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Elections Don’t Work at All. You Can Blame the Math

Elections Don’t Work at All. You Can Blame the Math

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died in December of 2017; the election to replace him was Tuesday. No one knows who won. Partially that’s because the votes are still trickling in. Mail-in ballots merely had to be postmarked by election day, and as I write […]

We Need to Talk About Robots Trying to Pass as Humans

We Need to Talk About Robots Trying to Pass as Humans

Westworld is a hell of a show, but the sense of dread it elicits is nothing new. Pygmalion sculpted a woman who came to life. Same goes with the Golem, only with mud. The amalgamated Frankenstein jolted awake to get all murderous. Humans creating life […]

Alternatives to Cobalt, the Blood Diamond of Batteries

Alternatives to Cobalt, the Blood Diamond of Batteries

When John Goodenough created the first lithium-ion rechargeable battery at Oxford in 1980, he needed some cobalt. Experiments had already established that the metal is energy-dense, perfect for small batteries that need a lot of power.1 So Goodenough made the cobalt himself, heating the precursors […]

Can This State Finally Put a Price on Carbon?

Can This State Finally Put a Price on Carbon?

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Beth Brunton’s magenta umbrella shields her from the weather on an April afternoon in Seattle. It’s a curious sight, because today is the first day in months without a drop of rain. It’s 75 degrees, […]

Solar Panels Power New Schools—and New Ways of Learning

Solar Panels Power New Schools—and New Ways of Learning

Dressed in pastel pink and green for an early spring day, second-grader Katherine Cribbs was learning about energy on a virtual field trip—to her own school. With a flurry of touch-screen taps, she explored the “energy dashboard” of Discovery Elementary in Arlington, Virginia. On her […]

Crispr Fans Fight for Egalitarian Access to Gene Editing

Crispr Fans Fight for Egalitarian Access to Gene Editing

A journalist, a soup exec, and an imam walk into a room. There’s no joke here. It’s just another day at CrisprCon. On Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of scientists, industry folk, and public health officials from all over the world filled the amphitheater at the […]

The Race to Send Robots to Mine the Ocean Floor

The Race to Send Robots to Mine the Ocean Floor

When the 300-foot Maersk Launcher docked in San Diego early Monday morning, it unloaded a cargo of hardened black blobs scooped from the bottom of the sea. The blobs are not rocks, but naturally-occurring metallic nodules that could one day yield metal deposits of cobalt, […]

Humans Tracked Iceland’s Glaciers For Ages. Now, Tech Does

Humans Tracked Iceland’s Glaciers For Ages. Now, Tech Does

This story originally appeared on Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. A 30-meter, Komelon-branded measuring tape, a pencil, and a yellow paper form are all Hallsteinn Haraldsson carries with him when he travels to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland. But unfurling the measuring tape before […]

Physics Face-off: The Momentum Principle vs. Newton’s 2nd Law

Physics Face-off: The Momentum Principle vs. Newton’s 2nd Law

Consider the following physics problem. An object with a mass of 1 kg and a velocity of 1 m/s in the x-direction has a net force of 1 Newton pushing on it (also in the x-direction). What will the velocity of the object be after […]

Why Apple Can’t Tackle Digital Wellness in a Vacuum

Why Apple Can’t Tackle Digital Wellness in a Vacuum

On Monday at its annual developer’s conference, Apple unveiled several new features designed to help users understand and manage the time they spend on their iOS devices. There’s new time-and location-based Do Not Disturb modes; a suite of notification-management tools; and a clever lock screen […]