Really Interesting Notes from Science


There are a Lot of Smart People Working on Clever Ideas  

Part of our Hey! Look at That! Science series

I ran across some interesting tidbits in recent days that I think you might enjoy, too.

Would you like ketchup with that wrapper? First, an article from National Geographic. It is about research on edible packaging and utensils. That’s right – finish your meal, then eat the package and utensils as well.

I have long been a fan of all things National Geographic. However, I have been watching closely of late. A consortium that includes the Koch brothers bought them out. I am pleased to report, so far, I detect no change in their magazine or other productions. Hope that holds.

The article reviews a surge in research on edible food wrappings and utensils. According to Nat Geo, edible cups were the first to be developed, but more products are coming online. My wife’s reaction was to ask how that could possibly be sanitary, since people handle it. The article did not directly address this, although I am sure it is an issue that had to be resolved. I told her maybe they just serve it to guys – we wouldn’t care….

The article also talks about other forms of edible wrappings, nonstick containers (think 100% of the ketchup coming out of the bottle). How about wrapping that harmlessly dissolves into the food or down the drain with no residue or taste? Yep, that, too.

Fascinating and promising stuff. This is way beyond plastic straws and K Cups. Read it at

So, I was talking to this tree the other day… Awhile back I came across a remarkable book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate. I was skeptical on the title alone, but I am a sucker for trees. If aliens ever abduct me and ask me to show them one thing on our planet, I would choose a sampling of trees. Their beauty, functionality, and complexity are amazing. I never tire of looking at them or thinking about them.

The book lays out a very sophisticated communication network among trees and other elements of the forest. This communication leads to coordinated actions. It is riveting stuff to contemplate. I have said before that someday we will be astonished at how little we understand other animals. This may be the case with plants, too. At least some level of communication seems to exist that we are only now beginning to comprehend.

Still, this is the work of one guy, and the theories involved seemed a bit Out There to me. He has prominent endorsers and the book is a best seller. But I do not enough of the right scientific background to make much of a judgement here. Who should come to the rescue, but (once again), National Geographic. They have been following research in Canada that seems confirm this whole idea. They have produced a lovely video to illustrate for the lay person how this seems to work.

The book and the video are worth your time and reflection. Read more about the book at

Find the video at

I would love to know what you think after examining some of this.

Can Your Watch Save Your Life – The Sequel. I wrote earlier about the life-saving stories circulating about the Apple Watch (

For the record, I noted that other watches would likely follow shortly. I also noted that I don’t own one of these, so I am not shilling for Apple. Last week Apple announced the latest iteration of that watch. It is a striking illustration of how fast technology is advancing. I may not be able to say I don’t own one of these much longer.

The watch has saved people’s lives. It has done so by alerting them to dangerously high blood pressure or heart arrhythmia. The new watch does that and advises of dangerously low blood pressure. It can produce a printable electrocardiogram (ECG). It can detect when you have fallen. If you have fallen, it asks if you want to call for help. If you do not respond or move for a minute, it makes the call for you. And it does all kinds of monitoring of exercise outcomes. It also does most of what your cell phone does. It makes calls, does searches, etc. All this in a device thinner than its predecessor.

I can’t wait to see where all this goes. I should note that some medical professionals don’t think ECGs are useful for healthy people. I can imagine doctors thinking, “Oh swell. Now they will come in carrying their own ECGs.”  Some are concerned about the radio magnetic properties of such a watch. Still, we are entering a new era of possibilities. If you would like to read more about this watch as a harbinger, take a look at.

We do live in interesting times.

 Bill Clontz

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