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This Exemplary Embodiment: The Year in Food Patents

I think that patent applications—where human ingenuity meets dreams of profit, within the straitjacket of line diagrams and legal prose—might be...

I think that patent applications—where human ingenuity meets dreams of profit, within the straitjacket of line diagrams and legal prose—might be my favorite literary form.

A tour through the year in food patents reveals several understated gems, from this "Grater for Gratable Food Products" to ConAgra's "Proportional Length Food Slicing System." The consistent format creates an equalizing effect, as products of massive corporate investment in R&D, such as Sysco's "High Protein, Reduced Carbohydrate Bakery Product," are shelved alongside the inventions of a lone, obsessive-compulsive salad lover whose new container design ensures that no element of the salad touches any other element until such time as the salad lover is ready to eat.


I assumed that a quick browse through the year's patents might serve as a guide to the future of food. It does —but as with all futurology, it works even better as a diagnostic of our prevailing food anxieties and obsessions. Thus anti-obesity techno-fixes, in both pet and human food contexts, were a recurring theme.

Meanwhile, in a year of food recalls and safety reform, several patents claimed to fight bacteria and other pathogens through innovations in food processing, packaging, and preparation devices.

Food journalists may have spent 2010 writing about urban agriculture, backyard chickens, and heirloom vegetable canning, but there was no corresponding boom in window farm, chicken coop, or vacuum sealing patents. Instead, I found a device for inserting a "shrimp-like product" into a buffalo chicken wing and a process whereby a multiple textures of cream cheese (or "other dairy material") could be combined into a single snack format. Even the simple activity of boiling an egg can be improved through the application of technology, it seems.

Browse selected highlights of the year in food patents in this slideshow, and then dive into the full glory of Google Patents search here. A warning: although it is addictive, the overall effect, I find, is simultaneously awe-inspiring and vaguely depressing—something to do with the witnessing the boldness of scientific invention as applied to speeding up the molding of flame-grilled patties, perhaps.

Slideshows
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

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There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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via Apple

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Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

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via I love butter / Flickr

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