From World War II Radar to Microwave Popcorn, the Cavity Magnetron Was There

This compact cavity magnetron gave the Allies a way of producing high-power microwaves for radar

7 min read
Photo: Ingenium
Photo: Ingenium

By the summer of 1940, World War II had been raging in Western Europe for nearly a year. During the Battle of Britain, German aircraft bombed London and industrial centers and blockaded seaports. The United States, meanwhile, was still actively trying to stay out of the war.

Against this backdrop, the physicist Edward “Taffy" Bowen traveled with a group of other British scientists and military officers to Washington, D.C. Bowen had been entrusted with a black metal box that contained technical secrets related to England's wartime R&D. The purpose of the journey, officially called the British Technical and Scientific Mission, was to share these secrets with the United States and Canada, in the hope that they would produce workable weapons and other equipment for the war.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Tony Fadell: The Nest Thermostat Disrupted My Life

The Nest founder tells of years in pursuit of a thermostat he actually likes

7 min read
A man holds a circular device in front of a blue wall that says nest on it.

Tony Fadell shows off the Nest thermostat in 2012.

Karsten Lemm/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

The thermostat chased me for 10 years.

That is pretty extreme, by the way. If you’ve got an idea for a business or a new product, you usually don’t have to wait a decade to make sure it’s worth doing.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less