Harvard's "Frankenstein:" The 70s Controversy Over Mixing DNA

In the 1970s, two inhuman creatures—one hairy and tall, another with orange eyes—were spotted in New England. The mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, blamed these monsters not on unreliable testimonies, but recombinant DNA technology, then a new and promising laboratory technique. » 3/30/15 4:05pm Yesterday 4:05pm

Meet the Guy Who Makes Apps for Ghost Hunters 

We don't usually think of talking to ghosts as a high-tech activity. But one guy is making a living off of ghost hunting apps, and his story from homelessness to app entrepreneur is actually pretty extraordinary. » 3/27/15 7:30pm Friday 7:30pm

How a Virus Can Make Water Boil Faster

Here are some things that won't make water boil faster: watching the pot, adding salt. And here's something that does: nanostructures made from plant viruses, which subtly alter the physical properties of bubbling water. » 3/27/15 3:47pm Friday 3:47pm

It's Official, Kitty Litter Caused a Drum of Nuclear Waste to Explode  

A drum full of radioactive waste exploded at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico last February, sparking serious safety concerns about the U.S.'s only longterm nuclear storage site. A yearlong government investigation has officially fingered the long-suspected culprit: kitty litter. » 3/27/15 12:52pm Friday 12:52pm

Our Skyscrapers Are Causing Bizarre "Thundersnow" 

Your typical thunderstorm strikes in summer, when the atmosphere is full of warm, moist air. So when lightning strikes in the middle of a winter blizzard, there is something strange going on. Thundersnow involves an entirely different type of lightning, and our skyscrapers are a key part of it. » 3/26/15 8:10pm Thursday 8:10pm

The Origin of Color Bars on TV, and Other Standard Test Files 

Occasionally, we get to catch a glimpse of the hidden tests that ensure our technology-infused world runs smoothly: color bars on TV or blocks of "lorem ipsum" gibberish text. There's a fascinating story behind how each of these tests came to be and how they work. » 3/26/15 4:00pm Thursday 4:00pm

The Surprising Way Japan's 2011 Earthquake Is Still Changing the Climate

The 9.0 Tohoku earthquake damaged thousands of buildings when it ripped through Japan four years ago. Much of that debris is gone now, but the broken buildings had an invisible effect, too: The earthquake released thousands of tons of ozone-destroying greenhouse gases into the air. » 3/26/15 3:36pm Thursday 3:36pm

Iceland Has Become the Perfect Genetics Experiment 

A millenium ago, a group settled in Iceland and have stayed there ever since, with few people coming and going. And so their DNA has stayed remarkably homogenous. That's a major boon for genetics researchers, who today have released the results of sequencing the complete genomes of 2,636 Icelanders—the largest such… » 3/25/15 5:25pm Wednesday 5:25pm

Why the Length of Saturn's Day Is So Hard to Measure 

The length of a planet's day seems like such a simple number, a basic piece of information that should accompany any solar system diagram. But probes flying past Saturn have turned up oddly conflicting numbers. » 3/25/15 5:00pm Wednesday 5:00pm

Should We Freak Out That a Common Herbicide Is "Probably Carcinogenic?"

Glyphosate, better known as Roundup, is widely used to kill weeds, especially along with genetically modified crops engineered to be glyphosate-resistant. The World Health Organization today released an assessment calling the weedkiller "probably carcinogenic." But it's not as scary as it sounds. » 3/25/15 3:11pm Wednesday 3:11pm

50 Years Ago, NASA Astronauts Smuggled a Corned Beef Sandwich Into Space

On March 23, 1965, astronaut John Young reached into his pocket and offered his crewmate Gus Grissom a corned beef sandwich. It was in the middle of the Gemini 3 mission, and let's be clear, they were in space. It was a silly little prank but one that, man, really pissed off Congress. » 3/24/15 5:55pm 3/24/15 5:55pm

This 370-Mile Highway Made of Ice Stretches Through Canada Every Winter

For vast majority of the year, the only way to reach remote but lucrative gold and diamond mines in Canada's northwest is by air. But every winter, something crazy happens. A 370-mile long highway is built almost entirely on ice—and it's strong enough for 70-ton trucks laden with fuel and supplies. » 3/24/15 2:55pm 3/24/15 2:55pm

Nootropics and the Human Lab Rats of Reddit

Eric Matzner tells me he takes 30 to 40 pills a day. He is 27 and perfectly healthy. Thanks to the pills, he says he hasn't had a cold in years. More importantly, the regimen is supposed to optimize the hell out of his brain, smoothing right over the ravages of aging, sleep deprivation, and hangovers. » 3/24/15 11:00am 3/24/15 11:00am

An Amazing View of ISS Crossing the Sun During an Eclipse 

Photographer Thierry Legault shot what may be the coolest view yet of the today's solar eclipse: the International Space Station's weird little silhouette flying across a thin sliver of visible sun. » 3/20/15 2:55pm 3/20/15 2:55pm

Americans -- Why Is Your Insulin So Expensive?

Insulin has saved countless lives since its discovery in 1921. But nearly a century later, there is somehow still no cheap, generic version of insulin available in the U.S—making the "wonder drug" too expensive for many patients. Why?
» 3/20/15 2:10pm 3/20/15 2:10pm

"Biodegradeable" Plastic Is Not So Biodegradeable After All

Biodegradeable plastic, now often found in plastic bags and bottles, contains additives that are supposed to get microbes to break down tough plastic faster. But a new study from Michigan State University finds that some of these additives may actually doing, well, jackshit. » 3/19/15 2:10pm 3/19/15 2:10pm

The MAVEN Spacecraft Has Spotted a Strange Aurora on Mars 

While you were looking for an aurora on Earth last night, NASA scientists were preparing to unveil something far more unusual: an aurora on Mars, unlike any seen on the red planet before. » 3/18/15 7:29pm 3/18/15 7:29pm

Man, It's Still So Easy to Fool Facial Recognition Software 

Passwords suck, so why not replace them with facial recognition? Because facial recognition software still kind of sucks, too, as Dan Moren discovered in Popular Science after a little craft project easily fooled his bank app. » 3/18/15 5:15pm 3/18/15 5:15pm

The Neuroscience of Why Virtual Reality Still Sucks

The faceputer ads say virtual reality is coming and it's gonna work this time. But here's some real talk: There are still many ways virtual reality cannot fool the human brain. And it has little to do with the tech itself. Instead, it's about neuroscience and our brain's perceptual limits. » 3/18/15 3:05pm 3/18/15 3:05pm

Here's What Could Happen If Antarctica's Ice Is Melting From Below

File this under, "Welp, this is worse than we thought." A study published in Nature Geoscience finds that warm seawater is likely getting under an East Antarctica glacier and melting it from below. If the glacier's ice shelf melts, runway melting could cause another 11 feet of sea-level rise—that's on top of… » 3/17/15 8:20pm 3/17/15 8:20pm