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In Mexico City, public transit takes to the air

Wearing a black dress with bright pink flowers and black, high-heeled ankle boots, Alma Huerta looks out the window as she glides above hilly terrain on her way home in Mexico City. The ground below is dense with houses and shops. People and cars pass beneath her. The sounds of street noise drift in: Dogs bark, music plays, people talk, roosters crow. Brightly-painted buildings, covered with murals of butterflies, create a patchwork of...

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Is time travel possible?

The Fantasy The bartender says, “No time travelers allowed in this bar!” Two time travelers walk into a bar… In literature and culture, the concept of time travel goes back … a long time. References to time travel can be found in ancient Buddhist and Hindu texts as far back as 300 B.C. Proto-sci-fi writer Samuel Madden conjured the idea in his 1733 novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, detailing a series of diplomatic letters...

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Vending machines will sell you (almost) anything

Vending machines used to be simple: minor vice, immediate gratification. You put some coins in a slot, decided what snack, candy, or soda you wanted, pulled a knob, and on a good day, watched your item robotically move forward and drop to the bottom of the machine. On a bad day, your ingestible got caught between the glass and metal coil and sadly stayed there. But yesterday’s candy machines are today’s everything machines,...

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Kindness is cool. This online game rewards it.

Imagine a better Internet. Not a faster or more far-reaching web, but a more positive one — an online world that, instead of amplifying our real-life fear, anger, grief, frustration, and self-doubt, offers relief from those troubles. A place where strangers provide support rather than try to tear you down. This is precisely the type of daydreaming that indie game developer Ziba Scott and artist-designer Luigi Guatieri were doing in...

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Remnants of ancient civilizations are all around us. How much can we uncover?

I ride shotgun in a utility vehicle, holding archaeologist Jarrod Burks’s laptop as he drives across a farm in southern Ohio, over the shaved stubble of corn stalks. Back and forth we go at 18 miles per hour, each pass making a T roughly two yards wide and 100 yards long and tall. We’re pulling a trailer with five magnetometers, which measure the Earth’s magnetic field at surface level and below. Burks is using them to look for...

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A 3D printer could make your next meal

The Fantasy As one of science fiction’s alpha franchises, Star Trek has gifted nerd-dom with several enduring tropes and technologies. The transporter. The phaser. The tricorder.  But for functional space-age awesomeness, nothing beats the supremely practical replicator, a 24th-century kitchen appliance that could make any food or drink, on demand, with a simple verbal command. Fans of the Next Generation series will recall that...

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What’s your favorite summer song?

What song most reminds you of summer? To create this playlist, we posed that question to several Northeastern University professors, as well as our colleagues in the Experience office. The tunes invoke summer around the globe, from India’s monsoon season to Australia’s January summer to the beaches of California. And the songs are as varied in genre as they are in geography: There’s an Italian hip-hop track about a sunny...

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This Holocaust survivor’s hologram defies time

Eva Kor is waiting for me to ask her a question. We are seated across from each other in the small, darkened auditorium of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which she opened here in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1995. Eva fidgets in her chair, occasionally adjusting the bright blue scarf that matches her suit, the same formal attire that she wore the last time I interviewed her in this very room more than five years...

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These video games are based on nothing but words

When a friend recommended Tom McHenry’s Horse Master: The Game of Horse Mastery to me, I was skeptical about the idea of a video game with no pictures and no sound. But as the bitmapped text popped up on my computer monitor — a throwback to 1980s-era monochrome computer screens — the game drew me into its bizarre, evocative world. The game opened with a description of a custom-made horse that begins as a larva, sent to you from a...