Science Saturday – Invisible Bike Helmet

Invisible Bike HelmetI know, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a “Science Saturday” installment, but I think I’ve found something so cool and interesting that will make up it.

Having lived in the Netherlands for a number of years, one of the things which was always amusing to observe, was the awe that many Americans had with the shear number of bikes whizzing through the streets, and something that astonished them even more was the fact that nobody wore a helmet, and that very few people had witnessed any serious accident.

This is probably in part, due to the fact that drivers in the city centres are overly cautious about cyclists, as the cyclists always have right of way….even when they don’t, and also the fact that the entire country is criss-crossed with bike lanes, giving cyclists a safety buffer zone from the motorists.

BUT, there’s probably a case to be made for wearing a helmet anyway for those “Just In Case” moments. But the problem some people have with helmets is that a) the make you look like an utter dork, and b) they are some times comfortable to wear, especially at winter when wearing a woolly hat.

So along came these Swedish ladies who’ve only gone and invented an INVISIBLE HELMET. “Invisible?” I hear you ask. Yup. And I’m not going to spoil it by telling you how they did it. You should really watch the video below, all the way to the end, before it all begins to make sense.

Science Saturday – Cleaning The Worlds Oceans

Boyan Slat, a young Dutch aerospace engineering student at TU Delft, and a keen S.C.U.B.A. diver has managed to come up with, what seems to me, to be an elegant solution to cleaning up the worlds ocean’s from the debris and detritus that we humans have simply discarded and polluted during our everyday lives, whilst making a tidy profit at the same time.

Millions of tons of plastic kill ocean life and poison food chains, accumulate in areas such as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which are located at the top layers of the ocean’s five gyres, and Boyan sees opportunities to combat this. Combining environmentalism, creativity and technology to tackle this global issue, and at the same time, creating a new money spinning industry, he believes current prevention measures have to be supplemented by active removal of plastics in order to succeed.

His concept, called Marine Litter Extraction, won the Best Technical Design award 2012 at the TU Delft.

While researching ocean plastics during his school holidays, he analysed various fundamental topics (including particle sizes, plastic/plankton separation and the amount of plastic in the oceans), leading up to the first realistic concept for cleaning up the world’s oceans. Take a look at the video to find out how he proposes to do it.

And if you combine Boyan’s capture concept with Akinori Ito’s plastic recycling idea, mentioned in a previous Science Saturday post, then you have the makings of something truly great for the environment, whilst making a few quid on the side too!

turtle plastic bags Great Pacific Garbage Patch garbage in ocean


Meanwhile In Russia – Bridge Building

Russian Bridge Building

Those crazy Russian’s have done it again. In a country that scoffs in the face of any Health & Safety Executive, who finds unique and daring – to say the least, life risking – solutions to everyday problems, this one has to rank way up there near the top of the list.

While the rest of us sissy Europeans are whinging and whining about floods and roads that have become inaccessible, the Russians have gone out and figured an ingenious way around life’s little problems and think nothing of a little bit of rain and bridges that have washed away, even if it is just a tad bit hazardous.

German Engineering At Its Finest

Beer Bottle Opener Wrench

Ze Germans unparalleled expertise with precision engineering combined with their eagle-eyed attention to detail and a natural desire to engineer solutions to all of lifes little problems has reached a pinnacle, as demonstrated with a new wonderful tool that no home should ever be without!

To see for yourself what those beer loving Germans have invented for the world now, take a look at the video below.

Snow Crop Circles

54 year old Briton, Simon Beck has spent up to ten hours a day tramping around in snow covered hills around Les Arcs ski resort in France, creating breathtaking masterpieces to be enjoyed and admired by everyone who whizzes overhead on their cable car or ski lift.

The 54 year old engineer creates these huge geometric forms, some of which are the size of 6 football fields using special snow shoes.

This art form started out as an exercise for Simon. He could not run because his feet gave him problems. Simon first needs to sketch out the length and diameter of the snow circles. He calls his method of work “Reverse Orienting”. But the durability of his work depends on the weather. Nevertheless, these are perfect sights for cable car riders.

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Refugees CAN Add Value

Take a look at the video above. It’s about a young man, Massoud Hassani, who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, and who found himself and his family being accepted as refugees in the Netherlands. He graduated university in Holland and is now a product designer. His unique and personal experiences that shaped his childhood in Afghanistan have served him well as a designer and he has invented a wonderfully simple, cheap and highly effective tool for clearing mines scattered across the desert floor surrounding Kabul.

What’s my point, I hear you ask? All too often, people in the developed world (and I hate that phrase), view economic immigrants and refugees as a drain on resources and a negative addition to the social fabric and make-up of the host country they move to. But this gentleman has shown that if a government, a nation, or just a single person, throws off the shackles of stereotyping and pigeon-holing of a person, if they actually look upon that person and their family as human beings. If they would only acknowledge that the education, training and experience that an immigrant or refugee brings with them is truly valuable, rather than forcing them to PROVE that their education is as good as ours, then that country, that nation and those people stand to benefit in very real ways.

Immigrants, of which I am one myself, truly add value. Sure, they might not adopt 100% of the social cultures of their host country. But then, if they did, then we probably would never have adopted curry as a nations favourite food, or adopted a sport such as football as a truly global phenomenon, or added new words to each nations lexicon, such as pyjama and bungalow in the case of the English language  I believe that 100% assimilation is never the answer, but a simple understanding and acceptance of the guiding principles, culture, history and values of ones host country IS necessary in order to be accepted in ones host country. But at the same token, openness and acceptance is a two way street, and ones host neighbours should cherish the idiosyncrasies that, for example, made me ME, or Massoud MASSOUD.

Right now there is an ever increasing right wing ultra conservative backlash against refugees and immigrants all across Europe. I found myself wondering why. As a proud Irishman, we’ve grown-up with stories and experiences of friends and loved ones getting on the boat or plane and heading off to find their fortune and salvation abroad. It’s been a theme of our beloved country for centuries. And we’re experiencing yet another wave of emigration right now. It’s something we though unimaginable during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, which saw the boom times roll in, and sights of newly minted Celtic Warriors jetting off to Dubai and New York on fanciful shopping sprees for the latest $800 pair of Manolo Blahniks.

But now that emigration is again a reality of life in urban and rural Ireland, I wonder what kind of welcome the “Tribe” get these days. Stories abound of “Irish need not apply” adverts found in the Australian job ads. But in Europe, the backlash has extended to include those who used to be considered “one of us”. Eastern Europeans get no end of harassment in places like Holland and Belgium. Moroccans are considered fair-game for abuse and open racist taunts amongst the Dutch. And God forbid you be of African extraction should you find yourself in Spain or Italy. But why?

Well, I honestly think it has EVERYTHING to do with HOW we process the refugee applications. It’s typical in Europe (Holland and Ireland being two good examples) to house families and provide them with subsistence money to feed and clothe their families whilst their applications are being processed. All the while, those in the family have degrees, skills and trades and who COULD work, and in turn contribute to the exchequer and actually add value, are PREVENTED from working. They are left in refugee detention camps to rot away until their applications are either accepted or rejected. Those lucky few who are housed in normal homes and start to slowly integrate with local life are live hand-to-mouth, their children however already soaking up local life like sponges.

And society resents them for the very fact that they ARE being housed, they ARE getting social welfare hand-outs and they ARE getting something for nothing. But it’s not of their own choosing. If you went to a refugee centre and asked anyone of them, would they like to work or sit on their ass, what do you think their answer would be?

It’s time that we, as fellow humans, stopped this immoral, inhumane stereotyping of our fellow man, and changed both our opinions of refugees and the manner in which we get them through the system and contributing to society. That way, they will never be considered a drain on an economies resources, but rather a very real benefit and a net contributor to a nations ability to grow and add value to all her citizens.