11 photos that answer the burning question: What if nature, but also robots?

If popular culture is to be believed, there are a few great divides that are immutable. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Android versus iPhone. Technology versus nature. Never the two shall meet.

But that last one? Maybe we should stop taking it for granted. A new Dutch exhibition called Robotanica is exploring how technology and robotics in particular might play a collaborative role with the natural world. The curators have picked 11 different projects from designers, scientists, and artists that imagine how technology could blend with, and ultimately benefit, nature.

Some are real research projects or concepts, while others are more like conversation pieces. But all of them are fascinating ideas. Check them out below.


1. One big idea seen in multiple exhibits — could robots mimic, or even replace, natural animals?

It's kind of cute. All photos from Transnatural/Robotanica.

The Delfly Explorer, for instance, is a small, robotic dragonfly that can flap its wings, control its height, and even see and avoid obstacles. Can you picture a bunch of these guys skimming across the surface of a pond?

2. Swarms of the Vessel robots could paddle across the surface of water.

These are considerably less cute. The lights are a nice touch though.

3. The Woodpecker Project could even mimic the sounds of a disappearing species.

Just wait until someone hacks in and starts playing AC/DC.

The Woodpecker Project uses speakers to recreate the sound of an endangered bird species. It's not just for show — the calls help keep insects away that'd otherwise hurt the tree.

It's not a perfect solution. “We maybe better focus on protecting the biological woodpeckers,” exhibit curator Arjen Bangma told Fast Company. But the mechanical version might be able to help out while the natural population recovers.

Other projects outside the exhibition, like the robo-bee, have also looked at using robots to help replace natural animals.

4. How about living cyborg insects that could be controlled via computer? Could they be used to help find people after a disaster?

This is the least cute of all. It's, like, negative cute.

While some of these projects are more conceptual, robo-bugs are very much a real thing. You can even buy kits yourself.

5. On the other hand, maybe we could use technology to shape the world to our liking. How about a coat that breathes along with us and that could alert us to air pollution?

If someone walked up to me wearing this coat, I'd just assume they're a superhero.

6. The Cloud Machine imagines a sky full of weather-making machines to help control the climate.

I bet it makes a "spfffff" noise. Also, what is this hanging from?

Geoengineering and climate engineering are real concepts, though many people are scared of unexpected consequences basically turning the Earth into a Hollywood disaster movie.

7. The Weather War examines whether we could use machines to help redirect tornadoes.

Yeah, let's put a mysterious black orb in this field. That's not totally ominous.

The exhibit is based on the 2012 documentary of the same name.

8. What would robotics do to the animals we keep? Would the lives of farm chickens improve if we placed them in a virtual reality simulation of nature?

I really don't see how any caption could improve this.

9. What if we released herds of wild rolling tumbleweed-bots to collect data about desertification?

"Drifting along in the tumbling tumbleweeeeed..."

Just imagine seeing 20 of these coming over the horizon.

10. Or released rolling, autonomous sunlight-seeking gardens onto our streets?

"Excuse me, hooman, but do you have any fertilizer?"

11. And, in this brave new world, will we need simulations to remember old-fashioned things like the night sky?

Looks like a kind of makeshift planetarium.

Whether or not these inventions and ideas come to pass, they raise a good point.

Technology doesn't have to come at the expense of the natural world. Scientists can use devices like GPS systems to help monitor animal populations; robo-animals can help documentarians get amazing shots of wildlife; and efficient appliances and cleaner energy can help us reduce our environmental footprints.

While you might have a hard time selling chicken farmers on those teeny-tiny virtual reality helmets, perhaps technology and nature don't need to be so divorced after all.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The Walt Disney Company / Flickr

One of the ways to tell if you're in a healthy relationship is whether you and your partner are free to talk about other people you find attractive. For many couples, bringing up such a sensitive topic can cause some major jealousy.

Of course, there's a healthy way to approach such a potentially dangerous topic.

Telling your partner you find someone else attractive shouldn't be about making them feel jealous. It's probably also best that if you're attracted to a coworker, friend, or their sibling, that you keep it to yourself.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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