If you’re a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed the ways yoga works-maybe you’re sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. But if you’ve ever tried telling a newbie how it works, you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears.
As it happens, Western science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay. Once you understand them, you’ll have even more motivation to step onto your mat, and you probably won’t feel so tongue-tied the next time someone wants Western proof.
I myself have experienced yoga’s healing power in a very real way. Weeks before a trip to India in 2002 to investigate yoga therapy, I developed numbness and tingling in my right hand. After first considering scary things like a brain tumor and multiple sclerosis, I figured out that the cause of the symptoms was thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve blockage in my neck and chest.
Despite the uncomfortable symptoms, I realized how useful my condition could be during my trip. While visiting various yoga therapy centers, I would submit myself for evaluation and treatment by the various experts I’d arranged to observe. I could try their suggestions and see what worked for me. While this wasn’t exactly a controlled scientific experiment, I knew that such hands-on learning could teach me things I might not otherwise understand.
My experiment proved illuminating. At the Vivekananda ashram just outside of Bangalore, S Nagarathna, MD, recommended breathing exercises in which I imagined bringing prana (vital energy) into my right upper chest. Other therapy included asana, Pranayama, meditation, chanting, lectures on philosophy, and various kriya (internal cleansing practices). At the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai and from AG Mohan and his wife, Indra, who practice just outside of Chennai, I was told to stop practicing Headstand and Shoulderstand in favor of gentle asana coordinated with the breath. In Pune, SV Karandikar, a medical doctor, recommended practices with ropes and belts to put traction on my spine and exercises that taught me to use my shoulder blades to open my upper back.
Thanks to the techniques I learned in India, advice from teachers in the United States, and my own exploration, my chest is more flexible than it was, my posture has improved, and for more than a year, I’ve been free of symptoms. My experience inspired me to pore over the scientific studies I’d collected in India as well as the West to identify and explain how yoga can both prevent disease and help you recover from it. Here is what I found.
Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.
Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.
Your head is like a bowling ball-big, round, and heavy. When it’s balanced directly over an erect spine, it takes much less work for your neck and back muscles to support it. Move it several inches forward, however, and you start to strain those muscles. Hold up that forward-leaning bowling ball for eight or 12 hours a day and it’s no wonder you’re tired. And fatigue might not be your only problem. Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.
Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.
Spinal disks-the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves-crave movement. That’s the only way they get their nutrients. If you’ve got a well-balanced asana practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends, and twists, you’ll help keep your disks supple.
It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.
Yoga gets your blood flowing. More specifically, the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulderstand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. This can help if you have swelling in your legs from heart or kidney problems. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. And it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers.
When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
When you regularly get your heart rate into the aerobic range, you lower your risk of heart attack and can relieve depression. While not all yoga is aerobic, if you do it vigorously or take flow or Ashtanga classes, it can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range. But even yoga exercises that don’t get your heart rate up that high can improve cardiovascular conditioning. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise-all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.
If you’ve got high blood pressure, you might benefit from yoga. Two studies of people with hypertension, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number-and the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider this. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call “food-seeking behavior” (the kind that drives you to eat when you’re upset, angry, or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.
LOS ANGELES: My iPhone had been kidnapped. It was sending me cries for help. Each time it was powered on, it beamed an SOS, giving me an exact street address. I studied the images on my computer screen, zooming in close. The tidy lawn of a one-story home, the boxy exterior of a duplex.
My iPhone was on the move. Modern technology told me where. But how on Earth was I going to get it back? My iPhone is my atlas and my encyclopedia. As @latimescitybeat on Twitter, I’m on it day and night. I use it to take photos to document my stories and my life. It’s my digital diary, my portable show-and-tell. I’d misplaced it before, at home, and finding it was a breeze. All I had to do was go to my computer, launch the “Find My iPhone” app and wait. A registered device, if turned on, will pop up on a map.
It can even announce itself: Ping, ping, ping, like a knife tapped on crystal. I’ve followed that sound to a tangle of sheets, to the dark cave below my driver’s seat. This time the hunt would be different. After taking a photo of strawberries at the Hollywood Farmers Market one Sunday morning, I had tossed my phone into my bag. A few minutes later, when I reached for it, my hand grabbed at air. I’d been buying Ojai tangerines. I thought the phone might have slipped under some fruit, but it hadn’t. And when friends called it, no one answered. We heard no ring. Minutes later, in my home office, I signed onto Find My iPhone. It found an iMac and iPads in the house. But the app informed me that my phone was offline. ‘This phone has been lost by a Los Angeles Times reporter who needs it urgently. Please call . . . “ “I desperately need my phone. Please call. . . .” “I’m a good person. I need my phone. . . . .” “Please call. . . .” “Please call…” “Please call. . . .” My phone was locked. It required a password to get past my dog on the home screen. My plan of attack was to bombard it with text messages, which pop up anyway. They’d provide the means for a good person who found it to contact me – and just might give a jumpy thief pause. I texted. I kept refreshing Find My iPhone. At 2:19 that afternoon, my vigilance paid off. My iPhone, according to the app, hadn’t gone far. It was on the site of the now-closed market. I felt my shoulder muscles unkink as I pictured the happy ending. Someone had given it to the market staff.
A farmer had found it while packing up a stall. My home phone was about to ring. I waited for the call. Instead, my iPhone again fell off the grid. I watched and I fretted until 3:53, when it showed up – in Santa Ana, Calif. My phone had been swiped.
I had an address where it seemed to be. I called the police. The woman who answered outlined the policy: They would go, but only if I went along. An officer would accompany me to the door and ask if the phone was there. If the answer was no, that would be that, the officer would leave. I hung up and, for a minute, contemplated the drive. Then I called The Times’ news research library.
In no time, I had left a phone message for someone listed at the address. Half an hour later, I was chatting with a friendly man who seemed genuinely concerned. He kept telling me how lost he’d be if he ever lost his iPhone. But he wasn’t sure how he could help, he said. No one in his family had gone anywhere that day. He called back to say he’d considered each of his neighbors, and saw no plausible suspects.
I thanked him for his efforts – though by then they hardly mattered. At 4:40 pm, my iPhone had resurfaced in what appeared to be a duplex in Anaheim. By now I’d realized that everything on my phone was backed up. This wasn’t about lost photos – or even, really, the phone. I felt toyed with. I was angry. I was ready to get mean. I decided I would make my phone play its “find me” ping each time it was turned on. I had also discovered that if I put it in something called Lost Mode, I could have it display a big message – filling the screen. To Anaheim, I sent stern words: “I’m watching you! Return my phone.” I played the sound, too, several times – until the phone was turned off. When it came on again at 9:07 that night, I was locked and loaded. Ping, ping, ping. “I’m tracking you.
I know where you are.” Monday passed without a trace. So did Tuesday. Maybe I’d gone too far. My boss ordered me a new phone. Still, I gave it one more shot, sending new words to pounce if my old phone was turned on again: “This phone has been disabled. You can’t use it. Please return it.” By Wednesday morning, I had stopped obsessing. So when the alert came, I missed it by a few minutes. At 9:07 am, my phone had signaled from Indian Wells. Before it was turned off again, I got in one more ping, ping, ping and this message: “Enjoying Indian Wells?” I wrote. “Drop my phone somewhere, please….” I beamed. I bounced up and down. Everyone near me in the newsroom saw it. When a nice woman at a Verizon store in Orange called to tell me that she had my phone, I looked as if I’d just spotted the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol. I was about to run to my car when a second call came in. The number was blocked. The person didn’t give his name. He told me he’d found my phone at the market, but it was too late to turn it in to security. —MCT
By Nita Lelyveld
San Francisco, California, Apple's highly anticipated event Tuesday looks to extend the reach of the iPhone to new markets as the tech giant moves to regain momentum in the smartphone segment.
Analysts believe an invitation-only special event at Apple's headquarters in Silicon Valley will spotlight a more economical iPhone priced to compete in places where money is tight, along with a beefed-up top-end model.
Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told AFP the consensus is for Apple to unveil a new high-end phone, “most likely called the 5S, with the same look and feel physically but with a speed boost; new processor, and new graphics capabilities.”
A lower-cost iPhone, has been dubbed the 5C “because it would come in multiple colors analogous to today's iPod touch,” Golvin said.
Speculation about the iPhone 5S included the debut of a gold color and fingerprint recognition for enhanced security.
Analysts were keenly focused on the promise of an iPhone 5C to win over buyers in China and other developing markets where there is fierce competition from low-priced smartphones powered by Google's Android operating system.
Apple has also invited press to a Wednesday event in Beijing that analysts believe signals a deal to add iPhones to China Mobile's massive telecom network in that country.
China Mobile has more than 700 million subscribers, according to Barclays Equity Research.
“The only real potential to surprise investors seems to be in the scope and velocity of a new China strategy and any new features within iOS 7 and fingerprint scanner technology,” Barclay's said in a note focused on what is expected from Apple.
Apple's iPhone franchise has historically focused on premium products at premium prices, essentially leaving the company “unable to address” approximately 60 percent of the opportunity in the smartphone market, the investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald said in an analyst note.
“We expect this to change with the introduction of the plastic-encased iPhone 5C,”Cantor Fitzgerald said.
Analysts did not foresee any talk of Apple watches or TV at the Tuesday event.
“I don't think these are things that Apple wants to get into at this point,” Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said of persistent rumors of an “iWatch” or revolutionary advancement in Apple TV set-top boxes.
Many analysts dismissed worries that Apple lost its innovative edge after the death of the company's legendary co-founder Steve Jobs in late 2011.
“There is always pressure on Apple to show they can innovate, but it is also present for their competitors,” Golvin said.
“There is an almost constant stream of criticism, but it is more pronounced for Apple because they have introduced products that really change the way people live.”
The smartphone market is now dominated by Android devices, with roughly three-fourths of all handsets, but a forecast by research firm IDC suggested Apple will increase its share this year to 17.9 percent from 16.9 percent.
Cantor Fitzgerald expressed optimism that Apple would enter new product categories in the coming 18 months.
Cantor noted that it was six years after the iPod launched in 2001 that the iPhone made its debut, and another three years before the iPad arrived.
“As such, if Apple were to introduce 'iTV' or 'iWatch' over the next year, this would be slightly ahead of historical cycles,” Cantor reasoned.
“Clearly, we believe Apple's innovation engine remains in full force.”Apple has been innovating under the hood, with speedier chips and transformed software, according to analysts. At the heart of any iPhone announcements on Tuesday would be a dramatic overhaul to the iOS software powering Apple handsets.
New iOS 7 software will debut with a free iTunes Radio Service featuring more than 200 stations “and an incredible catalog of music from the iTunes Store,” Apple announced earlier this year.
The service will be integrated with Apple's personal voice-assistant software program Siri, so users will be able to find out “who plays that song?” The streaming radio service is part of what Apple chief Tim Cook branded the biggest change to iOS - Apple's mobile operating system - since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.
“Apple does deliver a tremendous amount of innovation; a lot of it is software these days,” Golvin said.
“The expectations that people have are unrealistic,” the Gartner analyst continued.“Apple is a victim of its own success, to some extent.”Analysts also note that Apple would likely spotlight major new products at their own events instead of giving them second-billing at an iPhone unveiling.
NASA has launched an unmanned spacecraft that aims to study the Moon's atmosphere, the US space agency's third lunar probe in five years.
Blazing a red path in the night sky, the spacecraft lifted off at 11:27 pm (Saturday 0327 GMT) aboard a converted Air Force ballistic missile known as the Minotaur V rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“The spacecraft is in good health and a good orbit at this point,” said NASA commentator George Diller about half an hour after the launch.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) hopes to learn more about the atmosphere and dust while circling the Moon.
Launch manager Doug Voss said the maiden mission for the five-stage rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation was “nearly picture-perfect.”
“It's quite a great ending to what has been a fantastic mission, a very unique mission.”
When US astronauts last walked on the Moon four decades ago, they learned that dust could be a huge problem for sensitive spacecraft and equipment, said space expert John Logsdon.
“If we were ever to go there with people for long duration, the dust gets in everything. It's not smooth dust like a piece of sand on the beach. It's made of very, very small fragments,” said Logsdon, a NASA adviser and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.
“All the Apollo crews complained about the lunar dust getting everywhere.”US astronauts first walked on the Moon in 1969, and the last explorers of the Apollo era visited in 1972.
The Moon's atmosphere is so thin that its molecules do not collide, in what is known as an exosphere. Exploring that exosphere will be a $280 million solar and lithium battery-powered spacecraft about the size of a small car - nearly eight feet (2.4 meters) tall and five feet wide. The journey to the Moon will take a full month.
When the spacecraft first enters the Moon's orbit on October 6, it will cruise at a height of about 155 miles (250 kilometers) for 40 days, and then move lower at 12.4 to 37.3 miles from the surface for the science portion of its mission.
It is carrying an Earth-to-Moon laser beam technology demonstration and three main tools, including a neutral mass spectrometer to measure chemical variations in the lunar atmosphere and other tools to analyze exosphere gasses and lunar dust grains.
“These measurements will help scientists address longstanding mysteries, including: was lunar dust, electrically charged by solar ultraviolet light, responsible for the pre-sunrise horizon glow that the Apollo astronauts saw?”NASA said.
Other instruments will seek out water molecules in the lunar atmosphere. One hundred days into the science portion of the mission, LADEE will make a death plunge into the Moon's surface.
The spacecraft was made in a modular design that aims to “ease the manufacturing and assembly process” and “drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development,” NASA said.
This module could pave the way for unmanned probes to an asteroid or to Mars, as well as future Moon probes, though none are planned for now.
LADEE was conceived when NASA was planning to return humans to the Moon as part of the Constellation program, which President Barack Obama cancelled in 2010 for being over budget and redundant in its goals.
NASA's next big human exploration project plans to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.
Recent NASA robotic missions include the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which returned troves of images detailing the Moon's cratered surface, and the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which revealed how being pummeled by asteroids resulted in the Moon's uneven patches of gravity.
A previous NASA satellite, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), discovered water ice when it impacted in 2009, the space agency said.
You might call
numerosity humans’ sixth sense. This number sense gives us the ability to visually discern quantity, such as how many peaches are resting in a bowl or how many marbles are scattered across the floor. Like seeing or hearing, it’s an evolutionary part of human and animal brains. Now researchers have shown that, like our other basic senses, numerosity depends on the organization and close proximity of very particular neurons.
Scientists have long known that the brain’s primary senses, such as sight and smell, lie in clusters of neurons in the sensory cortex. And these have been mapped to identify how and where the neurons for these sensory organs are organized in the brain. Such topographic maps have also been established for
numerosity in macaques. Scientists figured that human numerosity, too, relied on specific neuron organization. They just hadn’t been able to find it, until now.
Benjamin Harvey of Utrecht University and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record the brain activity of eight adult participants as they looked at a series of dots that ranged in number and size. The researchers then turned this brain activity data into topographic neuron maps, and published their findings today in Science.
The researchers found that the posterior parietal cortex region of the brain, which plays a role in visual and spatial perception, was active in all eight adults during the study. They also found that specific neurons within that region of participants’ brains were encoded to respond to smaller quantities of dots and other neurons were encoded for the larger quantities. It turns out the area in the brain’s cortex that perceives numerosity is highly organized, similar to the areas of the brain that process our sense of sight or touch.
While number sense is not the same as recognizing the actual Arabic symbols that represent quantity, such as 2 and 10, the topographic map may help scientists learn more about how the brain processes numbers. “We believe this will lead to a much more complete understanding of humans’ unique numerical and mathematical skills,” says Harvey.
SAN FRANCISCO: On a recent afternoon, Homer Gaines hiked with girlfriend Tami Stillwell to the gusty peak of Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, bent down on one knee and slipped a topaz and whitesapphire ring on her finger, capturing the entire marriage proposal on a computerized device that he was wearing like a pair of glasses. Gaines, a 41-year-old Web developer from Fort Myers, Fla, is one of 10,000 “explorers” testing Glass, the much talked about hands-free wearable computing device from Google that lets users take photos and videos, make phone calls, send and receive text messages, search the Internet and get turn-by-turn directions. “I would not have been able to pull off that level of spontaneity with any other device and instantly share it with the world,” Gaines said. “Glass gave me the ability to share with everyone that special moment from my point of view – the surprise on her face, the way she jumped around, the ring on her finger and the tears of joy in her eyes.” Glass won’t be widely available for purchase until early next year, but it’s one of the most anticipated new technologies in years.
The question many are asking: Can Google make digital goggles the world’s next must-have gadget? As Google sees it, Glass is a revolutionary new way to quickly and effortlessly connect people with information. Critics view Glass as an invasive new technology that – if it takes off – could rob people of what few shreds of privacy they have left. Lawmakers are alarmed by the privacy implications and have begun asking pointed questions of Google. And some commercial establishments – most notably casinos and bars – have already banned Glass. Google is downplaying the privacy and security risks, assuring the public that it will not permit facial recognition apps (or porn apps, for that matter). Google says it’s obvious when someone is taking pictures or recording a video on Glass. But some developers have already built a way to get around Google: an alternative operating system that runs on Glass but is not controlled by Google.
One developer is making a facial recognition app that will help users remember the hundreds of people they have met and should recognize but don’t. That in-your-face quality of Glass could wake up more people to their ever shrinking privacy in the rapidly advancing digital age, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo said. Not only will people be more keenly aware that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public, Glass and devices like it could make it easier for government authorities to gain access to everything they see and record without a warrant, he said. And, with a warrant, the government might even be able to remotely turn on Glass’ video recording capability without the user’s knowledge, the way it has done with OnStar systems in cars, Calo said.
To counter that kind of growing apprehension, Google is trying to make the new technology seem as normal as possible. Google co-founder Sergey Brin constantly has a pair perched on his nose. He has worn Glass to the Oscars, to the TED conference, in the Hollywood film “The Internship,” and last year he stole the show at Google’s annual developers conference by wearing Glass. His cohort, Google Chief Executive and co-founder Larry Page, recently sported a pair as a groomsman in a wedding ceremony in Croatia. And he talked up Glass as the future of technology during Google’s second-quarter earnings conference call with analysts. Still, even inside the high-tech industry, some aren’t too keen on Glass. Los Angeles technology entrepreneur and investor Jason Calacanis has asked friends to remove Glass in his presence, banned Glass from poker games and coined a new term to describe what he feels like doing when he spots Glass wearers: “Glass-kicking.” And Glass hasn’t been able to ditch what could be its true Achilles’ heel: its dorky image. Labeled “Segway for your face,” it has become the butt of jokes on late-night television and on the Internet. Not only have Glass wearers been subjected to public ridicule for looking “glassed out,” they are referred to as a cross between Glass and a curse word. Google is the first to admit that Glass is not quite ready for prime time, with widely reported glitches. The battery drains quickly (but also charges quickly).
The capabilities are still very limited, with only a smattering of apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. And some complain that it’s not easy to hear notifications or phone calls with the bone conduction speaker. Perhaps the most glaring omission: A way for the 64 percent of the US population who wears glasses to use Glass. Google has made a prototype of prescription frames designed to be compatible with Glass and said the company will release specifications for frames manufacturers. “We still have bumps in the road and obstacles,” Glass product director Steve Lee said. “Right now, you need to be an early adopter who is excited about the technology.” Glass is the first major product from Google X, the company’s super-secretive research laboratory for “moonshots,” big scientific bets such as self-driving cars.
The lab is located in two nondescript brick buildings about a half-mile from Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus. A row of electric cars – including Teslas – is parked and charged out front. In a conference room inside Google X, Lee showed off an early prototype of Glass: safety glasses with a Nexus One smartphone attached to the right temple and the phone’s battery attached to the left. The device clearly didn’t win any style points and was not terribly comfortable (“guaranteed to give you a headache in 10 minutes,” Lee said). Over the last three years, Google has dramatically refined Glass. The latest incarnation weighs about the same as a pair of normal glasses and is more attractive and less obtrusive.
To keep careful watch over every detail, Google turned to Foxconn to manufacture Glass near its campus but won’t disclose the exact location. And Google chose a marketing strategy as novel as Glass. This summer, it opened three upscale pop-up stores that it calls “basecamps” – in a San Francisco office tower on the waterfront, in a penthouse in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York and in Google’s Venice Beach offices – to give thousands the white-glove treatment as they are outfitted with Glass. This shopping experience is even more exclusive than most. Explorers not only stretched their pocketbooks to be the first to test Google’s $1,500 device, they competed in an online contest for the privilege. “This is a big, new leap in tech, and I think it’s really important to get feedback on product and how people use it. Why would you do that in a vacuum, when you can do it with people across the United States?” said Ed Sanders, Google’s head of marketing for Glass. “When you are inventing something new and something that by its very nature is very intimate and personal, a device that someone wears on his or her face, then you have to listen to people.” In the San Francisco basecamp, an airy room with exposed ductwork, concrete floors and sweeping views of the bay, explorers first pick from five colors – demure hues of white, gray and black or bright pops of orange and blue – and then take a seat at wood tables. On each table sits a black shopping bag, a Chromebook Pixel laptop and a mirror.
One by one, guides deliver white boxes with the silver Glass logo. Inside the box under a single sheet of white filmy paper is Glass. The guides custom fit the lens-less glasses, bending the titanium and adjusting the nose guards. The explorers drink chilled champagne as they slide their fingers back and forth along the right side of the device and stare into a screen the size of a postage stamp above their right eye. Soon they are ordering Glass around with ease, dictating messages to family and friends and making plans to take Glass sightseeing, even hang-gliding. Erica Pang, 24, who works for a Palo Alto start-up, and her brother Aaron Pang, 20, a junior at Washington University recovering from spinal lymphoma, entered the #ifihadglass contest. She was picked. Their idea: to broadcast live virtual field trips to museums and zoos for children who are immobilized by illness or stuck in hospital beds.
They got the idea when Aaron spent three months in the hospital. “We want to let kids see the world without any of their limitations getting in the way,” Erica Pang said. Michael Kendle, an app developer from Springfield, Miss, in flip-flops and jeans and lounging on a gray couch at the Google basecamp, is a selfprofessed gadget junkie and says he always has to be the first to get the new, new thing. Now he has Glass, and he says he plans never to take it off except to shower and sleep. “I love being connected to everything, to have all this information at my fingertips,” Kendle said. —MCT
When Alfonso Cuarón’s astronauts-adrift epic Gravity arrives in theaters Oct. 4, it will be grounded in science, thanks to Kevin Grazier. The planetary physicist is well-known to fans of Syfy’s Defiance and Battlestar Galactica, and TNT’s Falling Skies, as the science adviser who helps give authenticity to sci-fi adventure.
Grazier spent 15 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as investigation scientist and science planning engineer for the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan. He’s currently penning Hollyweird Science with co-author Stephen Cass. The book, due out in 2014, will cover studios that got the science in their sci-fi right. Still an active researcher focused on computer simulations of solar system dynamics, Grazier told Discover Associate Editor Gemma Tarlach that Hollywood is less a shark tank than a sandbox full of smart kids.
Discover: How did you start working as a science adviser in Hollywood?
Kevin Grazier: I’m a blend of right brain and left brain, and I got into this with my right brain. When I was at grad school at UCLA, Paramount would still take unsolicited scripts. My buddy and I sent one in for Star Trek: Voyager, and seven months later I got a call from the executive producer’s assistant to come pitch stories. Through that opportunity, I met with people like Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me) and Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica).
D: Do you find yourself often at odds with writers who want to put scientifically implausible things in the script?
KG: The writers come in having done their research, but sometimes it’s hard for non-scientists to grasp all the implications. Science can get in the way of a good story if you let it, but good writers don’t let it. There’s a saying in Hollywood about playing in your sandbox. When you give constraints, some writers look at it as stifling, as suffocating: You’re building walls around their sandbox and trapping them. Other writers write on the walls you’ve erected around them and find ways to work with the story. Science can be enabling. Sometimes science is more out there and cooler than what the writers might have thought. It can be liberating for them when you show them, “Actually, it would do this.”
D: Oh, come on, no screaming matches? No stereotypical nasty Hollywood egos to contend with?
KG: The science adviser is not a copy editor. There’s no guarantee they’ll listen, but good writers are very keen to listen to what you have to say.
D: Which do you prefer, working on TV series or movies?
KG: I prefer TV to movies because movies are a one-off. Your work is often done early on in production, on your own. On a TV series, you’re part of a team, you get to know people and make friends.
D: Was Alfonso Cuarón one of the writers who did his research?
NB: Absolutely. He’d done a lot of work already and wanted to get everything right. He wanted to know details down to which direction the toggle switches would flip.