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Here’s a quick look at everything that tickled my fancy over the past week:

Eggcelent News

If you thought trying to figure out which came first between the chicken and the egg was hard, imagine trying to figure out which came first between a boiled and un-boiled egg now that the process of boiling an egg can be reversed.

According to CNBC:

“As anyone who has ever cooked an egg knows, egg ‘whites’ are clear until they are cooked. Egg whites are high in protein, and when they cook, the proteins start to unfold, and then fold back up in a tighter, more tangled structure. This is why they go from being clear and mucus-like to white and rubbery.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and Flinders University in Australia have figured out a process that can pull apart the tangled proteins, allowing them to refold and return to their original structure.

It may seem like a mere parlor trick, but it is an achievement that could ‘dramatically’ cut costs for cancer treatments, food production and other research in the $160 billion global biotechnology industry…”

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Untangling a Solution to Noise Pollution

In yet another example of how humans can benefit from nature’s designs, spider webs could one day be used to help in the fight against noise pollution.

According to Phys.org, “Researchers have demonstrated that the geometry of a natural spider web can be used to design new structures that address one of the biggest challenges in sound control: reducing low-frequency noise, which is the second most widespread environmental problem in Europe after air pollution.”

This discovery is also note-worthy in that it marks the first time that I don’t mind that spiders exist.

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Striking It Rich

Frozen oil, of all things, has proven to have bizarre new properties, ones that could lead to flexible electronics or other adaptive materials.

According to Engadget, “British and Bulgarian scientists have discovered that oil droplets will form octagons, triangles and other not-so-natural shapes if you slowly freeze them while they’re in a soapy solution. On top of that, they’ll revert to their original states if you warm them back up. The results are more than a little odd, as you can see here — they’re non-living chemicals taking on artificial shapes in a lifelike way.

It’s still early going, but the implications are huge. If researchers can find a way to produce specific shapes and make them stick, they could have shape-shifting materials whose properties change on the fly. In that sense, flexible devices could be just the first step toward gadgets whose very nature adapts to your needs.”

Image result for oil droplets changing shape

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,190 – Firesound

As wildfires continue to devastate thousands of acres in California it’s become increasingly clear that we need better firefighting tools.  Something that we could use to put out dangerous fires or even prevent them from forming in the first place.  The latter is where the Firesound drone comes in.

As the BBC puts it, “The Firesound is a firefighting flying saucer. The bright yellow, meter wide, autonomous disc is designed to patrol parks and forests, constantly looking for danger using smoke sensors and thermal cameras. Unlike UFOs from 50s B-movies, however, it won’t shoot out the kind of laser beams that might spark a forest fire.  Instead the Firesound will blast low frequency sound waves to extinguish small fires before they can spread.”

Essentially what Firesound does is use sound waves to move oxygen away from the fire, thereby removing its fuel source, and effectively starving it.  It’s an effective, low-cost method, that could wind up saving lives, property, and the environment and it comes to us from Charles Bombardier, the same designer behind the Antipode, the high speed airliner capable of traveling at Mach 24 and traveling from New York to London in just 11 minutes.

The Firesound can do a lot more than just put out fires though as it can also be used as a surveillance tool to help locate people who are missing.  Or, as Bombardier suggests, it could also be configured to provide wi-fi connectivity to a stranded camper so that they can signal for help.

Unfortunately, the Firesound wouldn’t be much help in fighting a large scale fire that is already burning out of control.  It also, may not be much help in preventing them either, considering that it’s just a prototype for now.  Hopefully it does wind up becoming a real product because the people of California can use all the help they can get.

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Is Firesound the Greatest Idea Ever?

#1,189 – Hike Mic

The other day I was strolling through the woods in Asheville, North Carolina when my friend remarked how she wished she knew what she was looking at.  What kind of flower is that over there? Which one of these trees is producing those beautiful red leaves? When was this trail made and by whom?

We discovered a lot of interesting things on our hike that day.  One of the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen.  Cool moss covered logs.  An immaculately preserved acorn.  A mysterious metallic object protruding from the ground.

Answers to her questions were harder to come by.

This got me thinking.  What if there was a way that we could stay informed on a hike?  What if there was a way that we could have an expert level travel companion with us at all times?  Someone who could tell us about the foliage and the sediment, about the geology and the local history.  Someone who could tell us how much farther we had to go to reach our destination or let us know if we were lost.  Someone who could even let us know about good food in the area for when our hike was done and we needed to refuel.

What I’m imagining then is an audio tour phone app specifically designed for hiking.  Similar to the audio tours offered in museums, Hike Mic would inform hikers about what they were seeing as they approached various landmarks.  Available in dozens of languages Hike Mic could either inform a single hiker or be broadcast out to a group of trailblazers.  Depending on how long you’ll be hiking for you could either listen to a shorter informational only stream or for longer hikes enjoy a stream that has several songs mixed in.

Imagine if you will, listening to a brief description of how a particular rock formation was formed by a moving glacier, and then suddenly, as you begin your ascent, hearing Eye of the Tiger from the Rocky movies.  A program that could effortlessly toggle between song and information as you reach various mile markers would be absolutely amazing.  Famous naturalists, explorers, adventurers, and climbers could provide the narrations.  Or you could even make it open source and allow for anyone to add messages and tidbits to the trails that they frequent.

When people go for walks in the woods it’s usually because they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Want to go somewhere where they can unplug and decompress.  Be alone with their thoughts.  And I get all that.  But what about everyone else?  What about the insatiably curious or the wandering wonderers? What about all the people who want to stay informed? Who want to stay connected? For those people maybe one day they’ll be Hike Mic.

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Is Hike Mic the Greatest Idea Ever?

This past weekend, while walking the immaculately groomed grounds of the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, I engaged in an unofficial competition with a friend of mine over who could take the better photo.  I say unofficial because she wasn’t aware that we were competing.  But in my mind we were and every five seconds I would show her my phone and force her to marvel at “the shot of the day” that I had just captured.  At first this annoyed her.  But eventually she got into the act as well and refused to leave a particular area until she also got the same awesome shot that I had just got.  Even if that meant waiting around for stragglers to leave one particularly photogenic area.  Even though I could have easily just sent her my photo.

This got me thinking.  What if there was a way to actually compete against somebody else in a photography competition? What if getting the “perfect shot” could actually win you money or make you famous? In today’s Instagram obsessed culture, where almost everyone is an instant professional photographer, wouldn’t there be a huge audience for such a show?

What I’m imagining then is a reality TV show that would pit amateur photographers against one another in a race against time to try and capture as many amazing shots as they can in a given area.  Say in a mansion or at a National Park.  In addition to racing around the grounds to get as many shots as they can there would also be points awarded for taking pictures of certain things or from certain angles.  In a way, it would be a like a photo scavenger hunt.  Take a picture of all 20 items on your checklist and receive a bonus.  There would also be a bonus for the shot of the day or for taking a picture with a vintage camera that is hidden somewhere on the property.  The final round could force contestants to go old school and develop a black and white photo in a lab.

Partially inspired by Supermarket Sweep (which is coming back by the way!) and other obscure competition shows that came before it, Photo Finish, would be a ratings smash.  At the very least, you’d have to think that it could hang with other modern day competition shows currently populating cable TV such as Forged in Fire, a show about a welding competition, Alone, a show about surviving in the wilderness, or Talk Show The Game Show, a late night talk show in which guests receive points for the best answers to canned questions.  If those obscure competition shows can get green lit, then surely Photo Finish could as well.

That’s the hope at least.  If not, I’ll always have Asheville.

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Here’s one of my photos from this past weekend.  Could it win me Shot of the Day on Photo Finish?

I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, take up two parking spots, stay up past my bed time, or keep library books past their due date.  But there is one vice that I do have: eating junk food.

Currently, I’m in the midst of a love-hate relationship with licorice nibs.  I love them and then I hate myself for eating an entire bag of them in one sitting.  They say that consuming sugar alters your brain chemistry, killing neurons and bringing about degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.  Suffice it to say, I will definitely be succumbing to Alzheimer’s any day now thanks to my obsession with Sunkist orange soda.

My obsession with junk food isn’t all bad though.  I have learned some very valuable information that I can pass on to future generations such as the fact that chocolate tastes better when frozen and that pickles go well with everything except for pizza.

It’s really not my fault though.  Junk food is comfort food and quite frankly, I’m usually in need of a lot of comforting.  You would be too if you had my fantasy football team.  But luckily, there may be help on the way in the form of a new supplement that could turn off my cravings for junk food, while still leaving me with a normal appetite.

According to Futurism, “UK scientists may have found a food supplement that selectively switches off cravings, removing the desire for high-calorie fatty foods while leaving the healthy appetite unaffected. The supplement is inulin-propionate ester, developed by researchers at Imperial College London. In a test with 20 volunteers, the researchers found that the supplement results in both less cravings for junk food, and eating smaller portions.”

Healthier lifestyle here I come!  Ah, who am I kidding.  Licorice nibs, I will always love you! You have nothing to worry about!

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Is a way to turn off Junk Food cravings the Greatest Idea Ever?

Lately there have been a lot of medical breakthroughs dealing with ways to heal the body quickly, most notably the effort from The Ohio State University to heal with a single touch.  But there’s more than one way to skin a cat which is why we may soon have one more weapon at our disposal, an injectable glue that can heal in seconds.

According to the New York Post, “Australian and American biomedical engineers have developed a stretchy surgical glue that rapidly heals wounds, a ‘breakthrough’ that has the potential to save lives in emergencies, its designers say.

The injectable glue, MeTro, is based on a naturally occurring protein called tropaelastin. It is applied directly to the wound and is then activated with UV light to form a complete seal, eliminating the need for staples or stitches. Its elasticity means it’s designed to work well on shape-changing internal organs like the lungs and heart.”

Gizmodo adds that, “MeTro is also equipped with a built-in degrading enzyme, which can be adjusted to determine how long the sealant lasts, which can be anywhere from a few hours through to months depending on nature of the injury. The researchers compared it to silicone sealants that are typically used around bathroom and kitchen tiles.”

Hopefully, you and everyone you know will never find themselves in need of MeTro, but if they do, it’s good to know that something like this now exists.

Image result for injectable glue

Is an Injectable Glue the Greatest Idea Ever?

I’m a notoriously picky eater who hates to try new things that I know I don’t like.  But in the future I may finally be willing to try something new.  Just on account of how cool it is.  That’s because in the future we all may be digesting edible gelatin robots that could heal our bodies from within.

According to TechCrunch there are a number of potential applications for such edible robots, “including food that can walk itself to hotter or colder locations or inch its way toward the human or animal it’s looking to feed. What’s more immediately compelling, however, is the possibility of delivering automated medication, as touched upon in a recent Recode article that helped bring the EPFL study to wider attention. ‘That’s definitely a very interesting application,’ says [Dario] Floreano, ‘because you may carry pharmaceutical components to a location where you want them to have an effect.’”

While targeted medication would certainly have a major medical impact the aspect of this innovation that I’m most drawn to is the ability of this robotic food to move itself.  In theory, could a bed ridden patient who is recovering from a broken leg or difficult pregnancy have food march itself from the refrigerator directly to them so that they wouldn’t have to get up to retrieve it?  Would this mean that our futuristic restaurants could operate entirely without waiters as we order robotic food that drives itself to our tables?

There could be other uses as well.  According to Fortune, “’Fully edible robots would help to study how wild animals collectively behave. The robots could also take a role of animals prey to observe their hunting behaviors, or to train protected animals to do predation,’ the researchers write.”

Either way, it’s clear that an edible robot in some form or another may soon become a part of our lives.  Hopefully, they won’t taste half bad.

Image result for edible gelatin robots

Are edible robots the Greatest Idea Ever?