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Science

The world's monster plastic problem could be thwarted by mutant bacteria

It sounds like something straight out of a comic book, but the prospects are very real.

plastic, pollution, climate change
CockrellSchool/Youtube

The world could be saved by bacteria

Plastic has been taking over our world for a while now.

You may not think too much about it, but plastic is a global crisis. A recent rundown in The National Review reveals that more than 8 million tons of plastic is regularly deposited in the ocean. It's killing sea life, endangering coral reefs, and affecting the fish we eat because of the toxins they ingest.

So much for a happy, carefree day, right?


But there's some good news on the horizon: Scientists have found a mutant bacteria that eats plastic.

Of course, this mutant bacteria isn't exactly like the kind of mutants you see in movies and comic books. Although, I'll admit I initially thought, "Good! Someone's finally getting Storm to handle this whole climate change business." How cool would that be?

So maybe Professor X isn't coming out of hiding to help us with our global problems, but the reality of this news is just as exciting. According to The Guardian, an international team of scientists have mutated a bacteria's enzyme to fully break down plastic bottles.

The plastic-eating bacteria was first discovered in 2016 in Japan. Researchers studying plastic pollution — specifically polyethylene terephthalate or PET — discovered a colony of bacteria that fed on the plastic, breaking down strong chemical bonds as a means of survival. The bacteria back then, though, was eating through highly crystallized PET — the material plastic bottles are made of — at a slow rate. Researchers knew it would take a while for the bacteria to evolve into the environmental savior we need.

Scientists started studying the bacteria's evolution and discovered they'd unintentionally made it stronger.

"It's alive! It's alive!" they screamed. That's how I imagine the discovery of this mutated bacteria enzyme went, with all the blinking lights and klaxons of a superhero movie. That's what happens in labs, right?

Well, that's how it should have gone. Because this is exciting! After viewing a 3D model of the bacteria, scientists discovered that small modifications could make its enzymes much more effective. The BBC reports that PET takes "hundreds of years" to break down on its own, but with the modified enzyme, called PETase, the same process begins within a matter of days. The enzyme breaks down PET to its original building blocks, meaning that the plastic can be reused again without losing quality.

recycling, reusable, plastic bottles, PET, enzymes

A large blocked cube made up of plastic bottles.

Image via Pixabay.

Here's why this is important: You may think plastic bottles are recycled into new plastic bottles and that every bottle you drink from had a rich and beautiful life before it came to you, but that's not true. In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Coca-Cola sourced only 7% of its plastic from recycled material and only 6% of Nestle's bottles were made from recycled plastic. The rest of all that single-use plastic being dumped is turned into other fibers like carpet and clothing.

This is because plastics degrade as they're recycled. "Bottles become fleeces, then carpets, after which they often end up in landfill," the BBC notes.

But PETase makes it possible to use PET in its original form over and over again.

We're only at the beginning of this development.

On one hand, PETase could bring us closer to true recycling (producing much less plastic and using much less fossil fuel) than ever before. But the research has only started. The breaking down process still needs to be made faster, so it could be years before PETase or anything like it is used on an industrial scale.

While scientists keep working to make PETase a worldwide plastic problem-solver, we can all do our part by reducing our reliance on plastic. Little things — like a reusable bottle for the gym, keeping metal utensils at work, and reusable bags and totes for trips to the store — can help keep the Earth clean, save animals, and make us a little less reliant on mutants (er, mutant enzymes) to save the day.

Curious to learn more? Watch the video below:


Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

Pop Culture

'Britain's Got Talent' contestant blew Simon Cowell away singing a song he 'hates'

Her heartfelt version of "Tomorrow" brought people to tears—and completely changed Simon's tune.

Sydnie Christmas nailed her rendition of "Tomorrow" from "Annie"

Contestants on "Britain's Got Talent" (as well as "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent") have long feared Simon Cowell's judgment, so imagine auditioning with a song choice that automatically brings out his sour side.

That's what contestant Sydnie Christmas did when she chose to sing "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie," which is Simon Cowell's least favorite song. But much to everyone's surprise, she totally blew him away with her beautiful soulful rendition, causing him to change his tune.

Before performing, Christmas bounded onto the stage with her genuine smile and spunky energy, which endeared her to the judges and audience immediately. She even cracked a joke about her middle name being "Mary" (Sydnie Mary Christmas would be quite the name choice) and got everyone laughing with her.


However, when she announced she'd be singing "Tomorrow," Cowell winced and the other judges groaned.

"That is Simon's worst song," warned judge Amanda Holden.

But when Christmas, who works as a receptionist at a gym, began to sing, it soon became clear that this wasn't an ordinary rendition of the musical classic. Soulful, heartfelt, sad but hopeful, she built the song up bit by bit, bringing the audience along with her on an emotional ride.

Watch:

Not only did she get the coveted Golden Buzzer, but she also managed to get Simon Cowell to say he now loves the song he said he'd hated just minutes before. Viewers loved it, too.

"That was the first time I could take this song serious. Before today I hated it, too," wrote one person.

"When they say you have to make the song your own, she did just that. I have never heard a better version," wrote another.

"Absolutely beautiful; love how the word “tomorrow” always sounded unique EVERY TIME! Listened over and over…" added another.

"I've heard that song a million times and she REALLY got the poignancy of it," shared another. "It is a sad song, but a song of hope, and it is hard to walk that line and she KILLED IT. It's not just about her voice, it is how she sold that song."

She even pulled in people from various walks of life, moving them with her performance:

"I'm a 60 year old highway worker. Just got off work and my wife sent this to me. What I'm trying to figure out is who's been cutting onions in my vehicle? Seriously, teared me up. This took me COMPLETELY off guard and I am so delighted to have experienced this diamond!"

"41 year old hip hop head here and never did I think I would be touched like this. The sound of suffering with a glimmer of hope in the sound. Who is cutting onions at this time."

"I’m a 60 year old builder sitting in my van having lunch. I just watched this. The guys in the next van are taking the P coz I’m crying my eyes out! Brilliant!"

As someone named Annie, I've had "Tomorrow" sung to me countless times over the years, so I shared Simon Cowell's initial grimace upon hearing what she was going to sing. But I too was moved by Christmas's performance and gained a whole new appreciation for the song after her gorgeous rendition. Not an easy feat. What a delightful surprise for us all.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Carl Sagan and a sliced apple

The concept of the fourth dimension seems beyond human comprehension. As three-dimensional beings, we are unable to see beyond a physical object's height, width and depth. What else could there be?

Enter Carl Sagan, revered as one of the greatest science communicators of his time. He possessed a unique gift for demystifying complex scientific concepts, making them accessible and thrilling for the general public. In 1980, on Episode 10 of the groundbreaking PBS show “Cosmos,” Sagan embarked on a mission to explain the seemingly impossible fourth dimension.


What’s excellent about Sagan’s explanation is that he uses simple and relatable objects: an apple and a Tesseract, or a hypercube.

Sagan began by discussing how a two-dimensional being living in a flat world would perceive a three-dimensional object like an apple.

“Imagine we live in this ‘flatland’/2-D plane with no concept of ‘up’ or ‘down.’ Then along comes a 3-D object like an apple. We do not even notice it until it crosses our plane of existence — and even then, we have no idea what the apple is,” Sagan explains. “We see only a fragment as it passes through our plane. There is no way we can comprehend the 3-D quality/dimension of the apple, because it is more than we can understand. We only have the evidence of what has passed through our plane.”

Sagan then related this two-dimensional experience of the third dimension to how we might try to understand the fourth. To do so, he used the Tesseract, a four-dimensional cube, to demonstrate how difficult it is for us to perceive or visualize dimensions beyond our own three. At this point, Sagan is asking the viewer to expand their minds to understand the fourth dimension metaphorically.

Sagan’s demonstration of the fourth dimension isn’t just a wonderful explanation of a scientific idea that many of us find difficult to comprehend; it’s also a great example of how to teach complex ideas by combining clear explanations with thought-provoking visuals.

Five women hold their bellies in a baby shower photo.

Getting married and having a child is a huge life change and so when a group of friends goes through the same experience together, it’s a great way to bond. Unfortunately, for some people, these changes on the domestic front can take over their lives and become their entire personality.

People who are single and aren’t looking to have kids any time soon can have a hard time relating to their friends who are married with children because they have less in common. Further, when you don’t have children, it can be a little tedious to hear people talk all day about lactation, sleep schedules and spitting up.

These topics can be boring to people who have children, too.


A Redditor who goes by Remarkable_Lake410, who we’ll call RL for brevity’s sake, recently ran into this problem with her friends. Instead of feigning interest in married mom life, she decided to be honest with them about why she didn’t want to join them on a trip.

child-free woman, Reddit, writing post

A woman writing a post on Reddit.

via Magnet.me/Unsplash

“I (27F) have a group of female friends (8 of us). We have been friends for over a decade, since school. Now, we don’t live in the same place, but we meet up a couple of times a year for a weekend on an Airbnb. This used to be a weekend of good food, drinks, hot tub, etc.” she wrote on the AITH forum.

“Around five of my friends are either married or in very long-term relationships. Of these five, two either have a baby or are pregnant. I will be seeing all of my friends this year for various wedding, friend and baby events. I have been invited to this year's girls' trip, but I have said I can’t come. I didn’t originally provide a reason,” she continued.

But a friend pushed her to find out why she didn’t want to go on the trip and she was honest: She didn’t want to be stuck constantly hearing about babies, marriage and weddings on a trip that was going to cost a significant amount of money.

“[Last time], I listened to one of my friends talk about her breastfeeding plans, with vengeance, for over an hour. She is not pregnant or trying. Truthfully, it’s boring, and it feels dismissive,” RL wrote. It’s also a really expensive way to feel bad about myself.”

When her friend heard her reason, she was “really hurt,” and it felt like RL didn’t care about her and her other friends. So, RL asked the Reddit forum if she was in the wrong for being honest and skipping a trip that would be all about marriage and babies.

The post received over 4,000 responses that were overwhelmingly supportive for RL.

"On the surface, this seems like it’s just about engagements, weddings and babies. You go out of your way to be constantly supportive of them. However they don’t reciprocate that for you. They can’t relate to anything or want to relate to anything outside of their lives. It would sort of be like if you just won an award, but all they talked about was the pie they just ate that morning," Dependant_praline_93 wrote in the most popular comment.

"We all change as we get older. You naturally drift apart from some friends, especially if their lifestyle changes dramatically (think married with children, in particular). I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money to spend 3 days with a group that had such dis-similar interests. And I don't think it was wrong to be truthful when your friend asked you why you wouldn't go," Smokin_HOT_Ice added.

baby, happy couple, baby photo

A couple holds their newborn baby.

via Magnet.Me/Unsplash

One commenter with kids has a close friend who is a child-free and she has made an effort to ask her about her life and interests of just talking about parenting.

“I was 38 when I had my first child and I read an article in Working Mother magazine when I was pregnant, and it said not to be the jerk who always talks about your pregnancy and your baby to your friends, especially the ones without babies,” JellyBear135 wrote. “When I see her, I always ask about her work, her activities outside of work and recently, her new baby dog. She lives alone and doesn’t have a lot of people who always ask about her life so I make sure I always do. I check in via text every couple of weeks to ask her about her life.”

After receiving a huge response from her post, RL wrote an update revealing that another friend who’s in the same boat decided not to go on the trip as well. “I have spoken to one of my other friends invited on the trip (who is also not at the baby stage of life); she is also not going on the trip and said she is not attending for the same reason,” RL wrote.

It seems the big takeaway from RL’s dilemma isn’t just that stage-of-life changes such as marriage and having babies can create chasms in friendships. But we need to make sure that we’re not just talking about ourselves to our friends but listening to them as well. Because a one-way friendship isn’t a friendship at all.

Representative photo by Cottonbro Studio|Canva

Man shares classic 90s phrases giving millennials nostalgia

Every generation has their version of words and phrases they've deemed cool, but it's often fun to find out what previous generations used as slang. In the 70s they said things like "jive turkey," and "dynamite" while in the 80s they thought phrases like "bite me," or "chill pill" were interesting enough to toss into a sentence.

Recently a Gen Zer asked if people in the 90s really did say, "all that and a bag of chips." It's unclear if the person understood the context in which that phrase would've been used, nonetheless, a millennial answered the Bat Signal to blow their mind. Darren Brand decided to not only confirm the use of the familiar phrase, but to include multiple classic phrases in the video response he shared on Instagram.

"For me, some was good for then, some you could still use today and some we gotta let go. That's not the only one, okay," Brand responds before dropping some 90s gems.


"We got, 'talk to the hand.' Classic. "'As if'—'Clueless,' classic," the man says. Brand continues to rattle off some other phrases popular in the 90s bringing back memories for millennials who happened upon his video. This nostalgia resulted in people adding the slang words and phrases they recalled in the comments. Talk about a trip down memory lane.

The comments started off strong with this oldie someone leaves, "What’s crack-a-lackin!"

Not to be out done, someone drops, "Save the drama for yo mama."

One person shows that words never go out of style, "Dope. Things are still dope for me."

People clearly had a problem with minding their business, or at least it would seem from what another commenters shares, "all in the koolaid and don’t know the flavor!"

Someone else reminded people of the ultimate attitude checking statement, "you better check yourself before you wreck yourself."

Now that everyone has taken a time machine back to the 1900s to revel in their teenage language, it's time to come back to mortgages and kids. Who knows, maybe some of these phrases will slip back into modern slang phrases since everything seems to eventually be recycled from previous generations. Now that would be cool beans.

A woman can't get out of bed.

Living with depression and anxiety is hard enough, but things are made much worse when the people we depend on minimize or discount the disorder. It’s prevalent for people dealing with depression to have parents or loved ones who say that they are just faking it for attention or that they just need to get out of bed and start living life.

If it were only that easy.

When people say these things, it can be extremely invalidating and cause further stress, anxiety and confusion for the depressed person.


Writer and performance artist Sabrina Benaim did an incredible job of explaining what it feels like to have your depression and anxiety invalidated by a loved one. In 2014, she delivered an award-winning piece at the Toronto Poetry Slam called "Explaining My Depression To My Mother," which has made countless people with depression feel seen.

In the poem, she beautifully explains the difference between depression and anxiety.

Anxiety holds me a hostage inside of my house, inside of my head.

Mom says, “Where did anxiety come from?”

Anxiety is the cousin visiting from out-of-town depression felt obligated to bring to the party.

Mom, I am the party.

She also explains why her happiness is beyond her control.

Mom says, “Happy is a decision.”

But my happy is as hollow as a pin-pricked egg.

My happy is a high fever that will break.

Mom says I am so good at making something out of nothing and then flat-out asks me if I am afraid of dying.

No.

I am afraid of living.

Benaim's powerful poem helped earn the Canadian team the top prize at the 2014 Toronto Poetry Slam. After her performance went viral, she became a vocal advocate for anxiety and depression, performing tours in the U.S., Australia and Canada. She has also published two books, "Depression and Other Magic Tricks" (2017) and "I Love You, Call Me Back" (2021).