Matt Simon
Matt Simon
Matt Simon is a science journalist at WIRED, where he covers biology, robotics, cannabis, and the environment. He’s also the author of Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal About Our World—And Ourselves, and The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar, which won an Alex Award.Source
San Francisco, CA
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UC Berkeley Was About to Launch a Satellite. Then PG&E Said It Was Cutting Power

UC Berkeley Was About to Launch a Satellite. Then PG&E Said It Was Cutting Power

Last Monday, just as the workday was winding down, Paula Milano received a phone call that threw her week into chaos. Milano, who helps run the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley, had been gearing up for a satellite launch. But on the phone now was a friend of hers, with bad news: PG&E, the power company, was warning the school that its electricity could be cut Wednesday—making the campus one of more than 700,000 customers that would suffer the same fate. The outage was a precautionary measure to keep forecasted high winds from jostling electrical equipment and starting the next...

October 16, 2019
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Why Covering Canals With Solar Panels Is a Power Move

Why Covering Canals With Solar Panels Is a Power Move

jelly. Hall & Oates. Now there’s a duo that could literally and figuratively be even more powerful: solar panels and canals. What if instead of leaving canals open, letting the sun evaporate the water away, we covered them with panels that would both shade the precious liquid and hoover up solar energy? Maybe humanity can .Scientists in California just ran the numbers on what would happen if their state slapped solar panels on 4,000 miles of its canals, including the major California Aqueduct, and the results point to a potentially beautiful partnership. Their feasibility , published in the...

Mar 19
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Is It Time for an Emergency Rollout of Carbon-Eating Machines? | WIRED

Is It Time for an Emergency Rollout of Carbon-Eating Machines? | WIRED

The climate emergency demands that we dramatically and rapidly cut emissions. There’s no substitute for that, full stop. But it also demands a technological revolution to reverse years of out-of-control emissions: The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that if we want to meet most optimistic goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, deploy some sort of negative emissions technologies.One promising technique is known as direct air capture (DAC), machines that scrub the atmosphere of CO2. Early versions of these facilities already exist: One...

Jan 26
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Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice

Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice

middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. Even though it was the southern summer, geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured nearly three months of freezing temperatures, sleeping in a tent, and eating dehydrated food. The science itself was a hassle: To study the history of the floating shelf, he needed seafloor sediment, which was locked under a half mile of ice. To get to it, Smith and his colleagues had to melt 20 tons of snow to create 20,000 liters of hot water, which they then pumped through a...

Feb 15
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American Cities Are Way Underreporting Their Carbon Footprints

American Cities Are Way Underreporting Their Carbon Footprints

you reckon your city contributes to climate change? If you added up the emissions from all the homes, businesses, vehicles, industries—everything that makes a city a city—what would your local carbon footprint be? If you haven’t a clue, you’re not alone. It turns out that city officials themselves are struggling to accurately self-report local emissions, according to out today in the journal Nature Communications. The study used Vulcan, a comprehensive emissions model developed by the researchers, to analyze 48 American cities. It found that, on average, officials are underreporting their...

Feb 2
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Nine Russian adventurers mysteriously froze to death—a new theory explains why

Nine Russian adventurers mysteriously froze to death—a new theory explains why

By the time the rescue team helicoptered to the remote Dyatlov Pass in late February 1959, the nine Russian adventurers—seven men and two women, all highly experienced cross-country skiers—had been dead for nearly a month. Nothing about the scene seemed right. The adventurers’ tent had been sliced open from the inside, and in its husk lay rucksacks, neatly arranged boots, and a plate of sliced pork fat. The rescuers found the victims themselves over half a mile downslope from their camp, some of them barefoot and almost naked. The primary cause of death was hypothermia—temperatures would...

Jan 30
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Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice | WIRED

Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice | WIRED

Bivouacked in the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. Even though it was the southern summer, geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured nearly three months of freezing temperatures, sleeping in a tent, and eating dehydrated food. The science itself was a hassle: To study the history of the floating shelf, he needed seafloor sediment, which was locked under a half mile of ice.To get to it, Smith and his colleagues had to melt 20 tons of snow to create 20,000 liters of hot water, which they then...

Feb 15
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These Adorable Fish Robots Form Schools Like the Real Thing

These Adorable Fish Robots Form Schools Like the Real Thing

gently swim around a darkened tank in a Harvard University lab, spying on one another with great big eyes made of cameras. They’re on the lookout for the two glowing blue LEDs fixed to the backs and bellies of their comrades, allowing the machines to lock on to one another and form schools, a complex emergent behavior arising from surprisingly simple algorithms. With very little prodding from their human engineers, the seven robots eventually arrange themselves in a swirling tornado, a common defensive maneuver among real-life fish called milling. Bluebot is the latest entry in a field...

Jan 13
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Watch a Robot Dog Learn How to Deftly Fend Off a Human

Watch a Robot Dog Learn How to Deftly Fend Off a Human

kids, and maybe one day you’ll grow up to be a professional robot fighter. A few years ago, Boston Dynamics set the standard for the field by having people try to keep Spot the quadrupedal robot from opening a door. Previously, in 2015, the far-out federal research agency Darpa hosted a challenge in which it forced clumsy humanoid robots to embarrass themselves on an obstacle course way outside the machines’ league. (I once asked you, dear readers, , but have since changed my mind.) And now, behold: The makers of the Jueying robot dog have taught it a fascinating way to fend off a human...

Jan 5
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Narwhal tusks tell a troubling tale

Narwhal tusks tell a troubling tale

Researchers have long debated what the 10-foot-long tooth that erupts from a narwhal’s head is actually for. Perhaps it has something to do with , and males with longer horns attract more females. Or maybe the things . Or perhaps a narwhal uses its tusk to flush out prey on the ocean bottom.Whatever the purpose, scientists know this for certain: the Arctic region, which the narwhals call home, is warming as the rest of the planet, and by analyzing these tusks, researchers can glean surprisingly detailed insights into how the animals are dealing with catastrophic change. It’s not looking...

Apr 4
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