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Surf and Turf

All over the Upper Midwest region of the United States, indoor aquaponics farming is catching on. Fish and plants are living and growing together in old warehouses and abandoned factories. In Chicago, The Plant is growing up in an old meat packing facility and testing LED grow lights and new control schemes In Milwaukee, Sweet Water Organics is trying to resurrect itself outdoors after its indoor system failed last spring. And in St. Paul, the team at Urban Organics is building the world’s largest indoor aquaponics operation in the old Hamm’s brewery.   Urban Organics plans to open in November…

Hacking Tomatoes at the World’s Greenest Greenhouse

The Netherlands has nearly 11 thousand hectares of growing space under glass, or about 40 square miles. That’s almost twice the area of the island of Manhattan. In fact, no country has a greater proportion of its land area under glass.   But these greenhouses boast more than plants. They’re also a breeding ground for high-tech plant experiments and greener energy. Some of the country’s most advanced greenhouses are in Bleiswijk and operated by Wageningen University and Research Center. At the Wageningen greenhouses, researchers can grow as many as 150 pounds of tomatoes in a square yard of space. And…

Microsoft’s Robot Touch Screen Lets You Palpate a Brain

Touch screens are nothing new, but this prototype from Microsoft uses a robot-mounted display to do something surprising: touch back.   Early this year at TechFest, Microsoft Research showed off a number of cool new user interaction applications. One of them is a prototype of a haptic feedback touch screen called TouchMover. The company is preparing an announcement with more details about the technology, but here’s a sneak peak.  

Robot Draws Blood

This robot system can find a vein and place a needle at least as well as a human can.   Veebot, a start-up in Mountain View, Calif., is hoping to automate drawing blood and inserting IVs by combining robotics with image-analysis software.  

Moving Monopoles

One of the very first facts you learn about electromagnetism—long before you walk into your first physics class—is that every magnet has two poles. Cut a bar magnet in half and you wind up with two magnets, each of which has its own north and south poles.   Strangely, though, there is no fundamental reason why that has to be the case.   A few years ago researcher came across evidence of something that looks and acts very much like a naturally occurring monopole would. These monopoles are confined to particular materials, and they arise only when the spins of…

DIY Spycraft with 3-D Printing

Ever wanted to send secret information just by passing along an ordinary-looking object? That’s the premise of Microsoft Research’s new project InfraStructs, which pioneers techniques for concealing identifiers inside 3D-printed objects.   Anyone with a 3D printer can fabricate an object with coded air pockets, or voids. And then anyone with a terahertz scanner can decode the tag hidden in the objects—whether it’s a shape, a line of binary, or a grey code. It’s the modern microdot.  

Televised Sailing Gets a Dose of Augmented Reality

Sailboat racing is as thrilling, dynamic, and suspenseful as any sport—but until now it’s made for boring television. No longer. Starting with the 2013 America’s Cup, you will be there, virtually speaking.   New augmented reality techniques provide perspectives and information never before available to spectators: the tracks of the boats through the water, course boundaries, penalties issued, wind direction, speed, and other things that significantly affect the outcome of the race.  

The Homemade MōVI

This homebrew camera stabilizer is based on a system intended to be used to mount a camera under a model helicopter. It replaces the counterweights of a traditional steadicam with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and motorized gimbals.  

Is the STEM Crisis a Myth?

Last month’s article “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth,” by IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Robert N. Charette, triggered a hearty response from readers. Many commenters shared his view—that there is no shortage of scientists and engineers—and quite a few were against it. It seemed clear that a discussion of the issue should continue.  

Fighting Paralysis With Electricity

When the spinal cord is broken, the brain’s commands can’t make it past the neural injury. But now researchers may be able to supply artificial commands to lower limbs with electricity.   Electrodes were implanted in a paralyzed rat’s spinal cord and, when activated, they enable the rat to walk short distances. Even more amazingly, researchers are conducting similar experiments with humans.  

Toilet to Tap Water: How Singapore Became Water Self-Sufficient

It’s hard to convince people that drinking recycled wastewater is a good idea. But for the bustling city-state of Singapore, it’s better than the alternatives. Singapore’s leaders and researchers have worked hard to educate the public about the benefits of water recycling, and now they envision the island as a global water-technology hub.  

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