Berlin, Germany — I'm not sure to ridicule this golf club head-looking gadget I found at the IFA electronics show or admire the utter devotion to its cause — keeping your plants not just alive but practically human.
At SIGGRAPH 2012, there's an entire room dedicated to Emerging Technologies. "Emerging" might be a bit hasty: most of the stuff on display here is so new and bizarre that nobody has any idea what to do with it. If anything, this only adds to the awesomeness, and one of the weirdest things on display (by far) was this system from Disney research for tactile interaction with cyborg plants.
Bacteria are a nasty bunch, creating infections from the common to the horrific. Not only that, but they lurk pretty much everywhere. Now they may have met their match in a film created by Harvard scientists that is so slippery, it fools bacteria into thinking they can't attach there and grow. Major score for science!
Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, plants are now able to throw off the cruel chains of human oppression and survive without our help, provided they have access to an Arduino board, a water pump, and a reliable source of electricity.
There's absolutely no reason to do something peacefully and by hand when you could do it violently, with lasers, instead. Germany agrees, and scientists there are developing a system that replaces the task of pulling weeds with a system of plant-pulverizing semi-autonomous laser cannons.
There are two excellent reasons to grow plants out of your computer. One, it's pretty. Two, it's nutritious. Three, the waste heat actually helps the plants grow, and four, you're helping to offset the massive amounts of lifecycle carbon that your computer is responsible for.
They say that leaves don't grow on trees, and they're right: leaves grow in labs. Labs at MIT, where some exceptionally clever biochemists have reinvented the ol' tree finger and turned it into something that's useful for more than something to keep giraffes in business: this artificial leaf can take sunlight and convert it straight into hydrogen and oxygen.
In keeping with the old proverb that rolling stones gather no moss, this stationary table not only gathers plenty of moss, but gathers plenty of electricity as well, hacking into the photosynthesizing plants to harvest enough power to keep small devices like clocks charged up and happy.
Aphids eat plants. It's what they do. To try to get them to top devouring plants that we want to eat, we can try to kill them off with chemicals, or we can just genetically engineer a new strain of wheat to emit aphid panic pheromones. It doesn't kill the bugs, but it does scare them away.
It's hard to find room in the middle of a city to plonk down enough trees to make any appreciable dent in the amount of pollution. Instead of trying to clear space for a new park, the city of Milan has decided to take their forest vertical with a pair of 25 and 35 story buildings completely covered in trees.