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Creative Genius at 94: Here’s How!

By Shlomo Maital

John Goodenough and his team at University of Texas (Austin) “have just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity”, writes Pagan Kennedy, in the New York Times.   “He and his team filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works, as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles.”

   This is not Goodenough’s first invention. At age 57 he co-invented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package; such batteries now exist in nearly all devices at home and at work.

     OK – another genius. Nice. But what is unusual about Goodenough???

     His age.

       He is 94 years old.

       I often speak to groups of senior citizens, and tell them to restart their creative brains… reject the idea that you have no ideas under gray hair. It’s false!!   I know a Technion colleague who invented an amazing cure for cancer after age 70.  

       Here is what Goodenough says:   He started in physics, meandered through different fields, picking up clues as he went along. He hopped sideways into chemistry and materials science, keeping his eyes on social nad political trends. “You have to draw on a fair amount of experience in order to be able to put ideas together”, he notes.

     PUT IDEAS TOGETHER!   That is creativity. And who can do it better than 94 year olds, who have seen and learned so much about life?

       Thanks John! I’m 74. So maybe in two decades I will still have ideas….that create value.

       Remember the name: Goodenough. What is,   was not good enough for Goodenough. Even at 94.

 

Thinking in the Bubble:   How to Detect Land Mines

By Shlomo Maital

Writing in the Hebrew daily Haaretz, today, Ruth Schuster reports on a clever creative invention by Hebrew University scientists.

   The problem: undetected land mines.

   “Land mines are the scourge of the survivor. They lurk in the soil for years and even generations after the fighting ends. Up to 20,000 people a year are wounded or killed after stumbling on hidden mines, and there has been no safe way for man or beast to detect them. According to Hebrew University, more than 100 million land mines remain buried around the world. Metal detectors do fine with traditional mines, but plastic ones elude them.”

A huge number of ideas to detect and clear mines have been tried. Here are a few:

Mine detection techniques have remained as pedestrian as they were in World War II: soldiers with sticks and serendipity; dogs, who do get killed; and pigs (a talent discovered by a kibbutznik in Israel). The most noteworthy advance in decades had been recognizing the mine-sniffing talents of the African pouched rat.

Now come Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists, with a truly creative idea, thinking out of the box, or in the bubble or beads:   Bubbles with bacteria that glow blue when they detect vapors emitted by land mines.. even tiny amounts of the gas, and all mines emit such vapors.

       “Inspired by an idea that was first conceptualized in 1999, the scientists engineered   bacteria that fluoresce when they come into contact with these vapors. The human mine detectors don’t have to keep the bacteria on a leash: they can monitor and react remotely. Nor are the bacteria free-range: they are encapsulated in beads that are scattered across the suspect land. The scientists tested the system with a laser-based scanning system, and the mines were found.”

     Prof. Shimshon Belkin was responsible for genetically engineering the bacterial sensors.   The research was published recently in the leading journal Nature.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
April 2017
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