jjThe parrotfish may or may not feed exclusively on algae. Probably does though. John Johnson

Ah, Hawaii. The resplendent luaus and awe-inspiring volcanoes. Tom Selleck and his mustache running around private-investigating stuff. The beautiful white-sand beaches made of fish poop.

Oh, that's right. Your precious Hawaiian beach vacation was actually a frolic through epic amounts of doody. Specifically, the doody from a very special kind of critter: the parrotfish. You see, parrotfish are quite partial to the algae that grow on coral, and they gnaw it off with two impressive rows of fused, beak-like teeth (hence their name). Simply by chewing on reefs, a large Hawaiian parrotfish can ingest a coral's calcium carbonate and poop out up to 800 pounds of sand each year, according to marine biologist Ling Ong of Hawaii's SWCA Environmental Consultants. One Australian species, she notes, produces up to one ton per year.

And the parrotfish isn't alone here. "In places like Hawaii, where we have very little terrestrial input of sand, almost all of our sand is of biological origin," Ong said. "So I like to tell people that the sand you're standing on in Hawaii has probably gone through the gut of something. It'll have gone through the gut of a parrotfish, a sea urchin, some kind of worm."

caoParrotfish come in staggeringly beautiful colors, unless you're color blind. In which case, you'll have to just take my word for it. John Johnson

Parrotfish, though, serve a far more important purpose in their grazing. Algae is a major threat to corals, positively smothering them and stealing their precious light. Parrotfish play a huge role in keeping algae in check, though they can get a bit carried away. Some species have evolved to not only skim the algae off the top, but gnaw a few millimeters down to reach algae that has penetrated the coral. Overall, though, they're the reef's benevolent and indispensable gardeners.

Now, if you're anything like me, you considered eating chalk at some point in your childhood. Luckily I never did—which isn't to say I didn't come close—because blackboard chalk used to be made of calcium carbonate, exactly what coral is made of. And when calcium carbonate mixes with acid, it fizzes like crazy. "It creates carbon dioxide," said Ong. "So if you're a regular animal and you had acid in your stomach and you ate a chunk of chalk, you would get fizzy quickly. It would be generating a lot of gas."

So why aren't parrotfish spontaneously exploding all over the reef? Well, they don't have stomachs. They simply gnaw off the algae and calcium carbonate and grind it up with teeth at the back of their throat known as pharyngeal jaws (the same jaws, by the way, that the moray eel has evolved into horrifying forward-thrusting chompers like those in the queen from Alien). Their digestive systems then take up the nutritious algae while firing out the calcium carbonate as sand.

Mucus Sleeping Bags and Polychromatic Sex Changes

All of this beach-building is exhausting work, and indeed the parrotfish is a strangely heavy sleeper. Like, dangerously heavy. "They don't wake up easily at all, which makes them fairly easy to catch," said Ong, "because you can go down and shine a light at them and they'll be sound asleep. And the ones you do catch, you put them in a dark bag and they go back to sleep."

Ong isn't sure why exactly they need such deep sleep, though it wouldn't seem to make much evolutionary sense. Why leave yourself so vulnerable?

Well, younger, smaller parrotfish, which are of course more susceptible to predation, have a brilliant little trick. They tuck themselves into a crevice or under a ledge and secrete mucus to build a translucent, semi-solid sleeping bag, which balloons to encase the parrotfish in a water-filled bubble. It's likely a measure to mask their scent from predators, or a kind of proximity sensor to detect when something is closing in. And when they wake up in the morning, they'll recycle the cocoon by eating it for breakfast. Try doing that with your sleeping bag the next time you go camping.

jjA parrotfish demonstrates the world's most ineffective force field. John Johnson

But their heavy sleep makes the larger individuals extremely vulnerable to spearfishers, who target the easy prey at night. And while losing an individual parrotfish every once in a while to fishing may not seem like a huge deal, the way parrotfish societies are set up makes this kind of hunting a serious threat.

You see, most parrotfish species are sex-changers. Individuals are born female and form into schools. Once they've matured, the largest female will change into a male, assuming rule over the school, which essentially becomes his harem. He begins managing territory, chasing away rival males, and transforms his drab skin into the gaudy colors in the photos above.

Yet this color shift doesn't happen every time. Some males eschew the lovely new outfit in favor of a more sneaky strategy: They pretend to still be female. "So when it comes to spawning, they can sneak in," said Ong. "When the males and females spawn—either in the territory, or some of them actually congregate in a place and they group-spawn—the sneaker males can insert themselves in there. And there are a fair number, so it's a reproductive strategy that must work." (The giant Australian cuttlefish actually does the same, with males manipulating their arms to look like females, sneaking under dominant males to steal a kiss with their mates, and by steal a kiss I mean hand her bundles of sperm.)

capIf you're going to sleep like a rock, you may as well look like one too. John Johnson

Now, it's great being the big man on campus—until a bigger bully shows up. "This is a fish that a lot of Pacific Islanders like to eat," said Ong. "And normally they target the biggest fish, and that causes a problem for these kinds of sex changes, because you're taking a lot of the males out of the population. And you're also taking a lot of the big females out of the population, and they're the ones that are creating the most young."

Indeed, the creatures are overfished in most parts of the world, setting off a domino effect that leaves coral, already struggling to survive climate change, at the mercy of algae. And interestingly, according to Ong, parrotfish seem to be getting smaller. Could we be artificially selecting against the largest individuals by removing them from the gene pool? After all, we seem to have done the same with elephant tusks, poaching individuals with the most ivory and keeping them from passing along their genes for such size.

Really, it's no way to treat such a wonderfully bizarre fish, much less a creature that's building our beaches free of charge. So the next time you're lounging in the sands of Hawaii, take a moment to appreciate the parrotfish, which only ever wanted to gnaw on coral and sleep in its own snot, and maybe, if it's lucky, undergo a sex change. And if that's not one hell of an iconoclastic life, I don't know what is.

A big thanks to Micah Wolf of Maui's The Snorkel Store for suggesting this week's creature. Browse the full Absurd Creature of the Week archive here. Have an animal you want me to write about? Email [email protected] or ping me on Twitter at @mrMattSimon.

atents Indicate Siri Developments on the Way. Patents indicate Siri developments are on the way. Alex Washburn/WIRED

Each week, there are dozens of rumors, reports, and patent filings that hint at what's coming out of Cupertino next. Some are legit, but many are totally bogus. As always, we've parsed the rumors, ranking them in order from "utterly ridiculous" to "duh, of course." First up...

DON'T COUNT ON IT: Report Says No Sapphire Display, Yes NFC, for Next iPhone
A report from VentureBeat suggests some things we'd expect from the next iPhone (faster Wi-Fi, an A8 processor, improved TouchID sensor), but also some questionable features, like NFC and no sapphire display. Apple could hold off on the sapphire display for future iDevices, but I'm still very dubious about Apple including NFC in an upcoming iPhone.

ASK AGAIN LATER: iPhone 6 to Include 2100 mAh Battery
A bigger iPhone could get a higher-capacity battery—a 46 percent increase from what's in the iPhone 5s, in fact. This wouldn't be too surprising, if the iPhone does end up with a bigger display.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Future iPhones Could Have Hidden FaceTime Camera
An Apple patent filing shows the company is exploring how the front-facing FaceTime camera and a flash could be hidden inside a speaker port on the front of the iPhone's display. But would this degrade the quality of my selfies?

ASK AGAIN LATER: Purported Rear Shell of Next iPad Air Shows Slight Redesign
Photos that originally appeared on Chinese website Weibo show what is claimed to be the rear shell of the next iPad. It has recessed volume buttons and a redesigned speaker grille.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Patents Indicate Siri Developments on the Way
A couple Siri-related patent applications passed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week: one that shows how Siri could be used on the Mac, and another that would use a voice trigger ("Hey Siri") for interactions. Apple showed off this "Hey Siri" feature at WWDC in June, so that's a done deal, and with tighter unification in iOS 8 and Yosemite, including improved Spotlight searching, it could make sense to bring Siri to the desktop.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Next WWDC Takes Place June 8-12, 2015
A "corporate event" is being reserved at San Francisco's Moscone Center June 8-12th, 2015, and it's quite likely Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. WWDC normally takes place around that time each year at Moscone.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Beats' Ian Rogers to Run iTunes Radio
The Wall Street Journal reports that the head of Beats' streaming music service, Ian Rogers, is taking charge of Apple's iTunes Radio efforts. Seems like a logical step in the Beats acquisition.

WITHOUT A DOUBT: Apple Hosting iPhone Event September 9th
Recode, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and 9to5Mac all report that September 9th is the day Apple will host its next media event. Apple might as well just send out the invitation now.

Well before the arrival of Tinder and Hinge and OkCupid, there was another technological marvel that fed our never-ending quest for true love. It was called Match.

No, we don't mean Match.com. We mean Operation Match, the dating service that ran on a five-ton mainframe computer, using spinning tape drives to arrange your next date. Yes, before smartphones, tablets, and laptops—even before PCs—dating apps ran on machines the size of your living room. Built by a group of Harvard students in the mid-1960s, Operation Match tapped the power of the IBM 1401, one of the earliest mass-market computers (see video above).

In the first five weeks after its launch in 1960, more than 5,200 businesses placed orders for the 1401, making one of the most successful computers in history. But the machine didn't reach its true potential until Jeff Tarr, Dave Crump, and Douglas Ginsburg programmed it for love. President Ronald Reagan later nominated Ginsberg for the Supreme Court, but his real claim to fame is surely Operation Match.

Operation Match started with paper questionnaire where Harvard co-eds would describe themselves and their ideal dates. For $3, or roughly $22 today, they could then have these questionnaires analyzed by the 1401, after the answers were copied onto punch cards. The machine would then match each co-ed with 5 others in just seconds and spit out the results via its massive printer. Workers would then mail them to all those college students waiting impatiently for love.

The business did remarkably well. By the fall of that year, tens of thousands of students had signed up. The business was doing so well that offices popped open throughout the country to recruit more people into the platform and plans floated around to open up the service to high schools. (Sound familiar?) The team also started to notice patterns in the data that let them draw conclusions about certain consumer demographics, like Old Spice was a hit with All-American gals, while the preppy types preferred something called Royall Lime.

There's a tip for your Tinder profile.

In-progress art for the Blade Runner poster. (Expand the gallery to fullscreen for best viewing.)
John Alvin/Warner Bros.

In-progress art for the Blade Runner poster.

John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Art for Blade Runner.
John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Art for the poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
John Alvin/Universal

Art for the poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

John Alvin/Universal

Art for the poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
John Alvin/Universal

Art for the poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

John Alvin/Universal

Poster art for The Gremlins.
John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Poster art for The Gremlins.

John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Alvin's poster for Jurassic Park.
John Alvin/Universal

Alvin's poster for Jurassic Park.

John Alvin/Universal

Art for Jurassic Park.
John Alvin/Universal

A pencil sketch of the Batman Foever poster. John Alvin/Warner Bros.

A pencil sketch of the Batman Foever poster.

John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Art for The Lost Boys.
John Alvin/Warner Bros.

Poster art for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
John Alvin/Paramount

Poster art for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

John Alvin/Paramount

In-progress art for the poster for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
John Alvin/Paramount

In-progress art for the poster for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

John Alvin/Paramount

Any art-collecting movie nerd worth his or her Reese's Pieces owns at least one John Alvin creation. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Blade Runner, The Gremlins, Jurassic Park—Alvin designed poster art for all of them. By hand. They are among the most enduring images of recent film history, even if his name isn't is as recognizable as, say, Saul Bass.

The Art of John Alvin should change that. The book, a collection of Alvin's best works and the in-progress sketches that formed them, memorializes Alvin's talent (he died of a heart attack in 2008). But as Alvin's wife Andrea Alvin writes in the introduction, it also offers "a behind the scenes look at how John created a poster by showing his process and his thinking."

The-Art-of-John-Alvin_cover-inline Titan Books

"This book contains only a small portion of John's work, so that we could feature much of the preliminary art that led up to the finish," she writes. "Since illustration is almost never used in posters today, many people don't understand that the movie posters that he created were actually drawn and painted by his hand."

Growing up in a military family in the '50s, the artist moved a lot, and used art to make friends. "At a certain age," Andrea Alvin remembers, "drawing hot rods and naked women for the other boys became a wonderful form of currency for the 'new boy.'" After graduating from the Art Center College of Design, both Alvins landed jobs doing layout for Hanna-Barbera. A chance meeting with freelance graphic designer Anthony Goldschmidt led to a gig doing the poster for a new Mel Brooks movie called Blazing Saddles. Alvin found his calling.

The move lead to a career creating posters for some of the best films of the 1980s and '90s, from The Goonies to The Godfather: Part III. He also designed posters for beloved Disney films like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. The new book, his wife notes, is intended to make sure his work is remembered.

"Much of his work was created in anonymity and bears no signature, or had the signature removed by the studio, and no credit," she writes. "It is time to connect the name John Alvin with the incredible body of work he created."

Check some of exclusive images from the The Art of John Alvin above. The book, from Titan Books, hits stores Aug. 26.

robot-workers-inline Getty

Robots have loomed over the future of labor for decades—at least since robotic arms started replacing auto workers on the assembly line in the early 1960s. Optimists say that more robots will lead to greater productivity and economic growth, while pessimists complain that huge swaths of the labor force will see their employment options automated out of existence.

Each has a point, but there's another way to look at this seemingly inevitable trend. What if both are right? As robots start doing more and more of the work humans used to do, and doing it so much more efficiently than we ever did, what if the need for jobs disappears altogether? What if the robots end up producing more than enough of everything that everyone needs?

The redefinition of work itself is one of the most intriguing possibilities imagined in a recent Pew Research report on the future of robots and jobs. Certainly, the prospect of a robot-powered, post-scarcity future of mandatory mass leisure feels like a far-off scenario, and an edge case even then. In the present, ensuring that everyone has enough often seems harder for humans to accomplish than producing enough in the first place. But assuming a future that looks more like Star Trek than Blade Runner, a lot of people could end up with a lot more time on their hands. In that case, robots won't just be taking our jobs; they'll be forcing us to confront a major existential dilemma: if we didn't have to work anymore, what would we do?

The answer is both a quantitative and qualitative exercise in defining what makes human intelligence distinct from the artificial kind, a definition that seems to keep getting narrower. And in the end, we might figure out that a job-free roboticized future is even scarier than it sounds.

Humanity as a Service

One prevailing answer kind of dodges the question, but it also seems like one of the most plausible outcomes. Maybe many jobs can't be automated in the first place. Several respondents canvassed by Pew believe that the need for human labor will persist because so many of our basic human qualities are hard to code. "Truth be told, computers are not very smart. All they are is giant calculators," game designer and author Celia Pearce told Pew. "They can do things that require logic, but logic is only one part of the human mind."

Humans will continue to be useful workers, the argument goes, because of things like empathy, creativity, judgment, and critical thinking. Consider the all-too-common experience of calling customer service reps whose employers force them to follow a script—a kind of pseudo-automation. When made to follow a decision tree the way a computer would, all four of those qualities are sucked out of the interaction—no opportunity to exercise creativity, empathy, judgment, or critical thinking—and the service provided tends to stink.

"Detecting complaints is an AI problem. Sending the complaints to the correct customer service entity is an AI problem," said one unnamed Pew respondent described as a university professor and researcher. "But customer service itself is a human problem."

Overall, the kinds of jobs that respondents predicted humans would still be needed to do involved interactions with other people. Healthcare, education, and caring for the elderly and children were all seen as occupations that would still require a human touch. "Those areas in which human compassion is important will be less changed than those where compassion is less or not important," said Herb Lin, chief scientist on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board at the National Academies of Science.

Future job options may even extend beyond the caring professions to include work that the fluid integration of body and mind still make it most efficient for humans to perform. In a piece looking at the "instant gratification" economy of same-day delivery, San Francisco UPS driver Rafael Monterrosa tells Recode he's not worried about a self-driving car taking his place. "As far as delivery goes, you still need someone to carry something up the stairs."

No Job Required

Still, as industries from manufacturing to transportation to journalism are overtaken by artificial intelligence, the sheer number of new openings in more human service-related industries may not keep up with the number of other jobs lost. That could be leave many, many people out of work. But it could also end up changing our economy in enormous ways.

Traditionally, increased productivity correlates with economic growth and job growth, since human labor has historically driven production. A robot workforce, however, can drive productivity and growth on its own, eliminating jobs in the process. That might mean the whole paradigm of exchanging labor for pay starts to break down. "If we persist in the view that the dividends from robots' increased productivity should accrue to robot owners, we'll definitely come to a future where there aren't enough owners of robots to buy all the things that robots make," Cory Doctorow wrote in a recent Boing Boing post.

Doctorow suggests the possibility that robot-driven abundance could undermine the need for markets as we know them. "Property rights may be a way of allocating resources when there aren't enough of them to go around, but when automation replaces labor altogether and there's lots of everything, do we still need it?" Assuming a post-scarcity system of distribution evolves to peacefully and fairly share the fruits of robot-driven post-scarcity production, jobs as we know them might not just become unnecessary—they might stop making sense altogether.

The idea that robots could make employment itself optional may sound fantastic. No more work! But the end result could be more, not less angst. We'd still have to find our place among the robots, except this time without work as a guidepost for defining a sense of purpose. By eliminating the need for people to work, robots would free us up to focus on what really makes us human. The scariest possibility of all is that only then do we figure out what really makes us human is work.

At just over 13 feet wide, the Cycle Snake allows faster riders going both directions to pass slower cargo bikes. DISSING+WEITLING

At just over 13 feet wide, the Cycle Snake allows faster riders going both directions to pass slower cargo bikes.


The majority of Copenhagen's bicycle lanes follow the roads' grid patterns. Cykelslagen's curves are unusual for the cityscape. DISSING+WEITLING

The majority of Copenhagen's bicycle lanes follow the roads' grid patterns. Cykelslagen's curves are unusual for the cityscape.


The spacing of the vertical posts on the path's guardrails makes cyclists appear to flicker as they pass by observers on the ground. DISSING+WEITLING

The spacing of the vertical posts on the path's guardrails makes cyclists appear to flicker as they pass by observers on the ground.


Riders who take Cykelslagen no longer need to slow down to share harbor-front paths with pedestrians, or scale stairs with their bicycles. DISSING+WEITLING

Riders who take Cykelslagen no longer need to slow down to share harbor-front paths with pedestrians, or scale stairs with their bicycles.


It'll take most cyclists less than one minute to cross Cykelslagen's 721 feet of path, but it stands as the most stunning of the city's 220 miles of bicycle roadways. DISSING+WEITLING

It'll take most cyclists less than one minute to cross Cykelslagen's 721 feet of path, but it stands as the most stunning of the city's 220 miles of bicycle roadways.


Copenhagen has long been leading the world in citizen-pleasing infrastructure, and the country has yet again outdone itself. In June, it welcomed the Cykelslagen, or Cycle Snake, an elevated cyclist roadway over the harbor to eases congestion.

This road is the latest addition to one of the most bicycle-friendly city infrastructures in the world. In Copenhagen, more than 50 percent of residents ride their bicycles to work. Portland, Oregon, with the most bicycle commuters in the United States, clocks in at 6.1 percent. Credit those numbers to a culture that encourages cycling, but also to an infrastructure that does the same, with traffic lights timed for bicycle speeds, cobblestone paths with smoothed shoulders, and parking systems that position unoccupied cars as a buffer between cycle lanes and moving traffic. So many people cycle that it's become a quaint issue to find parking for the two-wheelers.

Cykelslagen (pronounced soo-cool-klag-en) adds just 721 feet of length to the city's 220 miles of bicycle paths, but it relieves congestion by taking riders over instead of through a waterfront shopping area. "Underneath, there's a harbor front, so there are slow moving-pedestrians," says Mikael Colville-Anderson, CEO of Copanhagenize, a Danish design company. "It wasn't a smooth commute for the cyclists. The people on bikes want to get home and the pedestrians want to saunter." Pedestrian-cyclist conflict was never an issue, but cyclists couldn't pedal at a constant speed, and they had to deal with stairways. The new roadway, which runs one story above the ground, lets them move without interruption. At just over 13 feet wide, there's plenty of room to pass even a double-wide cargo bike.

20111114 Situationsplan 1-200.ai DISSING+WEITLING

The Cykelslagen winds around the harbor front, in juxtaposition to the grid-like architecture of the area. This element of the design is, for all its beauty, purposeful. Bicycle roads have a maximum allowable gradient to prevent riders from picking up too much speed, and to allow riders on cargo bikes to ascend easily. Making it curved adds length so the elevation changes can be gradual. The project cost 32 million Danish krone ($5.74 million). It was designed by architecture firm DISSING+WEITLING and built by Ramboll Group, an engineering company.

On top of its practicality, Cykelslagen makes riding a bike more fun and enjoyable. "You can see the Danish facade crack and people smiling," Colville-Anderson says. "Even the driest city planners are saying, 'this is so cool.'" Riders who take Cykelslagen in the mid-afternoon during the summer get to see the daylight filter between two nearby buildings. When viewed from the harbor front below, pedestrians can watch riders flicker as they move along behind the guardrails. "It tickles all your senses," Colville-Anderson says.

Now the city just has to tackle a new problem: Youths who think it's fun to dive off the Cykelslagen into the harbor below.

Swatch Sistem51 | $150 Jarren Vink

To mark its 30th birthday, Swatch has produced an automatic mechanical watch movement with exactly 51 parts, the same number of components used in the company's first quartz timepiece. That's a real feat—self-winding watches are far more complex than quartz ones, often containing upwards of 500 parts. But the Sistem51 is radically simple: A single screw holds its stripped-down guts together. The case is hermetically sealed, so the gears never need cleaning or oiling. And since the 51 is assembled entirely by robots, not human hands, it sells for only $150 in a market where prices often reach the thousands. That's one impressive piece of wearable tech.

Marilyn Monroe's iridescent face is brought to life with a breath.Marilyn Monroe's iridescent face is brought to life with a breath. Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

If you hold a sheet close and blow on it, you'll see the famous face of Marilyn Monroe. Blow on another sheet and a word will appear.

A new iridescent plastic that reveals hidden images with a breath is described in a recent paper published in Advanced Materials. Researchers at the University of Michigan hope to use this technology for anti-counterfeiting purposes, replacing the ubiquitous hologram stickers used on things like luxury handbags and passports with a humidity-activated logo (or celebrity).

Like peacock feathers and butterfly wings, the sheets are iridescent because they are covered with tiny regular structures that diffract light. Their surface is studded with a grid of columns, called nanopillars, each 100 times thinner than a human hair. Previous generations of nanopillars were extremely fragile, breaking when handled or rubbed. By using a blend of polyurethane and epoxy instead of a brittle material like silicon, the researchers were able to make the sheets flexible and durable enough to survive a trip to market.

When a peacock gets wet, it loses its shine. Water droplets scatter incoming light, destroying the intricate interference responsible for its shimmering colors. The researchers accidentally rediscovered this phenomenon when one of them breathed on an iridescent sheet and it became more transparent. To take advantage of this, they used a customized inkjet printer to deposit a thin water-repellant coating in the shape of an image—Marilyn's face, above. When you breathe on the sheet, water condenses on the sheet and makes it transparent—everywhere but on the outline of her face.

"What you see in these images is just the beginning," says study author Nicholas Kotov. By adding layers of nanoparticles with interesting optical properties, Kotov hopes to produce sheets that look distinctive and are hard to replicate, at least without state-of-the-art equipment. The difficulty of making these sheets gives them an advantage over current anti-counterfeiting measures—at least for now. But today's state of the art is in tomorrow's desktop fab lab, and the cat-and-mouse game with counterfeiters is sure to continue.

necrodancerScreenshot: WIRED

Remember Dance Dance Revolution, with its giant dance-pad controllers, pumping electronic soundtrack, and scrolling multicolored arrows? Imagine if someone brought it back from the dead, but the reanimation process went awry (as they so often do!) and it came back as a ghoulish dungeon crawler.

That's Crypt of the NecroDancer, and it's awesome.

The game, recently launched via Steam Early Access for PC, Mac, and Linux, is the Dance Dance dungeon crawler you never knew you always wanted. Like any standard roguelike, you explore a series of procedurally generated caverns, collecting equipment, gaining and abilities and slaying everything in your path. Reach the next level, things get harder, gear gets better, rinse and repeat.

The kicker is the game has just four buttons—each of them directional arrow keys—and you move or attack only on the beat of the game's pulsing electro-classical soundtrack. Miss the timing of a button press and your action doesn't register. Mess up the rhythm, and your coin multiplier resets.

Thankfully, enemies also move to the beat, usually in predictable patterns. This makes them easy to defeat in a one-on-one dance-off, but difficult to take down en masse. Weapon upgrades let you attack from a distance or hit multiple cells at once, giving you an upper hand over the undead dancing denizens of the crypt below.

The in-game soundtrack is great, though it can get repetitive if you're having trouble on a given level and thus listening to the same tune over and over. And over. If you want, you can swap these out with your own tunes.

While NecroDancer is more than enough fun using a computer keyboard, it's got a crazy fun dance pad mode—assuming you've still got a DDR pad that plugs into your PC. Dance pad mode has fewer, and easier, enemies, given that it's harder to jump around on the floor than tap a keyboard.

Then again, if you're still holding on to those giant foam monstrosities of directional-dancing days past, something tells me your skills will take the NecroDancer down anyway.

An artist's render of the MAVEN mission, upon arrival to Mars.An artist's render of the MAVEN mission, upon arrival to Mars. NASA

Last month, NASA researchers dropped news with potentially huge consequences for space travel and science as a whole: They ran an experiment whose results seem to defy the very laws of physics, and could change how we travel through outer space. Problem is, experts say that it's incredibly unlikely that Isaac Newton is wrong. Instead, the most likely explanation is the team simply made a mistake somewhere along the way

The team was testing a theory that there's a new way to propel satellites, instead of using rockets powered by a limited supply of fuel. So they put a radio antenna in a specially designed, sealed container. Turned on, the antenna bounced 935MHz radio waves (similar to those used by some cell phones) around, and the container apparently moved a tiny, tiny bit. This violates Newton's third law of motion, one of the basic tenets of physics.

Loosely put, Newton taught us that no action can occur without an equal and
opposite reaction. Because there is nothing pushing against the container, propelling it along—no hot gases exploding out the back, for example—it shouldn't be able to move. It's like moving a broken-down car by pushing it from the inside.

If the results hold up, that means there's a way to power vehicles through space without combusting fuel. Today, a satellite's lifetime supply of propellant is limited to how much it can carry. It doesn't need to burn fuel once in orbit, but if a team on the ground wants to tweak its course to avoid space debris or take on a new task, they need to fire it up.

But if radio waves can control the vehicle, that all changes. An antenna could be powered by electricity generated with solar panels. Beyond satellites, this could help humans get to Mars. A consistent source of thrust could accelerate a ship to much higher speeds than traditional propellant-based engines, cutting the time it takes to get from Earth to the red planet.

The slotted pillbox cavity (left, top-down view) and the test article.The slotted pillbox cavity (left, top-down view) and the test article. NASA

The NASA team isn't the first to find this result. This is actually the fifth time an independent research lab has tested this kind of device successfully. Not surprisingly, the NASA work, done by researchers David Brady, Harold White, and three other scientists, sparked breathless media coverage claiming the laws of physics has been broken.

Here's the tricky part: The laws of physics are called laws for a reason. It's exceedingly unlikely that shooting off radio waves inside a carefully constructed can is enough to break one of them. It's much more likely there's some error in the experiment, something extremely subtle that no one has noticed yet. It's happened before. In 2011, Italian physicists thought they had discovered neutrinos that could travel faster than light, contradicting Einstein's theory of relativity. After extensive testing, the team realized it had flawed data thanks to a loose fiber optic cable. It's likely that the results of the NASA experiment have a similar explanation.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," says Professor Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University, quoting Carl Sagan's famous line. "It does no good to science and technology, in fact it hurts its credibility, to go public with such preliminary results that would have to be confirmed by many more experiments designed to convincingly rule out uncontrollable effects or interferences," Capasso says.

John C. Baez, a mathematical physicist at the University of California at Riverside, calls the experiment "graduate-level baloney." He scoffs at the idea that microwaves in a "fancy-shaped can" could violate the law of conservation of momentum.

The legendary physicist Richard Feynman once wrote "for a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." A less-forward thinking PR department might say "release the news!" because it makes for great press, but this needs to be carefully proven before it can change the world.

Other labs, including NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and at the Glenn Research Center in Ohio, plan to test the system.

It's possible that there is a way to move an object through space using radio waves, and that there's something wrong with Newton's thinking. But it's an extreme long shot, and until we have piles and piles of proof to support it, we can safely assume that something else—maybe a loose cable somewhere—is at work.

The iPhone doesn't need to get bigger. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIREDThe iPhone doesn't need to get bigger. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

All signs indicate Apple is working on a bigger iPhone. Supply chain buzz, analyst guesstimates, and leaked photos suggest Apple is increasing the size of the iPhone from its current 4-inch form factor to a 4.7-inch model. There may even be a 5.5-incher on top of that, too.

If it happens, it will be a big change. For much of the iPhone era, Apple insisted 3.5-inches was the perfect size for a smartphone screen. Just about anyone could hold it in one hand, and reach any point on the display with a single thumb. Former CEO Steve Jobs insisted no one would buy a bigger phone for just that reason. But since the 2012 launch of the iPhone 5 and its 4-inch screen, Apple, like the rest of the smartphone world, has begun chanting the mantra, "Bigger is better."

But I don't want, and don't need, a bigger iPhone. And there are a number of reasons you probably don't either.

With the iPhone 5, Apple expanded the handset's display while shrinking the bezel, expanding screen real estate and making the handset longer, not wider. Most actions can be done with the same reach required on a 4 or 4s. A stretch is needed only when you want to reach the very top of the screen. That said, most of us like being able to use a phone with one hand. According to an informal but well reported 2013 study by mobile interaction designer and researcher Steven Hoober, most people (59 percent) use their phone one-handed. My own observations while out and about and making my morning commute, when just about everyone is scrolling or tapping a phone, affirm this. And as reported Wednesday by WIRED's Kyle VanHemert, many game developers design casual games specifically to be played with one hand.

But while UX is one issue, larger phones are more difficult to use from an ergonomic standpoint. Northeastern University professor of physical therapy Jack Dennerlein said a larger handset "means more awkward postures of the thumb, and reduced performance when using it with a single hand. As the size gets bigger too, the devices are harder to hold: Optimal grip is usually around 2.5 inches." Larger than that (the current iPhone 5s measures in at 2.31 inches wide), and you could actually put yourself at greater risk for of a repetitive stress injury.

Smaller handsets carry well, too. A phone larger than 4.5 inches is generally too bulky to fit in the pocket of your jeans, requiring some of us to buy special pants just to carry a giant phone. Doug Conklyn, senior vice president of global design for Dockers, said the 2013 Galaxy S 4 was too big for the average pair of American khakis, and his company is having to increase pocket sizes to accommodate this trend. That said, the chances of ladies' garment makers crafting larger pockets in skinny jeans seems slim.

And of course, another benefit of a phone smaller than 5 inches is you can place calls without looking like a doofus. No, really. You look like a doofus if you're holding a Galaxy Note up to your face and your name is not Lebron James.

So if a bigger phone doesn't make sense for most of us, what would Apple gain by super-sizing its best-seller? It certainly would attract those who prefer a larger handset—people with big hands or heads (lookin' at you Lebron), or media junkies who'd gladly trade portability for a bigger screen.

But the real play is overseas.

Here in the US, it's common to own multiple screens: 58 percent of us have phones, 42 percent own tablets, 75 percent have a computer at home, and 25 percent own all three. The phone is not our only computing device.

That's not the case in Asia, where a smartphone often is the first, and only, Internet-connected device an individual owns. It makes sense that these users would want as big a screen as reasonably possible. It's gotta do it all: answering email, watching movies, reading books, playing games. This is what's influencing the design of smartphones from the Asian manufacturers, and it has a ripple effect that's being felt in the world-wide high-end handset market. In fact, in the first quarter of this year, more than one-third of global smartphone shipments had a 5-inch display or larger.

Guess what? Most of them run Android. Google's mobile OS holds 85 percent of the global market. You know Apple wants a piece of that. Bigger phones are a great way to get it.

And even if you are utterly convinced you don't want a big ol' screen, we North Americans may be going that way anyway. Right now, we tend to use tablets for video and laptops for email and our phones for, well, all the things we use our phones for. But The International Business Times posits that, with the greater processing power and battery life of smartphones, folks may begin ditching their tablets in favor of one device: a mid-size phablet.

So it makes perfect sense why Apple would be working on a bigger iPhone: It's a growth strategy. It will bring some new customers in the US, where smartphone display sizes already are skewing larger. It'll sell well in high-end markets elsewhere in the world. And it could sway potential customers who are beginning to feel the need for a one-size-fits-all solution for computing.

The big-screen iPhone may not be for me, or for you. But if Apple releases one next month, we'll see how well it fits into our lives (and our jeans). If we still don't like it, well, we should be able to hang onto our smaller iPhones for a few more years yet.