It occurs to me that Wary Wonderlust tends to wallow in the wary far more than it reaches for wonder. I think it’s safe to say that it’s wearing and contributes to the erratic nature of my updates. With that in mind, I’m going to try to focus a bit more on the optimistic side of life. For today, here are three incredible things:
When we take the time to understand our world, we often discover answers to questions we weren’t asking. As such, the revelations of scientific research are invaluable. This was proven once again when the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Santa Barbara began studying clams. Specifically, giant clams with iridescent structures.
Many sea creatures are iridescent for camouflage or reproductive reasons, but the evolutionary advantage of clam iridescence was unknown. The team hypothesized that it might have something to do with sunlight. It appears they were right. Algae living in the clam tissue use the light and pass the nutrients to the clam.
The way the algae and clam work together could change the way we make solar panels. “The clam has to make every square inch count when it comes to efficiency. Likewise, all of our alternatives are very expensive when it comes to surface area, so it makes sense to try to solve that problem the way evolution has.”
The 2014 Google Science Fair wrapped up last month. The winners ranged in age from fourteen to seventeen.
Three sixteen year-old girls from Ireland investigated the use of diazotroph bacteria as a cereal crop germination and growth aid. They concluded that its use could “significantly assist combating the growing global food poverty challenge and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture by reducing fertilizer use.”
Hayley Todesco, a seventeen year-old from Canada, tested sand filters to find which would best detoxify oil sand tailings.
The youngest winner came from the United States, Mihir Garimella. Like the researchers that studied the giant clams, he found a solution to a modern problem in nature. Using fruit flies as inspiration, he created a flying robot that can successfully evade obstacles.
Fifteen year-old Kenneth Shinozuka is also from the United States. He created sensors that monitored body weight to warn caregivers of patients wandering out of bed at night.
The Voters Choice was Arsh Dilbagi from India, who created a way for those with certain paralyzing disabilities to communicate. Current technology is bulky, expensive, and slow. Arsh developed small, lightweight sensors that use patients’ breath to dictate letters. The technology is accurate, efficient, and costs less than one hundred dollars.
Google encourages teens to think about what they love, what they’re good at, and what they want to change. They say it’s about more than science and they’re right. When we ask ourselves those questions and then act on them, the results are life-changing.
A small clinical trial using stem cells has helped some patients with severe vision loss. The road ahead for stem cell treatments is long and winding, but this is the latest example of how they may be used to better the lives of the living. A larger study is being coordinated to see if the procedure continues to show potential.
I’ll leave you with one more incredible thing – a day on Earth.