Popular Science


Exclusive first look: Daisy is Apple's new robot that eats iPhones and spits out recyclable parts

Popular Science

Inside a facility in Austin, Texas, there's a huge box filled with hundreds of dead iPhones. It's a salad of smashed screens and bent cases that spans nine different models--from iPhone 5 to the iPhone 8 plus, minus the plastic 5C (sorry, little guy). These devices are waiting for their chance to travel through Daisy, Apple's new robotic disassembly system. Daisy salvages raw materials, so they can be recycled, rather than join the more than 35 million tons of e-waste that hit landfills in 2016. Daisy addresses many needs for Apple--from sustainability to secrecy--but its explicit purpose is to separate the phone into discrete parts, which the company can send out for processing by its partners.


An evolutionary biologist takes on the absurd bodies of superheroes

Popular Science

We try to take characters from the comic book universe, not just superheroes, but also other figures of science fiction -- dinosaurs, robots, giant monsters. We use them as archetypes to explore the place where fact meets fiction. Arguably, the thing that separates Peter Parker from other superheroes in the comic book universe is that he uses these webs. These webs are a huge part of his persona. He has to engineer it.


The Lighthouse security camera uses AI to recognize your family and your pets

Popular Science

Security cameras have come a long way from the dumb, unblinking eyes that looked out over our homes just a few years ago. Now, AI tech is increasingly important for things like face and behavior recognition so your camera can alert you when something is up without bombarding you with unnecessary alerts. Lighthouse isn't a big name like Ring or Amazon, but its stand-alone security camera has a lot of smart features, even if the video quality won't blow you away with its fidelity. The initial setup is incredibly simple. You download the app, connect to the camera, bring it onto your home network and then you're pretty much good to go.


Humans may have a surprising evolutionary advantage: Expressive eyebrows

Popular Science

It's one of the first things you notice when you look at archaic human relatives in a natural history textbook or museum. Just above the eyes rests an imposing feature, a prominent brow ridge that juts out above the eye sockets. But why did many of our distant relatives have this distinct facial feature? Why don't we have it anymore? Over the years, scientists have suggested plenty of solutions.


Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal: how to find out if your data was compromised

Popular Science

There are three basic categories of response. That's great news, but Facebook is still investigating other companies, so don't do a celebration dance just yet, because more news is likely coming. There's also a chance that you downloaded and used the This Is Your Digital Life app through which researchers were able to directly collect data. If this is the case, all of the people with whom you were friends around 2015 were also affected. The final option is the message pictured above.


These seafaring robots will search for life across the solar system

Popular Science

We recognize Earth as the blue planet, but it's not the only ocean world in our neighborhood. Oceans may be concealed beneath thick crusts of ice on moons orbiting Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, and on the dwarf planets Pluto and Eris. Saturn's moon Titan even boasts liquid seas right on its surface, although they are full of methane rather than water. If anywhere in our solar system holds signs of life, it is likely to be these frigid worlds. Scientists are determined to explore the distant seas of Titan and Jupiter's moon Europa, and are designing ice-gripping rovers and submarines to take the plunge into their mysterious depths.


MIT is making a device that can 'hear' the words you say silently

Popular Science

Students from MIT have created a prototype device, dubbed AlterEgo, that can recognize the words you mouth when silently talking to yourself--and then take action based on what it thinks you're saying. Arnav Kapur, a master's student at the MIT Media Lab--a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that focuses on the intersection of people and technology-- and author of the paper, stresses that the device doesn't read thoughts or the random, stray words that just happen to pass through your mind. "You're completely silent, but talking to yourself," he says. It's a sweet spot in between, which is voluntary but also private. The prototype system, as it exists right now, looks like a white headset a telemarketer might wear.


How Popular Science covered '2001: A Space Odyssey' in 1968

Popular Science

It looks more like an aerospace plane than a rocket. The 50-passenger liner carries you from earth to an orbiting space station 200 miles up. Orion, which looks like a far-out hypersonic jet, is similar in idea to NASA's Dyna Soar project. You can get a good idea of its capability by imagining it to be a much bigger X-15. The X-15, a supersonic, high-altitude experimental plane, could be modified to boost itself beyond the earth's atmosphere, the way Orion does.


We asked a neural network to bake us a cake. The results were...interesting.

Popular Science

When computers try to imitate humans, they often get confused. But simulated brain cells in so-called neural networks can mimic our problem-solving skills. An AI will look at a dataset, figure out its governing rules, and use those instructions to make something new. We already employ these bots to recognize faces, drive cars, and caption images for the blind. I fed a neural network thousands of recipes and asked it to whip up something of its own.


DJI's commercial drones can now carry more sensors into dangerous situations

Popular Science

Last year, Yuneec announced an SDK for its six-rotor commercial UAV, the H520. That drone has thermal capabilities as well, but that developer's kit was strictly software-based, unlike DJI's, which integrates third-party hardware. If other drone companies want to catch up to DJI, they have a lot of ground to make up. Reports put the company's total market share in North America at 50 percent, which includes the sub-$500 drone segment in which smaller, toy-like crafts do huge volume. DJI also just signed a deal with Japanese construction firm Komatsu to create a fleet of drones running a custom machine-learning software.