After installing a smart coffeepot, motion-activated sensors, and even sensors that send alerts when drawers are left open, our reporter is left feeling like a stranger in her own home.

I Automated My Apartment—And It Kind of Creeped Me Out

How do Americans feel about the sci-fi technologies promising to invade their lives? This week, pollsters from the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey of 1001 adults, revealing which technologies we’re afraid and which ones we think will never come to pass. The fears of a dystopian future are telling. When asked whether a new tech breakthrough would be a change for the better or worse, most respondents picked “worse” for implants that pump information into our brains, drones in U.S. airspace, and even robot caregivers for the elderly. About half of us are ready for driverless cars, but about three-quarters said they would not use a brain implant to improve their memory or performance, or eat lab-grown beef. Not surprisingly, the idea of trusting robots to take care of us is a little easier to digest than digesting a hamburger made by science. The body is (more) sacrosanct. 

Which is More Likely: Teleportation or Space Colonies?

The Soldier Design Competition, an annual event sponsored by MIT and the United States Military Academy at West Point, draws some the most innovative ideas from the military’s young minds. PopMech was lucky enough to visit West Point during the cadets’ presentations this year, where teams pitched more than a dozen projects to a panel of three judges. This is more than a science fair: For the past several years, Soldier Design Competition contestants have generated two or three patents per year. This is the first step of a two-part contest—the first step is here at the academy, while the finals will be held in MIT, against students, in May. 

Here, in no particular order, are five ideas that show the scope of the West Point projects that made it to the finals. It’s not necessary to believe these projects will be developed to appreciate them. It may be enough to know that the next generation of military minds has a grasp on the innovative, and the achievable. 

5 Cool Projects From West Point’s Soldier Design Competition

You need information, you go to Wikipedia—for years the user-curated site has been the default repository for looking up facts. But the information you look up on Wikipedia also creates information about you: Scientists at Harvard have found that studying searches of the online encyclopedia can gauge how many people have the flu in the United States. These findings could lead to new ways to automatically predict flu levels and direct vaccine campaigns. 


Wikipedia Searches Trace the Spread of the Flu

You need information, you go to Wikipedia—for years the user-curated site has been the default repository for looking up facts. But the information you look up on Wikipedia also creates information about you: Scientists at Harvard have found that studying searches of the online encyclopedia can gauge how many people have the flu in the United States. These findings could lead to new ways to automatically predict flu levels and direct vaccine campaigns. 

Wikipedia Searches Trace the Spread of the Flu

Google announced their smart contact lens a couple months ago – one that could measure glucose without the need to prick the skin, a huge boon for those with diabetes. Not the sort to pause and take a breath after a win like that, the mad scientists of Silicon Valley already have version 2.0 on deck at the patent office, and, like every good piece of wearable tech, it’s got a camera attached. This means that soon you could be snapping selfies in every reflective surface you walk by with just a whim and a blink. Or, better yet, you could take a picture of literally anything else. Of course, bear in mind these are just patents - it could be a little while before you’re trolling South Beach winking at every bikini you see.


Google Is Making Your Eyeball A Camera

Google announced their smart contact lens a couple months ago – one that could measure glucose without the need to prick the skin, a huge boon for those with diabetes. Not the sort to pause and take a breath after a win like that, the mad scientists of Silicon Valley already have version 2.0 on deck at the patent office, and, like every good piece of wearable tech, it’s got a camera attached. This means that soon you could be snapping selfies in every reflective surface you walk by with just a whim and a blink. Or, better yet, you could take a picture of literally anything else. Of course, bear in mind these are just patents - it could be a little while before you’re trolling South Beach winking at every bikini you see.

Google Is Making Your Eyeball A Camera

The World’s cities will need to accommodate an additional 2.4 billion people by 2050, according to the World Health Organization, and a growing number of architects think those residents could live in wooden skyscrapers. Every cubic meter of wood sequesters 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere. Compared with concrete and steel, building with lumber would reduce emissions by up to 81 percent, says architect Michael Green, who will complete construction on British Columbia’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre in September. The finished structure is expected to be 96.7 feet, which will make it the world’s tallest wooden building. Wooden architecture is reaching these new heights thanks to mass timber. Composed of thin layers of wood from young or low-grade trees glued together into giant panels up to 16 inches thick, mass timber is stronger than a regular 2 x 4, allowing architects to build towers as high as 42 stories. 

Tree-Scrapers: 6 Wooden Buildings Reaching New Heights

A team of astrophysicists at the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center has just reached a major milestone in the search for life-supporting planets outside our solar system. For the first time, they have discovered an Earth-sized planet nestled in the temperate, liquid-water supporting distance from its star—the so-called habitable zone. "This is a historic discovery," says Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the research, "it’s the best case for a habitable planet yet found." 

First Earth-Sized, Potentially Habitable Exoplanet Found

On May 5, 2013, the world’s first 3D-printedplastic gun was fired. Called the Liberator, it was designed and output by a group called Defense Distributed, headed by a 25-year-old Texas law student and committed libertarian named Cody Wilson. Hand-wringing and debate ensued. Depending on whom you asked, the 3D-printed gun was a deadly threat or an important Second Amendment advance—but, whether they feared it or loved it, most commentators agreed that the Liberator was a major milestone of some kind. Now that a year has passed, it’s time to ask just how broadly the gun has transformed society. 

Should We Be Afraid of the 3D Printed Gun?

The Wankel T. rex is one of the most complete dinosaurs in the world and will soon be viewed by millions visiting the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum starting in 2019. But how did they get it there?


Transporting an Entire T. Rex

The Wankel T. rex is one of the most complete dinosaurs in the world and will soon be viewed by millions visiting the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum starting in 2019. But how did they get it there?

Transporting an Entire T. Rex

How Long Could a Message in a Bottle Last?



Last week, a fisherman plucked a 100-year-old message in a bottle out of the Baltic Sea. What are the odds? Here are some message-in-a-bottle tips straight from ocean scientists: 
Aim for a body of water with predictable current. Chances are, you didn’t choose your uncharted island. But next time, think Baltic Sea. Choose a dark beer bottle. None of that see-through Corona glass. Gulp down your last bottle of Guinness, and prepare to be rescued. Roll your message inward. Ignore this step (and all of the other steps), if your desert island didn’t come with a pen and paper. Barnacles: No. Seaweed: Yes. Barnacles weigh down your bottle. Seaweed floats for a reason. When you’re plotting the best course for your last-ditch effort, steer clear of heavy marine life. 

How Long Could a Message in a Bottle Last?

Last week, a fisherman plucked a 100-year-old message in a bottle out of the Baltic Sea. What are the odds? Here are some message-in-a-bottle tips straight from ocean scientists: 

Aim for a body of water with predictable current. Chances are, you didn’t choose your uncharted island. But next time, think Baltic Sea. 

Choose a dark beer bottle. None of that see-through Corona glass. Gulp down your last bottle of Guinness, and prepare to be rescued. 

Roll your message inward. Ignore this step (and all of the other steps), if your desert island didn’t come with a pen and paper. 

Barnacles: No. Seaweed: Yes. Barnacles weigh down your bottle. Seaweed floats for a reason. When you’re plotting the best course for your last-ditch effort, steer clear of heavy marine life.