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Heroes

This incredible mural was made from car exhaust. Yes, really.

Anirudh Sharma remembers the air pollution growing up in India — he just didn't remember it being so bad.

When he took a trip home in 2013, while on break as a student at MIT's Media Lab, the difference in air quality between India and Boston couldn't have been starker.

A street in New Delhi in 2013. Photo by Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images.


“It was a very simple observation — I feel like anybody can see it," Sharma says of the pollution's effects in his home country. "Your clothes get dirtier much faster, you can see this pigmentation happening [on] buildings, to your clothes, to everywhere around you."

Sharma found himself wondering: Is there any way to put this awful black gunk to good use? He realized how similar the soot was to the black ink in your standard ballpoint pen, and the comparison prompted him to begin digging deeper.

Inspired by what he saw on his trip, Sharma and fellow co-founder Nikhil Kaushik launched Graviky Labs.

Sharma (far left), Kaushik (middle left), and the rest of the Graviky Labs team. Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

The team is the mastermind behind Air-Ink — an ink that's made from the dirty black pollution emitted from vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

As you can imagine, it takes a few steps to go from air pollution to black ink that's safe for anyone to use.

First, Sharma and his team came up with what they dubbed a "Kaalink" — a device that connects with a vehicle's exhaust pipe to collect soot and pollutants that would otherwise be jetting out into the open air while the engine is running.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

Graviky Labs then takes the soot and pollutants and removes harmful or unnecessary materials — like metals and carcinogens — so all that's left is a carbon rich pigment that can be made into various inks and paints.

As of now, Air-Ink is available in various sizes of markers, as well as a printing ink set — and the process of making them is smart for a few reasons.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

The obvious positive aspect to Air-Ink is that it prevents pollutants from getting into the atmosphere, keeping our air healthier to breathe. But it also curbs our reliance on conventional ink-making methods that rely on the deliberate burning of fossil fuels to get the job done, Graviky Labs notes.

“We are trying to not only capture pollution and recycle pollution," Kaushik explains, but they're also ensuring less carbon is being emitted from other ink-making sources.

In other words, it's a win-win.

Of course, it also helps that the ink can produce some pretty incredible works of art.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

Right now, Air-Ink is only available through a Kickstarter campaign, which is aiming to expand Graviky Labs' operations.

Through funds raised online, Sharma's team is planning to also create oil-based, fabric, and outdoor paints. And from the looks of it, Air-Ink is on the right track to success.

With three weeks still left to go of the campaign, Graviky Labs' Kickstarter has already surpassed its initial fundraising goal of nearly $10,000.

"It feels great,” co-founder Kaushik says of the campaign's success thus far. “We have heard from a lot of people that they want to use it."

Air-Ink won't solve the world's air pollution problems in the long-term. But it's the right type of idea the world needs now.

Most eco-friendly innovations combating climate change and curbing pollution are expensive "replacement" technologies — such as electric cars replacing gas-powered ones — and other things that take longer to go mainstream economically, according to Kaushik. Over the next few years, however, it'll be crucial that we develop less expensive adaptations that can be applied to current technologies (even those as basic as ink production) that will help make the planet greener in the meantime. That's where innovations like Air-Ink come in.

“This is something that can help," Kaushik says. "But it has to be part of a bigger system where other technologies and other innovations pitch in."

Learn more about Air-Ink by watching the video below:

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

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There's not a woman alive who hasn't suffered through an unwanted come-on from a creep. Some women are so afraid of these encounters they feel they can't be as nice to men as they'd like, for fear their friendliness will be mistaken for flirtation.

One woman's encounter with a creepy come-on has received over 110,000 likes on Twitter because of her flawless response.

Twitter user @LovableAndKind recently shared screenshots from a text exchange between her sister and a Jiffy Lube employee who found her phone number and sent her an unsolicited text.

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Photos by Daniela on Unsplash (left) and Rens D on Unsplash (right)

Peeling garlic is notoriously challenging.

If you ever cook with fresh garlic, you know what a challenge it can be to remove the cloves from the skin cleanly, especially if you're starting with a full head.

There are various methods people use to peel garlic, with varying levels of success. Doing it by hand works, but will leave you with garlic-smelling fingertips for the better part of a day. Whacking the head on the counter helps separate the cloves from each other, but doesn't help much with removing the skin.

Some people swear by vigorously shaking the skinned cloves around in a covered bowl or jarred lid, which can be surprisingly effective. Some smash the clove with the flat side of a knife to loosen it and then pull it off. Others utilize a rubber roller to de-skin the cloves.

But none of these methods come close to the satisfaction of watching someone perfectly peeling an entire head of garlic with a pair of tongs.

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Howie Hua shares helpful math tips and tricks on social media.

Math is weird.

On the one hand, it's consistent—the solutions to basic math problems are the same in every country in the world. On the other hand, there are multiple strategies to get to those solutions, and it seems like people are still coming up with new ones (much to the chagrin of parents whose kids need help with homework using methods they've never learned).

Math professor Howie Hua shares math strategies that make math easier on social media, and his videos are fascinating. Hua, who teaches math to future elementary school teachers at Fresno State, demonstrates all kinds of mental math tricks that feel like magic when you try them.

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Casette tapes, film cameras and landlines were a big part of the pre-2000 world.

There have been a few momentous changes since the dawn of the new millennium, creating an invisible line between those born before and after. The big events that forever changed culture are the creation of the smartphone, dawn of social media and terror attacks on 9/11.

People who were born in 1999 or later have, for the most part, lived in a world where they were either too young to know what life was like before these events or weren’t born yet.

That’s not to say that one era is better or worse. But, when an entire generation has no idea what it is like to go through a day without being connected to the internet, we’re bound to eventually lose any understanding of living IRL 24/7.

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Photo by Lisa Therese on Unsplash

The word "jumbo" literally comes from an elephant.

The evolution of language is fascinating, and the etymology of specific words can be a fun little trip through human history as well as human creativity.

Many English words are derived from Greek and Latin, but other European languages make up a good chunk of our language as well. The roots of some words can surprise us, and so can the way certain words came to be. And in some cases, what we don't know can be just as surprising as what we do.

Enjoy diving into the history of 15 words we use every day.

1. Dog

Dog is often one of the first words babies learn to say, and it's one of the first kids learn to spell. But don't let its simplicity fool you. This word is truly a mystery.

The word "dog" comes from dogca, a very rarely used Old English word, but how we started using it as our everyday name for canines, no one knows. "Its origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Even more interestingly, no one knows the origins of the Spanish word for "dog" ("perro"), nor do they know the origins of the Polish ("pies") or Serbo-Croatian ("pas") words for our canine friends, either. Who knew dogs were so enigmatic?

2. Nightmare

It's obvious where "night" comes from in "nightmare," but what about "mare"? Surely, were not referring to a female horse here.

Horse, no. But female, yes. Female goblin, to be precise. In Old English, mare means "incubus, nightmare, monster; witch, sorcerer." And "nightmare" started being used around 1300 to refer to "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation." Yikes. Thankfully, now it's just any old bad dream.

3. Jumbo

We've all seen animals named for words with certain meanings, but here we have the opposite. The word "jumbo" came from a large elephant who lived at the London Zoo. Zookeeper Anoshan Anathjeysari named him "Jumbe," the Swahili word for "chief." But his status as one of the largest African bush elephants in Europe in the 19th century caused his nickname, Jumbo, to become synonymous with enormousness.

muscular man exercising

Run, little mouse, run.

Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

4. Muscle

The Latin word musculus means "little mouse." As hilarious as it sounds, they thought the movement of muscles looked like little mice scurrying under the skin, hence the origin. Kinda ick to think about, but also logical, so here we are.

5. Quarantine

Ah, a word with which we are all familiar, thanks to COVID-19. But do we know what it really means?

If you understand roots, you may guess that "quar" might have something to do with the number four, and you'd be right. In Latin, quadraginta means a period of 40 days. Our usage of "quarantine" to mean isolation from others comes from the Venetian policy of ships coming into port from plague-stricken countries in the late 1300s to remain in port for 40 days before letting people off. The usage to mean any period of time in isolation began being used in the 1600s.

6. Mortgage

Most of us grow up not really understanding what a mortgage is until we buy our first house, but even then, most of us don't know what the word literally means. It comes from Old French, mort gaige, literally meaning "death pledge."

HAHAHAHAHA. Death pledge. Mortgage. That's funny.

However, it doesn't mean you're tied to the debt til you die, even if it feels like it. The death part means the deal dies either when you pay it off or when you become unable to pay. Doesn't really change the fact that it feels a bit like you're signing your life away when you buy a house, though.

ball of yarn

What does a ball of yarn have to do with "clue"?

Photo by Philip Estrada on Unsplash

7. Clue

Oddly enough, "clue" comes from a misspelling (or alternate spelling from before standardized spelling was a thing) of the word "clew," meaning a ball of yarn.

The word itself comes from German, but its usage points to the Greek myth in which Ariadne gives Theseus a ball (or clew) of yarn to help him escape the labyrinth. Now we use it to refer to anything that helps us solve a mystery.

8. Nice

The word "nice" is nice and simple, right? It's the most basic word we use for "pleasant," a definitively positive word. But this seemingly simple word has been through quite the trek in its etymology.

From the Latin nescius, meaning "ignorant, unaware," it was used to mean "timid" or"faint-hearted" before the year 1300. A couple hundred years later, it had morphed to "fussy, fastidious" or "dainty, delicate." In another 100 years, it changed to "precise, careful." Tack on another few hundred years and we're at "agreeable, delightful," and from there it was only short jaunt to "kind, thoughtful."

What a nice journey from insult to compliment.

9. Shampoo

I would have bet money that the word "shampoo" was French in origin, but nope. It's Hindi, coming from the term champo, and the original meaning was "to massage, rub and percuss the surface of (the body) to restore tone and vigor." It's only been used to refer specifically to lathering and washing out strands of hair or carpet since the mid 1800s.

10. Torpedo

Literally Latin for a stingray. As in the marine animal. That comes from the root word torpere, which means "be numb," since a ray's sting can numb you. It doesn't become the word for a propelled underwater explosive until the last couple hundred years.

11. Ambidextrous

We know that left-handedness was seen negatively throughout much of human history, but even the word that means "able to use both hands equally" has a right-handed bias baked into it. The medieval Latin ambidexter literally meansliterally means "right-handed on both sides."

Isn't English fun?