design
The Untold History of Where Barcodes Come From

When George Laurer goes to the shops, he doesn't tell the check-out people that he invented the barcode, but his wife used to point it out. "My husband here's the one who invented that barcode," she'd occasionally say. And the check-out people would look at him like, "you mean there was a time when we didn't have barcodes?" Read More >>

design
The Untold History of Where Barcodes Come From

When George Laurer goes to the shops, he doesn't tell the check-out people that he invented the barcode, but his wife used to point it out. "My husband here's the one who invented that barcode," she'd occasionally say. And the check-out people would look at him like, "you mean there was a time when we didn't have barcodes?" Read More >>

power
Why is My Laptop On?

"Why is my laptop on?" does not seem like a complex question. But when I tried to answer it this week—to really answer it—I realised that I only kind of understood energy pretty well. Read More >>

history
That Time the Whac-A-Mole Inventor Accidentally Blew Up His Warehouse

It was lunch time on a muggy late September day in 2013 when an explosion shook downtown Orlando, Florida. A warehouse on west Jefferson street was the casualty. Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks were already on their way by the time Tim Roth, a good Samaritan, was on the scene. As he searched through the rubble and debris for injured humans, what he found was something else entirely. Read More >>

design
Why Roller Coaster Loops are Never Circular

Many extreme roller coaster these days have vertical loops. Have you noticed that these loops are never circular? Why is this? Read More >>

design
The Untold History of Ugliness

We've all had that moment while perusing a flea market or junk store when you stumble across an item and have to yelp, "Good lord, that is ugly!" So ugly, in fact, you have to marvel that it even got made in the first place. Read More >>

design
The Uni Student Who Built a Secret Tunnel Underneath the Berlin Wall

At its peak, the Berlin Wall was 100 miles long. Today only about a mile is left standing. Compared with other famous walls in history, this wall had a pretty short life span. Read More >>

design
This WhatsApp Redesign Would Make Facebook's $16 Billion Buy Worth It

Whatsapp has been one of the most talked about start-up giants in recent memory. Building upon the most basic of mobile services, messaging WhatsApp has managed to monetise and evolve the service through cross platform integration and making it free (among many other things). Following the $16billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook I thought that this is a good as time as any to look at what this means for WhatsApp and what changes both aesthetic and functional might be implemented by it. Read More >>

crime
How Biotech Could Make Life in Prison a Living Hell

At the University of Oxford, a team of scholars led by the philosopher Rebecca Roache has begun thinking about the ways futuristic technologies might transform punishment. In January, I spoke with Roache and her colleagues Anders Sandberg and Hannah Maslen about emotional enhancement, 'supercrimes', and the ethics of eternal damnation. What follows is a condensed and edited transcript of our conversation. Read More >>

apple
The Six Types of Apple Store Genius

This isn't brick and mortar, it's glass and steel. Pseudonymous Apple Store employee J. K. Appleseed walks you through a choose-your-own-adventure story with a twist. Yep, we're going backstage at Apple Retail, the supercollider of human expectations and consumer technology. Read More >>

history
Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

>We owe this unit of engine power measurement to Scottish engineer James Watt. Read More >>

mars
What Four Months on Mars Taught Me About Boredom

The scene: I'm in my closet-sized cabin, inside a white dome built to house a crew of six for four months as part of an isolation experiment. As a crew, we are working and living as 'explorers' stationed on the surface of 'Mars'. Our colony is lifelike and NASA-funded, but it is situated in a place quite a bit closer to home, on a remote slope of a Hawaiian volcano. Read More >>

space
Why it's So Hard to Find Alien Life

A big reason why the Fermi paradox has punch is the matter of time. Max Tegmark gets into this in his excellent new book Our Mathematical Universe (Knopf, 2014), where he runs through what many thinkers on the subject have noted: Our Sun is young enough that countless stars and the planets that orbit them must have offered homes for life long before we ever appeared. With at least a several billion year head start, wouldn't intelligent life have had time to spread, and shouldn't its existence be perfectly obvious by now? Read More >>

space
How Space Heat Helps Us Hunt Down Alien Technologies

My colleagues and I have begun the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies (G-HAT) SETI programme, which has been written about here on Centauri Dreams and in other places, like in this nice summary article. I describe some of the foundations of the search here on my blog, but I have written up this short primer for Centauri Dreams to collect much of what is there into a single post. Read More >>

music
5 Reasons SoundCloud With Major Label Music Could Be Amazing

Most of the music services available today have more or less the same music on offer, so they distinguish themselves with third-party apps, free versions, improved designs, mixtape-style playlists, and other attractive features. On-demand music services have the same music (more or less) because the same copyright holders decide which songs to put on subscription services, and they typically put certain songs on all of them, or none. Read More >>

displays
From Tablets to TVs: What's Next For Display Tech in 2014

Starting in 2010 when Apple made the retina display and display quality a central theme for their product marketing, displays have moved up from the doldrums into an unprecedented renaissance of new display technologies for smartphones, tablets, TVs, and entirely new classes of products like wearable displays. Read More >>

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