March 22, 2016

More Incremental Improvements

By Chelsea German
From minor time-saving improvements like self-tying shoes to potentially life-saving medical research, here are some of the news stories on human progress that recently caught my eye.

Key to halting cancer’s spread discovered?  

Cancer cells spread through the body in a process called metastasis, enabled by a protein named MARK4. Scientists have now discovered a molecule, “miR-515-5p,” that can silence, or “switch off,” the gene that produces the metastasis-enabling MARK4 protein. This molecule has already succeeded at preventing the spread of breast and lung cancer in mice. Scientists are hoping to use this knowledge to develop drugs to stop the spread of cancer in humans.

Nike creates “self-tying” shoes  

The company Nike has recently created self-tying athletic shoes. After a wearer slides into the shoes, a sensor causes the shoes’ laces to automatically adjust to create a snug fit. The company claims that the shoes can even take into account “individual idiosyncrasies in lacing and tension preferences.” The shoes are scheduled to appear in stores this year. If this technology becomes commonplace, the children of the future may never need to learn how to lace up their shoes!

Declining global poverty might help decrease violence  

A study at the University of East Anglia suggests that poverty, or economic under-development, is linked to violence and civil unrest, and suggests that a lack of development causes unrest rather than the reverse. Globally, poverty is declining and poor countries are in many cases moving towards closing the gap between themselves and rich countries. So if the study’s findings are correct, that is great news, because that means that growing economic development will not only elevate living standards but could also decrease the chances of violent unrest.

Pizza may soon be delivered by robots  

The pizza chain “Domino’s” is delivering pizzas to customers’ doors using robots as part of an experimental trial. The delivery robots have sensors that help them to avoid collision with obstacles, and first successfully delivered a pizza on March 8th. Right now the robot delivery service is only available in New Zealand, but if it proves successful, Domino’s may expand its availability and other chains may follow suit. Another delivery robot model is already being developed separately in the United Kingdom, and may soon even arrive in Washington, DC.