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One Closed API at a Time, the Era of the Open Web May Be Waning

June 17, 2014 On Friday, Netflix's VP of edge engineering, Daniel Jacobson, sent the following letter to the service's third-party developers: Netflix API Developers, As Netflix continues to grow internationally, the emphasis of our engineering efforts is to satisfy a growing member base and a growing number of devices. To better focus our...

Tetris Turns 30

June 6, 2014 On June 6, 1984, the computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov launched the side project he'd been working on at Moscow's Academy of Science of the USSR: a simple video game—an almost ridiculously simple video game—he called Tetris. In short order, his creation would be called "by far, the most addictive game...

We're Now Putting Ads on the Moon

May 16, 2014 Here is a partial list of the trash that humans have left on the moon: more than 70 spacecraft, including rovers, modules, and crashed orbiters; 12 pairs of boots; 2 golf balls; an assortment of empty packages of space food; TV cameras; various hammers, tongs, rakes, and shovels; backpacks; insulating...

A Magic 8 Ball, Armed With Data

May 1, 2014 There is an allure to a Magic 8 Ball. You roll the thing in your hands, you ask it a question, and—presto!—you have an answer. The whole thing is wonderfully simple. The only problem—and it's a big problem—is that it's random. Can you really rely on the Magic 8 Ball's...

When Your Hearing Aid Is an iPhone

April 16, 2014 The world is loud. As a partial result of this, the typical human aging process involves hearing loss that ranges from mild to severe. And though that loss can be a big problem—"blindness separates people from things," Helen Keller said, while "deafness separates people from people"—it's one that has a...

These Emojis Would Like to Help You Structure Your Data

April 9, 2014 Last week, as a result of its most recent hackathon, Yelp rolled out a new system for its mobile apps: the ability to search business listings with small, cartoon-like figures called emojis. So: looking for a nearby pizza spot? Type a pizza emoji into your search field. Want to wash...

That Old Space Race Feeling: NASA Memo Suspends Contact With Russians

April 2, 2014 Space has often been celebrated as a place that allows humans, literally and otherwise, to transcend the petty divisions of life on Earth. Astronauts, upon seeing the planet from outside its borders, often comment on how small the planet's vastness makes our differences seem. The grounding philosophy of the International...

The Windmill of the Future Could Be Floating in the Sky

March 28, 2014 Don Quixote famously—infamously—tilted at windmills. Were his story set today, though, Cervantes might have to change things up a bit: the monsters the self-styled knight battles might be set in the sky. Soon, in the airs above Fairbanks, Alaska, a wind turbine will be launched. It will use helium to...

Harvard's Looking for a 'Wikipedian in Residence'

March 14, 2014 The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus holds the university's collection of rare books. Inside its walls—in addition to objects culled from the old "Treasure Room" of Widener, the school's principal library—you'll find Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; information about the creation of books; and collections of papers from, among many...

This 13-Year-Old Just Became the Youngest Person Ever to Build a Nuclear-Fusion Reactor

March 6, 2014 It started with the Internet. "One day," Jamie Edwards recalls, "I was looking on the Internet for radiation or other aspects of nuclear energy." (As one does.) Through that search, he came across the story of Taylor Wilson, an American who, in 2008, had become the youngest person ever to...