Is your $30,000 bottle of Chateau Petrus Bordeaux truly a rare vintage, or is it just $30 merlot? Counterfeits plague rare-wine auctions, but researchers in Spain have built a handheld "electronic tongue" that detects them instantly. It measures the signature chemicals, acidity and sugar content in a drop of wine (typically one bottle from a case) and runs those against a database of certified vintage wines to catch fakes that might fool human tasters.
Forget finding the 11th dimension -- how old is that wine? Scientists at Arcane, a nonprofit technology group in France, can confirm a wine's age using a particle accelerator. Analysis of the x-rays created as the protons hit the bottle reveals what type of furnace the glass was fired in, and thus where and when the bottle was made. The process costs $500, so the Antique Wine Company in London, which owns the rights to the test, uses it to validate only extremely valuable bottles of 19th-century Bordeaux.
Irrigating vines is a game of chance. Too much water drowns the grapes; too little, and they become raisins. A new system by the biotech start-up Fruition Sciences monitors water flow through plants with vine-mounted thermal sensors. A computer considers these readings, the variety's demands and climatic conditions, and determines irrigation settings so that grapes get their optimal daily water. The company, which is busy making less-expensive sensors, has rolled out the tech in California and is looking to bring the tech to France.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.