There are few things in life quite like technology finding solutions to age-old problems. For individuals with mobility impairments, be they related to vision or foot issues, there might be a solution coming to a store near you in the not-so-distant future. In Japan, the team at Honda has established one of their first major startup accelerators of the new century, putting Ignition into the world as they target newer mobility business ventures. With a focus on research, marketing, and funding, the Ignition accelerator aims to launch its first of (presumably) many ventures, Ashirase.
Ashirase – Introducing Mobility Solutions
Ashirase is the first company to be borne of the Ignition startup accelerator. The goal of the business is to develop a special in-shoe navigation system that helps support those struggling with visual impairments. While there have been a few demonstrations of the new navigation system already, the company aims to launch its final viable product before the end of March in 2023.
This isn’t the first time that the team at Honda has set its sights on addressing the lives of pedestrians who need assistance. Other Honda inventions for impaired individuals developed by Honda include the Shoulder Riding Robot Pal, a robot that learns your child’s routine and advocates for safety measures at cross-walks or when vehicles are in the area. This device was created due in large part to Japan’s high pedestrian mortality rate, losing 1.1 per 100k residents, still lower than the United States.
Swinging our focus back to the Ashirase mobility device, we can see through early demonstrations that the device will be fitted around each individual foot. Once attached, the motion sensor will pair with an application or your smartphone device. From there, the application and the motion sensor will work in concert to detect routes while vibrating to signal which direction to walk forward in.
The device aims to provide mobility assistance to the visually impaired, providing a stronger sense of support and confidence as they acclimate to their routines. While it is unlikely that a walking GPS will ever replace the traditional cane or walking stick, this visual tool helps to extend the depth of support available for those that wish it. By tracking the items AROUND the individual, this walking assistance device provides an extra layer of confidence for those that need it.
Right now, the Japanese government estimates that some 1.6 million Japanese citizens are struggling with vision impairments. According to some semi-alarming estimates, more than 2 million Japanese citizens will require additional visual assistance before the year 2030 is over.
The Ignition and Ashirase collaboration grew out of a need from the developers. Pointing to a family member who had suffered from an accident, the developers at Ignition and Ashirase would put their whole energy toward these mobility assistance devices. According to their developers the hope is that their visual support device helps individuals to “wholeheartedly realize the freedom of mobility for visually impaired people.”
Single Bee Sets Out To Make Undying Clone Army, Caused by Genetic Fluke
The sound of a buzzing colony of bees doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it? If you aren’t in love with these flying insects and all that they do for the environment, you might even consider them a pest. We’d advise against telling the bee in today’s story how much of a pest he is, however, as he might end up becoming quite the life-changing bee!
According to researchers on the topic of South African Cape Honeybees, cloning and condemning a colony through the use of a clone army of insects isn’t just possible, it happens all of the time!
Creating a Clone Army of Bees
If all this bee talk has you reaching for your Wicker Man DVD, we’d advise waiting just a little longer. This story isn’t as much about cult islands and crazy insects as it is about genetic flukes and how they can impact a colony. When African lowland honeybees experience the collapse of a hive, it is due in large part to a rival army of clone bees. This sounds wild, but it is actually true!
More grounded in science than science fiction, an army of bees of cloned female workers are possible thanks to the Apis Mellifera Capensis. The female workers of the South African Cape Honeybee are capable of replicating themselves completely. Diving into this fascinating story, researchers were able to trace a single honeybee through millions of replications and clones. This perpetual-cloning ability has allowed Cape honeybees to perpetually invade their lowland rivals, churning out multiple copies while refusing to contribute to the colony at all!
The reason that these bees are capable of cloning themselves is actually quite simple in the grand scheme of things. Unlike the Queen Bee or even most animals, female workers don’t have to shuffle their DNA during the egg-laying process. This allows worker bees to continually recreate their own perfect copy, a clone that is capable of reproducing while sidestepping all of the DNA shuffling that goes on in a conventional nest.
Benjamin Oldroyd is the lead author of the study we’ve been discussing, as well as a Professor of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Sydney. Speaking to Live Science, Oldroyd stated, “It’s insane; I’ve not heard of anything like this before – anywhere!”
Honeybee workers aren’t the only social insects that can reproduce asexually, so this news shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to researchers. Still, every time that worker bees create clones, they do so by reshuffling the genetic material from their four chromosomes, eventually going through a process we now know as recombination. With this reshuffling process, it guarantees that at least one parent offers genetically distinct future offspring.
While this process is smooth and efficient, the degradation of the genetic material is notable over time. As two chromones of the four are selected, more than one-third of genetic diversity is lost through each shuffling performance. This is where a queen steps into play, reproducing sexually to create a more diverse genetic workforce. Oldroyd goes on to say, “We have this tension between what’s good for the individual and what’s good for the society.”
Understanding the dangers and potential benefits imposed by genetic cloning, Oldroyd and his team delved into the clones as well as the honeybee workers and their queen. Genetic research revealed that the Queen had developed a process to bypass asexual reshuffling, limiting the loss of genetic diversity that had been occurring due to recombination.
Still, things are not completely well. Researchers note that Cape Bee Clones don’t perform any work around the colony, eventually aiding in its total collapse.
Mildred Passed Her 2nd Tough Mudder, What’s Your Excuse?
At the good old age of 81 years, wallowing in the mud and tackling physical obstacles akin to a boot camp course is not what most seniors think of in their golden years. Then there’s Mildred Wilson. In remembrance of her late husband, Mildred decided to take on the Tough Mudder course again. Farrell, her husband, cheered Mildred on the first time. So, it was only fitting she ran the course one more time in his memory.
A Popular Phenomenon Gone International
The Tough Mudder race now occurs worldwide and continues to challenge folks from all types of backgrounds. The appeal is simple and goes back to one’s childhood; can you complete an obstacle course race in the mud knowing darn well you’re going to be a mess from head to foot when done? Aside from the mud, there are no insane mountain summits to cross or great ocean channels to swim in. Instead, the course is generally comparable to a 5k run, just a whole lot messier.
For someone like Mildred Wilson, however, responding with a “Hell Yeah!” holler when asked by her son if she was going to give the course another shot is a salve to personal loss. Aside from going through the basics of checking with her doctor that Mildred’s health was up to the repeat challenge at 80 or so, Tough Mudder was a way to focus the energy and thinking about Farrell’s absence into a positive channel. He was her biggest supporter from the start, and cheered Mildred through her training and finishing the course for the first time. So, off she went to the local YMCA to get in fit shape again for the new race.
Training in the Time of COVID
Even with COVID present, Mildred didn’t stop. She trained, exercised, stretched and worked on her strength to handle the course obstacles without fear or concern. In fact, she trained so well, as Mildred maneuvered the course for the second time, she made child’s play of the Tough Mudder track laid out for the latest race, except for the wall. She knew that was going to be the hardest part. The wall was already a pain for those decades younger than Mildred from both genders. The wall is designed as a curved incline which might seem easy at a distance, but up close it is designed to knock one’s feet out from under, especially when wet. And that repeated impact can result in a beating for participants. The only true way up is a hand hold from another participant at the top or a really good spring jump.
Getting Over “Everest”
Mildred had to go over the famous course wall, just like everyone else in the race. However, she also had a team ready to go behind her that helped Mildred up and over, which only made sense at the ripe age of 81 by the time the race occurred.
And, at the finish line, there was Mildred. Muddy, tired, and with a big beaming smile on her face, the 81-year-old finished her second Tough Mudder in 2021. So, if Mildred can finish the race given her stature, what excuse do others have why they can’t? Even better, Mildred proves there’s never too old of an age to try the race at one’s pace. Even seniors can feel like kids and get muddy once in a while.
9-Year-Old Ontario Girl Raises Funds for Leukemia Drive, Inspires Community!
When you were just nine years old, what had you accomplished in your life? Not in a deprecating way, but an honest one. Most children under the age of ten get to live a young life of playing games, making friends, and learning at school. For young Paige Marsh, life was anything but easy.
As a Leukemia survivor, a young nine-year-old Paige had to endure pains that most of us won’t ever have to reconcile with. Instead of hiding from them following her recovery, Paige decided that she wanted to share her energy with the world by helping others in need. As a result, Paige would work with her family and close friends to raise funds for the Returns for Leukemia bottle drive, thrown by the local Beer Store.
Paige was first diagnosed at the age of four as doctors found cancer during otherwise routine testing. As a result, her parents were forced to face some challenging questions early on. Jeff Marsh, Paige’s father, said, “When we first heard she was sick… the world kind of stopped for a little bit.” Any parent can immediately conceive of the feelings that Jeff and the rest of his family had to deal with.
While no parents can be expected to calmly accept a cancer diagnosis in their children, Jeff and the rest of the Marsh family knew they were surrounded by caring medical professionals. Jeff highlighted the doctors that helped lead Paige through the process, guiding her back to health and recovery.
Post Recovery Fundraising Efforts
Following her recovery, the Marsh family knew that they wanted to contribute to help others in their time of need. In 2021, the Marsh family would donate more than $2,500 to the Beer Store bottle drive. In 2021, Marsh would lead fundraising efforts that culminated in more than 30,000 total bottles and cans. Those cans and bottles would translate to roughly $3,000.
Elinor Schwob works with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada and she has been plugged in during the entirety of the bottle drive with the Marsh’s efforts. Schwob would go on to say, “She might be little but she has a great big heart.” Schwob went on to detail how important the Marsh family has been to helping usher inspiration in others during their struggles.
As far as Paige goes, life looks like it is coming up roses! Paige said of her efforts with the Beer Store’s bottle drive, “I feel so happy and proud.”
Leukemia is typically known as a cancer of the blood and is traditionally found within adults older than the age of 55. While this is true, the cancer also targets children younger than 15 at a higher rate than other demographics. With that being said, not all leukemias are alike and as such may require different treatment paths.
6-year-old Survives Cancer, School Surprises Him With a Welcome Back
No child should have to deal with cancer, but Nathan found himself in the undesirable situation of not just facing the disease but a particularly fatal version, non-Hodgkin lymphoma. So, in 2018 his parents took Nathan to the Mayo Clinic and began the boy’s treatment as quickly as possible. The process was long, painful and aggressive as all stops were pulled to save the child’s life. The entire treatment and recovery took almost two and a half years before Nathan was back on his feet again.
A Rough Ride Down the Medical Rabbit Hole
During the treatment process, Nathan faced close calls. Tubes, medicine, shots, examinations, the cycle didn’t seem to end and went on for days and weeks trying to stop the boy’s cancer from spreading. The disease progressed so hard, the boy was on life support during the worst of the ordeal. There was visceral fear he was going to be terminal. Yet Nathan got through it, and his family was there with him all the way as well. In fact, when Nathan finally reached his end of treatment and the last day of the process, his school and fellow students decided to do something special for the patient. They were going to give him a big surprise for Nathan’s return to the classroom.
Time for a Surprise and Celebrating a Return
In a large, coordinated effort planned for March 25, 2021 and just before Easter, the entire school and 300 students showed up to welcome Nathan back to his class as the boy and his family drove through the school’s parking lot. Not only was the event well-distributed with a big response, it even made broadcasting on ABC’s World News Tonight as a classic report on good news, something a bit uncommon on national news broadcasts under normal circumstances.
The Small Things Matter the Most to Kids
Nathan’s big wish, however, was very much appropriate for his age. He just wanted to see his school friends again from the various classes Nathan remembered going to school with before getting sick. Of course, a lot had changed while Nathan was gone. Kids grow fast in two or three years, and Nathan had grown as well. However, once he and his friends saw each other, it was like old times again. The story had more meaning than normal as well; many of Nathan’s fellow students had spent almost a year separated from each other due to the COVID pandemic and the requirements for social distancing. The chance to see Nathan as well as each other was too good to pass up.
As Nathan mother, Becky stated, she wanted every child back in school before the academic year ended. A sense of normality after all they had been through was like gold, just like it was for the families disrupted by the pandemic across the country as well.
Twins Turn Chance Encounter With Steve Irwin Into Lifelong Pursuit of Animal Conservation
Paula and Bridgette Powers were just another pair of twins living in Australia when they met Steve Irwin. At the time, Irwin had been in a carrier with a crew of camera people. Getting the call to visit the Australia Zoo to assist with a sick sea turtle, Irwin had dove into the water while still wearing his boots — that was just the kind of person Steve Irwin was.
When Steve found himself face-to-face with the turtle, he also met the twins that had been treating the creature. Paula and Bridgette were known by their friends as the Twinnies, and they were equally excited to meet Steve. The meeting would become momentous as it fueled the twin’s ambitions to do more with their lives in the area of animal rights and conservation. Steve was fascinated by the Twins and the trio got off to an electric start. Says Bob Irwin of his son Steve, “He had a skill for being able to recognize special things that people might have.”
Path Towards Seabird Rehabilitation
While this meeting with Steve proved to be quite momentous, it wasn’t the only defining step along the path for Paula and Bridgette. The twins had been forced to leave school at the young age of ten due to health-related issues. Despite leaving school behind at a young age, the sisters wouldn’t give up on their aspirations. Helen, the children’s mother, would say, “What’s a mum supposed to do?”
The chance meeting with Steve Irwin would guide the twins toward what would become their calling, work at the Australia Zoo as well as the establishment of their charity, Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue. At the time of this writing, the Twin’s charity has been operational for more than 21 years, providing services to help animals recover and acclimate to the wild once more.
Claire Smith is a friend of the twins as well as a fellow worker in the wildlife rescue field. Claire pointed out that Paula and Bridgette both had a seemingly ‘incredible ability’ to read birds and to better understand what was going wrong with them. Claire also says, “Nobody else has gone that far in understanding the psyche of birds…”
What makes the Twinnies a particularly notable story is the quirk that goes along with their relationship: the way that they speak at the same time! After showing up for an interview on Good Morning Britain, anchor Piers Morgan would say of the twins, “It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
For their own part, Paula and Bridgette don’t seem too bothered by the Twinning aspect of their relationship. The Twinnies allege that they ‘feel complete’ when they are dressed in completely identical clothing, though they note that they have tried dressing differently than one another.
While there is a lot that goes into the Twinnies’ relationship, friends like Claire don’t want people to get Paula and Bridgette mistaken. Claire says, “People make the mistake of seeing them as some sort of novelty.”
The truth is, at least according to those who know the twins, that Paula and Bridgette are among the leading experts in their area of expertise. Claire says, “They are experts, absolute pros.”
Jeff Craig is an epigenetics researcher at Deakin University, and he had nothing but glowing words for the twins. Craig says, “I’ve heard such twins described as two bodies and one soul. I think that’s a perfect way to talk about them.”