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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.

New tests, masks, and ventilators developed this month may help fight the pandemic.

Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator

Like biological brains, artificial neural networks may depend on slow-wave sleep for learning.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Celebrate the International Day of Light on May 16, 2020

Jason Socrates Bardi, Editor

A small robot sits atop a pile of poppy seeds meant to represent shifting soil.

Researchers have developed unique gaits for rovers to prevent them from getting stuck in deep sand or soil.

Meredith Fore, Contributor

NASA will soon see if specially designed blades spinning really fast can carry a small chopper through the planet’s barely there atmosphere.

Catherine Meyers, Editor

Researchers have created a tech that can track health markers -- all from the toilet seat.

Katharine Gammon, Contributor

Someday, such supports could allow meat in the lab to grow from tiny hamburger-nuggets into something more like steak.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

When Tasmanian devils flourish, so do the small mammals preyed upon by feral cats.

Joshua Learn, Contributor

In North America, water companies may lose up to 50% of water before it ever reaches customers.

Catherine Meyers, Editor

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