One of America's most famous highways is about to become an awesome science experiment.

There's a highway in America that's so famous, it has its own rock song which goes like this:

"Well if you ever plan to motor West, just take my way, that’s the highway, that’s the best…”

(That's the Chuck Berry version, obviously.)


Image by Vincente Villamon/Flickr

Designated in 1926, Route 66 traversed almost 2,500 miles, starting in Chicago, Illinois, and ending in Santa Monica, California. It was the most direct path for many folks traveling west during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

As such, it was one of the first official highways in America.

After 90 years, ol' Route 66 is making history — again.

It's about to become the first public roadway to receive a solar panel makeover, thanks to Idaho start-up Solar Roadways.

Solar panel hexagons. Crazy. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

The project is starting small but has plans to scale up quickly. To start, the solar panels will be applied to the walkway around the highway's welcome center in Conway, Missouri, but the plan is to eventually extend the paneling to the highway itself.

Julie and Scott Brusaw, the creators of Solar Roadway, who also happen to be childhood sweethearts. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

These solar roadways will be made up of hexagonal solar panels that conduct clean energy.

According to the start-up's "very conservative" calculations, if all the roads and walking surfaces in America were covered in these solar panels, they'd generate three times as much energy as we use. Not only would this make the U.S. much more environmentally friendly, it would drive energy costs way down.

But that's not all they're capable of.

The panels are intelligent — meaning they can be programed to act as roadway signs and can be changed as needed to alert drivers to animal crossings or downed trees, and they can heat up in the winter to prevent ice from forming. That means municipalities wouldn't have to spend tax dollars on things like street painting, signage, or snow removal from roadways.

Sounds pretty great, right?

Close-up of the glass plate texture. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

Of course, no innovative technology is without potential drawbacks. Yes, installing and repairing smart solar roadways will be more expensive than regular asphalt roads. Yes, the Solar Roadway glass panels, while apparently rough like asphalt and able to withstand the weight of a truck, could easily be worn down over time and might need to be replaced often. And yes, there are concerns about the safety of driving on glass panels in various extreme weather conditions.

However, since these concerns were first raised back when Solar Roadways first made headlines in 2014, the company has worked hard to improve the panels.

Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

Solar Roadways has found ways to cut installation costs and increase solar energy gain by 25% per panel, and it's running numerous tests on the sheerness of the panels and weather/moisture impact.

They also raised over $2,000,000 on Indiegogo (over twice their goal), partnering with the Missouri Department of Transportation to launch the inaugural project and install the panels alongside Route 66.

"I appreciate the Missouri Department of Transportation for taking a pro-active approach and embracing new technologies that will pave the way toward a brighter future,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement.

Route 66. Photo by Einar Jørgen Haraldseid/Flickr.

While pricey, over time, these solar roadways should eventually "pay for themselves," as the project's catchy video suggests, by churning out a significant amount of energy just for being on the ground.

Once these solar panels are installed on public roadways and walkways, it will become clear just how quickly taxpayers can expect a return on their investment. Sure, it's a bit of a gamble, but aren't all technological innovations at first?

If these solar panels work as well as they promise to, they could be a real game-changer for energy consumption — making energy cheaper, more adaptable, and much, much cleaner.

As Chuck Berry sings in "Route 66": "Would you get hip to this kindly tip. Yes and go take that California trip. Get your kick on Route 66."

And there's no better way to get your kicks than by supporting solar energy initiatives on one of America's oldest and most notorious highways.

Learn more about Solar FREAKIN' Roadways here:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

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.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

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.

Keep Reading Show less