Heroes

See the surfboard that reads the ocean in a way many scientists haven't been able to.

You don't need a background in science to contribute to science. But in this case, you may want to know how to surf.

See the surfboard that reads the ocean in a way many scientists haven't been able to.

This surfboard is so smart, it may change what we know about the ocean.

This may look like an ordinary surfboard but nope — it's the future. Image via Smartfin.


It's called a Smartfin (formerly known as Smartphin), and it's mixing technology with surfing to answer questions about the hardest-to-reach part of the ocean: the area closest to us.

Scientists have a heck of a time figuring out what's going on in the ocean waters nearest to the shore.

It turns out that the part of the ocean that's most accessible for swimming, surfing, and having fun is also the hardest area to collect data from. Who would have thought?

As described in Wired, the effects of constant waves crashing on the shore make it difficult to use equipment that'll last and properly track the waters. Sounds rough.

The water is so mysterious. Image via Thinkstock.

That's where Dr. Andrew Stern and Benjamin Thompson come in.

Stern, an environmental filmmaker and former professor, and Thompson, a surfboard engineer, have developed what they call the Smartfin: a surfboard fin that's embedded with a data-collecting chip that can track crucial data on nearshore waters. According to Wired, it can determine a surfer's location and then measure the temperature, salinity, and acidity of the water.

That sounds like a pretty cool development in itself, but two little words remind you that the effect might be much bigger: climate change.

Nearshore waters can tell us a lot about the kind of effect climate change is having on our oceans.

From a feature in Outside:

"Oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide we've emitted since the dawn of the industrial age, making them around 25 percent more acidic than they were then. That lower pH (higher acidity) impedes the growth of calcium carbonate and is already harming shellfish fisheries and coral reefs."

The Smartfin produces data the science community can use to understand what's happening to our nearshore waters, which tells us about the impact of climate change over periods of time. It can also tell surfers where to find the best waves. A double win!

You may be able to buy one soon. Image via Smartfin.

Smartfin is coming soon to California.

Smartfin plans to pilot its device with 150 participants in San Diego starting in November 2015, says Design Indaba. After a two-month testing period, it should be available for people to buy. So stay tuned!

Surfers and scientists working together on one of the biggest issues of our time? Yes, yes, and yes. A+ teamwork.

Just makes you wonder: What will the next big idea be?

Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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