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Archive for September, 2018

#1,375 – Furternity Leave

Expecting a new addition to your family?  Then you can likely expect to get some time off from work.  Two to three months for new mothers.  A few weeks for new fathers.  But what if your new bundle of joy is a fur baby and not a baby baby?  What then?  How much time could you expect to get off?  In all likelihood, none.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  A big fat zero.  But that’s not right.  New puppies need just as much time to adjust to their new surroundings and new parents as a newborn baby would.

To some, furternity leave may sound like a ridiculous perk to offer employees but in today’s hyper-competitive landscape it makes sense.  After all, if you want to attract and keep top talent you may need to go beyond just offering competitive pay and standard benefits.  All things being equal, the company that has a foosball table in the lobby, keeps the office stocked with free snacks, and offers furternity leave may be the company that wins out.  And the trend appears to be catching on.

According to the New York Times, “[a] few companies appear to have gone far beyond Take Your Dog to Work Day. An Italian company allowed a woman last year to take paid time off when her dog became sick. And employees at mParticle, a data company in New York, are offered ‘paw-ternity leave’— two weeks of paid time off for those who adopt a rescue dog…”

Furternity leave provides other logistical benefits as well aside from merely just providing time off for people to bond with their new pets.  Such as giving people time to train their dogs, take them to the vet to get their shots, and ensure that they are getting along with any other pets that may already reside in the home.  After all, the last thing that any new pet owner wants is a Turner and Hooch like situation where you come home to a house that looks like a war zone, couches chewed up, shoes destroyed, family heirlooms strewn about the floor.  If furternity leave can prevent such scenarios from unfolding then we should be all for it.

In fact, maybe we should even take it a step further and allow pet owners more time off, period.  Early dismissals so that they can get home at a reasonable time and walk their poor dogs who have been holding it in since early in the morning.  The ability to work from home several days a week.  Extra vacation days to accommodate all of their normal vacation plans plus a few extra dog-centric staycation days.

A little bit extreme?  Maybe?  But just think about how many more orphaned dogs would get adopted if there were real tangible workplace benefits to doing so.  Just think about how much happier people would be and therefore by extension how much better of an employee they would be if they had a pet in their lives.  Viewed through that lens furternity leave wouldn’t just benefit new pet owners or their dogs.  It would benefit everyone.  And that’s a good thing.

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Is Furternity leave the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,374 – Molar Mic

Do you remember that Saved by the Bell episode where Screech, after a visit to the dentist, could suddenly start hearing a radio emanating from his mouth, leading to Zach tricking the Army into believing that Screech was really an alien?  Well, it would seem that the military certainly remembers it, as witnessed by their development of Molar Mic, a new way for troops to communicate via a tooth implant.

As CNET explains:

“Developed by California company Sonitus Technologies, the mouthpiece snaps onto the upper back molars (it’s custom fit to each user) and has a wireless rechargeable battery, a waterproof microphone and a bone conduction speaker built in. The mouthpiece sends and receives communications via a wireless ‘tactical neckloop’ that connects to traditional radios and phones.”

Considering the wide range of environments and tactical situations that the military finds themselves in, from higher altitudes to the depths of the ocean, it makes sense to develop a versatile communications system capable of relaying information exactly when it is needed.  To do so in an unobstructed and comfortable way that won’t cause a break in communication while protective gear is being added or removed just adds to the appeal of this new technology.

As cool as the Molar Mic is I’m left wondering if there are any other technological advancements that could also be inspired by watching Saved by the Bell.  Perhaps Zach Morris isn’t trash after all.

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Is Molar Mic the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Today’s big news, other than Hurricane Florence continuing its deadly march towards the Carolinas, was the recent announcement Apple made regarding their much maligned smart watch series.  That’s because the Apple Watch is now capable of acting as an early warning system for heart attacks, the first time such technology has ever been made available publicly.

As Engadget puts it, “The current Watch 3 is already pretty health-centric, but Apple has taken it to a new level with its latest model. Thanks to a new electric heart sensor built into the backside, the Watch Series 4 can not only detect a low heart rate but also act as an electrocardiogram (ECG). That means it can sense a dangerous condition known as an atrial fibrillation and warn you to talk to your doctor. The Watch Series 4 has received clearance from the FDA and is the first over-the-counter ECG app offered directly to consumers, Apple claimed.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the Apple Watch up to this point but I’ll be honest with you: this new-found ability to detect heart attacks is a major selling point for me as this is something that I’ve always been worried about.  Truth be told I hate feeling like I’m in the dark, feeling like I could be minutes or days away from a heart attack that I’ll never see coming.  To finally have a way to truly know whether or not I’m at risk is a real game-changer.  Just knowing that I’m not dying every time I eat something too quickly will greatly reduce my stress and anxiety levels.

But that’s not the only new trick the Watch Series 4 will have.  It’ll also be able to detect if you’ve fallen down. Giving an upgrade to those old, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices.

All in all, it’ll be interesting to see where Apple goes from here.  What other technologies can they pack into a miniature watch?  What other life-saving devices can be incorporated?  The Watch Series 4 has changed the game.  Will the Series 5 take it to the next level?

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Is the heart attack monitoring on the Apple Watch Series 4 the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Everyone’s attention right now is focused on the Atlantic Ocean and rightfully so.  Hurricane Florence is no joke.  Larger than the state of North Carolina and wider than the difference from Boston to Philadelphia, this tremendously wet behemoth of a storm has a chance to be the most devastating domestic hurricane in recorded history.

But over in the Pacific Ocean looms an even larger threat.

As Smithsonian puts it:

“Halfway between Hawaii and California, an enormous mound of garbage measuring twice the size of Texas floats in the Pacific, menacing the marine ecosystem and steadily accumulating man-made debris. This isle of plastic, better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGB), is made up of roughly 1.8 trillion pieces of detritus, and it shows no signs of breaking down anytime soon.”

Thankfully, there is a plan being put in place to try and counteract the GPGB.  The largest environmental endeavor in human history.

“…the Ocean Cleanup project—an ambitious $20 million campaign spearheaded by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat—aims to stop the patch in its tracks by ensnaring offending debris in a 2,000-foot-long free-floating boom, or barrier. Slat and his team launched a test drive of their device on Saturday, Christina Caron reports for The New York Times, and if all goes well, they will move on to the GPGB by mid-October.”

People opposed to Slat’s plan claim this this giant floating barrier will be harmful to marine life.  But isn’t the alternative, doing nothing while garbage piles up, even worse for marine life and the entire ocean ecosystem as a whole?  I for one am in favor of Slat’s plan, or any plan for that matter, that aims to clean up the environment and make the world a better place.

Now if only we could do something about those damn hurricanes.

Is the Ocean Cleanup Project the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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I’ve written in the past about an Artificial Leaf that tries to re-create the naturally occurring process of photosynthesis in order to produce renewable energy.  However, that was just the beginning.  Not entirely satisfied with that approach scientists have now turned their attention to another method, a hybrid approach that aims to combine natural and man-made processes in one fell swoop, aimed at combating Climate Change once and for all.

As Inverse puts it, “If scientists can figure out how to recreate the process wherein plants convert climate-warming CO2 into clean energy, we could develop theoretically unlimited clean energy, not only for people here on planet Earth, but also for the people who will (hopefully) one day need clean air and energy in order to explore and develop livable structures in space. It’s an ambition that at least dates back to a 1912 Science paper, but there have been hurdles, namely that it requires the use of expensive, often polluting catalysts.

Fortunately, a group of researchers at the St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge say they may have discovered a workaround by successfully splitting the oxygen and hydrogen molecules in water using a mix of natural processes and manmade technologies. It’s a process they call semi-artificial photosynthesis, and they say it could help revolutionize the development of renewable power.”

What I love the most about these findings is that instead of reinventing the wheel the researchers took advantage of a naturally occurring process.  Or at least a process that used to occur naturally.

“The Cambridge study focused on an enzyme found in algae called Hydrogenase, which used to split hydrogen and water molecules in a process that stopped occurring naturally because it’s no longer necessary for algae’s survival.”

Which begs the question: what other evolutionary shortcuts that could benefit modern science have been lost to history? And how long will it be until we re-discover them?

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Is Semi-Artificial Photosynthesis the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,370 – AT-121

Addiction to pain killers is a serious problem, one that affects millions of people.  Just ask Brett Favre. Thankfully there may soon be something we can do about it thanks to a new drug that’s just as effective as morphine.  Without the side effects.

As Fast Company puts it, “A new drug could potentially kill pain as effectively as morphine at a dose 100 times smaller–and without the risk of addiction.

In a new study, the drug, called AT-121, relieved pain in monkeys without making them dependent on it. Most pain drugs work by activating a receptor in neurons called the mu-opiate receptor. ‘Oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, heroin–they all work through the mu receptor,’ says Mei-Chuan Ko, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study. ‘This receptor provides pain relief, but at the same time, also produces euphoria.’

The new compound activates the same receptor, but also activates a second receptor that blocks dependence on opioids. When monkeys took the new drug, it treated pain, but didn’t make them high.”

This is a tremendous breakthrough, one that could save millions of lives.  Hopefully human clinical trials go smoothly and this drug can be fast tracked through the approval process.

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Is AT-121 the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,369 – Burning Man Safari

The other night I got my first taste of Burning Man as my return flight from Reno to Phoenix was almost entirely made up of hippies, drifters, vagabonds, and other assorted party animals making their way back to civilization after a week of reveling in the Nevada desert.  So covered in dirt and filth were these free spirits that the airline made them wrap their luggage in plastic bags before being placed in the overhead bins.  If the flights attendants had bigger bags they probably would have tried to wrap up the people as well.  On the bright side, at least the plane didn’t smell all that bad, no small feat considering that most of its occupants hadn’t showered in ten days.  Or maybe it did.  It was hard to tell the difference with everything smelling like reefer.

On the one hand you could say that I’ve had my fill of Burning Man just from this Close Encounter of the Weird Kind.  Sitting next to a guy who looks like the Mad Hatter will do that to you.  But on the other hand I was left wanting more.  Perhaps some of their drugs were rubbing off on me.  Or maybe I was just flashing back to earlier in my childhood when I wanted to run away and join a traveling circus, but either way, the longer the flight went on, the more I wanted to join this rag-tag band of misfits in their annual artistic pilgrimage to the land of campfires, bonfires, and crotch fires.

Here’s the rub though: I don’t actually want to go.  I wouldn’t want to take off a week of work and spend thousands of dollars just for the right to live in a mobile meth lab in the middle of the Mojave desert while the biggest party of the year rages around me.  I’m the kind of guy who stays in on a Saturday night to watch the Matrix, not the kind of guy who attends the rave in Zion.  My ear plugs and white noise machine wouldn’t stand a chance against the Steam Punk Army that would undoubtedly assemble during this modern day homage to Woodstock.

Instead I’d like to propose that we create a Burning Man Safari.  An opportunity for regular folk, like you and me, who have always wanted to see what all the fuss is about, to pass through this make love not war zone in a safe and pleasant way.  An opportunity for people to soak up the culture, to listen to the various musical stylings, to check out all of the larger than life art installations, to take it all in, without having to subject themselves to LSD, STDs, or any other acronyms ending in d.

In order to keep up appearances the jeeps that we would use for this safari could even be decked out to make them look like post-apocalyptic vehicles from Mad Max.  The drivers/tour guides could even be Burning Man attendees, looking to make a quick buck to finance their excursions there.  Assuming, of course, that anyone is even sober enough to operate a vehicle.

On the surface cramming ten days into one, completely streamlining the process of attending Burning Man, making it so that everyone can attend, seems like a great idea.  But perhaps it wouldn’t be.  Maybe some of the attendees would be opposed to this invasion of city slickers to their sacred desert land.  Thinking that it would somehow pervert the sanctity of this beloved anything goes festival that puts the wild in the Wild West.  That it would somehow cheapen the allure of a place that is beloved for its mystique.  Charming precisely because it is anything but.  However, any doubts I have are quickly erased when I realize that any opposition would likely fade away as soon as the first batch of mushrooms kicks in.  After all, it’s kind of hard to hold a grudge when you’re trapped on an existential plane, busily unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

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Is a Burning Man Safari the Greatest Idea Ever?

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