Category Archives: Materials

Is Progress Outpacing Precaution? Experts Weigh In

Illustration by An Arres.

No one expects the machinery of progress to roll backwards, but sometimes it seems that no one is watching the speedometer (or manning the brakes, assuming any exist).  Is this a fair assessment? If so, should we be worried — and what can we do about it?

In this feature, experts on technology, risk, science, policy and neuroscience discuss risk, innovation and how our values affect our conceptions of both.

Read/listen to my full story at KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk:
ASU Experts Weigh the Risks of Innovation

NASA Moves Up Psyche Mission Timetable

Image courtesy Space Systems Loral/Arizona State University/Peter Rubin

NASA’s mission to 16 Psyche, the solar system’s only known iron-nickel asteroid, will launch in the summer of 2022, one year earlier than originally planned.

Read/listen to my full story at KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk:
NASA’s Psyche Mission Will Launch a Year Early, Arrive at Target Four Years Sooner

Time-Warp: The Unfolding Story of 4-D Printing

Image of printing press with legs holding a quill
It’s probably something like this.

4-D printing remains in its early stages, It’s certainly too early to tell if  it’s anything more than a buzzword, let alone if its promise will translate into practicality. But the sorts of people who bet on these kinds of things are betting on it.

And why not? Suppose a structure could unfold itself, like origami. Imagine if walls could flex or stiffen in response to shifting loads, or if a buried pipe could change shape to accommodate varying water flows — or to pump water via peristalsis, like your digestive system. Through 4-D printing, nothing is set in stone unless you want it to be.

How 4-D Printing Works

The DaVinci Clothes: Deciphering Care Label Symbols

A clothing care labelOur clothes-care-labeling system is a wonder of efficiency — if you speak the language. But can you honestly say that you know what every single one of those triangles, exes, squares and squiggles on your tags are telling you? If you answered “no,” then you’re in good company. You’re also in luck, because I’ve broken them all down for you in a brief and handy-dandy article called (descriptively enough) …

What’s the deal with those laundry symbols, and how do I tell them apart?

You Shall Not Pass: Making the Most of Your Passport

A British biometric passport.
A British biometric passport.

The idea of a document that extends protections over subjects as they travel is old — as in, Old Testament old. But the standardized booklet that we now use for establishing identity and citizenship when crossing international borders has only been with us for about a century. More to the point, in the post-9/11 world, it’s become a lot more important.

In this article, I cover the ins and outs of how to get one, when you’ll need one, and what to do if you lose one.  Along the way, I’ll pass along some travel tips, discuss passport alternatives and help you protect your children from  abduction across national borders.

How Passports Work