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A Brief History of Applause, the 'Big Data' of the Ancient World

March 15, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow And then, suddenly, just when the colors and outlines settle at last to their various duties -- smiling, frivolous duties -- some knob is touched and a torrent of sounds comes to life: voices speaking all together, a walnut cracked, the click of a nutcracker carelessly passed, thirty human hearts ...

What Is 3D Printing? And Will It Change the World?

March 4, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow 3D printing, futuristic name notwithstanding, is a pretty simple phenomenon: the conversion of a digital file into a physical product. With detailed instructions and the right materials, in theory and -- more and more often -- in practice, you can manufacture objects from a little machine on your desk. So ...

SpaceX's Dragon Capsule Encountered a Problem in Orbit

March 1, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow This morning, just after 10:00 am East Coast time, SpaceX's Dragon capsule, carried on the company's Falcon 9 rocket, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Minutes after a seemingly successful launch, though, SpaceX reported a problem with Dragon. No further details were immediately provided, though ...

A Medical Lab in Your Smartphone

March 1, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The digital age has made what was was once obscure visible. In ways we never could before, we can quantify the world -- make it knowable to us, comprehensible to us -- by gathering data and identifying patterns and generally converting experience into information. One of the last things to ...

Imagine an Aircraft Carrier Made Out of ... Robots

February 28, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Imagine that there's another oil spill along the lines of BP-in-the-Gulf. Imagine that our relief work following the disaster could be waged not just with human effort, but with technological ability -- with the help of, specifically, robots. Even more specifically: robotic boats. Soon, you won't have to imagine it. ...

9 New Ways to Sit in the Office, Thanks to Smartphones and Tablets

February 25, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The workplace most of us are accustomed to has been optimized for the desktop computer: Start with a table, plop a machine on top of it, add a chair, add a human. This has not been the most creative of systems, maybe, but it's made sense: The computers in question ...

Astronauts on the ISS Have Trouble With Work-Life Balance, Too

February 20, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow What's one thing astronauts wish they had more of (aside from showers and Snickers and, occasionally, gravity)? The same thing most of us would like more of: time. At an event at NASA's Washington headquarters this morning, three astronauts currently aboard the ISS -- NASA astronauts Kevin Ford and Thomas ...

Meteorite Strikes Are Actually Quite Common

February 15, 2013 Early this morning, a meteor exploded in the sky above Russia, causing a shockwave that blew out windows, crippled communications infrastructure, and injured hundreds of people. The blast was terrifying for the people who witnessed it, and were touched by it, in person; but it's scary, too, for anyone who ...

Next Stop for Controversial Airport Scanners: Office Buildings?

February 12, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Last month, the Transportation Security Administration ended its contract with the airport scanner maker Rapiscan, pledging to remove the company's controversial backscatter x-ray machines from the country's airports. This may have been good news for plane passengers concerned with the scanners' health effects, and good news as well for passengers ...

What's This Weird Hunk of Metal We Just Found on Mars?

February 8, 2013 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Mars is, on the one hand, a source of unending fascination. It is, after all, Mars. And we're exploring it with, you know, a nuclear-powered robot that leaves Morse code in its tracks. But Mars, on the other hand -- and no offense to it or to said robot -- ...