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In 2012 — when he was just 18 — Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat gave his first TEDx Talk about cleaning up the ocean .

In his talk, he laid out his idea for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous and still-growing island of plastic and other trash hanging out in the north Pacific ocean between California and Hawaii.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in 1997 by sailor and ocean researcher Charles Moore when he was participating in the Transpacific Yacht Race.


Trash collects in that particular spot because of a gyre — a swirling vortex of ocean currents — in the north Pacific that draws marine debris together. A recent Ocean Cleanup study found that the patch, consisting largely of plastic pieces, fishing nets, and other human refuse, is 4 to 16 times larger than previous estimates. It is now twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France.

Charles Moore estimated that it would take 79,000 years to clean it up. Boyan Slat, however, said he believed that with the right technology and approach, the garbage patch could be gone in just five years.

Not only that, but he could clean it in way that had minimal environmental impact and was actually profitable when all was said and done.

Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup Foundation will officially begin cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in summer 2018. Photo via Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Was this remarkable claim youthful naivety? Wishful thinking? Idealism run amok?

Apparently not. Slat's foundation is set to launch the largest ocean trash collection ever this summer.

Since starting the Ocean Cleanup Foundation in 2013, Slat has been working tirelessly to study the issue and develop the technology to clean it up.

It's one thing to come up with an idea — it's something else entirely to see that idea through in the long term.

Slat has spent the past six years studying the ocean's gyres and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to better understand the scope of the issue and develop the most effective means for collecting the trash. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is an impressive full-time operation with more than 70 engineers, researchers, scientists, and computer modelers working daily to rid the ocean of plastics.

Did I mention Slat was 18 when he founded the project? I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I was 18, but it definitely wasn't building a foundation to solve a major global problem. This young man's intelligence, ingenuity, and initiative blows my mind.

And I'm not the only one. In 2014, Slat became the youngest-ever recipient of the UN's highest environmental award, Champion of the Earth. And Time magazine named the Ocean Cleanup's Ocean Vacuum prototype as one of the Best Inventions of 2015.

The official cleanup is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2018. Slat predicts they'll be able to collect half the plastic in the patch in just five years.

Yes, he originally said he thought the whole thing could be cleaned up in five years, but considering the exponential growth of the garbage patch in the past six years and the additional information they've collected since then, I think half in five years ain't bad.

[rebelmouse-image 19345948 dam="1" original_size="1201x2879" caption="Image via The Ocean Cleanup Foundation." expand=1]Image via The Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Slat and his team have found that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains approximately 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. That's 241 pieces for every human on Earth. Some of it breaks down into smaller pieces, but it always remains, threatening marine life, birds, and ultimately humans as we consume seafood.

"It's really quite safe to say," said Slat, "that it's worse than we thought."

However, Slat remains optimistic and upbeat as he describes the process the foundation has gone through to get to where they are now.

One thing they've learned is that "to catch the plastic," you have to "act like the plastic." The Ocean Cleanup machinery uses the ocean's own currents and the physics of how plastic gathers and moves in order to collect it passively, without using unnecessary energy, effort, or resources.

I'm not a scientist, and I'm not going to begin to describe the cleanup technology beyond that, but you can check out the details here and in this unveiling of the Ocean Cleanup prototype, where Slat explains how it all works:

As a person who loves the ocean — not to mention inspiring people — I'll be following Slat's cleanup project closely. With so many environmental protections being dismantled in the U.S., it's refreshing to see people focused on solving problems — and it's especially awesome to see it being done so well.

Here's to the dedicated folks working to save the environment and better our world. And here's to the young people who keep showing us how it's done.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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