HOW THE INTERNET IS CHANGING THE WAY WE FIGHT WARS

Technology is really a marvel. So often, as new advances come out that allow us to do things that were thought impossible in the past, we hear the phrase “The future is now.” Popular Science and XPRIZE are teaming up to explore and explain technologies like these in a video series called Future First.

THE BEST SCIENCE PODCASTS TO MAKE YOU SMARTER

I love podcasts, you love podcasts, your grandma probably loves podcasts. Looking for some science you can enjoy while your eyeballs do stuff that isn’t reading? Perhaps hoping to regurgitate something that sounds smart while sitting around with family this holiday season? Great. Read on.

Flash Forward

Half science, half fiction (which is why it also made our list of the best sci-fi podcasts): Every week, host Rose Eveleth picks a fictional future and has real experts explain how it might work. What if all drugs were made legal? What if antibiotics stopped working? What if the internet suddenly disappeared?

Episode recs: Micro But Mighty, The Altered State, Bye Bye Binary

Radiolab

Radiolab is actually kind of a dinosaur in podcast years: It’s been around in some capacity or another since 2002. But it’s no wonder the show has stuck around. The hosts have a knack for drawing audiences in to deeply reported science stories. The banter can grow a little tiresome—it’s feels pretty formulaic at this point—but Radiolab’s stories are always smart and interesting, and often pretty touching to boot. The podcast has branched out to non-science-y subjects in recent years, but curiosity is always a key story element.

Episode recs: Colors, Shrink, Sight Unseen, Juicervose, Radiolab Live: Tell-Tale Heart Featuring Oliver Sacks

Science Friday

I’m a little biased, because I show up on SciFri’s news roundup every once in a while, but when it comes to reviewing the week in science, there’s no one like Ira Flatow. His genuine enthusiasm for all things science means his show is remarkably conversational and super informative. SciFri is particularly good to listen to on your way to family holiday gatherings, as it can get you up to date on recent science headlines while giving you a few intriguing evergreen stories with which to impress the in-laws.

Episode rec: 2015’s Year in Review, in which I talk about poop

Gastropod

Here’s another great holiday season recommendation (because food). Gastropod dives into the science and history behind the stuff we stuff our faces with. With a mix of long, in-depth pieces and bite-sized food facts, this scrumptious show will make you feel like one smart cookie at the dinner table.

Episode recs: What is Native American Cuisine?, Kombucha Culture, The End of the Calorie

Invisibilia

Invisibilia is a must-listen: The show examines the hidden forces that influence human behavior. The hosts get into lots of fascinating psychology, but my favorite episodes are the ones that focus on profoundly weird brain quirks that can occur. People who can’t feel fear? Check. Folks with empathy so strong they believe they physically experience the sensations they see others experience? Yup. A blind man who insists he can see? Absolutely.

Episode recs: How to Become Batman, The Secret History of Thoughts, Fearless

PERIOD

This relatively new offering goes into the science and historical baggage of (duh) periods. If you get periods, you’ll be fascinated. If you don’t get periods, you’ll also be fascinated. Go ahead and learn something. Periods aren’t gross. It’s all gonna be okay.

Episode recs: This one is so new that you should just listen to all of it, tbh

Science Vs

This new show from Gimlet media (the network behind the popular internet culture show Reply All) puts various ideas (fracking, gun control, hypnosis) to the test using science. What’s a fad, what’s a fact, and what’s somewhere in the mixed-up middle? Now you’ll have an arsenal of knowledge to pull from when your cousin starts babbling about the importance of attachment parenting.

Episode recs: Attachment Parenting, The G-Spot, Organic Food

The Story Collider

Scientists do interesting work, but they’re often interesting people, too. The Science Collider is a story-slam type podcast not unlike The Moth, but it focuses on stories “about science”. This is defined quite broadly for the purposes of the show: Sometimes you’ll hear about things that happened inside a lab, sometimes a scientific expert will tell an emotional tale that they’re able to relate back to their line of work in some powerful, poetic way, and sometimes someone will just have a lot of scientific or medical facts to share about something really random that happened to them. If you like science and you like stories, it’s a no-brainer.

14 SCIENCE AND TECH BREAKTHROUGHS WE’RE THANKFUL FOR THIS YEAR

2016 HAS BEEN A ROUGH YEAR, BUT IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

Panda

Pandas are no longer endangered

In September, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature moved panda bears from their “endangered” list to merely “vulnerable.” And pandas aren’t the only ones. The fuzzy creatures that inspired teddy bears got de-red-listed, and monarch butterfly populations seem to be bouncing back as well. Keep up the good work, guys.

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SpaceX sticks the landing

SpaceX

SpaceX sticks the landing

Remember that time, back in April, when SpaceX made history by landing its rocket on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean? That was pretty cool. It was also kind of a big deal. Landing on a moving platform makes it easier for the company to recover and (hopefully one day) reuse their rocket boosters, which could cut the costs of going to space by 30 percent.

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sony vr

Sam Kaplan

Virtual reality for everyone

While most high-quality VR experiences require powerful (read: pricey) computers, Sony’s headset works via the PlayStation 4. It also doesn’t require an engineering degree to set it up. For its plug-and-play ease of use and relative affordability, Popular Science thinks this is the virtual reality headset that will finally take America by storm.

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That time we found gravitational waves

R. Hurt – Caltech/JPL

That time we found gravitational waves

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from a pair of black holes that collided 1.3 billion years ago. It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to sense these ripples through space-time, which will give scientists a whole new way to study the cosmos.

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2015

Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

Hero judge defies petroleum industry, lets kids sue government over climate change

The world is heating up, and the next generation is going to have to bear the brunt of the melting ice caps, drying farmlands, wildfires, and more severe storms. But thanks to Oregon judge Ann Aiken, a group of 21 youths has won the right to sue the government for failing to curb climate change. This strategy worked last year in the Netherlands, when a court ruled that the government “has to ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 percent lower than those in 1990.”

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IMLYGIC

Amgen

A virus that fights cancer

Scientists have long known that viruses could trigger the immune system to attack cancer, but modifying the viruses without affecting our resistance to them has taken time. In late 2015, IMLYGIC became the first FDA-approved viral cancer drug. Green-lit to treat melanoma, the modified herpes virus is injected into a tumor, where it may ignite an immune response to the cancer.

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planet edge of solar system

Arist illustration of Planet X, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our solar system may have a 9th planet

Scientists turned up evidence that a giant, Neptune-sized planet may dwell at the edge of our solar system, 10 to 20 times further out than Pluto. Although the planet’s existence is still being confirmed, evidence is mounting that it’s out there. If so, our 9-planet solar system may be restored.

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A smartphone with WhatsApp encryption on a table.

Open Whisper Systems

WhatsApp encryption makes 1 billion people safer

Starting in April, WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption for voice calls and texting, making it much harder for the NSA or third-parties to snoop on our conversations.

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Ross Sea

New nature preserves

Thanks, Obama! No, really, thank you for setting up marine preserves in Antarctica and the Atlantic Ocean. The penguins, orcas, and octopi that live there would probably thank you, too, if they could.

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A vaccine for dengue

Michael Schnaidt

A vaccine for dengue

Every year, 400 million people contract dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease that causes high fever, severe headaches, vomiting, and sometimes death. This year, the World Health Organization ­started recommending the first vaccine to prevent dengue, and inoculations have begun in hot zones like Brazil and the Philippines.

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Proxima b

Artist’s impression of Proxima b, Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

A potentially habitable neighbor

The star closest to our Sun is home to a roughly Earth-sized, rocky planet in the habitable zone. Proxima b is the nearest neighboring exoplanet to Earth, and although we don’t know if it’s exactly Earth 2.0 (chances are it’s not), it’s fun to dream about escaping our solar system to visit it someday. We just have to wait for some genius to invent the warp drive—here’s looking at you, Elon Musk.

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Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse | Revillard | Rezo.ch

A solar-powered flight around the world

Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi, marking the end of an epic, 26,000-mile solar-powered flight around the world. The team hopes the journey will inspire more environmentally friendly aircraft.

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Ozone Hole

The ozone hole is healing

The giant hole in the ozone layer that protects Earth from UV radiation has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles since its peak in 2000, thanks to a combination of a reduction in CFCs and changing weather patterns.

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tasmanian devil

Australian Reptile Park/Devil Ark

An alternative antibiotic, from Tasmanian devil milk

The devil may actually care. As bacteria grow increasingly resistant to humankind’s antibiotics, antimicrobial peptides found in the milk of Tasmanian devils could provide a new weapon against bacterial disease.