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.

Haptic training could help expert musicians and top athletes break through their performance ceilings.
Tom Metcalfe, Contributor
Scientists can identify plants by the light they reflect.
Tess Joosse, Contributor
A recent experiment has created a one-way quantum network between two labs, reaching a milestone on the path to creating a quantum internet.
Meredith Fore, Contributor
Researchers say the morphing wings and tail of their robotic flyer allow it to soar at low speeds and make sharp maneuvers.
Tom Metcalfe, Contributor
Researchers converted a plastic bag and bottle cap into a type of chemical used in pharmaceuticals, detergents, paints and other products.
Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
Samuel Acheampong is using the Nobel Prize-recognized technique to tweak the genes of traditional Ghanaian crops.
Catherine Meyers, Editor
A simple equation based on a series of experiments from the 1950s still serves as the rule of thumb for estimating road damage.
Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer
Seventy-five years after Hans Geiger’s death, we explore how his most famous invention detects radiation.
Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator
Driverless cars may soon routinely join human motorists on roads around the world.
Katharine Gammon, Contributor
The tiny robots walk using platinum leg muscles that get their energy from laser light.
Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
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