That Time Congress Considered Building Cities In Space

Forget the flying cars and robot maids, we're just a few precious generations away from ditching this hunk of space rock called Earth and living among the stars. The dream of off-world living is thanks, in large part, to a single Princeton physics professor who not only envisioned a new path for humanity but nearly… » 12/04/14 11:25am 12/04/14 11:25am

Humans' Inherent Curiosity Stems From a Long, Protracted Childhood

Curiosity is one of our most basic traits and we have a lot to thank for it. Without the primal urge to always want to see what lies over the next hill, or the other the ocean, or beyond the confines of our atmosphere, humans would still be living—quite literally—in the stone age. In Curious: The Desire to Know and… » 10/24/14 4:30pm 10/24/14 4:30pm

So This Is What Inspires Someone to Build a Life-Size LEGO T-Rex

For most of us, LEGO sets are little more than a child's toy. But for Nathan Sawaya, they're an interlocking plastic canvas, an artistic medium of immeasurable potential and capable of transforming into any shape imaginable. Art of the Brick: A Life in LEGO showcases some of Sawaya's most ambitious projects—this… » 10/22/14 2:00pm 10/22/14 2:00pm

How to Build a Moat to Keep Out the Mongol Horde (and Your Neighbors)

Goddamn Mongolians keep knocking down your city walls? The fix is easy: build a moat. Just follow the instructions from William Gurstelle's new DIY home security manual, Defending Your Castle and you'll have your very own perimeter defense/neighborhood water hazard filling up in no time. » 5/17/14 12:00pm 5/17/14 12:00pm

How Steve Jobs' Passion Shaped Pixar Into an Oscar-Winning Studio

While Apple was Steve Jobs' first professional love, the Pixar animation studio that he helped foster was far more than a mere pet project. As Pixar President Ed Catmull explains in his upcoming book, Creativity Inc, Jobs' involvement with the studio proved a revolutionary experience for both parties. Here's a brief… » 4/04/14 12:00pm 4/04/14 12:00pm

Being a Celebrity Astronaut Is Tougher Than It Sounds

For a brief period in the American saga, the astronaut was the man of the moment. No profession commanded as much awe and admiration. Widely regarded as the personification of all that was best in the country, the first astronauts were blanketed with the adulation usually accorded star quarterbacks, war heroes, and… » 3/24/14 12:00pm 3/24/14 12:00pm

The Experimental Hypersonic Rocket Plane That Ushered in the Space Age

Chuck Yeager's historic supersonic flight in 1947 set off a firestorm of research into flight beyond the speed of sound. The most ambitious of these projects was the X-15 program, a top secret USAF program that aimed to test the limits of Mach 7. In X-15: The World's Fastest Rocket Plane and the Pilots Who Ushered in… » 2/14/14 11:45am 2/14/14 11:45am

How to Turn Burning Gas Into a Lamp Without Blowing Yourself Up

If you were a coal miner in the early 1800s, the light you used was an openflame oil lamp—even though mines were sometimes filled with "fire-damp," a volatile mixiture of air and methane gas. Explosions were inevitable, and at times, threw bodies from mine shafts like grapeshot from a cannon. Humphry Davy became a… » 5/30/13 12:01pm 5/30/13 12:01pm

The Most Badass Plane Ever Had An Equally Awesome Flight Suit

At the height of the Cold War, if you wanted a peek behind the Iron Curtain, it had to be a birds's eye view from 63,000 feet—above the reach of Soviet SAM batteries. And to fly that high, America's elite SR-71 pilots had to wear the most advanced flight suits this side of the Apollo program. » 4/12/13 1:30pm 4/12/13 1:30pm

Why the Knotted Language of DNA Sounds Like Music

Knot theory hasn't been the only unexpected math to pop up during DNA research. Scientists have used Venn diagrams to study DNA, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The architecture of DNA shows traces of the "golden ratio" of length to width found in classical edifices like the Parthenon. Geometry enthusiasts… » 7/17/12 2:40pm 7/17/12 2:40pm

A Billion Details and No Precedent—An Inside Look at the TSA's…

Building the TSA from scratch in the months following 9/11 seemed an insurmountable task, unrivaled in both scope and size. In Permanent Emergency, former TSA administrator Kip Hawley vividly reconstructs the breakneck pace at which this gargantuan security agency came about and how it came to be an institutional… » 4/27/12 11:00pm 4/27/12 11:00pm

How to Build Turing’s Universal Machine

Modern computers wouldn't exist without the pioneering theories posited by Alan Turing, however the famed computer scientist was never quite able to make a working model of his hypothetical device. Turing's Cathedral by George Dyson follows Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann's efforts to build a computer based… » 3/15/12 11:00am 3/15/12 11:00am