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You tell me what's more repulsive: A Styrofoam cup laying on the ground...

Photo by jnyemb/Flickr


...or a pile of slimy, pulsing mealworms?

Photo by OakleyOriginals/Flickr

Wait! Before you answer, what if it was more than just one piece of Styrofoam — like 33 million tons of it?

And what if it wasn't just cups, but Styrofoam packaging, water bottles, and all different kinds of discarded plastic?

And what if it wasn't strewn across the grass, but instead dumped into one massive trench? Or worse, what if a bunch of it was just floating in the ocean, waiting to be swallowed up by some helpless sea creature?

When you put it like that, the answer seems pretty obvious.

Yuck. Photo by Pascal Pochard Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images.

But here's something new and surprising: Those wiggly little mealworms might just be the key to fighting plastic pollution all over the world.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

Time for us to fess up: We, as a species, are not very good at recycling.

In the United States alone, every year we throw away about 33 million tons of plastic waste (including Styrofoam, which is basically fluffy plastic), with less than 10% of it being recycled properly.

Now, it's not all our fault. Modern recycling techniques have come a long way, but they aren't perfect. According to Popular Mechanics, materials like the ones used to make soda bottles can only be recycled (or "downcycled" into lesser products) so many times.

That means, one way or another, most of it will end up in a landfill eventually, where it could take centuries to biodegrade.

But it looks like we might be onto an amazing, if slightly unappetizing, solution.

Researchers just discovered that mealworms can eat nothing but Styrofoam, turn it into biodegradable worm poo, and get all the nutrition they need.

This is huge.

A collaborative study between Stanford University and Chinese researchers found that 100 of these mealworms, which are essentially baby beetles, could consume almost 40 milligrams of Styrofoam per day. Now, that's not a lot (it takes 453,592 milligrams to equal one pound), but the implications are much, much larger.

There are plenty of bugs out there that eat plastic, but this is the first time researchers have confirmed that what comes out the, er, other end is, in fact, totally natural. And even better? Eating the stuff doesn't harm the worms in the least.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

In other words, something magical is going on inside these mealworms that lets them turn hazardous plastic into harmless organic waste.

Studying the chemical environment inside the mealworms' gut that makes this possible might lead to better recycling techniques.

When I first read about this, I imagined government officials unleashing hoards of mealworms on our landfills for an epic buffet, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem super plausible — remember, they eat really, really slowly.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

But what if we could emulate the mechanisms inside their stomachs that break down the plastic? If we could just recreate that environment on a larger scale, we wouldn't have to work so hard melting down bottles and turning them back into new bottles.

We could just transform them into the equivalent of worm poo, which the researchers say can be used as soil and is totally safe for the Earth.

But you know what? None of this will matter if we don't get better at sorting our trash and recycling the things that ought to be recycled.

I never thought I'd say this, but if we work together with the mealworms, we really can make a difference.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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