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August 18, 2009

Charles Graeber profiles Kevin Fu, the TR35 Innovator of the Year. Fu, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, studies ways to prevent hacking of credit cards and medical devices that use radio frequency identification. Says Graeber: “I was interested to learn that implanted defibrillators are tested by essentially triggering a heart attack in the operating room. It makes sense, and yet it’s somehow shocking. I think Fu found this as surprising as I did. After his surprise wore off, he took that information and tested whether a bad guy could use it against the patient to create heart attacks rather than correct them. It’s just another example of how his observational skills and his curiosity dovetail into his work as a technological innovator.” Charles Graeber is a National Magazine Award-nominated writer and a contributing editor for Wired and National Geographic Adventure magazines. He writes for the New Yorker, New York, the New York Times, GQ, Vogue, Outside, Men’s Journal, and others.

Elizabeth Svoboda writes about TR35 innovator Michelle Khine, who came up with a deceptively simple idea that could lead to faster, cheaper medical tests: she uses a children’s toy to make serious devices designed to be used in medical diagnostics. “I was especially intrigued when I heard I’d be interviewing Khine, a researcher who figured out a way to make complex microfluidic devices out of Shrinky-Dinks,” says Svoboda. “Khine proved to be as down-to-earth as her practical invention makes her seem. When I visited her lab at UC Merced, she was in the midst of moving to UC Irvine, but she managed to keep a few of the Shrinky-Dink chips out of storage to show me. Khine’s innovation proves that there’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned ingenuity as well as the use of practical workarounds–even in the most rarefied of disciplines.” Svoboda is a freelance science writer based in San Jose, CA. She contributes to Popular Science, Discover, Psychology Today, and Salon.

Corby Kummer writes about the newest trend in California winemaking: biodynamic farming (In Vino Veritas). “I had no idea biodynamic was more than a fancy name for organic. And I certainly didn’t know how strongly people would feel about whether biodynamic farming was actually better or just another California fad,” says Kummer, who visited Sonoma County and Napa Valley to talk to winemakers. “A lot of what I heard is easy to make fun of,” he says. “The fertilizers that biodynamic farmers use–they call them ‘preparations’–sound like they’re out of some medieval apothecary, or Macbeth. But the underlying principles–rebuilding the soil, and thinking of it as a kind of base crop you have to replenish and feed–are sound, even if some of the jargon sounds ridiculous.” Does the wine taste any better? “Maybe,” he says. “But the wineries certainly look lusher.” Kummer is a longtime editor and writer for the Atlantic and the author of The Pleasures of Slow Food.

Steve Moors photographed Fu and Humanitarian of the Year (José Gómez-Márquez), whose work on simple yet novel devices could improve health care in poor countries. “My shoots tend to be a little unconventional, and a few subjects will draw a line,” says Moors. “Not these guys: they wanted to have fun. They bravely embraced the adventure and made themselves very much a part of the process.” Moors is British but has lived and worked in New York since 2000. His work has appeared in Face magazine, Tatler, Blueprint, and the Sunday Times magazine.

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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