In 2008, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold began to carve out a portion of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse outside Seattle that houses the research lab of Intellectual Ventures. The former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft had an idea for a cookbook he wanted to write, and he needed some kitchen space.
Maxime Bilet, the kitchen's head chef of R&D and a co-author (with Myhrvold and Chris Young) of the ambitious cookbook, led me through the kitchen, where four full-time staffers were in the process of making me lunch using a variety of outre apparatus. The usual kitchen accoutrements were on display -- stove, sink, cutting boards, refrigerators -- but Bilet's tour started with the ultrasonic bath.
In a high-tech kitchen laboratory in Seattle, Nathan Myhrvold is putting the finishing touches on Modernist Cuisine, his obsessive 2,438-page cookbook documenting the future of food. I recently visited for a futuristic breakfast
Recently, in a laboratory outside Seattle, I ate a piece of buttered toast that I will remember for the rest of my life. The bread itself was not extraordinary, but it was spread thickly with the brightest-green butter I've ever seen. It was not true butter, but rather an extract of pure green peas. Fresh peas are blended to a puree, then spun in a centrifuge at 13 times the force of gravity. The force separates the puree into three discrete layers: on the bottom, a bland puck of starch; on the top, vibrant-colored, seductively sweet pea juice; and separating the two, a thin layer of the pea's natural fat, pea-green and unctuous. A standard pea yields about three percent fat, so the half-ounce of glistening viridian on my toast was the equivalent of perhaps a pound and a half of peas condensed into a single bite.
I was eating with Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, in the rather amazing kitchen at the heart of his 20,000-square-foot laboratory outside Seattle.
It's called the Leidenfrost effect, and you've seen it before: dribble a little water onto the surface of a hot, dry pan, and the water forms little drops that skate around until they fizzle out.
But have you seen it filmed close-up at 3,000 frames per second? Thanks to Nathan Myhrvold and his Modernist Cuisine team (whom we're going out to visit in Seattle this week!), now you can.
The brave little rover has been stuck in the sand for a year and a half, spinning her wheels and wiggling her robot arm futilely. As she's kicked up sand, though, she has uncovered deeper layers of Martian soil, and analysis of the difference between the surface and what lies beneath shows evidence of water.
It's getting to be real crowded up there. Today, Russian aerospace authorities had to shift the orbit of the International Space Station to get it out of the way of a piece of hurtling debris.
A similar maneuver was planned just a couple of months ago when a piece of China's Feng Yun satellite threatened the station. This time, the junk is American, a piece of UARS.
On our short list of dreams here at PopSci is to paddle around inside Super-Kamiokande, the giant Japanese subterranean pool that is the world's most sensitive subatomic particle experiment.
We haven't been invited yet, even after featuring the Japanese awesomeness chamber in our neutrino detector gallery -- but meanwhile British artist Nelly Ben Hayoun has thoughtfully built a 72-foot-long replica of Super-Kamiokande out of Mylar balloons, where guests can sail through the expanse of pseudo-photomultipliers by just shelling out 5 pounds and tugging on a Tyvek protective coverall.
Never a part of the world to let common sense stand in the way of a good vending machine, China has now invented a machine that, for the equivalent of a couple of dollars, pops out a live crab. The Shanghai hairy crabs, prized for their roe and sweet meat, are stored in the crab-o-mat at a near-freezing temperature, which keeps them alive but in a motionless state of hibernation. If your crab is dead when it comes out of the machine, you get three more crabs for free, guaranteed!
For an hour and a half or so earlier this month, 30 teachers from Ohio middle schools weighed nothing at all. The same went for me; for TV personality "Science Bob" Pflugfelder; and for 2,016 optic-orange ping-pong balls.
The joys of working from home are many -- peace, quiet, wear whatever you like -- but the greatest may be the cozy warmth of using a laptop in bed. Unfortunately, as the folds of the bedclothes impede the cooling airflow through the machine, it becomes hotter and hotter, to the detriment of the laptop and its surroundings.
Now, Intel is promising secret "pillow-proof" technology to prevent this overheating.