I think it’s safe to say that we all know just how irresponsibly we have been using plastic over the past few decades; I don’t even know if we saw it as a problem until quite recently. The damage has been done and there is now so much plastic waste in landfills (and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean) that the situation is starting to seem hopeless. Interestingly enough, there are garbage patches in the Indian and Atlantic oceans as well, but the Pacific is just the largest and gets all the credit. This is not only terrible for the environment, as plastic takes centuries to biodegrade, but very detrimental to wildlife as well.
In the United States alone, 33 million TONS of plastic waste are being thrown away every year, but less than 10% of the plastic being consumed actually ends up being recycled at all. And, according to Popular Mechanics, the material that is used to make plastic bottles can only be recycled into lesser products before eventually ending up in landfills as well.
Mealworms Eat Plastic!
But thanks to a recent discovery, it seems there is hope. It turns out that mealworms can survive off of nothing but Styrofoam; they can digest it, turn it into compostable waste, and still meet all their dietary needs. This is pretty amazing. A collaborative study between Stanford University and Chinese researchers found that just 100 mealworms were able to consume almost 40 milligrams of Styrofoam per day. This is by no means a lot, as 453,592 milligrams are equal to 1 pound of Styrofoam, but this has opened up the doors to some exciting implications. Many bugs have the ability to eat plastic, but not all are able to turn it into totally natural, biodegradable waste. The plastic also does not harm the worms in the process (phew).
So, Now What?
You may be thinking along similar lines as I was — just release millions of these little guys onto landfills all over the world and let nature run its course, but that is likely not going to happen. What might be feasible instead is that scientists could one day be able to recreate whatever biological process is allowing the mealworms to breakdown the plastic. If we were able to emulate the environment of the mealworms’ stomach on a mass scale, we wouldn’t have to use so much energy melting down bottles and other plastic containers and turning them into new bottles.
Can We Do Anything?
There are a number of things that can be done to help reduce our plastic consumption on a daily basis.
Use a reusable water bottle
Simply don’t drink soda, it’s bad for you anyways
Choose items with as minimal plastic packaging as possible
Buy items in bulk, and bring your own containers or paper bags to put them in
Try making certain personal care products and foods yourself, and storing them in glass containers
daily alternative | alternative news – These Worms Eat Plastic! Could They Help Us Avoid Destroying The Planet?
Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records
A controversial deal between tech giant Google and the National Health Service (NHS) will allow artificial intelligence units access to 1.6 million confidential medical records. Since 2014, Google has partnered with several scientists in an attempt to understand human health, but a new report reveals the data gathering goes far beyond what was originally anticipated.
According to documents obtained by the New Scientist, the data sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust gives access to the sensitive healthcare data of millions of NHS patients. The chilling and wide-reaching deal allows DeepMind access to the medical records of the 1.6 million people passing annually through the three London hospitals owned by the Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.
The Google-owned A.I. firm announced in February it was working with the NHS to build an app called Streams — intended to help hospitals monitor patients with kidney disease. However, the new information has revealed that the extent of the data being shared goes much further and includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, records of the location and status of patients, and even logs of who visits them and when.
Results of pathology and radiology tests are also shared, as is information from critical care and accident and emergency departments. In addition, DeepMind’s access to the centralised records of all NHS hospital treatments in the U.K. means the tech company can access historical data from the last five years, all while receiving a continuous stream of new data.
At the same time, DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which uses hospital data streams to build tools to carry out analysis and support diagnostic decisions. The New Scientist explained how it works:
Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.
While the Royal Free has not yet responded to the question of what — if any — opt-out mechanisms are available to patients, the New Scientist suggests this is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Despite the agreement stating Google cannot use the data in any other part of the company’s business, many will be seriously wary of the access the online tech giant now has to the confidential data of millions of people.
As the New Scientist wrote:
Data mining is the name of the game in the burgeoning field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and there’s no company in the world better at that than Google.
daily alternative | alternative news – Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records
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