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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.

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

A conversation with computational linguist Emily M. Bender about the ways artificial intelligence can go wrong.

Chris Gorski, Editor

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

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