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Science and Technology

Remote-Controlled Animals and Insect Drones

Sometimes, science goes full supervillain. From remote-controlled mice to dragonfly drones, scientists have been tinkering with animals’ brains to hijack their actions. But it’s not just because they like to let loose with a malevolent cackle every so often — it’s to help humanity. We swear. Simon Says  Stimulating parts of the brain to trigger certain actions is nothing new — brain surgeons do it on human patients all the time. When removing a brain tumor, for instance, surgeons will make sure they’re not cutting an important piece of tissue by stimulating the area with electrodes and seeing what the …

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Watch Live as NASA’s Cassini Finally Faces Its Fiery Doom

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been ready to die for a very long time. The mission, which launched in 1997 to study Saturn and its moons, was supposed to end in 2008. Then it was supposed to call it quits in 2010. So when NASA finally put the thing in a death spiral around Saturn in April, you’d think that the mission’s scientists would have breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, they get to move on. But they haven’t. “As much as I want to have a rational reaction,” says Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, “it’s still really …

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Resurrecting a Long-Lost Galapagos Giant Tortoise

If you go to Floreana Island, in the Galapagos, you can still see descendants of the giant tortoises that Darwin documented in the 19th century when he visited these islands. From the dock, just weave between indolent sea lions and impassive ruby-red marine iguanas and ask around for the truck to the highlands. It’ll be driven by one one of the locals and you can sit on a wooden bench in the back. Hop off at the Asilo de la Paz and wander around until you come across the largest land reptile you have ever seen, eating some iceberg lettuce …

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Where Do They Put All That Toxic Hurricane Debris?

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left a hell of a mess—millions of tons of debris, much of it toxic. Houston officials said this week it will cost at least $200 million to dispose of 8 million cubic yards of storm debris. More than 100,000 homes in Houston are damaged. Irma caused billions of dollars of damage across the Caribbean and southeastern United States. Wood, plaster, drywall, metal, oil, electronics—all of it waterlogged. Put it into unlined landfills and it can contaminate groundwater. The gypsum in drywall decomposes into hydrogen sulfide gas. And it might all get thrown away together anyway. “No …

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To Get an Early Look at Next Year’s Ski Gear, Head to Chile

Beneath the bright sky of a cloudless winter day high in the Chilean Andes, photographer Liam Doran kneels in the snow. Two professional skiers side-step about 40 yards up the slope, lining up for the shoot. Doran gives the signal. From the chairlift overhead, I watch as the pros, one at a time, cut a couple of high-speed turns, then stop and climb back up to repeat the sequence. With abundant sunshine and a backdrop of serrated gray cliffs dusted with snow, the shot could be a winner. I make a mental note to ask Doran what lens he’s using …

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7 Electric Car Concepts That Reveal the Future of Driving

In the two years since the world’s biggest automakers last gathered in Frankfurt for the biannual International Motor Show, the future of their industry has shifted dramatically. The opening of the 2015 festivities came just as the world learned Volkswagen had sold millions of diesel-powered cars that used illegal software to cheat emissions standards. Two years on, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Renault, and Nissan have faced accusations of running similar schemes. Consumers are hardly flocking to electric cars in response—EVs account for less than one percent of US sales—but the tarnishing of so-called “clean diesel” and the goals set by …

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Total Recall: How to Back Up All the Text Messages on Your iPhone

If you’re like most iPhone users, when you upgraded to the newest version of iOS, Apple automatically migrated your settings, apps, and text messages. While there are benefits to wiping your phone and starting over—c’mon, you don’t really need all those apps—there’s also the possibility that you might lose valuable info hidden within your text messages. All those short missives you’ve written are mostly ephemeral, but some of them can be important, especially if you need them as proof in a dispute. Even if you just want to save your priceless nuggets of wit, you should be able to. Apple—frustratingly—offers …

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How Bizarre Is This Year’s Wildfire Season, Really?

This story originally appeared on CityLab and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. The West is burning, and there’s no relief in sight. More than 80 large wildfires are raging in an area covering more than 1.4 million acres, primarily in California, Montana, and Oregon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Taken together, that’s a wildfire larger than the state of Delaware. California has declared a state of emergency as wildfires burn outside Los Angeles and threaten giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park. In Oregon, the Eagle Creek fire is tearing through the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Seattle, Boise, and Denver are …

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What to Do With Your Old iPhone

Did you just preorder a new iPhone? Planning to upgrade in the near future? Give some thought to how you can make the best use of that old device you’re leaving behind. Sell It to Amazon You could sell your device as an independent seller on Amazon, but the easier path is to let Amazon sell it for you. You can use Amazon’s trade-in service to get an estimate based on your iPhone’s capacity, finish, and condition. Amazon gives you a mailing label, you send in the phone, then Amazon gives you a gift card for the prearranged amount. The …

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This Cardboard Google Home Only Costs $35

Google Home is one of the better smart home speakers you can buy. Along with Amazon’s Echo, Home will duke it out with Apple’s upcoming HomePod later this year. But, even at $130, Google Home is out of reach of many who might want to try it out. Now the electronics retailer Micro Center is selling Google’s officially sanctioned AIY Voice kit, a $35 kit that includes all the parts you need to build your own smart-talkin’ speaker on the cheap. While this bundle of wires and cardboard won’t magically become a squawk box on its own, all you have …

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