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SpaceX Claims Partial Success with Rocket Crash Landing

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 13:42

Success would redefine the economics of space travel, but SpaceX’s reusable rocket shows that it’s still hard to perform a safe landing.

As if launching a rocket into space weren’t enough, on Saturday SpaceX tried to bring one safely back to earth by setting it down on a floating landing pad.

Robot Journalist Finds New Work on Wall Street

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 16:20

Software that turns data into written text could help us make sense of a coming tsunami of data.

Software that was first put to work writing news reports has now found another career option: drafting reports for financial giants and U.S. intelligence agencies.

A Bendable Implant Taps the Nervous System without Damaging It

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 14:00

Swiss researchers allow rats to walk again with a rubbery electronic implant.

Medicine these days entertains all kinds of ambitious plans for reading off brain signals to control wheelchairs, or using electronics to bypass spinal injuries. But most of these ideas for implants that can interface with the nervous system run up against a basic materials problem: wires are stiff and bodies are soft.

CES 2015: Unleash the Drones!

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 15:00

Prepare for takeoff. Unmanned aircraft are a rapidly growing category in consumer electronics.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it sometimes felt as if an army of drones had been released and was looking for something useful to do.

CES 2015: Nvidia Demos a Car Computer Trained with “Deep Learning”

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 17:21

A commercial device uses powerful image and information processing to let cars interpret 360° camera views.

Many cars now include cameras or other sensors that record the passing world and trigger intelligent behavior, such as automatic braking or steering to avoid an obstacle. Today’s systems are usually unable to tell the difference between a trash can and traffic cop standing next to it, though.

Nvidia Demos a Car Computer Trained with “Deep Learning”

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 17:21

A commercial device uses powerful image and information processing to let cars interpret 360° camera views.

Many cars now include cameras or other sensors that record the passing world and trigger intelligent behavior, such as automatic braking or steering to avoid an obstacle. Today’s systems are usually unable to tell the difference between a trash can and traffic cop standing next to it, though.

CES 2015: Wearables Everywhere

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 15:15

At the annual gadget show, wearable-device makers are moving beyond activity-tracking wristbands.

The International Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas this week, is a vast celebration of every imaginable gadget and gizmo, from self-cleaning smartphone screens to self-driving cars. And while the event is not always a reliable guide (think 3-D TVs), it does reveal the industry’s best guess of what consumers might want next.

The Top Technology Failures of 2014

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 00:00

What do the latest technologies to flop, fizzle, and flame out tell us about innovation?

All successful technologies are alike, but every failed technology flops in its own way.

2014 in Biomedicine: Rewriting DNA, Decoding the Brain, and a GMO Paradox

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 00:00

From genetically modified foods to gene therapy, 2014 was a big year for rewriting biology.

The year began with a landmark event. A decade after the first human genome was decoded at a cost of about $3 billion, the sequencing-machine company Illumina, of San Diego, introduced a new model, the Hyseq X-10, that can do it for around $1,000 per genome.

2014 in Computing: Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence

Mon, 12/29/2014 - 00:00

The past year saw new breakthroughs in making intelligent software and using it to solve problems in areas such as medicine.


The holy grail of artificial intelligence—creating software that comes close to mimicking human intelligence—remains far off. But 2014 saw major strides in machine learning software that can gain abilities from experience. Companies in sectors from biotech to computing turned to these new techniques to solve tough problems or develop new products.

2014 in Materials: Rhubarb Batteries, the Gigafactory, and Printing Body Parts

Sun, 12/28/2014 - 00:00

In 2014, advanced materials let humans scale glass walls and helped clear the way for cheap, clean energy.



The most important advances in materials this year could make cleaner vehicles and renewable electricity more affordable.

2014 in Numbers: Huge Valuations, Shocking Security Stats, and a Big Climate Deal

Sat, 12/27/2014 - 00:00

From Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp to the possibility of peak coal in China, the numbers told the tale.




Compelling technology stories in 2014 could be told through some of the numbers behind them.

2014 in Energy: Dire Warnings, Slow Progress, and a Fusion Boast

Fri, 12/26/2014 - 00:00

The year saw a major new report on climate change—and modest movement on renewables, carbon burial, and emissions agreements.

In 2014, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued stark warnings in its latest assessment of climate science, projecting potentially catastrophic outcomes if greenhouse-gas emissions are not brought in check.

2014 in Energy: The Year in Energy and Climate Change

Fri, 12/26/2014 - 00:00

The year saw dire predictions on climate change—and modest progress on renewables, carbon burial, and emissions agreements.


In 2014, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued stark warnings in its latest assessment of climate science, projecting potentially catastrophic outcomes if greenhouse-gas emissions are not brought in check.

2014 in Mobile: Wearable Gadgets Galore

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 00:00

Wearable technology finally took off in 2014, although some devices fared better than others.

In 2014, the hottest theme in mobile technology was the introduction of wearable gadgets that can track everything from seizures to how much sunlight you soak up. Device makers large and small attempted to make wearables that are both functional and fashionable.

2014 in Mobile: The Year of Wearable Gadgets

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 00:00

Wearable devices took center stage in mobile, and 2015 should be a landmark year for them.

In 2014, the hottest theme in mobile technology was the introduction of wearable gadgets that can track everything from seizures to how much sunlight you soak up. Device makers large and small attempted to make wearables that are both functional and fashionable.

“Smart” Software Can Be Tricked Into Seeing What Isn’t There

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 00:00

Humans and software see some images differently, pointing out shortcomings of recent breakthroughs in machine learning.

A technique called deep learning has enabled recent breakthroughs from Google and other companies in getting computers to understand the content of photos. Now researchers at Cornell University and the University of Wyoming have shown how to make images that fool such software into seeing things that aren’t there.

Singapore Wants a Driverless Version of Uber

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 00:00

Singapore plans to let anyone test driverless cars in one of its busy neighborhoods in 2015.

As driverless cars edge slowly toward commercial reality, some people are wondering how cities might change as a result. Will traffic lights disappear? Will parking garages become obsolete? Will carpooling become the norm?

The Mystery of Autism

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 00:05

Can Japan Recapture Its Solar Power?

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 00:05

The way the Land of the Rising Sun built and lost its dominance in photovoltaics shows just how vulnerable renewables remain to changing politics and national policies.

It’s 38 °C on the Atsumi Peninsula southwest of Tokyo: a deadly heat wave has been gripping much of Japan late this summer. Inside the offices of a newly built power plant operated by the plastics company Mitsui Chemicals, the AC is blasting. Outside, 215,000 solar panels are converting the blistering sunlight into 50 megawatts of electricity for the local grid. Three 118-meter-high wind turbines erected at the site add six megawatts of generation capacity to back up the solar panels during the winter.

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