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Sorting on the Reboud

February 28, 2003

Looking at all the recycling bins on curbsides these days you’d think the manufacture of new plastic must be dwindling. Not so-increases in production of virgin plastic packaging outpace the gains in plastic recycling by an order of magnitude. One reason is the difficulty recyclers have in separating various kinds of plastic; if they’re mixed, the whole batch is useless. But researchers at SpectraCode of West Lafayette, Ind., have invented a point-and-shoot device that could solve the problem.

The system shoots a laser beam at the plastic, then analyzes the light reflected from the surface. The distribution of wavelengths serves as a “molecular fingerprint “identifying the type of plastic. The device can distinguish most kinds of plastic in 10 microseconds, which when automated could mean 500 tons of plastic per day in a typical recycling operation. The system’s utility goes beyond plastic: Researcher Ed Grant has used it to distinguish between various kinds of flours and sugars.

Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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