What's the coolest new gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week? It's too soon to tell. But I have an early favorite for the title of oddest new gadget: the HAPIfork and HAPIspoon. They may sound like characters from a nursery rhyme, but this fork and spoon connect to the Internet and can monitor and record how you eat.
The HAPI utensils measure how long your meals last, how long you pause between each bite and how many mouthfuls of food you consume.
Every year at around this time, tens of thousands of people take part in a kind of bird-watching marathon. From Canada to Latin America and throughout the United States, participants will get up in the middle of the night. Some brave frigid winter temperatures, and many do whatever else it takes to count as many birds as they can in 24 hours.
No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they'll be tomorrow.
That's according to fresh research that suggests that people generally fail to appreciate how much their personality and values will change in the years ahead — even though they recognize that they have changed in the past.
Daniel Gilbert, a psychology researcher at Harvard University who did this study with two colleagues, says that he's no exception to this rule.
The wind energy industry is dependent on something even more unpredictable than wind: Congress. Hidden in the turmoil over the "fiscal cliff" compromise was a tax credit for wind energy.
Uncertainty over the credit had lingered long before the last-minute political push, causing the industry to put off further long-term planning. So while the now-approved tax credit revives prospects for an industry facing tens of thousands of layoffs, don't expect to see many new turbines coming up soon.
People have been sharing food with strangers since ancient days, offering up the household's finest fare to mysterious travelers. Think Abraham and the three men of Mamre in the Bible and the folks who take in strangers after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. That deep tradition of generous hospitality has long been thought uniquely human.
If so, then bonobos, those gregarious African apes, may be more like us than we thought.
It's a year-end tradition to cobble together a list of the most important advances in science. But, truth be told, many ideas that change the world don't tend to spring from these flashy moments of discovery. Our view of nature — and our technology — often evolve from a sequence of more subtle advances.
Even so, chances are good that this year's list-makers will choose the discovery of the Higgs boson as the most important discovery of 2012.
It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.
Updated Jan. 1, 2013: I've added a postscript to this post. You can find it at the bottom of this page.
Look at yourself. Right now.
You are muscle,skin, bone, brain, blood, warmed by energy, and all of you, every cell, even the subsets of those cells, all trillions and trillions of them, are going to tire, waste and depart. In 10 years almost every bit of you will have been replaced by new bits.