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Technology

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.

Researchers have embedded gold particles in soft films that dissipate light energy at the surface of the eye and could have future medical uses.

Bailey Bedford, Contributor

Picture of a person's hand holding the processed wood, which has turned bright white.

Researchers have modified wood not only to make it stronger but to make it capable of cool itselfing, which may lead to energy savings.

Bailey Bedford, Contributor

Insect hearing systems are inspiring new microphone designs that can better identify the direction a sound comes from.

Bailey Bedford, Contributor

So-called plastic crystals could open new avenues in the quest to make refrigerators with only solid components.

Brian Owens, Contributor

Image shows busy road with cars emitting signals to each other to assist with self driving.

The problem could be particularly bad in rental cars.

Joel Shurkin, Contributor

Such cyborg partnerships could aid law enforcement during manhunts.

Charles Q. Choi, Contributor

Researchers develop a new technique that uses artificial intelligence to summarize long scientific papers.

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

Person standing by a barbed wire fence with their back to the camera is pointing a green laser at an airplane in flight.

New proof of concept could guard against the disorienting effects of laser pointers invading the cockpit.

Chris Gorski, Editor

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

Alistair Jennings, Contributor

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