Among my current projects are a film documentary on lithium batteries, a biography of a Cold War era aircraft designer, scandals in pet nutrition, a new handgun caliber, new civilian spacecraft and launch vehicles, unmanned aircraft, and mysteries surrounding the disappearance of an aerospace engineer during the Cold War.


Here is a selection of various magazine and newspaper articles I have published. Copyrights and licenses are held by the respective publishers and/or by "Reinhard Kargl". For reprint rights, please contact the publishers directly.

 

Self-Driving Cars

Imagine having a perfectly safe and efficient robotic chauffeur! No more stress in traffic, no more parking problems, no more waste of time. Just name your destination - and enjoy the ride.

As I explained in my article about autonomous cars, we are getting quite close to technolocial feasibility. A few hurdles remain - most importantly, the costs.

My feature was published in Gruner+Jahr's European P.M. Magazin. The press release and summary are here. And online version of the article (in German) is here.

Ballistic Vests

"Bulletproof" garments have been around since the 19th century. Since then, makers of protective gear have been in a contest with firearms makers and ever increasing firepower.

Modern ballistic vests are surprisingly effective and have saved the lives of several thousand shooting victims. For the vest makers, the big breakthrough came with the invention of DuPont Kevlar® in 1965. Since then, protective garments have become much lighter and more comfortable, and new materials have joined the fray.

In a feature story for Gruner+Jahr's European P.M. Magazin I explained how ballistic vests work, and I examined the latest fibers and technologies used to protect law enforcement officers, soldiers and high profile individuals.

SOFIA

I was one of the first journalists to fly on a SOFIA science mission. SOFIA is an exciting, flying astronomical observatory operated by NASA and the German aerospace agency DLR. My report was published in Gruner+Jahr's popular German science magazine, P.M. Magazin. Click here for an excerpt.

Smuggling Tunnels

Illegal immigration and the illicit drug trade between Mexico and the U.S. are moving billions of dollars south, and truckloads of drugs north. The smugglers are increasingly going underground -- literally.

Over 150 tunnels underneath the U.S.-Mexico border have been found until 2011. Some are longer than several football fields. Some are elaborate and have rail systems, air conditioning and electric light. They terminate in private warehouses on the U.S. side.

Tunnels are extremely lucrative and a growing problem. Various law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have joined forces to form a dedicated "Tunnel Task Force" with the aim of finding and destroying the tunnels.

Published in the Fall of 2011 in the German Gruner-Jahr magazine Wunderwelt Wissen.

Spaceflight: Is Private Industry Ready to Take Over?

What comes after the space shuttle? NASA once coined the slogan "faster, cheaper, better" for its future space activities. But this remained an empty promise.

After more than half a century, cost overruns and technical problems, the juggernaut was left without funding for the development of a future space fleet. Development of new launch vehicles is now largely contracted to private industry, which is even working on manned spacecraft.

The shift is controversial. What is coming? In this story titled "David Against Goliath in Space" and published in the German Gruner-Jahr magazine Wunderwelt Wissen, I am looking at the Californian firm SpaceX and other contenders who can say they can really do things faster, cheaper and better.

Civilian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or "drones" are revolutionizing warfare.

Soon, there will be a multitude of civilian applications -- for law enforcement, agriculture, environmental monitoring, fire fighting, border security, construction, traffic monitoring and communications.

The smallest of them will have a wingspan of several hundred feet and stay in the air for years at a time, while the smallest may just have the size of insects and operate in swarms. Amazing things to come!

My feature article was published in the German Gruner-Jahr magazine Wunderwelt Wissen.

 

Voice Amplification in Schools
THEJournal

More and more schools are now using voice amplification systems in their classrooms. Proponents say that the systems have great potential for improving learning and understanding -- but they are costly. I wrote this piece for THE Journal, a specialty publication covering technology in education. For the online version of the article, click here.

Supercentenarians - The World's Oldest People
Wunderwelt Wissen

How long can human beings live? People who are over 100 years old are not very common. It is estimated that there are currently about 450,000 "centenarians" on earth.

People over 110 years old are extremely rare. When my article went to press, there were only 72 of them (68 women and 4 men) proven to be alive on Earth.

Do the oldest people on Earth have common traits? Where and how do they live? And why does everyone eventually die?

I wrote this piece in German and for the Gruner+Jahr publication Wunderwelt Wissen, which is published in Europe.

Martian Torture Chamber
Popular Science Magazine

I've long been fascinated by Mars. Could organisms survive there? German researchers in Berlin are saying: Quite possibly. They have built a chamber in which they subject Earth's hardiest organisms to the conditions on Mars.

As it turned out, some of our Earth lichens and bacteria not only survived, but performed biological activities such as photosynthesis.

The online version of the piece is here.

Feathers
Der Spiegel Online

About 10 billion chickens are slaughtered every year. So far, their feathers are going to waste. But researchers have found a number of potential uses. They can extract biodiesel and use whatever is left to make light and flexible materials, textiles, filters and porous materials ideal for storing gaseous hydrogen.

Some researchers even think that the special properties of feathers could make hydrogen tanks for cars cost efficient.

I reported for the online version of the leading German magazine, Der Spiegel. You can read the article (in German) here.

Aebleskivers
Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, KTLA and others

Most of my articles deal with science and technology, but I also enjoy writing about food and drink. Here's a story on a Danish delicacy I had become fascinated with.

I originally wrote it for the Los Angeles Times, but it was reprinted in the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and on the web sites of various television channels, such as WDB7, Fox 59 WXIN, KWGN Denver and KTLA Los Angeles.

Chef and author, Yuko Kitazawa contributed to this article.

You can read the entire piece (and get the recipe) here.

The Future of Law Enforcement
Popular Science Magazine

“Officer Gadget” Popular Science (02/07) Vol. 270, No. 2, P. 38; Kargl, Reinhard

Local law enforcement has traditionally relied on readily available technologies. And yet, police departments are asked to become ever more efficient.

This feature story looks into the future of local law enforcement: unmanned aerial vehicles, local digital networks, amazing sound projectors, technologies that disable vehicles remotely, radars which look through walls, and a variety of non-lethal weapons will open up a whole new world for local law enforcement.

The article made the February 2007 cover story of Popular Science. (Established in 1872, Popular Science is the world's largest science publication, with a circulation of 1,450.000 copies).

For the online version of the article, click here.

Mega Trucks

Who has the biggest, meanest truck in the neighborhood? This one weighs as much as 11 battle tanks or more than 190 passenger cars. Under the hood: 20 cylinders and 3,650 horsepowers. Wheel diameter: 24 feet. Cost: $3.5 million (plus delivery and service contract). Vehicles like this are doing heavy duty in mines around the world. Less than 100 are hand-built every year. Francis Bartley, designer of the world’s largest truck, showed me around the manufacturing site in Virginia. My feature story was published in one of Europe's largest sci/tech magazines.

Brain Doping

Can the human brain be improved? Experts predict that we are moving into a new century of "neurocognitive enhancements". The latest drugs can boost cognitive abilities such as concentration, memory function or mood. They can also keep people awake for long periods of time without causing severe side effects or addiction. Many of these drugs were developed to treat specific disorders. But consumers have found that they are also effective in healthy individuals. My report on this disturbing trend appeared in the German magazine, P.M. Magazin. For this story I conducted a self experiment. With the help of one of these new medications, I worked more than 40 hours without sleep, rest or break. (This story was controversial and attracted a lot of interesting reader response).

Face Transplants

Many experts believe that it is only a matter of time until a first attempt is made to transplant a whole face from a cadaver to a living person. Surgeons have successfully transplanted organs, limbs, tongues, a larynx and various bones. So -- why not a face? Not only are there medical problems, but this emotionally charged proposal also brings with it serious ethical questions. My article was published in the German science publication P.M. Magazin .

(Note: A short time after I made my prediction, French surgeons executed the first successful face transplant).

The Mosquito Wars

Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria. Every year, millions of people succumb to yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever and various forms of encephalitis. All these diseases are transmitted by mosquitos. My article in the German science magazine P.M. explains why mosquitos are mankind's most dangerous enemy. So far, we have lost every war against them. Now, genetic engineering adds a new weapon to mankind's arsenal. For this story, I visited a laboratory and "mosquito farm" at the University of Irvine.

You can read the article online.

Life on Mars?

Many experts believe that Mars was not always the dry and cold desert we see today. One important question is: Was there ever life on Mars? Could there even have been a Martian civilization?

My article on this subject was featured in the German magazine, P.M. Perspektive.

Computers of the Future

Today's computer technology is only the beginning! Our current machines are too inconvenient, too unreliable and in many ways just a pain in the neck. But in the future, computers will learn to speak our language and they will seamlessly integrate into our environment. Small, portable devices will allow access to virtually unlimited computing power and information. My article on this subject was the August 2002 cover story of P.M. Magazin, the largest German science magazine. (This is the second time I've made the cover of this publication).

Speed

The IMAX movie "Speed" examined the concept and meaning of speed. For this production, IMAX cameras followed athletes, fighter jets and race cars. I wrote for a special publication accompanying the film, which was sponsored by the sportscar manufacturer Porsche in conjunction with IMAX, and published by Gruner+Jahr.

 

Bounty Hunters

Private detectives hunting down fugitives is an old and unique American tradition. It is an oddity looked upon by the rest of the civilized world with a mixture of fascination and trepidation. Human bounty hunting in America has several roots: The U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a speedy trial and led to the bail system, America's unique history, and the legal autonomy of the States. In this story I traced bounty hunting to the Old West. In those days, Jim Holt hunted down the notorious gunslinger and murderer John Wesley Hardin. Bounty hunters were also tracing the infamous Wild Bunch, as well as Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Gangsters knew that they could evade justice by skipping state lines, which was one reason why Allan Pinkerton set up his legendary detective agency.

Las Vegas

It's in the middle of the desert. There's no water, no natural resources except, perhaps, land in abundance. Before 1905, Las Vegas was nothing more than a camp for railroad workers, owned by Union Pacific. There were a couple of general stores, a few brothels and saloons. In 1941, the first casino opened its doors. Today, Las Vegas attracts 36 million visitors from around the world and is easily one of the world's most famous cities. Nine of the ten largest hotels in the world are in Las Vegas. Casinos take in more than 6 billion dollars annually. Why? And why here? My story examined the colorful history and the excesses of the gambling man's world capital.

FIRE!

In 2000, I worked on Gruner+Jahr's special publication on fire and fire safety. My contribution included a chapter on fire safety in high rise buildings. Accompanied by specialists from the Los Angeles Fire Department's special unit in charge of skyscrapers, I toured the California Plaza towers from the heli pad on top to the water pumps in the basement. In hindsight, after 9-11, it was eerie to realize that the evacuation of such buildings turned out to be much more difficult than expected.

And yet, some engineers are claiming to possess the know-how for skyscrapers which would be 2,400 feet high and hold 50,000 people.

When America Lost Her Innocence

In 1999, Gruner+Jahr produced a special on the political turbulences of the 1960s. My contributions included a biography of Fidel Castro and an extensive story on political murders, including the Kennedys, Lee Harvey Oswald, Che Guevara, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

The World of Motion Pictures

This Gruner+Jahr special issue was published in 1998. My contributions included a detailed account of the technology used to make James Cameron's "Titanic". In a second piece for the same publication, I covered the history of the major Hollywood studios.

Nature's Fury

In 1998, the Germany based publisher Gruner+Jahr released a 97 page special on natural disasters. My biggest contribution covered tornadoes.

California is particularly disaster prone, with earthquakes, brush fires, floods, mudslides and the danger of tsunamis. For another article in the same publication I visited the emergency command centers in Los Angeles.

 

The Roswell Myth

July 1947: The story begins with newspaper accounts in the local press. A "Flying Disk", it claimed, was captured by the Army Air Force on a ranch in the Roswell region.

Roswell was no ordinary town in the wilderness of New Mexico. It was home to Roswell Army Air Field, which at the time was the only nuclear bomber base in the world.

Was the infamous Roswell crash a hoax? A misunderstanding? Or, as many allege, an elaborate government conspiracy, designed to cover up the crash of an extraterrestrial object?

My story on this subject appeared in the special issue of a European science magazine.

Mankind's Underground Archive

Future archaeologists studying life and society in our times will find no better place than a certain salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas. Deep below the surface, in extremely stable rock, lies a storage facility larger than nine football fields. It contains corporate and private records. Water cannot enter from below or above, and the only access is one vertical mine shaft, descending 600 feet. In times of crisis, it could simply be sealed. Unless disturbed by human hands, these records and artifacts are set to remain there for millions of years. I visited the archive to get a first hand impression.

The Dream Of Flight

This was a 97 page special publication dedicated to aviation and aviation history, published by Gruner+Jahr. I reported on the scary adventure of a passenger who was forced to land a plane after the pilot died of a sudden heart attack. I also wrote extensively about the dangerous jobs performed by test pilots. I visited NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force base and interviewed the legendary X-15 test pilot Bill Dana, then chief engineer at Dryden.


Apollo To The Moon

To commemorate the 30 year anniversary of the Apollo program's first launch, the Germany based publisher Gruner+Jahr released an 80 page special. My contribution chronicled all Apollo missions, one by one.

Armed America

This article dealt with the role of firearms in America's history, Second Amendment issues and gun control politics.

It was part of a series of three articles published in a German magazine's special edition on American history.

Elephants Must Be Leashed

An Oregon law prohibits hunting in cemeteries. Put up a mouse trap - but don't forget to apply for a hunting license. A law in Kentucky mandates at least one annual bath. A city in Vermont is more specific: You must bathe on Saturdays. In Alaska, Grizzly bears cannot be harassed by photographers (but they can be hunted). Elephants must not work on cotton fields in North Carolina, and in other places they must be on a leash.

For this story, I researched America's most bizarre laws, many of which date back to the Old West. These include such gems as prohibitions against "snorting, spitting and coughing" on the sidewalk, the riding of horses in saloons, the discharge of firearms at weddings, and even lawful pronunciation. (Say: "Ar-ken-soh")

This was part of a series of three articles published in a German magazine's special edition on American history.

Settling America

This story chronicled the entire history of human settlement in America.

This was part of a series of three articles published in a German magazine's special edition on American history.

Wind Power

California's 5,000 wind turbines produce 1.3 billion kW of electricity annually. That's enough to supply half a million homes. For this story, I crawled around and into wind turbines to take a closer look of the inner workings. This story focused on three companies who had managed to make wind energy work financially, without subsidies.

The Quest For A Second Life: Cryonics

For this story, I visited the headquarters of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. After their demise, Alcor's members have their bodies frozen (or "suspended", as they call it) in liquid nitrogren. Their hope is that one day, future generations might revive them using advanced technologies to repair their bodies and restore life. It's not as crazy as it sounds. As I discovered, science is steadily and consistently pushing the boundaries between life and death.

The World's Most Powerful Laser

It occupies a huge building and generates 200 times more energy than all U.S. power stations combined. (But only for less than a nanosecond). The energy output is enough to trigger nuclear fusion. For this story, I visited California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which has been playing with huge lasers for decades.

T-Rex Comes Alive!

(How They Do It)

The making of an impressive monster takes sophisticated model making, hydraulics and electronics, computer generated imaging, the right light, sound and music. And lots of hard work.

Being fascinated by Hollywood's special effects, I wrote about the combination of various techniques used to turn cineastic fantasy into visual reality.

Getting Rid of Nuclear Warheads

There are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in the world. In compliance with international treaties and in order to take older models out of service, a number of them has to be dismantled every year. That's not an easy undertaking, considering the environmental threats and security risks. My article explains how warheads are taken apart and discusses the question of what to do with the resulting surplus of weapons-grade fissile materials. This was my first feature story for a major magazine, and it made the cover of P.M. Magazin in Europe.

 

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