Grist List

Pencil that sprouts into a plant will solve zero problems but is cool

The 12 people who still write with pencils will be excited about this Kickstarter, funding production of a pencil that sprouts into flowers or herbs when it gets too short to use. This will solve the rampant problem of discarded pencil stubs filling up landfills with … uh … wood and rock. Okay, it won’t solve any problems, but come on: you stick the pencil in some dirt and it grows a radish! That is neat.

Got a broken coral reef? Send in the tiny robots

Coral reefs are fragile. Their biggest enemies: storms and bottom-fishing. Their new best friend? Tiny robots. Yes, robots are now good for more than speaking in a monotone and repeating the same non-sequitur every time you ask them a question. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are developing swarms of underwater robots that can repair busted coral reefs. The “coralbots” will gather broken pieces of coral from the sea floor (they will be “trained” to differenciate coral from other things in the sea like rocks or shells or Spongebob Squarepants), and they will then affix these pieces to the remaining reef.

Now your dank, squalid Man Cave can smell like a national park

This product may be a perfect metaphor for the modern condition: It’s an air freshener that will fill your TV room with chemical compounds that mimic the scent of the national parks, so you can experience a simulacrum of fresh air without ever having to go outside. Hooray for the future!

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