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No Antenna Could Survive Europa’s Brutal, Radioactive Environment—Until Now

Marek Denko/Noemotion There’s no planned mission to send a lander to Europa, but this artist’s rendition gives a sense of what one such lander might look like, including the new antenna design necessary for staying in touch with Earth. Europa, one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, has twice as much liquid water as Earth’s oceans,...

Stratospheric Balloons Take Monitoring and Surveillance to New Heights

StoryTK Alphabet’s enthusiasm for ­balloons deflated earlier this year, when it announced that its high-altitude Internet company, Loon, could not become commercially viable. But while the stratosphere might not be a great place to put a cellphone tower, it could be the sweet spot for cameras, argue a host of high-tech startups. The...

This Huge DIY Workbench Gives You a Hand

James Provost Finally, a bench that helps you build. As an avid experimenter and builder of random contraptions—and who isn’t the best at putting his tools away and normally has multiple projects in various stages of completion—I often run out of work space. So I decided to build a new workbench. One that would be better,...

We Don’t Need a Jetsons Future, Just a Sustainable One

Alvaro Dominguez For decades, our vision of the future has been stuck in a 1960s-era dream of science fiction embodied by The Jetsons and space travel. But that isn’t what we need right now. In fact, what if our vision of that particular technologically advanced future is all wrong? What if, instead of self-driving cars, digital assistants...

How the IBM PC Won, Then Lost, the Personal Computer Market

Mark Richards/Computer History Museum The IBM PC, introduced in August 1981, helped reassure corporate customers that personal computing was serious. On 12 August 1981, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan, IBM unveiled the company’s entrant into the nascent personal computer market: the IBM PC. With that, the...

U.S. Mint Honors Game Developer Ralph Baer

UNITED STATES MINT THE INSTITUTE Gamers and coin collectors alike can now celebrate Ralph Baer’s contributions with an American Innovation dollar from the U.S. Mint. Baer, an IEEE Fellow who is considered the father of the video game, developed the Brown Box, which paved the way for modern home video game consoles including the PlayStation...

Nothing Can Keep This Drone Down

When life knocks you down, you’ve got to get back up. Ladybugs take this advice seriously in the most literal sense. If caught on their backs, the insects are able to use their tough exterior wings, called elytra (of late made famous in the game Minecraft), to self-right themselves in just a fraction of a second. Inspired by this approach, researchers...

Cloud Computing’s Coming Energy Crisis

Harry Campbell How much of our computing now happens in the cloud? A lot. Providers of public cloud services alone take in more than a quarter of a trillion U.S. dollars a year. That’s why Amazon, Google, and Microsoft maintain massive data centers all around the world. Apple and Facebook, too, run similar facilities, all stuffed with...

Cuba Jamming Ham Radio? Listen For Yourself

As anti-government protests spilled onto the streets in Cuba on July 11, something strange was happening on the airwaves. Amateur radio operators in the United States found that suddenly parts of the popular 40-meter band were being swamped with grating signals. Florida operators reported the signals were loudest there, enough to make communication...

Solar-to-Hydrogen Water Splitter Outlasts Next Best Tech By 14x

To split water into hydrogen on a large scale, we need technologies that are sustainable, efficient, scalable and durable. Using solar energy (or other renewable energy sources) to split water delivers sustainability, while recent research has made key inroads toward efficiency and scalability. Now Japanese researchers say they’ve made an important...

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