Scientific Innovation

E.O. Wilson Urges Tomorrow’s Scientists to Seek Earth’s Undiscovered Riches

In a Smithsonian talk, the eminent biologist argued for more protected areas and greater efforts to map the diversity of life

The first "phone book" (really a one-page sheet) came long before phones like this, but it was an important step towards the printed directories that were ubiquitous in the twentieth century and are now often considered outdated.

The First Telephone Book Had Fifty Listings and No Numbers

It came out less than two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the device

After the defeat of Cleopatra's forces by Octavian (later Augustus, emperor of Rome), the Egyptian queen and her lover Marc Antony fled to Egypt. In Shakespeare's imagining, one of Cleopatra's greatest fears was the the horrid breath of the Romans. Shown here: "The Death of Cleopatra" by Reginald Arthur, 1892.

The History and Science Behind Your Terrible Breath

Persistent mouth-stink has been dousing the flames of passion for millennia. Why haven’t we come up with a cure?

When it comes to reversible ways to prevent pregnancy, men have limited options—for now.

Contraceptive Gel Called the “IUD For Men” Makes It Through Monkey Trials

Vasalgel aims to make contraception for men as easy and effective as IUDs have for women

This is the 517th Xerox model 917 ever made, donated to the Smithsonian in 1985.

Watch the Original 1959 Ad for the First Office-Ready Xerox Machine

When the Xerox 914 entered offices, the working world changed forever

As 19th century urban living became more cramped, some women began to reinvent the domestic sphere with technology.

These Four Black Women Inventors Reimagined the Technology of the Home

By designating the realm of technology as 'male,' we overlook key inventions that took place in the domestic sphere

Appert devised the canning process using that old standby, trial-and-error.

The Father of Canning Knew His Process Worked, But Not Why It Worked

Nicolas Appert was trying to win a hefty prize offered by the French army

Chinese researchers have harnessed the power of deep learning to help doctors identify this rare disease.

Can Eagle-Eyed Artificial Intelligence Help Prevent Children From Going Blind?

Deep learning pinpoints cataracts more accurately than humans, and could help prevent this form of vision loss in children

Douglas Engelbart rehearsing for his 1968 computer demo.

In One 1968 Presentation, This Inventor Shaped Modern Computing

Douglas Engelbart’s career was about seeing the possibilities of what computing could do for humanity

Fred Marriott in his modified Stanley Steamer, the Rocket, shortly before he broke the land-speed record.

Why Did People Think Steam-Powered Cars Were a Good Idea?

In the early days, steam cars were as common as gas ones. Why aren’t we driving them today?

A gecko uses millions of tiny hairs to cling powerfully to surfaces. A new device exploits this adaptation by using ultraviolet light as a switch.

Scientists Can Turn This Gecko-Inspired Gripping Device On or Off With the Flick of a Light

The mighty lizard inspires yet another innovation that could prove a boon to robotics and manufacturing

When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites

What a 19th-century rebellion against automation can teach us about the coming war in the job market

A technique for implanting a 3D-printed "ear" with stem cells could revolutionize treatment for microtia patients.

Hear This, 2017: Scientists Are Creating New Ears With 3D-Printing and Human Stem Cells

Two decades after the "earmouse," researchers have mastered a powerful technique for growing ears from fat-derived stem cells

Holograms, even those not carrying secret messages, need to be preserved.

Why Holograms Will Probably Never Be as Cool as They Were in "Star Wars"

But those that do exist must be preserved and archived

New asteroids are detected every day surrounding Earth, most of which are harmless.

Sure, Earth Could Get Hit by a Deadly Asteroid—But There’s an Upside

Con: Devastating outer space impacts. Pro: Global unity!

Your breath might be bad, but it's also amazing.

Your Breath Does More Than Repulse—It Can Also Tell Doctors Whether You Have Cancer

An artificial “nose” could be the next tool for diagnosing illnesses from cancer to Crohn's disease

John Glenn, standing top right, looks at a model of the ship that took him to space with other astronauts from the Mercury space program in an undated photograph.

For a Larger-Than-Life Space Icon, John Glenn Was Remarkably Down-to-Earth

Friends and colleagues recall his abiding love for Smithsonian’s work, the history of spaceflight and peanut butter buckeyes

The Best Books About Innovation of 2016

If you have a lover of big ideas on your holiday shopping list, consider these thought-provoking titles published this year

An Inca skull from the Cuzco region of Peru, showing four healed trepanations. The new review focuses on the practice in ancient China.

Drilling Deep: How Ancient Chinese Surgeons Opened Skulls and Minds

A new review finds evidence that the Chinese performed trepanation more than 3,500 years ago

The Four Newest Elements Now Have Names

Chemistry governing body officially approves names for the four newest additions to the Periodic Table

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