Science and Technology

Voyager, the Pioneer anomaly, and NASA’s good old days 15 July 2013

The modest, mighty Voyager and Pioneer probes are still generating news today.
An essay on what made the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft great, with special emphasis on the Pioneer Anomaly, treated in more detail in my new book, The Pioneer Detectives.

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity by Rogers Wiens 12 May 2013

A Review
When does NASA take risks? How it’s still possible to improvise, and what it’s like to run a scientific instrument on Mars.
[Washington Post]

Eyes in the sky 3 May 2013

What the rise of the helicopter tells us about the future of domestic drones.
How to think carefully about the spread of drones.

Warp Factor 1 April 2013

An investigation
The saga of a NASA scientist who claims to be on the verge of faster-than-light travel.
[Popular Science]

The end of the “La-Z-Boy era” of sequential programming 20 March 2013

What comes after Moore’s law?
The challenge of parallelism.
[Zocalo Public Square]

Can We Teach Computers What “Truth” Means? 26 February 2013

It’s harder than it sounds
How artificial intelligence can inform ideas about logic.

Why Didn’t We Know the Russian Meteor Was Coming? 15 February 2013
The book of primes 5 February 2013

A new largest prime number
And the significance of primes to mathematics.

CAPTCHA and the alternatives 31 January 2013

May it not rest in peace
Combatting spam and what it means to be human.

Alzheimer’s and space travel 3 January 2013

Does radiation cause Alzheimer’s?
We don’t really know, and it’s not clear how it affects space travel.

The Assurance of Chemists 5 November 2012

Are Gut Instincts Obsolete in Political Campaigns?
A skeptical response to the idea that social science techniques are useful and beneficent influences on politics.
[Zocalo Public Square]

Drunk on Gadgets 5 October 2012

Politicians don’t understand science and technology, so they expect it to do too much
Ignorance of science drives politicians to treat it like magic.

Baumgartner’s leap 4 October 2012
Learning Math From Software Is Like Learning Parenting
Skills From Second Life
29 June 2012
Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator 25 June 2012

Technology is doing to math education what industrial agriculture did to food: making it efficient, monotonous, and low-quality.
How and why graphing calculators, educational software, interactive whiteboards and the like undermine actual learning in elementary, middle and high schools.

What Economists Get Wrong About Science and Technology 17 May 2012
“Privatizing” Space 16 May 2012

Companies Shoot for the Stars, but Uncle Sam Still Pays the Bills
Why the false dichotomy of public versus private isn’t the real story with SpaceX’s launch. What really matters is competition.
[Zocalo Public Square]

Why Computers Still Can’t Translate Languages Automatically 11 May 2012

DARPA’s search for meaning
How researchers are trying to use semantic information in machine translation.

Is Science Really Moving Faster Than Ever? 3 April 2012

Why talking about the “pace of technological change” is a meaningless, counterproductive generality.
Part 1 of a debate on Slate with ASU’s Dan Sarewitz.
Part 2 is here>>.

Building a laboratory on a hill 15 March 2012

A review of Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory”
A new book about Bell Labs succeeds in evoking the excitement of the place, though falls short on its exposition of the underlying science.
[Foreign Policy]