If you're the type to get heated when you hear about absurdly over-endowed elite universities throwing their money into the trash, then you'll definitely hate MIT's new project to throw expensive tracking devices into trash cans in Seattle and New York City and chart their movements online. Dubbed Trash Track, the project is currently in the planning stages, but has already produced some interesting (if slightly incomprehensible) data, as seen at right. Those purple zig-zags represent the trajectory of a tracking device placed inside a Starbucks cup in Seattle, which transmitted its location throughout its journey through the city's garbage disposal system.
Whatever your qualms about the allocation of research funds may be, the idea of making one of our most wasteful and arcane infrastructures a little easier to understand, interpret and, presumably, improve, sounds great to me. (Which is just another way of saying that I'll soon be stalking my trash on Google Maps.) The folks at MIT are still working on perfecting the tracking devices (cutely dubbed "trash tags"), and obviously the ultimate goal must be to give each piece of trash the ability to Tweet its trip, right? Track the evolution of Trash Track here.