Giving the ultimate gift

Giving the ultimate gift

Listing your Facebook status as “organ donor” seems to induce friends to sign up at organ registries. A new study finds a strong quick surge in sign-ups that lasted a couple of weeks. Can social media serve social purposes? More »

3-D printing: Wave of the future

3-D printing: Wave of the future

Layer by layer, 3-D printers fuse tiny particles of plastic or metal, building complex parts from computer instructions — forget hold the prototype or template! How good are these parts? What are they used for? Are 3-D printers the wave of the manufacturing future? More »

A new iron age?

A new iron age?

Smelters refine aluminum ore, but not iron ore, with electricity. A new electrolytic process for refining iron ore could save vast amounts of greenhouse gases. More »

Making spears

Making spears

Spears helped our ancestors eat and defend themselves. Spearmaking required ingenuity, experiments and communication. Symmetrical stone tools with damage at the tip indicate that spears were being used in South Africa half a million years ago, according to a new study. More »

Farming, Native American style

Farming, Native American style

Native agriculture could be a sophisticated response to a challenging environment. What were the secrets of permaculture, companion cropping and corn farming? Could these techniques contribute to modern farming? More »

Calendars: A fix needed?

Calendars: A fix needed?

A “permanent” calendar could finally answer the annual, “Uh, what day is New Year’s eve this year?” question. This calendar would place each date on a specific day every year, and simplify life for schedulers. But would a permanent calendar be accepted? More »

Running out of space

Tommy and his spacedog point up to Spaceship One

With space shuttles in museums, the near-term American plan to return to space relies on other countries or private firms. What are the options? More »

Biology as engineer

Biology as engineer

Long ago, nature devised the hinge and ball and socket for appendages like legs and wings. The screw is the latest simple machine to be discovered in nature. Why do weevils, a type of beetle, have a screw? How does it help weevils survive their 3-D world? More »

Soil: Key to solving the food crisis?

Soil: Key to solving the food crisis?

Could soil help? One-third of soils are degraded. In fighting desertification, erosion and nutrient loss, some soil-restoring techniques solve multiple problems. More »

Nuclear nightmare in Japan

Nuclear nightmare in Japan

With three nuclear reactors and three pools of spent fuel teetering on the edge of meltdown, Japanese technicians struggled to throttle the nuclear demons after the gigantic tsunami. Is Fukushima closer to Chernobyl or Three Mile Island? How will the disaster affect plans for a renaissance of nuclear power? More »

I robot. Aye science!

I robot. Aye science!

Ocean technology on the move: 1: a robot sub smart enough to find stuff in the deep ocean 2: a metal fish glides for weeks under the ice 3: an electric sinker-bobber that never needs recharging 4: a research jet that flies miles above airliners. More »

Plumbing ancient Mayan plumbing!

Plumbing ancient Mayan plumbing!
A small constriction in a buried pipe shows that the Maya were using pressurized pipes before year 750. It’s more proof that when it comes to water, people get inventive! And what did the Maya do with the New World’s oldest plumbing? How about storing water, supplying drinking water, and flushing toilets? More »

Video surveillance: Who is watching you?

surveillance
London pioneered video surveillance in public, but it’s catching on fast. Many major cities have systems, and more are coming. What do these cameras learn? How do they interact with other sources of data? In this culture of disclosure should we even worry about privacy? More »

Happy Thanksgiving! We celebrate eating — and food.

Happy Thanksgiving! We celebrate eating — and food.

Happy Thanksgiving! We celebrate eating — and food. Hungry: Is that your “food clock” ringing? Why does a fruitfly need to smell? How does bitter taste to you? And could eating MSG make you fat? More »

Mechanical mouth makes debut

To measure the molecules that give food taste, you need a standardized eating machine. One has finally arrived, courtesy of food technologists in France (of all places!). Meet the mechanical masticator! More »