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This robot chef can taste salt with its arm

Robots can see in wavelengths beyond human eyes. Robots can hear in wavelengths beyond human ears. Robots can even feel with tactility approaching human skin. But when it comes to tasting, robots are laggards. Taste is a sense that may seem basic to any human, including young children licking food from the floor, but not to robots. Tasting technology doesn’t even come close to the multifaceted sensitivity of the human tongue. For robot-builders and food scientists alike, improving that technology…

Southeast Asia’s months-long heat wave is untenable for human health

Extreme heat is rolling through South Asia as climate change brings summer weather early. Temperatures are already pushing past 120°F in some regions. The current heat waves are severe—this year, India recorded its hottest March and April in more than a century. Some schools have shut down early, hospitals are on alert, and at least 25 people have died from heatstroke. “Before human activities increased global temperatures, we would have seen the heat that hit India earlier this month around…

Urban sprawl defines unsustainable cities, but it can be undone

Analysis paralysis—being so overwhelmed by options you can’t pick a path—has new meaning thanks to climate change. Making the “right” choice has never been more complicated, but we’re here to help. This is Impact, a new sustainability series from PopSci. In 2020, during her re-election campaign, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo set out plans to make the French capital a “15-minute” city.  The goal: to offer city dwellers easy walking or biking access to most of their daily activities, from shops and leisure…

The unbelievably gross things that we regularly eat by accident

This story originally appeared in the Messy issue of Popular Science. Current subscribers can access the whole digital edition here, or click here for a new subscription. THE IDEA THAT you swallow eight arachnids each night is a load of malarkey popularized by a list of random “facts” that went viral in the early days of the internet. Still, there is a reason this stomach-churning urban legend persists: Humans unknowingly gulp down all manner of disgusting detritus each day, from random animal parts during lunch to their…

From the archives: When superconductors finally grew up

To mark our 150th year, we’re revisiting the Popular Science stories (both hits and misses) that helped define scientific progress, understanding, and innovation—with an added hint of modern context. Explore the Notable pages and check out all our anniversary coverage here. Before physicists began to grok the laws of thermodynamics in the mid-1800s, inventors, lured by the idea of perpetual motion, sought to exploit the movement of heat. Alongside earnest innovators, hucksters filled the scientific void. Such was the case of Charles Redheffer,…

Which expiration dates actually matter?

Analysis paralysis—being so overwhelmed by options you can’t pick a path—has new meaning thanks to climate change. Making the “right” choice has never been more complicated, but we’re here to help. This is Impact, a new sustainability series from PopSci. Many products often come with expiration dates to indicate a predetermined shelf life, like food and medicine. Once the indicated date has passed, these products are generally deemed unfit for use or consumption—but does that mean people should toss them out the…

What to do if you find a turtle in the road

North America is home to dozens of turtle species, from the soda can-sized bog turtle to the devastatingly handsome alligator snapping turtle. Each spring, countless turtles emerge from the sleepy winter months ready to nest, find food, and resume their more active warm-weather lifestyles. Unfortunately, these journeys toward favored habitats and ideal nesting spots often involve treacherous trips across roads.  While you should keep an eye out for these chonky reptiles year-round, spring is the perfect time to brush up…

From the archives: When 1970s cellular technology made ‘traveling telephones’ more accessible

To mark our 150th year, we’re revisiting the Popular Science stories (both hits and misses) that helped define scientific progress, understanding, and innovation—with an added hint of modern context. Explore the Notable pages and check out all our anniversary coverage here. Until Heinrich Hertz discovered radio waves in 1887, the vast and invisible electromagnetic spectrum was a silent wilderness, punctuated by nature’s static bursts. But Hertz set in motion a new era that would quickly fill that void with low-end…

Mail-order abortion medication would increase healthcare access, not risk

This article was originally featured on The Conversation. For many people, accessing abortion care can be a major challenge. Abortion services are usually only available in certain clinics with specialized equipment like ultrasounds, often requiring long-distance travel to get there. When medication abortion, or abortion with pills, was introduced to the U.S. in 2000, it offered a more accessible option to end pregnancy. However, medication abortion was initially highly regulated and could only be dispensed in person at abortion clinics. Guidelines also required…

The SEC is gearing up to take on crypto crimes

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is nearly doubling its unit dedicated to cyber crimes in an effort to delve more into crypto-related enforcement. The federal agency announced Tuesday it is adding 20 positions, including investigative staff attorneys, trial counsels, fraud analysts, and supervisors, to be “better equipped to police wrongdoing in the crypto markets.”  “Crypto markets have exploded in recent years, with retail investors bearing the brunt of abuses in this space. Meanwhile, cyber-related threats continue to pose existential…

We have a lot to learn from Indigenous people’s oyster-shucking practices

From the coast of Maine to Florida, piles of oysters have stacked up over thousands of years. They come from meals gathered from once-vast reefs of living shellfish, which provided habitat for other fish, crabs, and shrimp in estuaries. Some of the shells are so big, you’d have to eat them with a knife and fork, instead of downing them in a single slurp. That abundance is just one example of Indigenous oyster fisheries across the world that harvested massive…

A helicopter caught and released a rocket this week

Late in the morning of May 3, a rocket blasted off into the heavens from a launchpad in New Zealand. Minutes later, as its second stage continued upwards towards orbit, the first stage of the rocket descended by parachute into the waiting hook from a recovery helicopter. The hook snagged the parachute line, where it was held—and then released. The launch, both a successful orbital delivery and useful feature test for rocket-maker Rocket Lab, highlights a future possible form of…