In 1970, a Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori described what he called the "uncanny valley" - a point on a graph relating human affinity for a machine to its likeness of humans themselves, where human affinity plummets as the likeness becomes nearly indistinguishable from ourselves. As robots become more humanlike, our fondness for them increases.
Imagine you have two plants - one is a plant you'd like to keep around, like a crop, and the other is a pest of some kind that interferes with the growth of your crop. Now, imagine synthesizing 30,000 different candidates for an herbicide and spraying each one on a different plant - and only finding one that effectively kills the weed while preserving the life of your crop. Until recently, this incredibly inefficient method was the only way for the agrichemical industry to find new herbicides. Now, thanks to the boom in biological technology during the last 15 years or so, agrichemical companies are able to come up with far better predictions about the results of spraying an herbicide on a particular plant - adding a huge degree of elegance to the previous guess-and-check method.
If every beachgoer could have one, we'd never need sunscreen again. The new sunshield for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
, designed by Northrop Grummann in Redondo Beach, California, is capable of rejecting nearly all of the approximately 250,000 watts of energy the spacecraft will be receiving from the Sun while in orbit - the equivalent to applying sunscreen with an SPF of 1.2 million.