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3 Sustainable Science Discoveries, Innovation, And Investments

Graphic Courtesy Will Gatchel

Science and innovation are closely related — scientific discoveries often lead to technological innovations, and technological innovations frequently push the boundaries of science. This complex relationship has existed as long as humankind itself, and it’s not always cut and dry. 

Innovation led to the invention of the microscope, which literally created new branches of science, which would lead to the creation of penicillin, gene coding, and other innovations. In the past few years, sustainability-related science and innovation has skyrocketed due to increases in the threat of climate change and the amount of funding in those sectors.

All this to say — science and innovation aren’t going anywhere. We are highlighting a few of the latest sustainable breakthroughs, discoveries, and investments you won’t forget. 

A Jar Worth Cracking

NASA’s Houston-based Johnson Space Center recently solved a problem that even non-scientists can relate to: opening that really hard-to-open object. However, the similarities end there. NASA curators were finally able to crack open a space sample collector — four months after it had landed back on Earth. 

NASA spent those months designing, testing, and (eventually) successfully creating a tool capable of cracking open that space canister.

Instead of gaining access to a can of tomato soup, the team was greeted with dust from a 4.6 billion-year-old asteroid named Bennu. 

The London Natural History Museum’s Ashley King spoke to The Guardian about why collecting this type of dust could lead to more scientific discoveries. 

“These are some of the oldest materials formed in our solar system,” King said. “Samples from asteroids [such as this] tell us what all those ingredients were for making a planet like the Earth, and they also tell us what the recipe was — so how did those materials come together and start mixing together to end up with [habitable environments]?” 

Photo Courtesy Robert Markowitz/NASA

Seeing Earth Like A Bird (With Science)

Have you ever wondered how other animals see the world? Humans are able to see a wide range of colors thanks to the cones in their eyes, but they’re not the only ones that have them. Dogs and cats, for example, have cones that let them see two colors, but less vividly than humans. Science will probably never reach the point of replicating the sight of other animals with 100% certainty, but a group of scientists have created a tool that lets us loosely view how other creatures see color and the world. 

Daniel Hanley, a sensory ecologist at George Mason University, has worked with colleagues to develop a video camera system depicting the sight of different species.

A few of the videos are available here and totally worth watching, like the honeybee vision, which shows how the insects see sunscreen as yellow because they can view ultraviolet light, unlike humans. 

Video Courtesy New Scientist

The Largest Deep-Sea Coral Reef Ever Discovered

Earlier this year, a group of scientists, including a few from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), published maps of the largest deep-sea coral reef ever discovered. Oceanographers have been aware of the coral reef’s existence, located many miles off the U.S. Atlantic coast, since the 1960s; however, no one ever attempted to measure its actual size. Well, until earlier this year, thanks to recent advancements in underwater mapping technology that let scientists create 3D images of ocean floors. 

Armed with these new gadgets, a team of researchers set out to study this known (but unmapped) coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

As the mapping began and the true scale of the coral reef came into view, the scientists were shocked. They had discovered the world’s largest yet-known deep coral reef. 

Named the Blake Plateau, it stretches roughly 310 miles from South Carolina to Florida (but like, in the water) and takes up three times the size of Yellowstone National Park, but there are likely larger reefs out there yet to be found. Considering 75% of the ocean floor is still unmapped, the odds certainly point that way.

Photo Courtesy NOAA Ocean Exploration  

Mapping out the largest coral reefs and opening a hard-to-unseal canister containing asteroid dust might not be on the same level as the discovery of DNA. However, the technology built to map that deep-sea reef and the data from that dust could change the world. And yes, that’s definitely an optimistic mindset, but why doubt when you can hope instead? 


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