Hit the mute button: why everyone is trying to silence the outside world

June 13, 2019

Uber is trialling a feature that allows customers to stop their drivers from talking. But theres growing evidence that cutting ourselves off like this isnt healthy The mute button was invented in 1956 by Robert Adler, an Austrian-born engineer working for the Zenith Radio Corporation in Chicago. It was one of the four buttons on his Space Command 400, the first commercially viable TV remote control. The other three buttons…


The Apple Watch Is Now the Control Center for Your Health

June 6, 2019

This week at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple executive Kevin Lynch announced multiple updates to WatchOS, the operating system that powers the company's smartwatch. (Voice memos, a calculator, streaming audio, oh my!) But the most telling features were the new additions to the watch's suite of health-monitoring tools. Beginning this fall, Apple Watch will track your activity trends over time, help protect your hearing by alerting you to harmful levels…


AI Could Predict Death. But What If the Algorithm Is Biased?

April 23, 2019

Earlier this month the University of Nottingham published a study in PloSOne about a new artificial intelligence model that uses machine learning to predict the risk of premature death, using banked health data (on age and lifestyle factors) from Brits aged 40 to 69. This study comes months after a joint study between UC San Francisco, Stanford, and Google, which reported results of machine-learning-based data mining of electronic health records…


China Finds Phone-Wielding Tourists and Telescopes Don’t Mesh

April 20, 2019

If a giant telescope observes the universe, and no one around can take a picture of it, does it really exist? The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope—located in Guizhou, China—will have to find out. New regulations, put into effect in early April, ban (among other things) cell phones, smart wearables, drones, and digital cameras within 5 kilometers of the dish and impose uncomfortably large fines on those who break the…


Youre Not Getting Enough Sleepand Its Killing You

April 20, 2019

The whole world is exhausted. And it’s killing us. But particularly me. As I write this, I’m at TED 2019 in Vancouver, which is a weeklong marathon of talks and workshops and coffee meetings and experiences and demos and late-night trivia contests and networking, networking, networking. Meanwhile, I’m sick as a dog with a virus I caught from my 3-year-old, I’m on deadline for what feels like a bazillion stories,…


The Rebirth of Radio Astronomy

September 17, 2018

In the early 1930s, Bell Labs was experimenting with making wireless transatlantic calls. The communications goliath wanted to understand the static that might crackle across the ocean, so it asked an engineer named Karl Jansky to investigate its sources. He found three: nearby thunderstorms, distant thunderstorms, and a steady hiss, coming from … somewhere. Jansky studied the hiss for a year, using a rudimentary antenna that looked like toppled scaffolding,…


China Built the Worlds Largest Telescope. Then Came the Tourists

September 2, 2018

Credit Intentionally Withheld The day before, Stierwalt had traveled from Southern California to Pingtang Astronomy Town for a conference hosted by scientists from the world’s largest telescope. It was a new designation: China’s Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, had been completed just a year before, in September 2016. Wandering, tipsy, around this shrine to the stars, the 40 or so other foreign astronomers had come to China to…


Trump’s New Power Plan Comes With a Deadly Price

August 23, 2018

West Virginia is second only to Wyoming in both coal production and President Trump’s winning vote percentage in the 2016 general election. So it was no surprise that Trump flew to the Mountain State on Tuesday to stump for his new plan to boost coal-fired power plants by cutting regulations on planet-warming carbon emissions. “We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal,” Trump told supporters at the Charleston Civic Center, while…


Google Glass for autistic kids

August 3, 2018

Image: Google/REX/Shutterstock Google Glass may have never been a hit with the average consumer, but it could soon become an important tool for children with autism who hope to improve their social skills.  A new exploratory study published in npj Digital Medicineprovides fresh evidence that augmented reality glasses paired with the right software can make a big difference for kids with autism.  SEE ALSO: Teens who spend tons of time…


23andMe Goes Global In Its Data-Mining Efforts

May 19, 2018

Yanny or Laurel—could the secret to which word you hear be in your DNA? It’s a notion someone pitched at 23andMe headquarters Thursday, during the consumer genetics outfit’s annual Genome Research Day. (Spoiler: The company is not going to roll out a survey to see if the latest meme has a genetic component.) The event—a sort of cross between a science fair and a recruiting booth—attracted more than 100 researchers…