From powering airplanes to replacing nuclear energy, algae has been touted as a green energy miracle. So if our waterways are already filled with the stuff, why isn’t it filling the world’s skies with biofueled planes? Algae is a tricky creature that presents a lot of challenges and misconceptions. Here’s why it’s…
Everybody knows not to shine laser pointers in your eye. They could damage your vision! (Emphasis on could, since your eye’s blink reflex would probably protect your retina.) But what if you were an evil villain determined to make a death ray? How many laser pointers would it take to create a deadly weapon?
When a United Airlines flight made an emergency landing this summer due to medical situations on board, as the oxygen masks fell down, some passengers’ phone cameras went up. But psychologists say the instinct to snap a selfie in a near-death experience isn’t all narcissism—it’s also about survival and…
Whatever you do, don’t press that button. It’s a trope that’s spanned pop culture for generations—and the real world, too. But where did this Big Red Button come from? And why does sick curiosity compel us to mash it down?
People are terrified that they’re being exposed to radiation all the time, whether from distant nuclear accident or the mobile devices snuggled against their heads. Generally, they are wrong. Here are the most radioactive objects in the world around you, and the truth about which ones cause health problems.
Ever since Morpheus explained how the machines use humans as batteries in The Matrix, we’ve been fascinated by the idea. But can the human body actually generate enough current to do anything useful? We decided to find out, by asking experts how long it would take a human brain to charge an iPhone.
The most popular artificial material on Earth isn’t steel, plastic, or aluminum — it’s concrete. Thousands of years ago, we used it to build civilizations, but then our knowledge of how to make it was lost. Here’s how we discovered concrete, forgot it, and then finally cracked the mystery of what makes it so strong.
If you use Google’s new Photos app, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Skype’s new translation function, you’re using a form of AI on a daily basis. AI was first dreamed up in the 1950s, but has only recently become a practical reality — all thanks to software systems called neural networks. This is how they work.
On July 14th, the New Horizons spacecraft will make history when it sails past Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet. Even more incredible is how fast we got there. The spacecraft traveled 3 billion miles in nine and a half years. That’s about a million miles a day for almost ten years. How the heck did we do it?
With the world population projected to soar past the 11 billion mark by 2100, we’re going to need to find some creative new ways of putting food on the table. The latest science-powered plan to feed the world? Hacking photosynthesis.
You know the smell. It’s hard to describe, but the second you step on an airplane, a flood of familiarity flies up your nostrils. Airplane smell is equal parts comforting and off-putting. And it’s actually a little bit dangerous. But what is it exactly?
None of us would be alive today without plants, and if humans want to survive beyond Earth long-term, we’ll need to bring our leafy greens with us. Eventually, astronauts are going to have to become space farmers.
CRISPR, a new genome editing tool, could transform the field of biology—and a recent study on genetically-engineered human embryos has converted this promise into media hype. But scientists have been tinkering with genomes for decades. Why is CRISPR suddenly such a big deal?
You hear the phrase all the time when you’re working with computers, especially on customer service calls: “Please reboot your computer.” Why do we use the word reboot to mean “turn it off and on again”? It all goes back to tech history — and to one of the most revolutionary aspects of these computing machines.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most audacious physics experiment in human history. Now scientists are about to restart the giant particle collider for a new set of experiments. Last time, they did the almost-impossible and found the Higgs Boson. This time, they might find something even more exciting.
Every day, you hear about security flaws, viruses, and evil hacker gangs that could leave you destitute — or, worse, bring your country to its knees. But what’s the truth about these digital dangers? We asked computer security experts to separate the myths from the facts. Here’s what they said.
A lot of amazing engineering and design goes into making your smartphone. And smartphone displays are one of the most important parts — they're your window onto the internet, and the world. But the technical terms we use to describe them can be pretty confusing. Here's how to sound like you know what you're talking…
We all know the motion picture is a lie. That movement on screen? It's just a bunch of still images. Still images that seem more like believable, realistic, lifelike motion the faster they flicker along. Faster is better, and that 48 frame-per-second version of The Hobbit was just the beginning.
Matt Damon's latest film, Elysium, is set 140 years in the future where society is divided between the elites, who live in a utopian orbital society, and the rest of us, who struggle in squalor down on the planet's surface. To combat this inequality, an unsung hero installs himself into a full-body prosthetic and…
Humans have been trying to control the weather since the day we traded in our spears for shovels. Cultures from every corner of the globe have worshipped rain-granting deities, and our sci-fi villains have been obsessed with flood and drought. But in the modern era, we no longer have use for the old water gods. We've…