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Thomas Hornigold

Thomas Hornigold

Thomas Hornigold is a physics student at the University of Oxford. When he's not geeking out about the Universe, he hosts a podcast, Physical Attraction, which explains physics - one chat-up line at a time.

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From This Author


Why We Need to Fine-Tune Our Definition of Artificial Intelligence

Sophia's uncanny-valley face, made of Hanson Robotics’ patented Frubber, is rapidly becoming an iconic image in the field of artificial intelligence. She has been interviewed on shows like 60 Minutes, made a Saudi citizen,...

Can Hawaii Go Carbon Neutral by 2045?

If you’ve done any research into climate change, you’re almost certainly familiar with the Keeling Curve. This sawtoothed upward curve tracks the inexorable increase in carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, and the rate of...

How Cyanobacteria Could Help Save the Planet

It’s very easy to forget that complex life on Earth almost missed the boat entirely. As the Sun’s luminosity gradually increases, the oceans will boil away, and the planet will no longer be in...

How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect the Risk of Nuclear War?

As technology has progressed, humans have become ever more powerful. With this power comes great opportunity and great risk. Nowhere is this clearer than in the potential of artificial intelligence. But a new report...

Google’s Duplex Raises the Question: Should Robots Sound Robotic?

By now, you’ve probably seen Google’s new Duplex software, which promises to call people on your behalf to book appointments for haircuts and the like. As yet, it only exists in demo form, but...

Why the Discovery of Room-Temperature Superconductors Would Unleash Amazing Technologies

Superconductors are among the most bizarre and exciting materials yet discovered. Counterintuitive quantum-mechanical effects mean that, below a critical temperature, they have zero electrical resistance. This property alone is more than enough to spark...

This New Startup Will Use CRISPR as a Search Engine to Hunt Down Diseases

By now, you’ve heard of CRISPR—the bacterial self-defense mechanism that can be used to modify the genome. From “biohackers” building the hype by injecting themselves with CRISPR—and later regretting it—to the more measured, successful...

Stuff 3.0: The Era of Programmable Matter

It’s the end of a long day in your apartment in the early 2040s. You decide your work is done for the day, stand up from your desk, and yawn. “Time for a film!”...

How Fukushima Changed Japanese Robotics and Woke Up the Industry

In March 2011, Japan was hit by a catastrophic earthquake that triggered a terrible tsunami. Thousands were killed and billions of dollars of damage was done in one of the worst disasters of modern...

Tech Optimists See a Golden Future—Let’s Talk About How We’ll Get There

Technology evangelists dream about a future where we’re all liberated from the more mundane aspects of our jobs by artificial intelligence. Other futurists go further, imagining AI will enable us to become superhuman, enhancing...

Can We Make a Musical Turing Test?

As artificial intelligence advances, we’re encountering the same old questions. How much of what we consider to be fundamentally human can be reduced to an algorithm? Can we create something sufficiently advanced that people...

This Planned Solar Farm in Saudi Arabia Would Be 100 Times Bigger Than Any in the World

Right now it only exists on paper, in the form of a memorandum of understanding. But if constructed, the newly-announced solar photovoltaic project in Saudi Arabia would break an astonishing array of records. It’s...

New MIT Startup Targets Working Fusion Reactor in 15 Years. Can It Be Done?

The joke is that nuclear fusion is 20 years away, and always will be. This joke, now a cliché, arose from optimistic scientists suggesting in the 1950s (and then in most subsequent decades) that...

What If the AI Revolution Is Neither Utopia nor Apocalypse, but Something in Between?

Why does everyone assume that the AI revolution will either lead to a fiery apocalypse or a glorious utopia, and not something in between? Of course, part of this is down to the fact that...

New Malicious AI Report Outlines Biggest Threats of the Next 5 Years

Everyone’s talking about deep fakes: audio-visual imitations of people, generated by increasingly powerful neural networks, that will soon be indistinguishable from the real thing. Politicians are regularly laid low by scandals that arise from...

Artificial Photosynthesis Is Solar Energy’s Forgotten Cousin—and It’s Making a Comeback

In an article in Science published in 1912, Professor Giacomo Ciamician noted that “Coal… offers solar energy to humanity in its most concentrated form… but coal is not inexhaustible. Is fossil solar energy the...

What Roboticists Are Learning From Early Generations of Lifelike Humanoid Robots

You might not have heard of Hanson Robotics, but if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen their work. They were the company behind Sophia, the lifelike humanoid avatar that’s made dozens of high-profile media...

The Clock’s Ticking on Climate Change, and It’s Time to Get Real About Tackling It

If you’re an insomniac, this situation will probably be familiar to you. It’s the night before a big exam or job interview. You go to bed with plenty of time to spare, but sleep...

Let’s Talk About Bitcoin’s Insane Energy Consumption

Cryptocurrency fever is heating up. Even the less-than-legitimate websites that hawk opportunities to buy the latest coin are struggling to keep up with its price. Whatever societal or technological value blockchain technology may have...

The Love Oracle: Can AI Help You Succeed at Dating?

Interacting with modern-day Alexa, Siri, and other chatterbots can be fun, but as personal assistants, these chatterbots can seem a little impersonal. What if, instead of asking them to turn the lights off, you...

How Fast Is AI Progressing? Stanford’s New Report Card for Artificial Intelligence

When? This is probably the question that futurists, AI experts, and even people with a keen interest in technology dread the most. It has proved famously difficult to predict when new developments in AI...

Are Solar Roads the Highway of the Future, or a Road to Nowhere?

By some back-of-the-envelope estimates, around 0.2–0.5 percent of the world’s land surface is covered in roads. This proportion is projected to increase by 60 percent by 2050. It’s a staggering fraction of territory for...

New Research Suggests Immunity to CRISPR Gene Editing Poses a Challenge

CRISPR-Cas9 is the talk of the town in biotechnology. There is a huge amount of public interest in the possibilities provided by this new genome editing technology, and many are hoping CRISPR could eventually...

When Will We Finally Achieve True Artificial Intelligence?

The field of artificial intelligence goes back a long way, but many consider it was officially born when a group of scientists at Dartmouth College got together for a summer, back in 1956. Computers...

How a Machine That Can Make Anything Would Change Everything

“Something is going to happen in the next forty years that will change things, probably more than anything else since we left the caves.” –James Burke James Burke has a vision for the future. He...

The Enormous Promise and Peril of Bioengineering’s Pandora’s Box

We’re standing on the threshold of extraordinary capability in synthetic biology. CRISPR-Cas9, the genome editing technique discovered in 2014, is at the forefront of this newfound potential for innovation. These advancements provide an opportunity...

Why Humanoid Robots Are Still So Hard to Make Useful

Picture a robot. In all likelihood, you just pictured a sleek metallic or chrome-white humanoid. Yet the vast majority of robots in the world around us are nothing like this; instead, they’re specialized for...

The Tantalizing Dream of Blanketing the Sahara in Solar Panels

In 1986, a power surge during a safety test of the reactor at Chernobyl caused a catastrophic explosion. Thirty-one people were directly killed by the explosion and the initial dose of radiation, and several...

What We Can Learn From the Second Life of Google Glass

For every new piece of technology that gets developed, you can usually find people saying it will never be useful. The president of the Michigan Savings Bank in 1903, for example, said, “The horse...

How Your Electric Car Could Help Power Your Home

One of the laments you frequently hear from fossil-fuel lobbyists and renewable energy skeptics concerns the intermittency problem. These advocates point out that the energy from the sun and wind isn’t always available because...

Amazon Is Quietly Building the Robots of Sci-Fi—Piece by Practical Piece

Science fiction is the siren song of hard science. How many innocent young students have been lured into complex, abstract science, technology, engineering, or mathematics because of a reckless and irresponsible exposure to Arthur...

What It Would Take to Suck CO2 Back Out of the Atmosphere

If greenhouse gases are such a problem, can’t we just suck the carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere? It’s a perfectly reasonable question and an important area of technological research to pursue. The...

Does Our Survival Depend on Relentless Exponential Growth?

Malthus had a fever dream in the 1790s. While the world was marveling in the first manifestations of modern science and technology and the industrial revolution that was just beginning, he was concerned. He...

How Close Is Turing’s Dream of Conversational Machines?

The quest for conversational artificial intelligence has been a long one. When Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, racked his considerable brains for a test that would truly indicate that a computer program was...

Solar Power Is Getting Cheaper—But How Do We Overcome Its Limits?

The price of silicon-based solar cells has been falling off a cliff for years now. In 1977, each watt of capacity for a silicon solar panel would cost you around $76. By 1987, that...

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