A German plasma chamber, a solar house, a flight simulator, and a $326 000 cellphone
You certainly don’t want to be inside the plasma chamber of the Max Planck Institute’s ASDEX Upgrade Fusion research device when it’s fired up and producing plasmas at temperatures exceeding
100 million °C. But you can take a virtual tour of the hottest spot in Germany by checking out a series of 360-degree panoramas of the chamber, its control room, and associated technical facilities at http://www.ipp.mpg.de/panorama.
Photo: Volker Steger/IPP
This house, offering 70 square meters of living space, draws all the power needed to heat, cool, and light the building—and to charge an electric vehicle—from the sun. The structure, built in just 11 days by a team of university students from Rhône-Alpes, France, beat out houses built by 17 other student teams from around the world to win the Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 competition, held in Madrid in September. Each of the houses was judged in 10 categories focusing on the buildings’ architecture, energy efficiency, and comfort.
Photo: Solar Decathlon Europe
Owners of vineyards, looking to scale back the human element in wine production, are turning the harvest over to automatons such as the Wall-Ye V.I.N. robot. The US $32 000 machine, which doesn’t ask for higher wages, benefits, or days off, can prune up to 600 vines a day.
Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images
For the discriminating cellphone user, the latest iPhone may not make a bold enough statement about his or her disposable income. Enter the LeDix Origine mechanical mobile phone from French start-up Celsius X VI II. The machine’s Swiss-made tourbillon clock is wound every time the US $326 000 titanium-and-sapphire clamshell phone is opened. Functions such as the 3.2-megapixel camera with zoom and built-in flash are powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Photo: The Image Gate/Getty Images
Social media sites and video chat services such as Skype have allowed us to keep in touch across vast distances. But sometimes there’s nothing that can stand in for a hug. With that in mind, researchers at the MIT Media Lab have developed the Like-A-Hug social media vest for Facebook users. It inflates, giving the wearer the sensation of being hugged, when his or her online friends “like” a photo, video, or status update.
Photo: Rex Features/AP Photo
Digital technology is making inroads everywhere. But at the cemetery? Rather than paying for a skilled artisan to chisel the deceased’s name and other information on a tombstone, Austrian funeral-services company Aspetosis offers mourning families the option of having a stonemason sandblast a quick response (QR) code on the gravestone using a computer-generated template. A visitor to the grave site can scan the code with a smartphone to read about the person’s life.
Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
CDs and DVDs get scratched or broken. External hard drives get corrupted or fried. So how do you store important data for the long haul? Hitachi thinks it has hit upon the answer. It recently unveiled a method for storing data as tiny dots inside a thin, rugged quartz glass plate. The bits, which are encoded in a binary format, can be retrieved using a standard optical microscope connected to a computer.
Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
This piece of equipment, which at first glance looks like a turntable designed for a 10-meter-tall DJ, is actually part of what the Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences in Teisnach, Germany, is calling the largest optical machine in the world. The finished product will make the large specialized mirrors needed for the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in northern Chile. The main mirror for ESO’s E-ELT telescope will have a diameter of 39.3 meters.
Photo: Armin Weigel/EPA/Landov
Joe Devito, a pilot with JetBlue Airways, is shown having his skills tested by a flight simulator based on the NextGen air traffic control technology, which relies on GPS instead of radar to keep track of planes’ positions. NextGen is expected to reduce flight delays, because air traffic controllers will be able to safely allow more planes to be in the air at the same time.
Photo: John Raoux/AP Photo
Governments concerned about the prospect of a terrorist sneaking a bomb onto a plane have sacrificed fast, efficient airport check-ins on the altar of security. But Hitachi has revealed a prototype boarding gate that it says can detect the tiniest residue of explosive chemicals left on the hands of someone who’s been handling potentially deadly materials. The system, which completes its analysis within 2 seconds, can process up to 1200 people per hour.
Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Cuban pig farmer Daniel Garcia is shown here in his second but related role as an energy producer. Garcia uses this biodigester to turn his pigs’ manure into a methane and carbon dioxide biogas, which he and his neighbors use for cooking. The project is the result of a Cuban government initiative promoting the use of renewable energy.