Innovations that shape our world

Since early humans first tended fires and sharpened spears, we’ve sought to apply our knowledge to shape the natural world to suit our needs. Here we chronicle the promise and pitfalls of this basic human drive in all its present day manifestations – from robots and AI to nanotechnology and materials to devices, transportation, engineering and manmade disasters.

A Swedish company launches one of the first models of an all-electric powerboat.
James Gaines, Contributor
Low-flying aircraft could soon fill the skies. Scientists are trying to fight the noise they could bring.
Katharine Gammon, Contributor
Robots and self-driving cars could deliver packages efficiently. But will they create new hazards?
Krystal Vasquez, Contributor
The self-powered machine kills dangerous bacteria with an electric field.
Zack Savitsky, Contributor
The new technology may one day be able to grasp microscopic objects such as human eggs.
Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
Researchers established a new kind of environmentally friendly and cost-effective catalyst.
Chris Gorski, Editor
A new study looked beneath blacked-out portions of letters to see if a relationship with a Swedish count was more than a friendship.
Katharine Gammon, Contributor
Contenders in Nikon Small World in Motion video contest showcase wonders from the microscopic world.
Catherine Meyers, Editor
You may not know a snap fit by its name, but they're all around us from pen caps to some water bottle caps.
Inside Science Contributor
The chips may be the smallest ever human-designed flying machines.
Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
The material, which mimics the structure of an araucaria leaf, might one day be used to help clean oil spills.
Benjamin Plackett, Contributor
New Orleans is suffering now, but almost everywhere in the country can experience power problems during extreme weather.
Tom Metcalfe, Contributor