How a Team of Experts Quelled Colorado’s Enormous Spring Fire

I first heard about Colorado’s Spring Fire on July 1, when I was driving back from a camping trip. My mom texted me from her home in Florida: “How close are these fires?” I pulled over to a rest stop, called up the federal disaster website Inciweb, and sent her back a screenshot of the wildfire’s perimeter. It seemed far away from my house on the Huerfano County line, like it would have to cross impossible acres to even come close. “Looks like we’re good,” I wrote back.

The Spring Fire is the third largest in the state’s history. By the time I learned about it, the fire had already burned through more than 40,000 acres. A plume of smoke unfurled into a constantly replenished mushroom cloud. It was 0 percent “contained,” meaning that no human-made or natural barrier was stopping the fire’s edge from expanding. Costilla and Huerfano counties had evacuated around 2,000 households by July 2.

The fire had, by then, grown to more than 56,000 acres, just 5 percent contained.

I arrived at my cabin on the 3rd, hose in hand, knowing I couldn’t really help the house but not knowing what else to do. The Spring Fire had bloomed to nearly 80,000 acres. The Department of Transportation closed the highway right at the turnoff to my place. Big-bellied planes full of retardant crossed the sky overhead, their flight path traversing part of the bullishly-named Wet Valley.

That night, the sunset, reflecting off the smoke particles, was spectacular. The mountains read more

LIVE: Watch This Man Try to Break the World Record for Paper Airplane Flight

Right now, an attempt to make history takes flight: John Collins, otherwise known as The Paper Airplane Guy, will try to fly a paper airplane further than any paper airplane has flown before.

Collins set the standing world record for paper airplane flight—226 feet and 10 inches—in February of 2012. But now, Collins has even higher hopes. “In terms of breaking the record, our worst practice day of that year was world record day,” he says. “We’d routinely thrown beyond 230 feet, and sometimes beyond 240 feet. Adding a couple of meters to the record is likely if conditions are good.”

With a moniker like The Paper Airplane Guy, it should come as no surprise that Collins takes the business of paper airplanes seriously. Besides the world record, his vigorous studies of aerodynamics and origami have led to the creation of a “boomerang” paper airplane that flies back read more

Exploji! A Timeline of Emoji’s Sudden, Drastic Rise

Emoji are used so often and in such volume that it feels as though they’ve been with us forever. In fact, it wasn’t until Apple released an emoji keyboard in 2011 that the Cambrian exploji ensued, a flowering to rival the birth of any language. Linguists might dispute the term—languages have verbs, emoji (probably) do not—but the emojicabulary continues to expand every year.

About That Eggplant …

Angela Guzman was an intern at Apple when she helped design about 500 of the company’s early emoji, including one very explicit piece of fruit. —Ellen Airhart

Q: At the time, did you think the eggplant looked phallic?
A: It literally never crossed my mind.

What was your intention?
To make all the fruit and veggies part of a single set, visually. That meant they all had to take up the same amount of space. To make the eggplant fit, I placed it diagonally.

Which, uh, triggered certain associations.
It’s grown in popularity in ways that I did not anticipate.

What emoji do you want to read more

‘No Man’s Sky’ Finally Gets Multiplayer, and Everything Else in Games This Week

Welcome to Replay, our weekly roundup of all the gaming news and happenings you might’ve missed while you were, y’know, playing games. This week, we’ve got some big growth for some big titles, alongside a very late bug fix and an excellent Nintendo Switch port.

No Man’s Sky Is Finally Adding Multiplayer to its Giant World

When it was released, No Man’s Sky was subject to no shortage of controversy—some of it justified, a lot of it not. One that had some meat to it, though, was the issue of where everyone else was. Am I going to get to run into other players? In a giant shared world, it’s a justified question. Hello Games was cagey at first, avoiding answering directly, until players experimented by setting up meeting places, only to find out the truth: you couldn’t. Which was certainly disappointing, though given the scale and expense of No Man’s Sky, it’s not exactly something one could fault the studio for.

Hello Games

Except now that’s gonna change. With the upcoming No Man’s read more

Uber’s CEO Faces an Impossible Decision

Of all the management mistakes that led to Uber’s culture and business crisis, Travis Kalanick’s biggest mistake was that he kept a tight inner circle of executives, for whom bad behavior appeared to have no consequences. The most egregious example of this anything-goes leadership culture was in 2014, when Emil Michael, then Uber’s senior vice president, suggested at a private dinner that Uber put a million dollars into hiring a team of opposition researchers and journalists to dig into the personal lives of the company’s critics.

Although Michael was made to apologize publicly, Kalanick didn’t fire him for his behavior. Post–public scandal there were no internal consequences. Michael’s continued tenure signaled that Kalanick would tolerate bad behavior, if not encourage it.

Which is why Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is now faced with an impossible situation. Barney Harford is the operational and strategy whiz Khosrowshahi recruited last fall to help fix Uber. read more

Loon’s Internet-Slinging Balloons Are Headed to Kenya

It’s been a big week for Loon. Just eight days ago, it was one of Alphabet’s moonshot projects, launching antennas attached to giant balloons into the stratosphere to beam internet down to Earth. Now it has announced its first commercial agreement: working with Telkom Kenya to provide internet service to parts of central Kenya, starting next year, and helping connect the citizens of a country where coverage hardly extends beyond major population centers.

Loon began life in 2011 as a Project Loon, inside Google X, the search company’s arm dedicated to incubating ambitious ideas. (In 2015, when Google restructured and formed parent company Alphabet, Google X became X.) After seven years in the incubator, Loon “graduated” this month and became an Alphabet company in its own right. That means it’s time to start making money, and this Kenya deal (whose financial particulars have not been revealed) is a solid first step forward.

Instead of building networks of ground-based read more

The Challenge of Teaching Helicopters to Fly Themselves

In the early hours of January 11, 2000, US Coast Guard helicopter pilot Mark Ward responded to a distress call from a ship taking on water, caught in a Nor’easter off the North Carolina coast. Battling 70-mph winds and 30-foot seas, Ward struggled to keep the chopper steady as he and his crew pulled all five fishermen to safety.

Ward recalls the mission as one of the most harrowing is the 22 years he spent as a search-and-rescue pilot. And now, he’s got a gig ensuring his successors won’t face the same dangers: He’s the chief test pilot in Sikorsky’s autonomous helicopter program. “Even a modest degree of autonomy, your workload goes way down and your stress and apprehension disappears,” he says. “The system sees things you can’t, and it processes information and reacts in a way you may not be able to.”

Even in a world where planes spend most of their time on autopilot and robo-cars are roaming cities all over the world, teaching a helicopter to fly read more

Elizabeth Holmes’ Downfall From Theranos Has Been Explained Deeply—By Men

Maybe Elizabeth Holmes, whom a grand jury indicted last month for fraud, never should have asked herself, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” 1

The eye-roller slogan adorned a plaque on Holmes’ desk at Theranos, her ignoble blood-testing startup. She seems to have gravely misread it. Rather than goading her to courage, the words blinded her to the obvious. In launching a company with a sub-Edsel product as a keystone, she could fail. And of course did.

In May, the journalist John Carreyrou, who made Theranos his white whale for years, published Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, a potboiler about the company; I devoured it. But it didn’t slake my thirst for enlightenment about that epochal evildoer: Holmes herself. Holmes herself.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the author of read more

Dive Under the Ice With the Brave Robots of Antarctica

The lava fields of Hawaii. The peaks of the Himalayas. The crowds of a Justin Bieber concert. These are among the most perilous of environments on planet Earth, places where few humans dare tread. They ain’t got nothin’, though, on waters of our planet’s polar regions, where frigid temperatures and considerable pressures would snuff a puny human like you in a heartbeat.

Robots, though? This is the stuff their tough-as-hell bodies were made for. This is the domain of Seabed, the sensor-packed machine that dives over a mile deep into the polar seas—autonomously—collecting invaluable data. But it comes at a price: Getting the bot back to its icebreaking boat alive can be more challenging than communicating with a Mars rover millions of miles away.

Seabed doesn’t swim like your typical autonomous underwater vehicle. Most are shaped like torpedoes, which allows them to efficiently cut read more

Watch This Man Try to Break the Record for Paper Airplane Flight

This Friday, an attempt to make history takes flight: John Collins, otherwise known as The Paper Airplane Guy, will try to fly a paper airplane further than any paper airplane has flown before.

Collins set the standing world record for paper airplane flight—226 feet and 10 inches—in February of 2012. But now, Collins has even higher hopes. “In terms of breaking the record, our worst practice day of that year was world record day,” he says. “We’d routinely thrown beyond 230 feet, and sometimes beyond 240 feet. Adding a couple of meters to the record is likely if conditions are good.”

With a moniker like The Paper Airplane Guy, it should come as no surprise that Collins takes the business of paper airplanes seriously. Besides the world record, his vigorous studies of aerodynamics and origami have led to the creation of a “boomerang” paper airplane that flies back to him and a “bat plane” that can flap its wings in mid air by itself. Earlier this year, Collins showed WIRED exactly how he made the world-record breaking plane.

In the days leading up to the attempt, Collins will read more