Grist List

Climate & Energy

This is the most science-fictiony solar generator we’ve ever seen

If we’re really going to get a significant part of our energy from solar power, we’re going to need to have a LOT of solar panels. Ideally, we’d put solar panels on everything — every roof, every wall, every car. Solar panels on the Capitol. Solar panels on the Moon. So it might be a good idea for them to not be eyesores, huh? Designer André Broessel’s Beta Torics solar generator blows past that goal. It’s not just non-ugly — it’s genuinely awesome-looking, like something out of a science fiction or fantasy movie.

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.