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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.

Using a device typically engaged to study rockets, researchers examined how whales hear.

James Gaines, Contributor

Before learning what can be done with graphene, we need to know what can be done to graphene.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

The noble gas can help bring atoms together.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Scientists are developing a "living sensor" that eats hydrocarbons to monitor the country's extensive network of petroleum pipelines.

Tracy Staedter, Contributor

Scientists discussed the feasibility of battery-operated semi-trucks and airplanes at a meeting of physicists in Los Angeles.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

The innovation could one day help marine biologists eavesdrop on whales and equip submarines with more sensitive sonar.

Catherine Meyers, Editor

Some of the so-called “hygrobots” can spontaneously advance across a wet surface.

Catherine Meyers, Editor

Chinese scientists have built two major quantum infrastructure projects, and the race is on to take the next step.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

The image shows a flight simulator with a cockpit with controls, as well as a set of screens with a pilot's view of the plane's surroundings.

Researchers are learning how to train pilots for the unexpected.

Joel Shurkin, Contributor

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