Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.
Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth.
The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.
The farm uses 17,500 LED lights spread over 18 cultivation racks reaching 15 levels high.
The LED lights are a key part of the farm’s magic. They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. “What we need to do is not just setting up more days and nights,” he says. “We want to achieve the best combination of photosynthesis during the day and breathing at night by controlling the lighting and the environment.”
Shimamura says that the systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold, he says.
By controlling temperature, humidity and irrigation, the farm can also cut its water usage to just 1 percent of the amount needed by outdoor fields.
Shimamura got the idea for his indoor farm as a teenager, when he visited a “vegetable factory” at the Expo ’85 world’s fair in Tsukuba, Japan. He went on to study plant physiology at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and in 2004 started an indoor farming company called Mirai, which in Japanese means “future.”
The concept took off in 2011, when GE approached Shimamura with an idea for using advanced LED lights to illuminate the farm. The LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. The companies started testing the technology in March 2012 and came up with the final design a year later.
The farm is producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.
GE engineers used proprietary technology to make the lights thin enough to fit inside the stacks, provide uniform light and endure the high humidity inside. “That way, we can put in more growing racks and increase productivity dramatically,” says Tomoaki Kimura, country manager for GE Lighting Japan.
The GE Japan team believes that indoor farms like the one in the Miyagi Prefecture could be a key to solving food shortages in the world. Mirai and GE are already working on “plant factories” in Hong Kong and the Far East of Russia. Says Shimamura: “Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization.”
Shigeharu Shimamura shows his produce.
Toyota recently showed a prototype engine that does just that. It’s called the Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG). “Free” refers to the fact that the piston isn’t attached to a crankshaft; instead, as the piston is forced downward during its power stroke, it passes through windings in the cylinder to generate a burst of three-phase AC electricity. The FPEG operates like a two-stroke engine but adds direct gasoline injection and electrically operated valves. It can also be run like a diesel, using compression rather than a spark plug to ignite its fuel mixture.
Toyota says this mechanically simple engine achieves a claimed thermal-efficiency rating of 42 percent in continuous use. Only the best, most complicated, and most expensive of today’s gas engines can come close to that number, and only in specific circumstances.
Verizon’s new #InspireHerMind campaign wants to point out the importance of teaching young girls about STEM. To do that, they put out this commercial about how deeply ingrained gender expectations influence the way we raise our children, which in turn influences what they become interested in when they grow up–and not necessarily for the better. Geez, Verizon, heartbreaking much?
While I’m not sure that I’m all that happy with the big sad ~reveal~ of the commercial (lipgloss doesn’t always have to be the villain, guys!), the message is definitely worth examining. As it says at the end of the video, 66% of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of college-aged women end up majoring in STEM programs. One commercial might not be able to bridge that gap, but the more we talk about it, hopefully the more we’ll be able to overcome it as a community.
The Verizon #InspireHerMind site has some suggestions for ways to get your kids into science and math, if you’re so inclined. Which, you know, you should be. Science is awesome.
Stephanie Kwolek, a pioneering female chemist at DuPont who invented the exceedingly tough fibers widely used in Kevlar body armor, has died, colleagues said Friday. She was 90.
Kwolek died Wednesday at a hospital in Wilmington where she had lived, said her friend Rita Vasta, a chemist who also worked at DuPont. Vasta said Kwolek had been ill about a week though she didn’t know the cause of death.
Kwolek made her discovery in the mid-1960s while working on specialty textile fibers, according to DuPont’s website. She invented a liquid crystalline solution that could be spun into the exceptionally strong fibers now used worldwide in police and military protective equipment.
In 2007, Kwolek told The (Wilmington) News Journal that the discovery launched an exciting period in her career as the chemical company explored uses for her discovery.
DuPont management “didn’t fool around,” she told the newspaper at the time. “They immediately assigned a whole group to work on different aspects.”
DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said in a statement that Kwolek was a creative, determined chemist as well as a pioneer for women in science.
Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) are robotic limbs that, when worn, give you more limbs than you’d normally have. In other words, they’re not robotic limbs designed to replace biological limbs that you might be missing, but rather robotic limbs designed to augment the number of limbs that you have already.
MIT researchers have been developing SRLs that can help you do stuff that would be annoying, uncomfortable, or impossible to do on your own. Today at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong, they presented their latest SRL prototypes, with one model featuring a pair of limbs that spring from your shoulders and another with limbs that extend from your waist.
ListenTree: Live streaming sound from an outdoor ecological monitoring sensor network to an urban audience by Gershon Dublon at the MIT Media Lab:
A visitor to the installation notices a faint sound appearing to emerge from a tree (or several), and might feel a slight vibration under their feet as they approach. By resting their head against the tree, they are able to both feel and hear crystal clear sound through bone conduction. To create this effect, a specialized audio exciter transducer is weatherproofed and attached to the underground base of a tree (or trees), transforming the tree into a living speaker that channels audio through its branches and provides vibrotactile feedback. Any kind of sound can be played through the tree, including live audio or pre-recorded tracks. In one deployment, we used Arboreal Telepresence to display live streaming sound from an outdoor ecological monitoring sensor network, bringing an urban audience into contact with a faraway wetland restoration.
Our intervention is motivated by a need for forms of display that fade into the background, inviting attention rather than requiring it. We consume most our of our digital information through devices that often alienate us from our immediate surroundings; Arboreal Telepresence points to a future where digital information might become enmeshed in material.
3D-printed casts (an idea that’s been around for a couple years now) could alleviate the odor and itch issues caused by plaster casts, but even though they’re not widely available yet,Turkish student Deniz Karasahin has already taken the idea a step further. winner of the 2014 Golden A’Design Award, Karasahin’s Osteoid cast prototype uses tiny ultrasonic vibrations to speed up bone healing time by up to 40 percent.
The bone healing capabilities of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) have been known for decades, but the treatment is difficult to administer because it requires ultrasound leads to be placed on the skin, directly over the injured area of the bone. With traditional plaster casts this is basically impossible, but a 3D-printed cast that leaves patches of skin open would make it easy. Osteoid’s simple, skeletal design allows ultrasonic drivers to be built directly into the cast.
It’s still just a design prototype at this point, but given the rapid pace at which 3D scanning and printing technologies are progressing, we wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing these kinds of casts adorning the arms of reckless people all over the globe within the next year or two.
This is pretty impressive. I could see a future where a car sharing system could be combined with Google’s self driving cars, which would make owning your own car almost obsolete. When ever you are ready to leave a destination you give a voice command into your smart watch or glasses - then a car pulls up, you tell it where you want to go and it drops you off, and then drives away looking for the next person to pick up.
I guess it’s more like affordable driverless cabs than anything..
"Google has been working on its self-driving car project for a few years now with the goal of transforming how people drive cars. The company’s automated cars are equipped with tools designed to make them safe and efficient, like cameras, radar sensors, laser range finders, and software that enable the cars to navigate through the streets."
Chris Hadfield: What I learned from going blind in space
Col. Chris Hadfield is a phenomenal storyteller. This week, at TED 2014 in Vancouver, he spoke about what he learned about fear when he went blind in space. The video of his presentation is a must watch… unless you’re really, really scared of spiders!
Credit : TED
While looking for some new content I found a great search. This lists basically all the larger social media company’s engineering blogs. Each company usually posts about some of tasks that they take on to keep their respective services running. If you have some time click through and check out a few of the blogs.
Here are a few of them:
While these all mainly deal with web engineering, the concepts of defining the problem, knowing the variables, and building a solution all apply to these sites. They also outline some of the science and data that go into their systems as well. Please check them out if you are interested in what goes into the sites that you might take for granted.
Sharing a lovely meal with friends and family— it’s one of life’s most beautiful experiences. For healthy people, it’s just so simple. You meet up, eat, drink, laugh, and call it a night. For people who have Parkinson’s Disease, or some other tremor, sharing a meal can not only be embarrassing, it can be impossible. Some tremors are so severe, they can’t even feed themselves.
Liftware solves this problem. Watch the video. Such an emotional product is extremely rare. I spoke at the same conference with these guys about a year ago and their video floored me. It’s finally out. Really, really nice work.
Engineering is about identifying a problem, characterizing that problem, finding solutions to that problem and getting those solutions into the possession of those that need them. While it still falls short of curing Parkinson’s disease, I’m extremely proud of my brothers and sisters in the field of Engineering that were able to devise this elegant solution. While engineering skills may not be able to find a cure to Parkinson’s, we sure can apply those skills to alleviating some of the issues surrounding it. I really hope this technology can get into the hands of those who need it.