The controversy over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs has exposed a problem in the oversight of those programs: The development of the relevant technology has outpaced the laws and policies that govern its use.
Have you ever wanted to see a woolly mammoth skeleton? How about Amelia Earhart's flight suit (one worn before her fateful last flight, mind you)?
To see them in person, you can visit the Smithsonian's Natural History and Postal museums, respectively, in Washington, D.C. But now you can take a closer look — in 3-D — on the Smithsonian website, too. The institution has made 20 digitized objects from among its vast holdings available online to the public for viewing from every possible angle.
Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 3:41 pm
More than a ton of advanced electronics, including an ion engine and sensors that help detect variations in gravity, crashed into Earth's atmosphere Sunday night, when the European GOCE satellite ended its four-year mission. Most of the 2,425-pound craft disintegrated when it re-entered the atmosphere over the South Atlantic Ocean; about 25 percent did not.
Ronald Heifetz has been a professor of public leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School for three decades, teaching classes that have included aspiring business leaders and budding heads of state. Each year, he says, the students start his course thinking they'll learn the answer to one question:
As leaders, how can they get others to follow them?
Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 12:43 pm
In Dave Eggers' terrific new novel, The Circle, set at a California computer company, a cult of connection is slowly taking over the United States and spreading around the globe. An evolving cultural preference for constant sharing by way of computer and camera is turning any citizen's wish for privacy into a scorned, misanthropic secrecy.
Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 10:29 am
Whenever you look at the teeming, rich and oh-so-various world, if you've got the right eyes, if you've got the eyes of a mathematician, you will find patterns — simple, elegant forms hiding in everything you see. Those patterns explain why sugar dissolves in a cup of coffee, why clouds release rain, why a heavy plane can climb into the sky.
Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 1:00 pm
Smartphones and tablets. You can't miss them, and your kids can't resist them. Even the smallest children — 40 percent of kids 8 years old and under — have used their parents' mobile devices, according to a survey out this week by the nonprofit Common Sense Media.
You probably know, or should know, that your cellphone is tracking your location everywhere you go. But whether law enforcement officials should have access to that data is at the center of a constitutional debate.
Matt Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania, says location tracking is key to how the cell system operates.
Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."
Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!
This week, we're exploring the tech frontier through the eyes of our children. So we're starting with the littlest ones — babies. Can certain kinds of screen time help babies learn?
To find some answers, I employed the help of my 1-year-old daughter, Eva. She's still a wobbly walker and the sum total of her speaking skills sound like gibberish. But she has no problem activating Siri, the virtual assistant on my iPhone. Her 16-month-old friend, Lily, is even savvier with the gadgets.
Morning recess at St. Augustine Catholic School in Culver City, Calif., is like recess in many other schools. Children run and play in the afternoon sun. But nearby, away from the basketball hoops and the games of tag, the staff is preparing.
Next to the playground sits a cargo container full of supplies: water, duct tape, an axe, a shovel and a generator along with gasoline. All of these supplies are here just in case the freeways are cut off or the power goes out — in case there is a major, destructive earthquake.
Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 4:22 pm
This weekend I finally caught up with the rest of America's moviegoers and went to see Gravity, the blockbuster directed by Mexico's Alfonso Cuarón, of Harry Potter and YTu Mamá También fame. The movie stars Sandra Bullock as a Ph.D. medical engineer on her first space mission and George Clooney as an unflappable veteran astronaut. Somehow, Bullock, the medical engineer, is sent on a mission to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. (Huh?)
Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 11:21 am
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency charged with surveying the nation's navigable waters to help keep mariners off the rocks and out of the shallows, will cease printing paper charts after mid-April.