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Your iPhone: A Cutting-Edge Earthquake Detector?

October 2, 2013 When you grow up in California, "earthquake drills" are as common as fire drills. A teacher announces the presence of a quake. She may simulate, unconvincingly, the shaking of walls and windows and shelves. At that point, and as quickly as possible, you crawl under your desk, crouching and collecting ...

PandaCam, the Star of the Shutdown

October 1, 2013 Government shutdown is upon us. Again. And so, again, we'll read stories of the effects of history repeating itself: explainers both extensive and brief, analyses both indignant and less so, straightforward news stories that dutifully describe what happens when a massive bureaucracy suddenly, if only partially, shuts down. Many of ...

Obama Scooped by Iranian President's Tweet

September 27, 2013 President Obama and the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani had a phone call on Friday. The discussion was, it seems, substantial: Among its topics was Iran's nuclear program. But the content of the conversation was only one thing that made the call a big deal; even more significant was the fact ...

Take a Digital Joyride Through the Large Hadron Collider

September 27, 2013 Back in 1989, working from a computer at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee put into the place the ideas and the infrastructure that would become the World Wide Web. In 1990, he released a formal proposal to build a "hypertext project": a "web" of "hypertext documents" that would be accessible via "browsers." ...

Why Do We Go to Space, Anyway?

September 25, 2013 The space program was forged from paranoia and fear. Our first rockets were weapons. Our first moves into the world beyond our own were motivated by competition. But when we finally got ourselves into space -- when we first traveled around our lonely planet, and took our first bounding leaps ...

49% of the Links Cited in Supreme Court Decisions Are Broken

September 24, 2013 In March of 2001, Timothy Scott, the sheriff's deputy for Coweta County, Georgia, and Victor Harris engaged in a high-speed car chase. Scott had caught Harris, then 19 years old, speeding; Harris got scared and raced away. The two ended up driving -- one in flight, the other in pursuit ...

Facebook's Advice to the NSA

September 20, 2013 Last week, Facebook sued the government. "We are joining others in the industry," Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch wrote in a post on the company's website, "in petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require the government to permit companies to disclose more information about the volume and types of ...

Mark Zuckerberg's Advice to the NSA: Communicate

September 19, 2013 Last week, Facebook sued the government. "We are joining others in the industry," Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch wrote in a post on the company's website, "in petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require the government to permit companies to disclose more information about the volume and types of ...

Why Voyager 1's Entrance Into Interstellar Space Is Such a Big Deal

September 12, 2013 This afternoon, NASA made a big announcement: Its Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched from Earth 36 years ago, has entered interstellar space. Nerds the world over -- your correspondent included -- proceeded to freak out. This is big. But why, you ask, does it matter that Voyager 1 is no longer, ...

Good News! The UFO Just Spotted From the Space Station Was Not Really a UFO

August 20, 2013 This morning, astronaut Chris Cassidy looked out the window of the International Space Station. He saw the usual thing -- the vast expanse of the visible cosmos, unimpeded by the Earth's blurring atmosphere -- and then he saw a thing that was less usual. A bright thing. A vaguely spherical ...