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Done your Christmas shopping yet? Here's some ideas, both good and not so good

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Our special digital bonus edition to help to keep you entertained over the holidays. All available in our app available through Google Play or iTunes, or read it right here.

We set out the top ten gadgets we reviewed this year as well as Rebecca Northfield’s selection of those that are perhaps best avoided – or bought for that relative who always gives you just the wrong thing. For the children you do love, we have this year’s top toys for the budding engineer or technologist.

In some parts of the world, the flavour of Christmas is ginger. Some cooks use engineering principles to take their creations to new heights. Engineering consultancy WSP’s gingerbread competition attracts entries from structural engineers behind some of the tallest buildings, from the Shard to 22 Bishopsgate. Talking of new skyscrapers, you can also take a look at the latest planned addition to London’s skyline, the Tulip.

One thing we hope will be under your Christmas tree this year is some pine needles. And no little bits of tinsel. That’s because tinsel is one of the worst offenders for waste plastic at Christmas, along with artificial trees, the wrong kind of wrapping paper and those plastic toys that are lucky to make it to Boxing Day in one piece.

Christmas is one of the happiest times of the year but can also be the time of peak plastic consumption with mountains of waste that can’t be recycled. We identify seven sometimes surprising sources of plastic waste with suggestions of how to avoid them.

2018 has been the year the world woke up to the problem of plastics, especially those that end up in our oceans and its wildlife. Friends of the Earth and Zero Waste Europe alleges that Europe’s demand for plastic has reached 49 million tonnes a year, and 40 per cent of it is packaging. Which? also found 29 per cent of plastic found in UK shops is difficult or impossible to recycle, making the waste pile up. Plastic and waste are a problem all year round but that problem peaks at Christmas.

Are you going away this year or going home? Travel can turn into a nightmare at this time of year. Remember ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’? Alison Ebbage looks at the scale of the problem and how artificial intelligence may be able to help.

On a cheerier note, we have some fantastic engineering heritage articles in this digital edition. Nick Smith talks to Michael Palin about HMS Erebus, the most technically advanced ship of its time that ended in tragedy. The IET archives reveal the story of the anthrax breakout of the 1920s and we take a peak underneath some of the world’s greatest tourist attractions. The winners of the IET’s Engineering & Technology Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed and we present them in our app issue. You can see all the winning photographs here on the E&T web site.

As well as looking back, we look forward. What will 2019 hold for us? How will engineering and technology change our lives? Our diverse panel of experts ponder everything from renewables to robotics.

Its all in our special extra seasonal coverage. Happy Christmas to all our readers.

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