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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.

Machine learning turbocharges the process of identifying molecules to test for bacteria-attacking properties.

Brian Owens, Contributor

Early research suggests virus can protect rodents without negative side effects.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Picture shows what looks like a model bridge made of compressed sand grains, sitting on a lab table, next to beakers full of green liquid.

Combine sand, gelatin and bacteria, let them rest, and watch one brick turn into eight.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

New design is able to stabilize itself.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

Using media to brighten up dull tasks leaves adolescents feeling both better and worse.

Amanda Heidt, Contributor

A month's worth of cool science stories summed up.

Alistair Jennings, Contributor

The lightweight sheets could combine hundreds of vibrating components to create tactile sensations.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Instead of packing more pixels into displays, engineers are learning how to trick our eyes and brains to see higher resolutions in the virtual world.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

An experiment off the coast of California may bolster efforts to make biocrude from "the Sequoia of the sea."

Katharine Gammon, Contributor

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