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.

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
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
Researchers have created a tech that can track health markers -- all from the toilet seat.
Katharine Gammon, Contributor
Someday, such supports could allow meat in the lab to grow from tiny hamburger-nuggets into something more like steak.
Charles Q. Choi, Contributor
In North America, water companies may lose up to 50% of water before it ever reaches customers.
Catherine Meyers, Editor
A conversation with computational linguist Emily M. Bender about the ways artificial intelligence can go wrong.
Chris Gorski, Editor
Machine learning turbocharges the process of identifying molecules to test for bacteria-attacking properties.
Brian Owens, Contributor