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Heroes

This young inventor's brilliant device could remove tons of garbage from our oceans.

When Boyan Slat was 16 years old, he decided to try to save the ocean.

"I've always been making stuff," Slat said. Now he's 21, a young man with full hair, and he says he's been an inventor since he was young. He built tree houses and ziplines in his native Netherlands as a child. And once, when he was 12, he decided to see what would happen if he launched 250 model rockets at the same time.

"I liked problem-solving, but what I didn't really have was a real problem to work on."


He found that problem while scuba diving in Greece.

"I was expecting to see beautiful stuff underwater, but I saw more plastic bags than fish."

After his dive, Slat did more research, and he learned that plastic is a serious problem. A very serious problem. In fact, the ocean is currently full of an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic.

A volunteer collects rubbish in Manila Bay in the Philippines. Photo from Jay Director/AFP/Getty Images.

This plastic tends to accumulate in large patches such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific and kills birds, fish, and all manner of sea life.

"And I thought, well, why don't we just clean this up?" said Slat.

A lot of people were doubtful the garbage problem could ever be solved, but Slat started to look for solutions anyway.

"Everyone on the internet was saying it was impossible to clean up, and I thought, well, that’s quite a big statement," Slat said.

After a span of time, 16-year-old Slat hit on an idea: Instead of chasing individual patches of trash across the ocean, he figured he could flip the scenario and use the ocean's currents to move the trash to a stationary device instead.

Slat founded his foundation, The Ocean Cleanup, in 2013.

The Ocean Cleanup's main work is developing the system Slat thought up when he was 16. It's a system designed to remove plastic debris from the ocean by placing floating barriers in strategic points along ocean currents, funneling the trash toward central removers.

Artist's impression of the system. Image from Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

In order to focus wholly on The Ocean Cleanup, Slat also dropped out of college, where he had been studying aerospace engineering. As for how his family took the news, he said, "I think at first they were a bit anxious about me quitting college, but I am quite glad they gave me that."

The same year, Slat presented his ocean cleanup idea in a TEDx event, where it caught the internet's attention and went viral.

"I wasn't really prepared [for the viral moment]," said Slat. "Suddenly I received about 1,500 emails per day in my personal mailbox."

That first week after the TEDx video went viral, Slat says there were so many emails that he had to invite friends to come over and help him answer the messages from his bedroom. "I was there with like five friends, with our laptops, just plowing our way through all those emails," he remembers.

From there, Slat was able to pull together a team of experts and engineers and find funding for the project.

Today, The Ocean Cleanup is on track to put Slat's device in the ocean soon.

In fact, on June 22, 2016, The Ocean Cleanup launched a prototype device in the North Sea.

Artist's impression of the prototype. Image from Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

The prototype is a small-scale test of the floating-barrier system. Slat said it'll prove out whether the system can survive the tough conditions found on the open ocean (the North Sea is one of the toughest patches of water in the world). The thinking is that if the barrier can survive stresses there, the system can survive anywhere.

"To finally have something physical that you can actually see on the ocean, that you're putting through testing, and see that it works I think that's ... it's really sort of indescribable," Slat said.

"But of course it's just the beginning," added Slat. "It's just one of many tests. But it is an important milestone, that's for sure."

There's been some skepticism about whether the project will work in the end, but Slat seems both pragmatic and determined.

One of the boats that launched the prototype. Photo from The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

Some have questioned whether the project will be able to collect enough trash to be feasible or wonder whether sea life will be safe, as The Ocean Cleanup says it will, but Slat seems to take the skepticism in stride.

"I really think the only way to know whether it will work is the things we are doing right now — by testing, testing, testing again," Slat said. He says a little skepticism is always expected around new technology, plus it can often end up helping researchers and engineers focus on the right questions to answer.

"I think working with the right people, having the right pragmatic attitude and iterative design philosophy ... if there is a way that we can do it, we will find it."

If the North Sea prototype does well, The Ocean Cleanup will move forward on their plans to deploy a full-size system.

If everything goes according to plan, they'll be able to launch a pilot system late next year, and they may be able to start cleaning up the North Pacific by 2020.

"I'm quite optimistic about the future," Slat said. "We've shown that for many problems we've faced over the last few centuries, we've been able to make dramatic advancements in them. Think about violence, education, poverty, etc."

Of course, we have a lot of work to do to solve current environmental problems. But technology has proven itself to be incredibly powerful, and by focusing on using it for good, we can conquer this problem too.

"As long as we develop technologies that actually help solve problems, I think eventually we will get to a pretty bright future," he said.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

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Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

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Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

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A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

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Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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