The Best of Gizmodo This Week

This week was space habitats week at Gizmodo and io9, and we had a ton of great stories on the topic of exploring and colonizing the cosmos. We also played with some crazy futuristic tech at E3. Check out the favorites.

Interplanetary Spacecraft, Ranked


We may be dirty monkeys at heart, but humans have done some pretty astonishing things in outer space over the past 50 years. We’ve launched dozens of interplanetary spacecraft, and explored most of the solar system with space robots who sent back pictures and scientific data. Here are our favorite of those craft, ranked for your pleasure.

Are Any of These Fictional Space Habitats Actually Possible?

Humanity’s future in space very much in the planning stages. Will we float among the stars in crazy spaceships? Will we set up small camps that sprawl into townships that grow into cities, or is an orbital mothership more human friendly? The question is, could any of these really be possible? Or do they deserve to be forever enshrined as scifi fever dreams?

Why Mathematicians Are Hoarding This Special Type of Japanese Chalk


This spring, an 80-year-old Japanese chalk company went out of business. Nobody, perhaps, was as sad to see the company go as mathematicians who had become obsessed with Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk, the so-called “Rolls Royce of chalk.”

We Don’t Have a Moon Base Because You Don’t Need One to Nuke Moscow


Why doesn’t the United States have a base on the Moon? Because getting to the Moon was a matter of national security. Setting up a permanent base there? Not so much.

Rain Jackets, Explained


For an incredibly simple concept — keeping you dry — rain jackets have evolved into awfully complicated products. Air flow rates, water pressure resistance, durable water repellent coatings, hard shells, soft shells…the list of technical terms goes on. Here’s what they all mean and how you can use them to find the best jacket for you.

Apple Watch Users Explain Why They’re Reselling on eBay


The Apple Watch has been out for less than two months, but already people are trying to unload theirs on sites like eBay. And these people aren’t just resellers hoping to cash in on the hype. Nope, these people are selling their Apple Watches “barely used” — a clear sign that things just didn’t work out for people who intended to keep them.

Oculus Touch Hands-On: So Damn Good


Last week, the company that (literally) kickstarted the new virtual reality industry announced a groundbreaking new controller that lets you reach out and touch things in virtual worlds. I just gave it a spin. It’s good. Damn good.

How This Simple Landscaping Project Quiets an Airport’s Roar


Two years ago in the Netherlands, artist Paul de Kort designed an 81-acre park near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. His assignment? To use nothing but landscaping to dampen the noise of airplanes. Such a project had never been attempted—and a crucial element of the design was discovered almost by accident.

My Smartphone Gave Me a Painful Neurological Condition


A few months ago I started getting headaches, and they were weird. If a bad hangover headache feels splitting, I’d describe these headaches as searing, as if someone had hit me over the head with a red hot rod of steel sending electric bolts of pain across my skull.

Mormon Doomsday Survivalist Preppers Are All Over Pinterest


Pinterest—the mason jar lobby’s most effective propaganda apparatus—is an aggressively wholesome social platform. It’s The Container Store of social networks, but past the arrangements of DIY barn-wedding souvenirs, there’s another Pinterest, one focused on surviving doom.

Meet the People Who Are Wasting the West’s Water on Purpose


On Friday, California passed its deepest water cuts yet, the state’s latest attempt to conserve a dwindling resource in a region crippled by drought. Yet there remains a small group of people in states throughout the West who continue to flagrantly waste water. Yes, on purpose. And it’s not just the wealthy.

Finally, Someone’s Designing a Fix for the Nightmarish Open Plan Office


When the door slid closed, everything went silent. I couldn’t hear any of the chatter or construction outside. It was weirdly cozy. I was sitting in a tiny pod—wrapped in a deep green felt, with its own built-in bench, desk, and lighting—designed by a company waging war on the open office.

How Beats Tricks You Into Thinking It Makes a Premium Product


The sneaky designers at Beats by Dre employ a clever trick to make you think that the company’s plastic headphones are durable products worth the premium price.

These Slithering Modular Snakebots Are the Future of Robotics


A snakebot recently crawled up my leg. The engineers sort of grinned while I grimaced, wondering if I should try to attack it or cry for help, an impulse that comes from watching too many scifi movies, I guess. I expect most robots to destroy me, but these snakebots are designed to do the opposite. And they could change robotics as we know it.

I Played Minecraft With Microsoft’s HoloLens, And It Was Pretty Awesome


When Microsoft said you’d be able to make Minecraft worlds appear in your living room with its new HoloLens headset, perhaps you squealed in glee. Or perhaps you wrote it off as smoke and mirrors—not reality. Guess what? I just played it. Everything you saw on stage is real.

Butt Identification, and Other Awkward Biometrics


Biometrics are everywhere. Fingerprint scanners are a standard feature in the newest smartphones, DNA testing is common, and facial recognition is getting more and more terrifyingly reliable. But there are many biometric applications still lurking on the fringe, and some of them get really, really personal.

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