Doctors are trained to deal with the fact that the decisions and procedures they handle can, at times, literally be the difference between someone living longer or passing away. It is one of the primary reasons doctors swear to the Hippocratic Oath, to do all they can to help preserve life and never do anything to the opposite of that. So, for Dr. Govind Nandakumar, when he needed to make it timely to a surgery he was scheduled to handle, there wasn’t going to be any ambiguity about it. He was going to be there, period.
Unfortunately, Bengaluru traffic isn’t conducive to timeliness. In fact, most times the congested city’s main traffic routes are a plugged-up mess of scooters, cars, busses, trucks and cabs all trying to get somewhere but going nowhere fast. When Nandakumar found himself in the middle of one such traffic jam, the decision was simple: get out and run. He wasn’t worried about his car; Nandakumar had a dedicated driver with the vehicle, so it would be taken care of. The bigger issue that mattered was getting across the 3 kilometers between where he was at and where the surgery was going to be shortly.
Trying to get to Manipal Hospital, Nandakumar knew no amount of waiting was going to free up the car. What would normally take 10 minutes to travel by car was clearly going to be more than four times that, according to his phone and Google map. So, on the street Nandakumar went, and he began running. Fortunately, he was already in good shape; Nandakumar regularly exercised, so the 3 km distance wasn’t going to be a hassle or extreme challenge for him. He was just going to be a bit sweaty getting into the medical offices.
The decision was the right one. Not only did Nandakumar make it in time for the surgery, he successfully took care of an emergency gastric surgery that had the potential to be terminal for the patient had it not been addressed immediately. In the big scheme of things, Manipal Hospital had enough staff who could have stepped in and pinch-hit for Nandakumar had he been late. However, the doctor’s dedication to his patients was paramount. At other times, the surgery could be at far smaller hospitals, and in those situations Nandakumar would be the only doctor available.
Nandakumar knows, despite his quick action in the latest scenario, the story doesn’t always work out so well. Patients are oftentimes trapped in ambulances stuck in traffic, close enough to know they are near, but the distance might as well be across the Grand Canyon for the patient sitting in the vehicle. In those instances, the doctor knows some cases have not ended so well; the traffic remains the curse of the modern world as a result.
Airline Acts of Kindness￼
Flying is More Stressful Than Ever
Flying has always been stressful. You need to have everything with you when you check in, and your luggage must meet airline standards. Airlines encourage passengers to arrive at the airport hours ahead of time so they can go through security and take care of any last-minute problems, which then means waiting for hours until the actual departure. The plane cabin feels confining, even to some passengers with more room, because you can’t leave once the trip starts. And you are surrounded by people experiencing the same feelings of stress.
In the past few years, stressed out passengers have taken out their frustrations on the crew and other passengers. There have been arguments, assaults, and general refusals to follow airline rules. That is why it is such great news to hear of times when an airline has gone above and beyond to simply spread kindness, proving that we can get through this and return to days of greater civility and enjoyment when flying.
A Lost Phone
If you’re like most people, you have almost everything you need on your phone. You use it to communicate with your friends and family, to stay in touch at work, to buy food, to keep up on the news, to keep track of the time, and an endless variety of other tasks. Losing your phone for any extended period of time will cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a disaster. Imagine getting ready to start a flight to another city and realizing that you don’t have your phone.
A passenger traveling from Long Beach, California lost their cell phone. The traveler was about to put hundreds of miles between himself and the phone that had all that important information. When the airline workers found the phone, the plane had already been pushed back from the gate and was about to leave. The plane was unable to open back up, even knowing that the passenger needed something important.
In a great act of kindness, the Southwest people worked together to make it happen anyway. The Captain had the idea, but it wouldn’t have worked without a lot of help. The baggage handlers who were allowed in the area brought the phone within reach of the the Captain so that he could grab it through his cockpit window.
Taking Care of a Dinosaur
Another passenger had a great experience when bringing an important model dinosaur while traveling on Southwest. Concerned about how well the model would be taken care of, the young passenger spoke with the airline while checking in. Kind workers assured him that the model would be handled carefully, even loading it separately and taking pictures of the journey. This simple act of kindness was much appreciated by a worried youngster.
Southwest really appreciates its customers and proves it with these kinds of actions. When a pilot decided to propose during a flight, he gave more proof that Southwest treats their passengers like family. Pilot Brad Ruff made a traditional proposal to his girlfriend during a flight, bended knee and all, in front of all the passengers. It was their second anniversary of dating, and he felt like it was the perfect time. There was applause and whistles as the couple made their happy moment a special moment for everyone flying that day.
Flying can be hard and stressful, but it makes it easier when remembering that everyone you are dealing with is another person trying to achieve a goal. These Southwest employees made flying more special and less stressful for everyone.
Pneumonia-Fighting Tiny Robots￼
Be careful mixing up the movies of the future and medical reality; they might start to blend. That is the case at least with fictional nanobots and the actual work going on using tiny robots to help attack pneumonia bacteria.
Most people, thanks to Hollywood, think of robots as mechanical constructs, with wires, joints, metal parts and glowing eyeballs. In reality, robots can be made from proteins, biological material, and organic matter. The key factor is that they can be assembled in mass and controlled to do specific actions. This was the case recently with swimming robots that were sent into a lab mouse to directly attack pneumonia. The goal, of course, is to take an overt approach to fending off a pneumonia infection versus using the indirect approach of bolstering the body and its own immune system.
The exact assembly of the micro-robots is a construct of an algae cell that is then coated with antibiotics. The algae cells have the ability to move through the lungs with ease, and then they are programmed to find and target pneumonia microbes. It’s a bit like sending in a guided missile at the cellular level. Everything else is left alone as only the target is recognized.
The experiment has shown very positive results. Those mice with the algae treatment cleared up their pneumonia within a few days. The mice that had no treatment died very soon after infection. So, will we be seeing algae robots in people at the local hospital? Not so soon. The experiment was a prototype test, a proof of concept that the idea could actually work. Now that the algae robots have a proven effect, there comes a long road of lots of additional tests to make sure the results can be consistently performed, as well as whether there are any harmful side effects. In short, a lot more mice are going to have to be used.
The assembly of the algae cells is a bit complicated and involves a lot of bio-genetic work. Each algae “robot” is covered with spheres that do the actual medical work. These are then covered with neutrophils, effectively white blood cells. The combination guides the algae cell to its target and then the antibiotics are released in close proximity, basically killing the pneumonia microbe and everything around it, a microscopic suicide drone. The mix also helps reduce local inflammation, which then clears up the area in the lung and the patient can effectively breathe better.
Other methods were tried before using an inhalation approach. A bloodstream entry of the algae cells was tried, but the circulatory approach diluted things so much, the dosage had to be thousands of times higher to have an effect. Instead, direct inhalation went straight to the source of the problem.
The approach of medical micro-robots is a big one, and it represents the frontier of bio-technology. Pneumonia kills thousands every year, especially seniors with compromised immune systems. Pneumonia can happen through social contact as well as when people are in the hospital and put on ventilators for other reasons, such as COVID, for example. Many times, patients in these situations end up staying in the hospital longer and have a higher likelihood of mortality once an infection sets in.
Again, the concept is a long way off from any practical use. Human immune systems are very different from mice, and what works on rodents may automatically trigger bad responses or perform little in humans. No surprise, lots of testing is in store, but the early results clearly advocate for more work versus killing the project altogether.
Tiny Turtles Prove the Odds Wrong￼￼
What chance does a creature have when it is one of the world’s smallest in the big ocean and the most endangered? As far as nature is concerned, it never seems to listen to the odds. That’s the case with a sea turtle species that has made itself at home near a Louisiana barrier island.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has managed to survive and has been observed again after being missing in biological terms for almost three-quarters of a century. Grinding out a delicate survival on the Chandeleur Islands, which have no human presence, the turtles have been eaking out an existence despite oil spills, hurricanes and everything else that can go wrong. While other wildlife was decimated by the BP spill a decade ago, the turtles somehow avoided certain elimination and instead are still alive, laying eggs, and hatching. However, much of that was missed because nobody was paying attention to the barrier islands.
However, on an off chance, scientists who were visiting the area realized what they had been watching was two small hatchlings struggle to get to the water after birth. And since that day, a total of at least 53 individual hatchlings have been tracked on the islands. Additional evidence comes in the form of the movement tracks made by the mother turtles to their egg nests and then back to sea. Add in the dozens of smaller tracks of hatchlings heading back out and some being observed getting into the water, and the proof is conclusive. The turtles survived and are growing in number.
The discovery is easily argued as one of the rarest moments that most researchers wish they could happen on. Many spend decades studying the sealife and wildlife of the Gulf and never get a chance to re-discover a known extinct species. Not only seeing them alive, but seeing the very young versions make it to water and swim is an extremely rare instance of biology most only read about or watching in films.
Now that the turtles are confirmed alive and functioning on and around the Chandeleur Islands, increased government presence is being applied to keep the area protected. The islands themselves, however, are numbered in days. They’ve lost their soil, and what’s left is being washed away by the ocean. Eventually, the island will be completely submerged at their current erosion rate. What happens to the turtles at that point is anyone’s guess, but they will likely end up opting for another similar island instead, if they can reach it.
MacKenzie Scott Tidal Waves Charity with $55 million in Donated Property￼￼
Jeff Bezos will go down in history as probably one of the richest success stories of e-commerce and Internet business, at least in the beginning of the 21st century. However, it will be his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, who will hold the title as probably the biggest philanthropic movement, using her share of their marriage’s divorce to return social good to hundreds of charities and non-profit programs with the money that her husband originally generated.
With Bezos’ net worth at the time in the billions, there was never a question that MacKenzie was going to separate with a sizable portion of it. What really was on everyone’s minds was how much that would be and then what she would do with it. As it turns out, and she did make it extremely clear when the divorce was finalized, MacKenzie Scott was going to use her husband’s money for social good. More than likely, part of that commitment was intended to spite Bezos’ drive for capital collection as a company owner in what he built with Amazon.
The latest move MacKenzie has taken to keep with her commitment has been the recent donation of not one but two sizable Beverly Hills properties, collectively worth over $55 million on today’s market. By most expert estimates, MacKenzie won’t be hurting; she’s still in control of a net worth of $37 billion. Having cashed out $8.5 billion of stock ownership in Amazon, MacKenzie still retains control of 4 percent of the company directly, and that’s after giving away $12 billion to causes and charities she feels merit the help.
Even better for her, MacKenzie has fully moved on from her divorce, re-marrying again to a high school chemistry teacher. Definitely, her second marriage will be a notable change of pace from the past.
As for the two homes, they are to be transferred by title, without any holdbacks or easements, to the California Community Foundation. If nothing else, the property donation alone will be a massive tax deduction for MacKenzie as well, practically wiping out any kind of income tax obligation she might have for 2022.
While Jeff Bezos might be grinding his teeth as to what he could have done with the $55 million and the other $12 billion she’s already given away in terms of Amazon or similar ventures, MacKenzie has made it clear she is out to offset his capitalism with social good. And, given the performance so far, MacKenzie is scoring five stars across the board in her strategy and plan.
Teen Builds a Better Poacher Trap￼￼
When traveling, people continue to be shocked by how prevalent poaching actually is, even in this day and age. That was the case for Anika Puri when she first saw widespread poaching product selling in black markets in India in the 2020s. The teenager was well aware that ivory was illegal and only came from illegally killing elephants, but there it was, plain as day, in the market stalls of what was Bombay at the time. Coming from Chappaqua, NY, the teen was going through a bit of a wakeup call by immersion in terms of what she was seeing and trying to reconcile with the ethics she had been taught at home about animal protection.
The sight triggered something in Anika, and she kept thinking about what was going on. Clearly, poachers were still successful doing their trade if the markets remained as full as they were in India. So, with the Internet and a bit of persistence, Anika was digging into the truth of the situation – elephant populations were continuing to drop in the 2000s instead of growing again, despite all the protection.
Anika was already a student of technology, and she realized there was a possible marriage between drones and technology, particularly in how animals versus humans moved across the landscape. They were vividly different in movement patterns as well as nuances. That made the traffic patterns identifiable, which gave Anika a functional idea. She began putting effort into building a software program that could both detect poachers as well as anticipate their movement patterns. Creating EISa, a software acronym for the program’s name, Elephant Savior, Anika built a prototype that tracked and spotted infrared signatures of humans versus elephants. And, with her research and field application, she was able to prove it could boost detection of poachers by 400 percent over other methods being used.
Even better, Anika’s solution was cost-effective. Normally, high-detail cameras cost thousands, with a lot of risk being put on a drone and potentially being lost on every flight. Instead, Anika’s prototype could be installed on a $250 FLIR camera, operated and run on the drone with a basic iPhone 6 mobile device. In essence, the teen built a low-cost poacher tracker that could fly, spot, and reliably perform in the field.
The development and prototype was so effective and impressive, Anika won the Peggy Scripps Award, as well as a $10,000 prize for her invention, competing against other high schoolers. She also scored the top title in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, in its category for environmental science and earth sciences.
Where did the idea come from? A lot of it was generated from a catalyst associated with a summer program at Stanford University when Anika had just finished her freshman year. There she got exposed to artificial intelligence, and the door in her mind opened up exponentially. She also realized the possibilities of data bias inherent in how technology works when designed by humans, and that gave her the edge in developing her poacher tracker program. One thing leads to another, and just the small movement of a pebble can create an avalanche of change. In Anika’s case, that pebble was her first visit to India and seeing the negative impacts of poaching. From there, the story is history now.