feature stories

Ever notice just how ridiculously worthless the Star Wars stormtroopers are? I mean, for the fear-inspiring, rebel-slaughtering shock troops of the Galactic Empire, they sure do go down real easy when anybody shoots them — anywhere. So, what's the issue? Are they simply all hemophiliacs? Are they suicidal? I think it's more likely that the Empire, concerned with balancing the budget, has skimped on its troopers' armor. I'm pretty sure if we were to clothe the troopers in anything else — ANYTHING else — they'd probably do better out there. After all, how hard can it be to stop a little ray of light? Really effin' tough, actually. Last December, the U.S. Navy developed an injector capable of producing the electrons needed to generate megawatt-class laser beams. That's enough energy to power a Eurostar locomotive at top speed! So what's a casualty-weary empire to do? Let's put 10 different modern materials to the test.
CES 2011 might have been all about the tablets and 3D's strong push into consumer electronics, but what really made our jaws drop were the amount of gadgets that were just razor-thin. These days, measuring in at an inch or two is considered wispy. That won't be true sometime very soon. Everything will be mere millimeters thick. We saw the future of electronics and now you can too.
Computer viruses are big news. Over the past decade, malware like the ILOVEYOU virus and Stuxnet worm grabbed headlines worldwide, and PC owners are constantly hammered with reminders about antivirus software. But what about smartphones? They're mini computers, after all, and they communicate over more networks than most PCs. Why hasn't there been a major cellphone virus yet?
It's autumn in America, and that can mean only one thing: the World Series! But you know what they say about baseball: "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't trying." And although the game has remained largely unchanged over the years, it hasn't been immune to the technology that has evolved around it… which can sometimes used for nefarious purposes.
Celebrities — actors, musicians, athletes — make as much if not more moolah endorsing stuff than from their day jobs. But does that mean we ought to buy a product just because a famous person says we should? Given the recent star-studded unveiling of a new flotilla of Dr. Dre's Beats headphone line, the question has renewed relevance.
We get a little taste of cyber attacks all the time — look no further than this week's Twitter virus — but what about full-on cyber warfare? Recently the true destructive potential of a cyber attack became frighteningly clear: whole government, banking and military networks overloaded and shut down, vital data and money stolen, and even physical damage if the right components are targeted. The worst part? We usually only find out after the fact.
How does Apple do it? Every time there's a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, it seems like the only company that does gadget design right. That's an exaggeration, but it's undeniable that no other company has defined "tech sexy" the way Apple has. We asked a pair of design experts why everyone else seems to blow it.
You can only make a plane so big if you still want it to fly, or a vehicle so gigantic before it starts wrecking the land it travels across. Ships, too, face similar challenges the larger they get. We've found six gargantuan examples that straddle the line between engineering marvel and disaster, representing the biggest vehicles traversing the planet today.