protect females that are vulnerable to predators while reproducing. It could also allow the females to transfer toxin-producing bacteria to their eggs to potentially protect their offspring from snakes. 

Poison patterns

Previously, tetrodotoxin was believed to just be a defense against snakes. The differing amount between the sexes suggests that there might be more to it. The aroma due to the higher concentrations of the toxin may be a cue that helps the newts decide where they look for mates and which mates they choose. 

Taricha newts’ breeding patterns are highly dependent on precipitation patterns. Given the drought conditions of California, we did not always have a balanced design when field sampling,” said Bucciarelli. “However, we feel the pattern is still very strong. Our next plan is to explore how drought and fire affect newts and their toxin concentrations and how each sex responds to these natural disasters.”

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Scientists want to use the sun’s gravity to communicate between stars https://www.popsci.com/science/solar-gravitational-lensing/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=591700
The sun
“By harnessing the gravitational lensing effect of our star, astronomy would experience a revolutionary leap in observing capability". NASA/Goddard/SDO

Solar gravitational lensing may help us search for life on other planets.

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The sun
“By harnessing the gravitational lensing effect of our star, astronomy would experience a revolutionary leap in observing capability". NASA/Goddard/SDO

Gravitational lensing occurs when things with mass create ripples and dents in the fabric of spacetime, and light has to follow along those lines, which sometimes create a magnifying glass effect. This both sounds and looks like something wild from science fiction, but it’s actually a very important tool in astronomy. The James Webb Space Telescope has been in the news a lot recently for just this: watching how light bends around massive galaxy clusters in space, revealing fainter, further away old galaxies behind them. 

Now, Slava Turyshev, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, is trying to harness one of these gravitational lenses closer to home, using our sun. In a new paper posted to the pre-print server arXiv, Turyshev computes all the detailed math and physics needed to show that it is actually possible to harness our sun’s gravity in this way, with some pretty neat uses. A so-called “solar gravitational lens” (SGL) could help us beam light messages into the stars for interstellar communication or investigate the surfaces of distant exoplanets.

“By harnessing the gravitational lensing effect of our star, astronomy would experience a revolutionary leap in observing capability,” says Nick Tusay, a Penn State astronomer not involved in the new work. “Light works both ways, so it could also boost our transmitting capability as well, if we had anyone out there to communicate with.”

When it comes to telescopes here on Earth, bigger is definitely better. To collect enough light to spot really faint far away objects, you need a huge mirror or lens to focus the light—but we can really only build them so big. This is where the SGL comes in, as an alternative to building bigger telescopes, instead relying on spacetime bent by the sun’s gravity to do the focusing for us. 

“Using the SGL removes the need to build larger telescopes and instead raises the problem of how to get a telescope out to the focal distance of the Sun (and how to keep it there),” explains Macy Huston, a Berkeley astronomer not involved in the new research. “And there’s a lot of work ongoing to try to solve this,” they add.

Turyshev is actively working on a mission design to send a one-meter telescope (less than half the size of the famous Hubble) out to the focus of the sun’s gravitational well. It’s quite a trek—this focal point is located about 650 AU out from our star, almost five times out from humanity’s current distance record holder, Voyager 1. To get out to such a huge distance in less than a lifetime, the team is relying on cutting-edge solar sail technology to move faster than ever before.

Plans are underway at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to send solar sails to the solar gravitational lens focus to make the first ever image of an exoplanet’s surface.

Currently, the James Webb Space Telescope is investigating the atmospheres of planets around other stars, and the future Habitable Worlds Observatory in the 2040s will hopefully be able to see enough detail in exoplanetary atmospheres to find hints of life. Turyshev’s mission would be the next big step towards confirming life on other worlds, hopefully launching around 2035. Once JWST and HWO identify possibly interesting worlds, the SGL telescope will then actually map the surface of an exoplanet in detail. Turyshev claims it would be able to see a planet blown up to 700 by 700 pixels—a huge improvement on direct imaging’s current 2 or 3 pixels. “If there is a swamp on that exoplanet, emitting methane, we’ll know that’s what is positioned on this continent on this island, for example,” he explains.

Looking further into the sci-fi future, this same SGL technology could be used not only “as a telescope we could use from the solar system to view other planetary systems in great detail” but also as an “interstellar communication network (for intentional communications),” says Huston. A laser positioned at the sun’s gravitational focus could send messages to other stars without losing as much signal as our current Earth-bound beacon tech.

“If we were to ever become an interstellar civilization, this [SGL] could potentially be the most effective means of communication between star systems,” says Tusay. Our radio transmissions, leaking out of Earth’s atmosphere since the early 1900s, rapidly become fainter the further away from our planet. Turyshev’s mathematical calculations show that signals sent from the SGL could be easily noticed at the distances of nearby stars, even when accounting for the noisy background of the real world. Transmission via the SGL is “not prohibited, it’s really encouraged by physics,” says Turyshev.

This tech wouldn’t solve all our interstellar roadblocks, though. We might be able to send messages, but we still don’t have a way of sending ourselves out amongst the stars to travel. There’d also be a huge delay in our galactic calls—more like sending a cross-country letter by horseback than FaceTiming with your friends. “Light still has a maximum speed,” reminds Tusay. As a result, sending a message to a star four light-years away would take four years to get there, and another four for the response to reach us. Still, the solar gravitational lens is one big step towards making our science fiction futures a reality.

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AirDrop changed big time in iOS 17, so check your iPhone settings https://www.popsci.com/diy/airdrop-ios-17/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592687
Make sure you know what you're sharing through your iPhone.
Make sure you know what you're sharing through your iPhone. Amanz/Unsplash

What you need to know about NameDrop and other features.

The post AirDrop changed big time in iOS 17, so check your iPhone settings appeared first on Popular Science.

Make sure you know what you're sharing through your iPhone.
Make sure you know what you're sharing through your iPhone. Amanz/Unsplash

Apple pushed out iOS 17.1 to augment the host of new features we got in iOS 17. The new additions include some important changes to AirDrop, Apple’s short-range wireless tech which allows people to quickly share files between Apple devices and the new features are enabled by default.

These updates have implications for the way that you (and the people in your family) share information, so it’s important to know what’s different and how you can disable the new functionality if you want to keep everything on your iPhone locked down.

AirDrop continues to be a hugely convenient and reliable way of sharing files and data between Apple devices, but there are security and privacy issues that come along with it, and that you need to be on top of.


A NameDrop transfer needs to be initiated at both ends.
A NameDrop transfer needs to be initiated at both ends. Credit: Apple

The first new feature in AirDrop is NameDrop, which takes the hassle out of sharing contact information: If you meet someone new who also has an iPhone, all you need to do is unlock your respective handsets and tap them together to bring up a prompt to share contact information.

When the prompt appears, you can tap Receive Only to receive the new contact details, or Share to receive the contact details and send yours back in return. Note that this only works for sharing information about a new contact—you can’t use it to update the details you already have about someone.

It’s of course important to stay up to date with these features, but don’t panic about news reports (some of which have been shared by local police departments) about strangers grabbing the contact details of kids. Nothing is shared automatically: The on-screen prompt must be manually accepted, and the iPhone must be unlocked with Face ID, Touch ID or a PIN, for anything to happen.

It is true that NameDrop is enabled by default once you’ve got the iOS 17.1 update installed on your phone. If you’d rather this enhanced contact sharing feature wasn’t switched on, open Settings, tap General and AirDrop, and turn off the Bringing Devices Together toggle switch.

Proximity Sharing

You can turn off proximity-based sharing if you want to.
You can turn off proximity-based sharing if you want to. Credit: David Nield

Next up is Proximity Sharing in AirDrop, which works like NameDrop but for photos and other types of files, not contact details. Essentially, it removes a couple of steps from the normal AirDrop process—just bring two iPhones close together if you want to share something between them.

Head into the Photos or Files app first of all, and get whatever it is you want to share up on screen. Then, if you hold the top of your iPhone next to the top of someone else’s iPhone, and they’re both unlocked, you should see an on-screen prompt to Share whatever it is—tap on this to initiate the transfer.

On the receiving end, the person you’re sharing something with needs to tap the Accept prompt on screen, just as they would with a regular AirDrop transfer. The feature can’t be used to start pushing photos, videos, or any other content to someone else’s iPhone without their permission.

Disabling this feature is the same as it is for NameDrop—go into the Settings panel on your iPhone, choose General then AirDrop, and turn off Bringing Devices Together. AirDrop itself can be turned on or off from the same screen, but Proximity Sharing works independently—you can have it switched on even if AirDrop is disabled.


Apple Music is one of the apps where SharePlay is enabled.
Apple Music is one of the apps where SharePlay is enabled. Credit: David Nield

The final feature that Apple has enabled for two iPhones that are pushed close together is SharePlay: This is a feature that means you can do stuff together with another person on your iPhones. Maybe you want to watch an episode of a TV show in sync, for example, or listen to a particular song together.

To begin with you need to be in an app that supports SharePlay—right now, these are mostly Apple apps, such as Apple Music and Apple TV. As time goes on, third-party developers have the opportunity to build the same tech into their own apps, so you’ll be able to use the SharePlay feature more widely.

All you need to do is open the content you want to share—like a song, a video, or a multiplayer game that works with Apple’s Game Center—and then bring your iPhone close to someone else’s. Tap SharePlay on your screen, and then there’s a confirmation prompt on the other iPhone that has to be accepted too.

The SharePlay feature can be accessed without bringing your phones together—if you’re on a FaceTime call with someone, for example—but the proximity option was added in iOS 17.1. AirDrop needs to be on for it to work via phone proximity, and you can make this via AirDrop under General in Settings. SharePlay can’t be disabled system-wide, but you can disable it in FaceTime by opening Settings and choosing FaceTime then SharePlay.

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Inside look: This vault holds the world’s greatest collection of historic cameras https://www.popsci.com/technology/george-eastman-museum-vintage-camera-collection/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=591719
NASA's a lunar orbiter camera

The George Eastman Museum hidden archive features a moon orbiter, a magnesium flash bomb, and a dogfight practice rig for pilots.

The post Inside look: This vault holds the world’s greatest collection of historic cameras appeared first on Popular Science.

NASA's a lunar orbiter camera

THE GEORGE EASTMAN MUSEUM in Rochester, New York, is, like most museums, full of historically significant and wonderfully nerdy objects. The museum’s namesake, George Eastman, founded the Eastman Kodak company at the turn of the 20th century and revolutionized photographic film in 1888 in a way that made photography accessible to the general public, so they would no longer be forced to sit in front of a professional or learn complex chemistry. He died in 1932, but the museum was founded in 1947. The collection now contains authentic Ansel Adams prints, a number of very rare (and extremely flammable) early-20th-century nitrate cinema film reels, and a smattering of cameras and photographic accessories from way before digital photography. The true treasures, however, live in the subbasement, in the technology collection.

Descend three flights of stairs in the middle of the atrium and you’ll find yourself in a time capsule of offices adorned in the same turquoise-and-pink color scheme you’d find in an early-’90s Taco Bell. From there, pass through a double-door climate lock into one of the world’s most comprehensive and impressive collections of photography and cinema gear, with more than 10,000 cameras and 20,000 objects in total. 

Curator of technology Todd Gustavson has been in charge of the collection since it moved into its current home in 1989 (hence the interior design choices). Many of the pieces came directly from Kodak’s former technology archive in the basement of the Eastman House. Since then, new additions have come from private gifts, public auctions, and even eBay. Gustavson gave us an opportunity to see some of the most intriguing, historically significant, and just plain weird pieces in the archive.

stairs and storage inside a museum of cameras
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ The space itself boasts a roughly 5,000-square-foot main floor, as well as an elevated 3,000-square-foot mezzanine that was added in the early 2010s. It’s kept at 62 degrees with 45 percent humidity. That climate strikes a balance that’s dry enough to prevent fungus from growing but moist enough to prevent dry rot and keep the lubricating oil in the cameras from turning to sticky tar. A two-story motorized storage system holds thousands of cameras on trays in a revolving carousel. It’s like a massive vending machine full of photography gear. 

original Kodak camera from 1988, interior and exterior view, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ In 1888, George Eastman released roughly 5,000 units of the original Kodak camera with a clever slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.” The camera cost $25 at the time (roughly $800 in 2023 dollars) and came preloaded with enough film for 100 shots. Once the film was exposed, customers would return the camera to a shop to get their prints and a reload of film for $10, roughly $300 in today’s money. It was a revolutionary concept that brought about the age of snapshot photography by drastically simplifying the process.

shelves of various cameras in a camera museum
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ You’ve likely seen box cameras at antique stores and estate sales, as hundreds of models hit the market in the years after the original Kodak debuted. The Eastman collection contains hundreds of them spanning decades. Some are wood, while others are made of cardboard or a type of plastic called Bakelite, which was popular approaching the middle of the 20th century. The two small boxes with K’s neatly cataloged in the top left are extremely rare early rolls of Kodak film that would be the centerpiece of a typical camera collection. 

a vintage camera that was used by Eadweard Muybridge to capture animal locomotion, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ This Scovill Manufacturing Company camera doesn’t have a lens or a shutter mechanism, but it holds a special place in both photographic and scientific history. It’s one of 24 cameras that Eadweard Muybridge used in the 1880s during his endeavors to capture animal locomotion. A horse would trigger a tripwire attached to each camera’s elaborate shutter mechanism as it sped by to capture a sequence of images. Presented in rapid succession, the glass plates would create the illusion of continuous motion. This process laid the groundwork for the original motion pictures. The Eastman collection actually has three of these. 

inside of a drawer containing a pile of various shutter mechanisms from many Kodak cameras made a century ago
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ This drawer contains numerous examples of shutter mechanisms from various Kodak cameras produced roughly a century ago. The shutter is the mechanical part of the camera that opens and closes in order to control how much light comes in and hits the film, and Kodak kept an example of every version of its devices in order to track the technology as it advanced. Each has its original label with part numbers and patent info. 

a close up of a vintage watch-shaped camera with films, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ The Ticka is just one of several watch-shaped cameras that the Eastman Museum has in its collection. The boxes to either side of the camera contain the film that was sold with it. The camera itself doesn’t have a traditional viewfinder to look through, so photographers would look down at the watch face. The hands form a V that represents the lens’s angle of view. Anything within that angle would show up in the photo. 

a shelf containing the Brownie vintage camera in its box
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ While the Kodak represented the genesis of modern photography, the Brownie also played a crucial role. It debuted just 12 years after the original Kodak, but its $1 price tag ($36 in modern money) was a fraction of what the original Kodak cost. Kodak made dozens of versions of the Brownie, many of which you can still find out in the world right now. This original Brownie packaging gives a rare view of how the camera would have appeared on the shelf in the shop in the early 1900s. The Brownie Number 2 uses 120 roll film, a size that’s still available today.

a vintage camera that looks like a gun, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ There are roughly half-dozen Talbot Romain gun cameras left in the world. This is a fully functioning tintype camera. The tiny sensitized sheet went into the top of the barrel. Once the photographer took the photo, the plate would go into the small tank on which the camera rests for processing. The unique shape wasn’t essential to its function, but it did help photographers on the street lure in potential customers, who would walk away with a tiny tintype print once they had paid for their portrait. 

a vintage Technicolor camera standing up in an aisle of a camera museum in front of a photography backdrop
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ This early Technicolor camera debuted in the early 1930s and shot the same image to three strips of black-and-white negatives at once through a prism. Cyan, yellow, and magenta filters made each roll of film sensitive to a specific part of the visible spectrum. Once the footage was shot, each roll was dyed a specific shade. When combined, they would create a full-color image. The technology collection includes a pair of these cameras that were used in the cinematography of some of the most iconic movies ever made, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and even Star Wars

a vintage camera that would have been used to take photos of baseball players in action, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ This massive Graflex camera would have been right at home in the stands at a baseball game in the 1940s or ’50s. It’s an SLR, just like the relatively tiny Nikon F sitting next to it in the photo, just on a much larger scale. Moving the lever on the right of the camera would move the entire lens back and forth on a track to focus. Photographers could set stops along the focus path for specific distances so they could switch focus between bases in a hurry as the action unfolded. 

a vintage flash bomb standing upright in the aisle of a camera museum in front of a photography backdrop
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ This magnesium flash bomb stands nearly 6 feet tall and spends most of its time zip-tied to a support beam in the museum’s collection, even though all the flammable material has long been removed. The US armed forces used these in the 1930s for aerial reconnaissance. They would descend on a parachute, and at roughly 500 feet, the magnesium powder would ignite, creating enough light to illuminate the ground so aerial photographers could capture images that would otherwise be unobtainable.

Leica prototype vintage camera
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ Back in 1923, Leica produced just 22 prototypes as a trial run in the camera business. Roughly 12 of them have survived, many of which reside in private collections and all of which would fetch millions of dollars at auction. This is serial number 109 of the original production run. Number 105, which belonged to inventor Oscar Barnack himself, sold for $15 million back in 2022. The Eastman’s still works. 

a vintage camera used by pilots to practice dogfighting that looks like a gun, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ Pilots in WWI didn’t have advanced simulators in which to practice dogfighting. Instead, they could use the Eastman Machine Gun camera, which was styled after a Lewis machine gun. Gunners could load a roll of common 120 film and then aim it just like a real gun. Once the film was processed, pictures with the enemy plane centered in the frame would be considered hits. It was a cheaper, safer way to practice than using live rounds. 

a NASA rig used by the US Forest Service in 1970s, hanging in the air by straps inside a vintage camera museum
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ Originally built as a backup camera for NASA’s Skylab space station in the 1970s, this rig found its use with the US Forest Service. Its six-camera array allowed aerial photographers to load six different kinds of film at once. The Forest Service used it to monitor the health of the landscape from above. It has six lenses, each with an independent film back so researchers could load several kinds of film all at once. The rig could shoot color, high-contrast black and white, and infrared all at the same time to observe different aspects of the scene.

a vintage astronaut-friendly camera, isolated on a background
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ There are several cameras very much like this Lunar Hasselblad sitting on the surface of the moon right now. It doesn’t look all that different from a typical 500 EL you’d find here on Earth, but it has a few astronaut-friendly modifications. The extra-large film back held far more shots than a typical roll, and the oversize handle on the dark slide (a simple piece of metal that blocks light when the camera isn’t in use) is big enough that astronauts could grab it with their bulky gloves. 

a lunar orbiter much like the one used by NASA in the 1960s to photograph and catalog the entire surface of the moon, several views, in front of a white photo backdrop
Jarren Vink for Popular Science

↑ In the mid 1960s, NASA sent a lunar orbiter exactly like this one (this is a spare that was ready for flight, but never needed) to photograph and catalog the entire surface of the moon in preparation for the 1969 landing. The module had two lenses: a wide-angle and a telephoto. It shot bimat film, which it developed and dried inside the device itself. It then made a scan of the image, which it beamed back to Earth in the form of a TV signal. The resulting images have some light and dark horizontal banding, but ultimately make up what’s still one of the most complete and detailed maps of the moon’s surface to date. 

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Snag a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone and save hundreds with this extended Cyber Monday sale https://www.popsci.com/sponsored-content/rosetta-stone-cyber-monday-lifetime-subscription-deal/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=592670
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Learn your language of choice and further your education at a fraction of the price through Dec. 3.

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For our extended Cyber Monday event, take on the new language you’ve wanted to tackle with extra savings on award-winning Rosetta Stone bundles—all languages and Latin American Spanish—now further price-dropped through Dec. 3. 

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Acquiring a new language unveils pathways to new adventures and fosters profound cultural bonds. Rosetta Stone, further price-dropped for the extended Cyber Monday sale, is top-rated language-learning software trusted by organizations like NASA and TripAdvisor. It strives to assist its learners in breaking through language barriers by providing bite-sized lessons that easily fit into any busy schedule.

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How does climate change threaten where you live? A region-by-region guide. https://www.popsci.com/environment/climate-change-threats-by-region/ Tue, 28 Nov 2023 11:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=591603
wildfire and climate change risks
“Whether it’s wildfires or floods or drought, whether it’s extreme heat or storms, we know that climate change has made its way into our lives and it’s unfolding as predicted.”. DepositPhotos

The U.S. government's most comprehensive report on the effects of climate change details challenges for every part of the country.

The post How does climate change threaten where you live? A region-by-region guide. appeared first on Popular Science.

wildfire and climate change risks
“Whether it’s wildfires or floods or drought, whether it’s extreme heat or storms, we know that climate change has made its way into our lives and it’s unfolding as predicted.”. DepositPhotos

This story was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here.

Every four years, the federal government is required to gather up the leading research on how climate change is affecting Americans, boil it all down, and then publish a National Climate Assessment. This report, a collaboration between more than a dozen federal agencies and a wide array of academic researchers, takes stock of just how severe global warming has become and meticulously breaks down its effects by geography—10 distinct regions in total, encompassing all of the country’s states and territories.

The last report, which the Trump administration tried to bury when it came out in 2018, was the most dire since the first assessment was published in 2000. Until now.

The Fifth National Climate Assessment, released on Tuesday by the Biden administration, is unique for its focus on the present. Like previous versions, it looks at how rising temperatures will change the United States in decades to come, but it also makes clear that the rising seas, major hurricanes, and other disastrous consequences of climate change predicted in prior reports have begun to arrive. The effects are felt in every region. In the 1980s, the country saw a billion-dollar disaster every four months on average. Now, there’s one billion-dollar disaster every three weeks, according to the assessment. All of the many extreme weather events that hit the U.S., from the tiniest flood to the biggest hurricane, cost around $150 billion every year—and that’s likely a huge underestimate. 

“Climate change is here,” said Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Biden administration during a briefing on the report. “Whether it’s wildfires or floods or drought, whether it’s extreme heat or storms, we know that climate change has made its way into our lives and it’s unfolding as predicted.”  

The report outlines steps every level of government can take to combat the climate crisis. And it takes stock of progress that has been made over the past four years. There’s good news on that front: President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have managed to pass historic climate measures that are expected to reduce the country’s carbon footprint between 32 and 51 percent by 2035, putting the U.S. closer to meeting its emissions targets under the global climate treaty known as the Paris Agreement. A number of cities and states have passed climate policies that can serve as a blueprint for what actions the rest of the country, and indeed the world at large, needs to take in the coming years. California’s clean car program and the Northeast’s regional carbon cap-and-trade program are two examples. 

Despite this progress, climate impacts—oppressive heat domes in the Southeast that linger for weeks on end, record-breaking drought in the Southwest, bigger and more damaging hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, wildfires of unusual duration and intensity along the West Coast—are accelerating. That’s the nature of human-caused climate change: The consequences of a century and a half of burning fossil fuels are arriving now. Even if we stopped burning oil and gas tomorrow, some degree of planetary warming is baked in. 

This reality, the report says, leaves the country no choice but to adapt, and quickly. “We need to be moving much faster,” the Biden administration said. “We need more transformative adaptation actions to keep pace with climate change.” 

The Grist staff, located all over the country, reviewed the assessment to provide you with the most important takeaways for your region. Here they are. 


One of the joys of living in Alaska is being able to walk through thick brush without fearing that a tiny, eight-legged critter could latch onto you at any moment and give you a debilitating illness like Lyme disease (though, sure, grizzly bears are a worry). According to the assessment, that’s about to change: The western black-legged tick is creeping north, and it’s poised to establish a new home in the country’s largest state.

As Alaska warms two or three times faster than the rest of the world, it’s making life harder for many of the 730,000 people who live there, particularly Indigenous and rural residents who rely on hunting and fishing for food. Crabs are sweltering in the Bering Sea. Salmon are disappearing, leaving fish racks and freezers empty in Yup’ik and Athabascan villages along the Yukon River. Melting sea ice, extreme ocean warming, and toxic algae blooms are unraveling food webs, killing seabirds and marine mammals. It’s not pretty. 

And it’s not all happening at sea. The ground beneath Alaskans’ feet is collapsing. Eighty percent of the state sits on permafrost, much of which is thawing. In Denali National Park, a melting underground glacier triggered a landslide in 2021 that forced the park’s main road to close for a few years. Add freak storms, flooding, and erosion to the mix, and Alaska Native communities face nearly $5 billion in infrastructure damage over the next 50 years, the report says.

There are a few bright spots. Higher elevations could see more snow, not less, and Alaska’s growing season is getting longer—a boon for a fledgling agricultural industry. Still, if you migrate north to start a farm, don’t think you’ll have found a refuge from wildfires, even in the Arctic. Just Google “zombie fires.”

– Max Graham

Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands

Hawaiʻi, Guam, American Sāmoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Every month on the sixth day after a new moon, generations of Palauans have ventured out under the hot late-afternoon sun to toss their nets into seagrass meadows to capture rabbit fish. 

In 2021, the low tide didn’t come. Neither did the fish. The Indigenous fishers in Palau were left waiting, wondering if the higher tide would ever ebb.

It’s not yet clear whether climate change is to blame. But what is clear from the climate assessment is that rising sea levels, worsening storms, and other climate-related effects will transform the lives of nearly 1.9 million people who live in the states, nations, and territories that make up the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands, many of them Indigenous peoples who have contributed little to climate change yet are bearing the worst of its impacts. 

Low-lying atolls in the Marshall Islands are already disappearing. The islands that remain risk losing their drinking water as saltwater intrudes on thin freshwater aquifers. In American Samoa, tuna canneries could see as much as a 40 percent drop in their catch by 2050 compared with the 2000s, according to the report, if carbon emissions don’t fall fast enough. 

In Hawaiʻi, a 3.2-foot rise in sea level could displace 20,000 people and cost $19 billion. That same scenario would affect 58 percent of the built environment on the island of Guam.

Maui residents still reeling from the horror of August’s wildfires can expect more drought on the leeward coast that could provide tinder for more flames. Already, fires burn a greater proportion of land area in U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands than on the continental U.S. 

Health care, already a longstanding challenge in the islands, is expected to get worse, as temperatures rise and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika proliferate. One study found 82 percent of heat deaths in Honolulu can already be attributed to climate change.

 — Anita Hofschneider


Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin

If you’ve ever driven through Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana, you won’t be surprised to learn that the region produces almost a third of the world’s corn and soybeans. In fact, there are so many crops getting irrigated, water is evaporating off them and cooling summer days in parts of the Midwest, like central Wisconsin, countering some of the warming from climate change. But rapid swings between flooding and drought, along with the spread of corn earworms, Japanese beetles, and other pests, are hurting these staple crops and the farmers who grow them. Climate change, the report says, has also led to smaller harvests of wild rice, a staple that’s central to the identity of the Indigenous Anishinaabe. 

The region is getting more rain, and that’s promising for wheat production, but bad news for aging dams, roads, bridges, and wastewater facilities, which are already getting overwhelmed by water. The amount of precipitation during the 1 percent of rainiest days in the Midwest has increased by 45 percent since 1958, the report says.

The Great Lakes, the crown jewels of the Midwest, are among the fastest-warming lakes in the world, with climate change stressing out an ecosystem already plagued by toxic algae and invasive species and also reducing populations of walleye and trout. Warmer winters mean there’s less ice atop lakes and ponds, threatening traditions like ice fishing from Minnesota to Michigan.

Those less-harsh winters are also expanding the ranges of disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes. Lyme disease has exploded in the Midwest to the point that it’s now endemic, and by 2050, the Ohio Valley may see more than 200 cases of West Nile virus every year. Another once-rare phenomenon that’ll become more common: wildfire smoke. Midwesterners got a preview this summer when smoke poured in from the fires in Canada, inundating Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio with “very unhealthy” air.

— Kate Yoder


Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, VermontWashington, D.C., West Virginia

When it comes to climate-fueled flooding, the 67 million residents of the U.S. Northeast are especially at risk, and the region’s aging stormwater and sewage infrastructure only makes matters worse. This summer, historic flooding in New YorkVermont, and Massachusetts killed multiple people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, a preview of flooding-related dangers to come. Extreme precipitation events have increased 60 percent across the entire region, which the report says could be due to a combination of more tropical storms and a warmer, wetter atmosphere. No other region in the U.S. has seen such a marked increase in rainfall. 

But climate impacts within the Northeast extend far beyond flooding. Days when real-feel temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will triple by 2050 under an intermediate warming scenario, the report said, and communities that lack access to reliable and affordable air conditioning will see their health and general well-being decline as a result. 

The report also warns that states along the coast will have to confront the effects of warming water on marine species, fish stocks, and tourism—if they aren’t doing so already. In the Gulf of Maine, for example, lobster, oysters, and other shellfish are expected to decline. Animals that can migrate, such as right whales, will abandon the gulf for cooler waters north of the state. Sea bass, some types of squid, and other temperate marine species, on the other hand, will flourish. Warming winter nights are allowing damaging forest pests, such as the emerald ash borer and the woolly adelgid, to extend their ranges into colder latitudes and plague new ecosystems. 

Rising seas along the coastline will push homes and infrastructure inland, raising the controversial question of who gets to leave and who can stay. Already, home buyout programs and multibillion-dollar flood protection initiatives are underway in New Jersey and New York.

— Zoya Teirstein

Northern Great Plains

Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South DakotaWyoming

In parts of the country like southwestern Nebraska, it’s not uncommon for baseball-sized hail to fall from the sky during thunderstorms in the summer months. Unfortunately for people in the northern Great Plains, it’s likely to get worse: The region will experience the largest increase in hail risk, according to the report, along with more storms. By 2071, days with hail of two inches in diameter or more could increase threefold and cover almost nine times more ground. Hail that size can smash windows, dent cars, and cause severe injuries.

The report highlights a shift in the region’s water, so vital for the landlocked landscape spanning Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Decreasing snowpack could cut short winter tourism seasons and reduce available surface water, putting more stress on limited groundwater. At the same time, more flooding and extreme weather could hit communities with the fewest resources to respond. Two storms in 2018 destroyed nearly 600 homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, with half not repaired a year later.

Hotter temperatures have already limited harvests of traditional foods and medicine used by many indigenous nations. That includes wild turnips and chokecherries, culturally significant plants for the Lakota people. Rising temperatures have also dried the soil, raising wildfire risks. In the Great Plains grasslands, the number of wildfires has already more than doubled since 1985. Forest fires in Montana and Wyoming have shot up almost ninefold since the 1970s. All these trends are likely to get worse.

But these problems might not be enough to scare off newcomers trying to get away from droughts and wildfires elsewhere in the country. The report suggests that fewer cold snaps and a longer growing season in the Great Plains could lure people migrating from other regions in search of a new place to live.

— Akielly Hu


Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Climate change might be putting an end to “Juneuary,” the term for the Northwest’s chilly early summers. Take the infamous “heat dome” that smothered Washington and Oregon in late June 2021. The searing heat melted electrical equipment in Portland, buckled roads outside Seattle, and led to nearly a thousand deaths in the two states (and British Columbia). Without climate change, a heat wave that intense would’ve been “virtually impossible,” according to one study cited. 

The report says the Northwest can expect hotter heat waves—and more deaths. Heat and wildfire smoke in the region have already led to thousands of deaths since 2018, when the last National Climate Assessment was published. Extreme heat is worse in formerly redlined neighborhoods like the Albina neighborhood in Portland, where temperatures can reach 13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the rest of the city. 

Most of the region’s drinking water has come from melting snow, stored in mountain ranges like the Cascades that run through Washington and Oregon, or the Sawtooth range in Idaho. But warmer winters are turning more snowstorms into rainstorms, leading to destructive floods in the winter and dry rivers in the summer. Glaciers are melting, even atop iconic Mount Rainier.

On the coast, rising waters pose problems. The town of Taholah on the Quinault Reservation along Washington’s northwest coast could see the ocean climb as much as 1.2 feet by 2050. The Quinault Indian Nation recently started to move many of its homes and government buildings farther inland. The report warns that the cost and complexity of managed retreat might make it difficult for other coastal communities.

Diminishing streams could be troublesome for numerous hydroelectric dams. Local and state governments might need to find new sources of energy to power the region’s electric cars and brand-new air conditioners—without relying on the fossil fuels that got us into this mess. 

—Jesse Nichols


Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

The sunny and fast-growing Southeast is on a collision course with climate change. Its cities have gobbled up more than 1.3 million acres of exceptionally biodiverse land since 1985, and more than a million people have moved to Florida alone since 2018. These newcomers are sitting ducks for worsening disasters, especially floods. The Southeast has seen almost two dozen hurricanes make landfall since 2018, and these monster storms are ballooning to full strength much faster as they cross a hotter Gulf of Mexico. The slow creep of sea-level rise has also led to more frequent tidal flooding in coastal cities like Miami. That’s bad news for the millions of people who have bought waterfront homes over the past few decades. 

To say the region is ill-prepared for this era of climate disaster would be an understatement. Many Southeastern cities are plagued with flimsy manufactured housing, antiquated drainage systems, and decades-old power grids. Heat stroke will become a bigger danger for outdoor workers, and more blackouts will knock out life-saving AC units in big cities. Louisiana saw more than 20 such events between 2011 and 2021. Warmer spring temperatures will also increase pollen counts in cities like Atlanta, worsening air quality. All these impacts will be more dangerous for the region’s Black residents, who live in hotter and more flood-prone places than their neighbors. 

The region’s declining rural areas also face existential threats, as industries find themselves unprepared for a warmer world. Farmers of cash crops such as citrus and soybeans, for instance, are fighting a four-front war against drought, flooding, heat, and wildfires, which all reduce annual yields. Extreme weather will continue sapping these moribund economies, leading to more out-migration and urban growth.

— Jake Bittle

Southern Great Plains

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

The southern Great Plains encompasses a stunning variety of terrain, from the windy plains of Kansas to the swamps of East Texas. In some parts of the region, annual precipitation is as low as 10 inches, and in other parts it’s as high as 50 inches. Accordingly, the impact of climate change looks very different depending on where you are. In the high plains of Oklahoma, drought has drained rivers and aquifers for rural communities, but residents of large Texas cities like Houston and Dallas have to worry about floods overwhelming asphalt streets and clogged storm drains.

Kansas and Oklahoma don’t face the risk of the billion-dollar disasters that plague Texas, but the report finds that earlier springs in those two landlocked states have “reduced plant growth and diminished productivity” for all-important wheat and sorghum crops. Lyme disease-bearing ticks have started to appear even in the depths of winter, when they’re supposed to be hibernating.

Energy is the backbone of the region’s economy, especially in Texas. This massive industry has helped accelerate climate change, and it’s also vulnerable to climate shifts: Hurricanes and increasingly large rain storms could knock out plants and refineries on the Gulf Coast. Agriculture and livestock, the other main industries, are also vulnerable to droughts: Dry spells in Kansas and Oklahoma have “increased labor demands for feeding, forcing producers to sell genetically valuable animals,” the report notes. These shifts could cost billions of dollars to the region’s economy.

The report also highlights threats to another mainstay of life in the South: football. Extreme heat and flooding could endanger athletes and force schools to postpone games. This already happened in 2021, when Hurricane Ida forced the Tulane University football team to play a game at the University of Oklahoma instead of at home in New Orleans.

— Jake Bittle


Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah

Asuccession of droughts, fires, and heat waves has thrown the Southwest’s economy into turmoil over the past decade, upending housing markets and stalwart industries like agriculture.

The most visible disaster in the region is wildfire. The already hot and dry Southwest is getting hotter and drier, which makes it easy for big fires to rage for weeks and even months, destroying thousands of homes. It also means that “fire season” now lasts roughly all year, as 2021’s Marshall Fire in Colorado demonstrated. The cost of putting out wildfires in California exceeded $2 billion that year, according to the report. As a result of all this damage, insurance costs are skyrocketing for everyone, even city dwellers who aren’t directly threatened by blazes.

On California’s coast, rising seas have eaten away at bluffs, causing stretches of road to collapse into the water. The authors of the report write that a rash of marine heat waves in the Pacific between 2013 and 2020 caused massive die-offs in the state’s salmon fishery and beached starving sea lions. Under the worst warming scenarios, the Pacific sardine fishery could migrate as much as 500 miles north.

In the desert, farms, ranches, and cities have drained reservoirs on big waterways like the Colorado River. Rural residents in California and Arizona are seeing their wells go dry during increasingly severe droughts, thanks in large part to thirsty nut and dairy farms that have sucked up groundwater. And drought has been even more challenging for the many Native American tribes. The Navajo Nation, for instance, lacks legal access to the Colorado River, so most residents haul their water by truck. Building new water infrastructure is more than 70 times as expensive on the reservation as it would be in the average U.S. town, according to the report

— Jake Bittle

U.S. Caribbean

Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

The climate impacts facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t differ wildly from those of the continental states: Storms will strengthen, coastlines will shrink, temperatures will rise, and rainfall will diminish. 

What’s distinct about how the U.S. Caribbean territories will experience these hazards (apart from the islands’ location in a hurricane-prone ocean) are the economic and social conditions that have already made the region’s disasters more deadly — conditions that can be traced to the territories’ history as de facto U.S. colonies. More than 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3 million residents live below the poverty level, as do almost 20 percent of the 87,000 people living in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, mortality rates were higher for the elderly and those with the lowest household incomes. Studies found that nearly 3,000 excess deaths occurred after the storm because people lacked access to basic services.

That resource imbalance also shows itself in the dearth of necessary data available to assess current and future climate impacts in the region, especially in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The report is full of footnotes conceding that data was unavailable for the Caribbean territories.

Without improved social and economic resilience, U.S. Caribbean residents will continue to be uniquely vulnerable to storms, floods, and heat. 

“We may be facing more extreme hurricanes, but if we have the capacity, the quality of life, the social conditions to be prepared, it wouldn’t be that catastrophic,” said Pablo Méndez-Lázaro, lead chapter author and associate professor of environmental health at the University of Puerto Rico. “If we keep having a huge amount of people living under the poverty level, with preexisting conditions, exposed to flood areas, we will face another María.”

— Gabriela Aoun Angueira

This article originally appeared in Grist at https://grist.org/climate/national-climate-assessment-2023-us-regional-impacts-summary/.

Grist is a nonprofit, independent media organization dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and a just future. Learn more at Grist.org