Wings, Water, Wind, and Hope in Hawaii

Hawaii has a unique ecosystem. Because the islands were created by volcanoes, all life had to arrive either by water, wind, or wings, says Dean Gallager, a ranger at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The steaming slopes and lush valleys of this island ecosystem were the location of this year’s National Geographic and National Park Service BioBlitz.

Inviting students and other visitors from the region and abroad to explore the park, the goal of the BioBlitz was to spread interest, awareness, and connection to the natural world and help identify the many diverse and often unique species found there.

“It’s very important to know what is in the forest at any one time, as a baseline,” says Curtis Ewing, an entomologist from the University of Hawaii, “so in the future when people come out and they look in the forest they will know what was here in the past and they will know if anything is disappearing or if there is new invasive species that have come in.”

With this year’s BioBlitz provided such a baseline, future researchers will be better positioned than ever before to notice changes to the ecosystem of the park, and understand the natural response to those changes.

Dean Gallagher sees a direct impact on the lives of BioBlitz participants as well. As opposed to kids “just being given bad news about things that have happened in the past, giving them a sense of hopelessness,” he says BioBlitz can help instill in them a modern sense that “we can make a difference, and we are making a difference.”

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One Day, Your Cracked Phone Screen Could Heal Itself

We may be getting closer to an indestructible smartphone.

French physicist Ludwik Leibler won the European Patent Office’s 2015 Inventor Award earlier this month for discovering a new type of polymer, named vitrimers, that has both glass-like properties and the power to heal itself infinite times.

In other words, we might be on our way to getting self-healing phone screens.

Leibler discovered this technology when he combined two different materials into one “supramolecular” substance, whose molecular bonds are neither rigid nor permanent, but in dynamic equilibrium. It is for this reason that vitrimers are sturdy yet moldable at the same time, which allows the plastic to change from a solid to a pliable consistency — in other words, self-repair — when the temperature changes.

With this new easy-to-repair plastic, it is entirely likely that cracked phone and tablet screens will become a thing of the past — but probably not anytime soon. It remains unclear when vitrimers will hit consumer products.

“We think that the first applications will be in transport, in cars, in planes,” Leibler told CNN in an exclusive interview Thursday.

This is not the first instance of experimental science being able to save our devices from ourselves. In December 2014, Apple obtained a patent for a technology that can sense when a device is falling mid-air and work with the device’s internal components to shift the center of mass to minimize as much damage as possible. Apple also won a patent in July 2014 for a glass that would neither break nor scratch even when scraped with sharp objects.

While we patiently wait for miraculous vitrimers to grace our smartphones and tablets, cracking your screen won’t be the end of the world, either: here are <a target="_blank" —> Read More

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