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Gun Deaths May Not Eclipse Traffic Fatalities Just Yet

February 8, 2016 A grim turning point, long expected, may not have arrived in 2015 after all. Public-health officials and statisticians had pinpointed last year as the year that gun deaths would likely surpass traffic fatalities in the United States. But the latest projections from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paint a...

Robots Could Make the Supreme Court More Transparent

January 21, 2016 Predicting the outcome of Supreme Court decisions has long been a favorite parlor game for political scientists, attorneys, and legal-system junkies. People have built statistical models, predictive algorithms, and flow charts, and have used machine learning to try to guess what the justices will decide. Some of these models are...

Can New Tech Improve Gun Safety?

January 21, 2016 Guns and automobiles are curiously linked in American culture. They’re both outsized symbols of the nation’s dearly held values: individualism, personal liberty and power. They’re also among the most dangerous technologies out there, responsible for some 33,000 deaths apiece in the United States each year, according to federal data. That’s...

3-D Printed Guns Are Not Actually All That Futuristic

January 13, 2016 You don’t need 3-D-printing technology to make your own gun. Individuals have been fashioning homemade firearms for as long as guns have existed. Zip guns, crude but functional weapons often made from taped-together pieces of pipe and rubber bands, were particularly popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The AK-47, one...

Advice From the Man Who Sent the First Email: Step Away from the Inbox

January 7, 2016 The man who sent the first email is not overwhelmed by email. In our culture, it seems, this is unusual. While everyone else is lifehacking, streamlining, Slacking, and marking-as-read—all with the goal of destroying the very thing their inbox was set up to receive—Raymond Tomlinson isn’t sweating email at all....

The Long, Tortured History of Email -- and What Comes After

January 6, 2016 Email, ughhhh. There is too much of it, and the wrong kind of it, from the wrong people. When people aren’t hating their inboxes out loud, they are quietly emailing to say that they’re sorry for replying so late, and for all the typos, and for missing your earlier note,...

What Everybody Googled in 2015

December 16, 2015 People love to google other people. That’s the main takeaway from Google’s annual list of the year’s most popular searches. But humans have dominated Google’s year-end roundup for at least 15 years. It’s how the cast of most-searched characters changes that can be revealing. Naturally, the list is usually shaped...

Do Computers Need Pressure-Sensing Screens?

December 15, 2015 The computer mouse, when it first went mainstream, was awkward to describe but easy to use. “Instead of typing instructions, one points to pictures on the screen by sliding a handheld device called a mouse along the top of the desk next to the computer,” The New York Times wrote...

Star Wars’ R2-D2: The Original Mobile Device

December 14, 2015 It has been said that R2-D2, the squat blue-and-white robot from the "Star Wars" universe, gets his charm by being the perfect amount of robot—only a little anthropomorphized, but clearly more machine than human. “Even R2-D2’s ‘voice’ avoided the uncanny valley,” wrote Clive Thompson for Smithsonian magazine last year. “It...

Why Driverless Cars Are Like Elevators

December 10, 2015 One of the challenges in describing the potential of self-driving cars is that they promise to do so much. Technologies that save lives, decimate and create entire industries, and uproot long-held perceptions of space and time don’t come around very often. Which is part of why it can be useful...