It’s now pretty much irrefutable that our planet is getting hotter. Temperatures are soaring, sea levels are going up, and we’re now comfortably cruising toward an apocalypse of our own making. So it makes sense that you’d want to do something about it. But I’ve got some bad news: Chances are, whatever you’re doing isn’t helping.
Take carbon offsetting. The idea goes that you pay a little extra for your flight, and in return your airline plants a tree or whatever. Sounds good, except for the part where it doesn’t make any sense. In the West, they produce a lot of emissions—so much so that offsetting them all would require the rest of the world to start producing negative carbon. In other words, offsetting is no help at all, just like recycling. Yeah, sorry to burst your bubble, but recycling has become a global market. That means that suppliers of recycled goods follow the money—even if it involves shipping their produce across the world, at ozone-shredding energy costs. And that’s before we get started on the environmental damage caused by mercury mining for energy-efficient light bulbs. So, to sum up: The planet is doomed and trying to help will only make things worse. Great.
Yes, it is technically a drone, but the RoboBee is, well, exactly what the name implies: a very, very small drone that is directly inspired by insect biology. And it has many interesting potential applications beyond just spying.
For instance, it’s easy to imagine swarms of robot bees being very useful in hazardous environment assessments, say, in the aftermath of a nuclear plant accident or a natural disaster, or in search-and-rescue situations. Roboticists at Harvard, where the RoboBee was developed, also see them perhaps being used in weather and traffic monitoring, climate mapping, and other such already-entrenched technologies that the drones could further improve.
For that matter, you may have heard that actual honeybee colonies have been declining, potentially causing a host of problems for the rest of the planet’s creatures. This may not be so worrisome if we are able to deploy vast swarms of artificial bees, programmed to pollinate just like real ones, to compensate—another very realistic task for the RoboBee.
Medically known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), Stone Man’s Disease is one of the rarest, most incapacitating genetic conditions. True to its common name, bone tissue begins to grow where muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues should be, effectively restricting movement. Individuals with FOP may even grow a second skeleton that will eventually turn them into living statues. Because the heart and other organs are made up of a different kind of muscle, they do not grow bone tissue.
Around the world, there have only been 800 confirmed cases, and there is no known cure or treatment other than painkillers. Those with FOP experience flare-ups randomly or following physical trauma—even something as small as an injection can cause bone to begin growing. But there is cause to remain hopeful. In 2006, the FOP gene was discovered, and clinical trials are currently active.
A fire rainbow is an extremely rare phenomenon that occurs only when the sun is high allowing its light to pass through high-altitude cirrus clouds with a high content of ice crystals.
If you threw a stick of dynamite into a fire, most people would scamper like a madman for cover before the dynamite explodes. There is no need to run though, dynamite needs a detonation by a spark or a percussion. The fire alone will not do the trick. However, warming up the dynamite in a fire will make it more responsive to detonation, but it will not cause it to explode. In fact, long ago miners would heat up dynamite in a frying pan when it was especially cold.
Most people are of a particular mindset: if you work harder you’ll be successful, and if you’re successful you’ll be happy. According to psychologist Shawn Achor, the reality is actually the opposite. Every time you achieve a goal, your brain raises the threshold of success. Success now becomes a matter of getting a better job or getting a better grade on the next test. The measure of what it means to be successful always increases.
What Achor found is that happiness is caused by noticing positive environmental factors instead of negative ones. He concluded that a brain with a positive mindset is 31 percent more effective than a neutral, stressed, or negative mindset. Doctors are 19 percent more accurate with their diagnoses when approaching problems with a positive mentality. It sounds kind of cheesy, but the findings were backed by another study that showed gratitude led to an overall feeling of well-being. So just think positive, and you’ll be happier.
The phrase “cats have nine lives” has become such a common part of the vernacular that few pause to consider its implications. The cat, with its speed and uncanny agility, would seem to defy death at every turn. The animal’s greatest accomplishment would seem to be its ability to regularly survive falls from any height. Human beings, for want of comparison, are terrible at falling. Although there are cases of people surviving insane tumbles (in 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic lived after falling over 9,000 meters—30,000 feet—from a damaged plane), a human is generally in big trouble after about three stories.
A falling cat has several mechanisms for survival. Perhaps most importantly, its sense of balance acts as a sort of internal gyroscope called “aerial righting reflex.” After dropping a few feet, it is all but guaranteed to land on all fours. The cat’s loose, muscular legs act as springs upon landing, distributing the sudden impact. Being relatively lightweight, the cat has a much lower terminal velocity (the maximum speed at which it can fall) than a human: cats reach about 60 mph; humans easily double that.
This is more than mere conjecture; there are dozens of reports of cats falling from enormous heights and walking away with little more than bruises. In 2011, an elderly cat named “Gloucester” fell 20 storiesfrom an Upper West Side, Manhattan apartment with minor injuries. The following year, a cat in Boston (named “Sugar”) tumbled 19 floors. In 2009, another Manhattan cat fell an astonishing 26 floors, this time with photo evidence taken by nearby window washers. This fortunate feline’s name? “Lucky.”