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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.

Isotopes produced in the original Manhattan Project reactors seeded decades of research and even a few Nobel Prizes.

Catherine Meyers, Editor

Speakers set on bars inside the windows cancel out unwanted noise, using technology similar to that in noise-canceling headphones.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

The new metal alloy, created using a laser manufacturing technique, possesses properties that rival the legendary material from medieval times.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Testers who wore these devices that track sweatiness found the data useful for monitoring emotions and managing stress.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

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

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