“We’ll need to change course immediately to avoid creating a planet that we can’t survive. Otherwise, we won’t be exploring space out of a sense of adventure; we’ll be fleeing a broken world that spat us out.”

Editor-in-Chief, Popular Science, Joe Brown

 

Plastic Eaters

Plastics crowd our landfills, and their microparticles permeate the oceans, yet we can’t seem to stop using them. Current recycling tactics don’t actually turn used plastic into anything, chemically speaking: They just grind the waste into smaller pieces, like shredding paper into strips. Manufacturers then reconstitute those pieces into lower-quality plastic. Now, scientists have new hope that nature might hold a solution for our most problematic polymers—one that will help us create stronger, higher-value products. A team of biologists, chemists, and engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have discovered and are working to supercharge a biological enzyme that can chew through throwaway plastics, and rewrite the future of recycling. 

The Florida Problem

A tremendous amount of environmental change hits Florida harder and sooner than it does the rest of the nation, which makes the state a bellwether that demands all of our attention. “The Florida Problem” is a package of six stories that explores how a shifting climate and human development stress the Sunshine State’s natural resources. With struggling citrus crops, algae blooms, salt in the drinking water, and more, Florida feels the squeeze on its beaches, farms, wetlands, and cities—all of which offer a vivid warning to us all.

Can Big Ag Be a Force for Good?

Looking Back — Ted Genoways, whose family has been farming in Kansas for generations, takes a look at how Big Ag got a bad rap, and recounts some of the harsh lessons learned over decades of rapid technological change.

Looking Forward — From H20 overuse and toxic runoff to poop lagoons and invincible bugs, Popular Science takes a look at 10 of the biggest challenges today’s farmers face, and offers solutions for each.

Mining the Moon

Lunar exploration started as an adventure, but now it’s a quest that also revolves around dollar signs. Teams from China, Israel, India, and NASA are all vying for fresh slices of moon cheese—as are private companies such as Cape Canaveral’s Moon Express. But what resources does the moon have? From silicon to platinum, water to helium-3, and so much in between, Popular Science takes a deep-dive on what it would look like to actually mine the moon, and what we could stand to gain from it.

PLUS: Make Your Lunch Completely Waste-Free; Baltimore’s Tree Savior; We’ve Killed Most Grasslands; Where the Buffalo No Longer Roam; The Hardest Water Puzzle; and More.