Man the toolmaker

The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

It used to be thought that what defined us as human is the fact that we make tools. But in the past few decades, toolmaking has also been observed in chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, otters, octopuses, and several kinds of birds. Still, no other species manipulates matter as relentlessly as humans do. And over the long term, our tools are getting smaller and more sophisticated as we learn more about how to fiddle with molecules, engineer new substances, and tinker with the stuff of… stuff.

Some recent news stories from the world of materials science:

1. Pushing the envelope with paper:

Scientists say paper battery could be in the works

‘Tissue paper’ could stop bullets, harness solar energy

2. Cracking the glass ceiling:

Spray-on liquid glass is about to revolutionize almost everything

3. Water water everywhere:

MIT researchers harness viruses to split water

Device to convert seawater offers hope to parched lands

Water practically flies off new surface

4. Meanwhile, machines are getting smaller every day:

Scientists create world’s first molecular transistor

Scientists harness bacteria to turn microscopic gears

Molecules made into motors

Nanodevice powered by motion

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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