December 2013 issue

Date:20 November 2013 Author: Alan Duggan Tags:, , , , , ,

Groundbreaking concepts, ethical dilemmas… Be the first to know

It’s that time of the year again. Goodwill abounds, relatives descend on us with reckless abandon, and our credit balance shrinks to a point where it closely resembles a vacuum. (In keeping with the ethos of this magazine, we might have added something about year-end bonuses popping into and out of existence like virtual particles, but we won’t.)

That disposed of, we move on to a celebration of inventive excellence, as recognised by our 2013 Breakthrough Awards. Our 9th annual showcase introduces innovative products, groundbreaking concepts and really, really smart people who are quite prepared to stick their necks out in pursuit of their dreams.

You’ll meet a team from Carnegie Mellon University who are developing autonomously flying nano quadrotors that soar in squadrons; rediscover the game-changing Oculus Rift virtual reality headset developed by enthusiast Palmer Luckey (first introduced to PM readers in our report-back on CES 2013 in Las Vegas); marvel at the Indego powered exoskeleton built by Vanderbilt University engineer Michael Goldfarb and former graduate student Ryan Harris.

Shifting gear to things deep and ethically challenging, we describe the work of controversial Yale psychology researcher Stanley Milgram, whose “obedience” experiments in a specially equipped basement laboratory continue to arouse heated debate five decades after the study ended.

Were his unsuspecting subjects recruited via newspaper advertisements, indeed “bovinely compliant” when they delivered electric shocks – or so they thought – to other volunteers? And did the research reveal something disturbing about our willingness to do evil at the behest of an authority figure? Read “Cruel intentions?” (starting on page 82) and tell us what you think.

Heading outdoors, deputy editor Anthony Doman gets to grips with Paramount’s large, formidably armoured and extremely capable Marauder armoured personnel carrier. The commanding presence of this machine is neatly encapsulated in this extract from Anthony’s report: “Question: Where do you park a Paramount Marauder? Answer: Wherever you damn well like.” Share the adrenaline rush on page 90.

Still in the open air, associate editor Sean Woods straps himself into a flying rubber duck (no, seriously) for a mildly nerve-wracking flip over Saldanha. Inspired, he moves on to explore the limits of drone technology (for the record, these limits continue to be stretched) with a bunch of South African enthusiasts.

There’s much more in this issue, of course, so we’ll let you get on with it. Until next time…

– Alan Duggan (aland@ramsaymedia.co.za)