WIF Mind Games – Psychological Phenomena

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Psychological Phenomena

The human brain is a fascinating and complex organ. Beyond its ability to help us reason, function and think, it plays some crazy tricks on us. All throughout history, humans have experienced things called psychological phenomena – mind tricks that sometimes defy explanation but are experienced by most people. Here are 10 of them, with a description of the phenomenon itself (when it has one!) and an example of it in action with a real, live human being.

10. Cryptomnesia

Why did Brian Williams, noted NBC news anchor, say he was in a helicopter that was attacked in Iraq? Was he lying? Or, was there something deeper at work. For that matter, why did George Harrison write “My Sweet Lord” to sound just like the Chiffon’s hit 1962 song, “He’s So Fine?” Did he plagiarize, or did he not notice the similarity between his song and the other? An argument can be made for the latter in both instances, all because of something called cryptomnesia. The term was invented by doctors Alan Brown and Dana Murphy, after conducting three experiments at Southern Methodist University in 1989. They discovered that people will unknowingly “borrow” the ideas of others, rather than thinking of new ideas. Rather than consciously stealing a song, or making up a story out of thin air, the human brain is capable of taking a story, song or idea and transforming it. In the person’s mind, it becomes new. Original. When really, it’s just a memory.

Studies have shown this phenomenon is pretty common, but it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between it and a lie. So, it’s possible that Brian Williams simply thought he was on that helicopter, or he might have been lying. In the case of George Harrison, however, a judge decided that cryptomnesia really was the culprit, and Harrison was charged with “subconscious plagiarism.” It’s scary when you think about it. How many of our ideas are actually our own, and how many are really memories?

9. Deja Vu

Have you ever visited a new place, only to get the feeling that you’d been there before? That’s called a deja vu, and it happens to almost everybody. Art Markman, Ph.D., explains deja vu as a device our brains use to create a sense of familiarity in a particular situation using source memories as context clues. He says that humans are good at remembering objects, so if we see a person wearing the same t-shirt that we saw our friend wear last week, we don’t get confused that the stranger in the same shirt is our friend. However, we are not great at recalling memories based solely on how objects are arranged. So, if you see a stack of those t-shirts in one store, and then years later go to a completely different store in a completely different city, you might not remember that you saw an identical stack of shirts, but instead feel a sense of familiarity, of knowing, and not know why.

In one extreme case, French psychiatrist Francois-Leon Arnaud wrote about a guy named Louis who lived in the 19th century. Louis was a soldier who suffered from amnesia, then headaches, irritability and insomnia. And, he suffered from almost constant deja vu. Everything he experienced felt like something he’d experienced before. At the time, his doctors diagnosed him with “illusion deja vu,” but today it’s suggested that Louis may have had a memory disorder like recollective confabulation, where people routinely think that all new information is familiar. For us, the occasional deja vu is a creepy and otherworldly feeling, so much that some people think it’s really a memory from a past life.

8. Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect is a psychological phenomenon that is social in nature. It’s characterized by the unlikeliness of a group of people (the bigger the group, the more likely the phenomenon) to help during an emergency. The most famous example of this is the 1964 murder of young Kitty Genovese, when allegedly she was murdered on the streets of New York and the 38 bystanders who witnessed the murder did nothing to help. A great example of the phenomenon, if true. However, Kitty’s brother, Bill, decided to get to the bottom of what really happened to his sister and it turns out that only a few people actually saw the attack, and one actually shouted for the murderer to stop. Two people claimed to have called the police, though there are no phone records. Bill says that regardless of whether or not people tried to help, his sister’s story is an important lesson to those who might do nothing when they see someone in trouble.

Another disturbing example of Bystander Effect is that of Topsy the Elephant. Topsy killed one man, but was accused of being a “serial man killer,” and was therefore sentenced to death. Originally believed to be one in a long streak of electrocutions in that “War of the Currents,” it’s likely that electrocution was chosen for Topsy because it was more humane than the original form execution, which was hanging. The electrocution of Topsy occurred on Coney Island, in front of Luna Park employees, Edison’s employees, and many other witnesses. Nobody lifted a finger. A gruesome account of the atrocity can be found in in Michael Daly’s book, Topsy.  An Edmund Burke quote comes to mind: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

7. Placebo Effect

If you’ve ever participated in a clinical study (or studied science, for that matter), you know what a placebo is. It’s a pill or other treatment that has no physical effect, but can produce a psychological benefit called the Placebo Effect. In essence, if someone takes a placebo and experiences some sort of benefit, there you have this particular psychological phenomenon. One example of this is the case of MK-869, an experimental antidepressant developed by Merck in 2002. The drug tested exceedingly well at first, and Merck had high hopes for domination in the marketplace. Imagine how disappointed shareholders and analysts were, however, when data showed that while those who took MK-869 did feel better, so did the same amount of people who took the placebo.

This is a pretty common occurrence in the world of pharmaceuticals. In fact, about 50% of developing drugs fail in the trial stage because it’s found that the placebo is just as effective. Some medical professionals even claim that some people react well even when they know they are receiving a placebo. That the ritual of taking medicine or doing something healthy can make the brain think that the body is healing. Maybe there is something to the old adage, “Heal thyself.”

6. McGurk Effect

The McGurk Effect, a crazy psychological phenomenon that has to do with your eyes and your ears (and how they get confused) when perceiving speech. It happens when your brain associates the hearing part of one sound and pairs it with the visual appearance of another sound being spoken, which leads to the brain perceiving a nonexistent third sound. Whoa, right?

It happens especially when you can’t hear the sound that well (like in a crowded room, or when a person is speaking very softly) but you can see the lips move, making you think you “hear” something else. Think about that kid in class who mouthed “elephant shoe” at you. The phenomenon was first explained in 1976 by, not surprisingly, a guy named McGurk who studied how infants perceive language as they develop. It’s best described in video format, and there are a lot of examples out there. Like this one or, obviously, the one embedded above.

 5. Baader-Meinhof

You just heard about a new director from your film nerd friend. Later that day, you look up a movie with your favorite actor in it on IMDd and BAM, it’s that director. Then, you pick up the newspaper and there’s a profile on the same director – the one you had never heard of before. All of a sudden, this guy is everywhere. Is he the next Scorsese, or did your film buff friend plant all these references for you? Neither! You’re experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Arnold Swicky, a linguistics professor at Stanford, named this phenomenon Frequency Illusion in 2006, because it was easier than calling it the “When you hear something one time and all of the sudden it’s everywhere syndrome.” He explained that it is caused by two psychological processes. In one, you learn a thing and then, without knowing it, you look for it other places. In the other, confirmation bias tells you that the thing is everywhere overnight, simply because you never noticed it before. The term Baader-Meinhof came about earlier than 2006, on a St. Paul Pioneer Press online forum, where a participant heard the name of the notorious terrorist group two times in the same day. The phrase got meme-ified and later Swicky gave it a medical name.

4. Cognitive Dissonance

You know that getting sunburned can cause skin cancer, but you skip the sunscreen anyway. Or you smoke, even when you know that smoking causes cancer. You’ve got yourself a great example of cognitive dissonance, a phenomenon that occurs when you experience a conflict of attitude, behavior, or belief. Your behavior (skipping the sunscreen) belies your cognition (the fact that you know that you could get skin cancer), creating a state of cognitive dissonance.

This was first studied by Leon Festinger in 1957, when a doomsday cult that believed a flood was going to end the world… well, they didn’t get destroyed by a flood (and neither did the world). He found that people who were on the fence about the flood felt pretty dumb for giving up their houses and jobs and chalked it up to a learning experience, while the devout cult members decided that it was their great faith and sacrifice that saved the world. There are also fun ways to explore this phenomenon, like this Prezi about the cognitive dissonance in Mean Girls.

3. Online Disinhibition Effect

Unless you avoid the internet altogether (and judging by the fact you’re reading this, that’s pretty definitively not the case), you’ve seen the Online Disinhibition Effect in action. It’s your sweet former teacher that turns into a hate-filled rage ball on a Facebook thread. It’s Roseanne tweeting herself into unemployment. It’s the internet user’s tendency to say (or type) things they wouldn’t usually say in real life. This is caused by a number of personality variables that cause a person to deviate from their “normal” behavior. Just like people who feel less shy when online, some people lose a lot more than shyness when they feel a sense of anonymity.

Even on social media, where your name and photo are attached to your profile, it’s possible to minimize authority, loosen your self-boundaries and pretend it’s all a game when nobody is responding to you in person. If only people could just do what we do and pretend their mother can see everything they post online. Hey, if it works, it works!

2. Reverse Psychology

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely used reverse psychology to get your kids to do what you want. For instance, if they don’t want to eat their dinner, and then you tell them they’re not allowed to eat dinner, odds are they will. Reverse psychology relies on reactance, where a person responds negatively to persuasion, and instead responds to the thing that they’re persuaded not to do. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve likely used it on family members, partners, or coworkers.

Reverse psychology dates back as far as human behavior, with a notable example in the 1700s. Apparently, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, while imprisoned during the Seven Years’ War, ate a whole lot of potatoes. In France, potatoes were frowned on, and only fed to animals. French Parliament even outlawed potatoes in 1748, because they thought that they caused leprosy. When Antoine-Augustin got back to France in 1763 he started thinking about overcoming the bias against potatoes, because he knew they were very nutritious. One story says that he planted a potato patch and hired a guard to protect it, spreading the rumor that he was growing something special in there. Of course, people snuck in to steal the potatoes, and they decided they were a-ok.

1. Overview Effect

The last entry on our list is a psychological phenomenon most of us won’t experience. It’s the Overview Effect – the sensation that astronauts feel when they see the Earth as a whole. Six astronauts were interviewed by Inverse, and the experience of seeing Earth from space made them change how they saw their planet, and their relationship to it. The term Overview Effect was created by Frank White to describe the experience of seeing the Earth as part of something bigger. Makes sense, since when we live on the Earth the Earth is plenty big for us to consider. What would the world be like if everyone could look at the universe in a different way? Read those testimonials from the six astronauts interviewed and you’ll get an idea.

Our brains are strange and wonderful places, capable of greatness and atrocity. An understanding of how the brain works might help us avoid the latter, but it will surely help us strive to the former.


WIF Mind Games –

Psychological Phenomena

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 87

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 87

…Yeah, two-bit thugs who have a bad habit of picking on women…

two-bit thugs

Once the CCPI threesome gains Eddie’s Englewood address, they discover that a sticky situation has turned fluid. They are handed a note that Eddie had found on the kitchen table alongside a half-drunk cold cup her morning decaf:

If you ever want to see your wifey

agan youll keep your nose out

of where it dont belong. Tell those too dames

too back off, they’re in over their pertty little heads.

Listen up or you can kiss Edie goodby.

We’ll call you and dont bother looking cause yous wont find her.

“That is awful grammar Connie,” Fanny concludes, “it reads just like the way Elvis and Kelly talked to me.”

“Yeah, two-bit thugs who have a bad habit of picking on women… the smell of this caper rings a bell.” Caraway detects the lingering vapors of chloroform. Her distaste for the overall male condition is secure. She asks Fanny to dig deep, “Did they give you any clues about where they’re from or who they work for?”

Once the effects, of same knock-out gas used here, had cleared her system, Fanny did remember one small detail, “They mentioned something, it was an Irish name, O’Malley’s on something west…. Westward….. Westin…..”

Western Ave. Chicago

“Western,” Eddie offers dejectedly.

Constance flails her arms, “Telephone book Eddie, get me one! Do you know anything about an O’Malley’s on Western?” The gauntlet was laid down when they scribbled ‘don’t bother looking ‘cause yous won’t find her’.

“Maybe it’s a Irish gin-joint, lots of those places Eddie's Cousins-001up in the city; my cousin Georgie has a place on south Western, down by all the car lots. All those cheap clunkers Detroit is spitting out don’t hold up on these mean streets.”

“Here…… how about a car repair shop at 800 South Western.”

“That’s Chicago Ave, west side of the street on the near north side.”

“These guys must have some sort of headquarters. It may be a hunch, but it’s all we have to work with.”

“You can send junior home Con, I’ll take it from here,” referring to their new driver William.

“I think he can still make that piano lesson,” Fanny hopes aloud.

Connie leans out the front door of the bungalow to wave William off, excusing him from any further sequestered livery. His effort will not go completely unnoticed.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 79

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 83

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 83

…In the den of the Devil…

“I want you to extricate the human Mary Joseph Franks from her lair. I believe that she is under the protection of the Divine One, which is a formidable obstacle. And as she has already made Canisso’s acquaintance, I need some other human for the intervention.”

Agent Daniels does his best rope-a-dope. “Tell me where she is and I will have her here in two days.”

“No need, get her out of that convent-monastery-whatever and I will do the rest. Canisso will be assisting you.”

“I prefer to work alone.”

“Canisso will take you there.”

He can tell that his loyalty is being tested. ‘This is hardcore stuff,’ he thinks to himself. “I will do so.”

“Yes you will and your ascension inside World Agnostica is on the line.”

As if Daniels doesn’t have enough jobs as it is, now he is being pressured into an unthinkable act against an undeserving victim.

… Meanwhile in the Heavenlies…

“One of my faithful servants is in dire need of an intercession, Gabriel.”

The Angel Gabriel is the Divine One’s go-to seraphim in matters of greatest consequence. He hears his Lord’s petition and responds, “I am here Lord.”

“My daughter Mary Joseph is a target of the Evil one. Provide her the protection she needs.”

“It will be done,” Gabriel responds now filled with the earthly details.

… Back in the Chicago-lies…

Twenty miles north of Sister Mary Joseph, Constance and Fanny are helping Martin with getting Willard Libby back into working order. There are more than a few frayed circuit wires and burned out vacuum tubes about his jumbled head. As work canAgeOfEarth be the best therapy, so does Libby guide Martin through the cherished details of his, still to be revealed to the world, discovery that the actual age of Planet Earth is in the geophysical neighborhood of twenty thousand years, not the 4.5 to 5 billion year range that is broadly accepted.


Constance Caraway P.I.

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Forever Mastadon


page 76

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 82

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 82

…‘Mamma told me not to come’, he thinks to himself during this no-turning-back moment…

Daniels/Cephus will set aside his apprehension for later, having been met in the hall by Canisso/Wolfgram, dedicated defender of “The Great Deception”.

“This way Cephus, you have been expected.”

Prior to this, Daniels’ (as an informant/plant) view of Vincent Wolfgram was completely different, more of a fellow worker than this administrative visage. In fact, he cannot remember seeing the man on this side of the Atlantic before; previous informational “leaks” about Pope- doings never involved individuals, in that stead, he would utilize the more popular “drop” method.

In his work at the Vatican Communications Department, he is known as Bernard Spencer, an American electronic specialist in this new age of the telephone and television; yet another alias name, leaving one to wonder how he keeps them straight. He can know what/when he wants to know it, without being questioned by papal higher ups. He has amazing security clearance on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Cephus, not the Noah-of-old descendant, enters a vast chamber filled to the brim with solid gold items, so brilliant yet quite unnerving. ‘Mamma told me not to come’, he thinks to himself during this no-turning-back moment.

“Come forward Cephus,” an echoing voice rains down from a ceiling-less throne. Pentateuch has command of his world, asking no quarter, expecting unquestioned obedience. “I have an important matter for you to take care of, nothing to do with the pope,” he says without reverence.

“You must think I can do the job,” his voice quakes slightly.

“I want you to extricate the human Mary Joseph Franks from her lair. I believe that she is under the protection of the Divine One, which is a formidable obstacle. And as she has already made Canisso’s acquaintance, I need some other human for the intervention.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 75

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 71

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 71

…Eddie D. has a dream PART 1…

That next night, while Eddie D. was back at home having finished his Elgin undertaking, with that and the rest of their doings continuing to be shielded from Pentateuch, asleep in his bed, he is given a dream.

He has a vision of himself sitting up in bed and being lead away by a comely waif. They go to an unknown place, like nothing Chicago has to offer, lofty and commanding. Below he can see himself, at some ceremony being presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Howard McGrath, the Attorney General of the United States. It seems weird, to this dreamer, that he is receiving an award for civilian service, when he is in fact a member in good standing of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). But in this alternate reality, he is rewarded for his heroic work in capturing foreign nationals who were threatening the nation s during the end days of WWII; Communists, Nazis, Fascists, sympathizers, spies.

“We the members of the Cabinet of the United States of America hereby award Edward Eddie's Cousins-001Francis Dombroski the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of these United States.”

All of Eddie’s many repeated stories whither in the specter of this fresh personal notoriety. Not only that and but all of his cousins were there cheering him adoringly, how cool is that?

The headlines will read:

“Chicago’s Eddie Dombroski to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Roosevelt”

He doesn’t realize that the Medal of Freedom is fairly common, as compared to the Medal of Merit or certainly the Medal of Honor, but none of those matters as Eddie is honored as a hero.

As good as that makes him feel, Eddie D. is sensing that same bone chilling cold that occupies a part of his recent memory, at North LaSalle Street and the phantom 39th Floor. ‘But I am a hero, my neighborhood is holding a block party in my honor, Mayor Kelly has declared November 12th Eddie Dombroski Day with the Key to the City and all,’ he whispers longingly.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 67

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 64

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 64

…”Fanny Renwick at your service…”

Connie and Fan have been the best of friends ever since they met in a Tallahassee eatery 20 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression…

‘Where is that waiter with my bill?’ Constance Caraway wonders, eating out alone having vowed that she would never do so, ‘only losers eat by themselves’. Having broken off yet another relationship the week before, the 24 year old coed she finds herself alone again. She has taken her time at university, not able to focus in on any specific major, although she always fancied herself a writer, ‘You are a bore, Connie, face it. You need some excitement in your life. Why write about something, when you can experience it first hand’.

“Who are you talking to?” asks the waitress, who had been working that “lounge” side of Yancy’s Place (Yancy hates the greasy spoon designation), replacing Constance’s former male server.

She puts away her journal, looks around as if losing track of someone, “I was—well— looking for the waiter, you know I am done eating and I’d like to leave.”

The young girl notices the legal pad, “Are you a writer? I love to read, reading Agatha Christie on my breaks.”

“Murder at the Vicarage?” Constance does fancy herself the heroine type, especially a younger version of Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. “ I haven’t written much of anything lately.” Constance is secure in that statement, but upon closer examination, she takes notice of the perky redhead handing her the bill she had been looking for. Upon further inspection, this young woman seems overqualified for waitressing “I do not recall seeing you in here before.”

Fanny Renwick at your service; would you like dessert, we have lemon meringue pie, rice pudding and the chef’s famous triple chocolate cake?” Fanny does well do recite the desert menu. “I usually work the bar.”

“I’ll have that cake, thank you,” she had not planned on topping off her meal with a treat, but what the hell. She will temporarily ignore those 5 extra pounds as swimsuit season down at Panama City Beach is around the bend. For the present, she will risk the extra calories in the interest of prying into this Fanny-person’s life status.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 61

Hope 4 Humanity – WIF Inventions

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Inventions That

Will Give You

Hope for Humanity

Some days, it can seem that the best minds on earth are all preoccupied with projects like developing robot soldierslaunching crypto-currencies, and designing slot machines. While those activities may (arguably) have some societal value, it’s hard to see their primary mission as unambiguously beneficial. But don’t lose all faith in humanity. Below are 10 examples of inventions that may not make a ton of money and may not make their creators famous, but do make the world a better place…

10. Prosthetic dolphin tail

Winter the dolphin did not have an easy start in life. At 3-months-old, she was found by a fisherman tangled in a crab trap line. Winter, named after the season in which she was found, was cut from the line by the fisherman, who then called in a rescue crew. Despite the best efforts of the marine hospital where she was taken, the line had cut off circulation to her tail fluke and it was lost, along with two vertebrae. Normally, this is a fatal injury for a dolphin, but, in her new aquarium home, Winter learned to swim using a shark-like side-to-side motion (instead of the usual up-and-down motion dolphins usually employ with their tails) and using her flippers for momentum. While this provided a temporary solution, the unnatural motion posed a long-term risk of scoliosis and Winter’s health was worsening.

Enter Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, two prostheses with Hanger Orthopedic Group. Carroll heard Winter’s story on the radio, and convinced his colleague Strzempka, who also happened to be an amputee, that they could help. Carroll and Strzempka quickly volunteered to try to craft a prosthetic tail for Winter. While aquarium staff initially thought Carroll’s call was a prank, they quickly agreed to let the men, who offered their work pro-bono, work with a team of trainers and vets to try to find a solution. After several iterations, the team developed a viable prosthetic tail for Winter, as well as a gel that provides cushioning for the prosthesis. Not only was Winter able to swim normally again, her story, which spawned the movie Dolphin Taleprovided inspiration for people all over the world, including children with disabilities and wounded soldiers. Additionally, the gel that Carroll and Strzempka developed has also helped human amputees manage their prostheses.

9. An anti-tremor spoon

While working on his doctorate, engineer Anupam Pathak worked with the Army Research Lab, looking for ways to stabilize rifles for soldiers in combat. Pathak succeeded in identifying ways to make the hardware for motion cancellation very small and realized his innovation had the potential to help another group of people needing steady hands—those with Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease.

One of the most salient impacts of those diseases comes when patients eat. Often, hand and arm tremors make it impossible for those experiencing them to feed themselves. However, Pathak worked to refine and commercialize his technology to make a spoon that would cancel out the tremors, giving patients back their autonomy over one of their daily functions. Using Pathak’s motion cancellation technology, the Liftware Steady spoon cancels out more than 70% of shaking, allowing many of those with hand tremors to feed themselves. The company was acquired by Google and has since reduced the price of its products, and introduced a second product—the Liftware Level, a spoon which assists those with limited hand and arm mobility by keeping the utensil level, even when the hand moves unpredictably. One user with Essential Tremor explained the impact of this device on her life, noting that the Liftware spoon made eating less embarrassing and gave her more confidence, making eating enjoyable again.

8. Railway tunnels for turtles

What happens when Japan’s high-speed trains meet its low speed turtles? In the past, it hasn’t been pretty for either party. Near Kobe, Japan (which is on the coast), turtles trying to cross the tracks sometimes fell in the space between them and couldn’t get up. They’d walk between the tracks until being run over by a passing train or until they got to a junction, at which point they’d get squished during signal switches. This wasn’t just a problem for the turtles, but also for the train and its passengers, with turtle-related incidents causing 13 service disruptions between 2002 and 2013.

To combat the turtle vs. train problem, West Japan Railway Co. partnered with the Suma Aqualife Park to find a solution. They came up with “turtle tunnels,” concrete ditches that pass under the tracks near switch points. If staff find any turtles in the tunnels during their track checks, they rescue them and send them to the aquarium. A train company spokesman noted that, “The system prevents turtles from getting into accidents and avoids causing trouble for our passengers. We hope to continue using it.”

7. Biodegradable 6-pack rings

Plastic packaging poses a threat to wildlife on land and in the sea. The Pacific Ocean has a “garbage patch” made up of almost 80,000 tons of discarded plastic, covering an area three times the size of France, posing a threat to the sea life it encounters, who can be entangled and killed in the floating trash pile. While plastic 6-pack rings (that hold cans of soda or beer) make up a tiny fraction of the discarded plastic, consumers have long been warned to cut them up before discarding them, because they can injure or kill animals that become trapped in them.

However, one company, E6PR, has come up with an even better way to ensure that animals don’t become victims. It has created an eco-friendly 6-pack ring, made from by-product waste (wheat and barley) and designed to be compostable. Even if it doesn’t end up in a compost facility, it will break down in weeks and, unlike plastic, won’t hurt animals if they happen to ingest it. The product had its commercial debut in early 2018 on cans of beer from Florida’s Saltwater Brewery. As of mid-2018, the company is working to refine the product and ramp up production to be able to supply the 6-pack to all the beverage manufacturers who want to offer it. That’s a development animals all over the world should want to toast.

6. PARO the robot seal

PARO, an interactive robot that resembles a baby seal, may be best known for its appearance on Aziz Ansari’s sitcom, Master of None. However, PARO, which was designed in Japan, does most of its work in nursing homes and hospitals—helping provide patients with the benefits of animal therapy. Like a trained therapy animal, PARO responds to users’ voice and movements with its own motions and vocalizations. However, unlike real animals, PARO doesn’t need food, breaks, or clean-up, doesn’t play favorites amongst patients, won’t trigger allergies and can be used with patients whose unpredictable behavior might pose a risk to a therapy animal.

In a study of nursing home residents, those who interacted with PARO for an hour twice a week over 12 weeks, showed significant declines in loneliness over the period of the study. For those who worry about the dehumanizing effect robotic therapy animals might have, research suggests that in addition to engaging with PARO, residents who did so were more social with other residents and staff. Another study of dementia patients found that sessions with PARO lessened anxiety, increased social interaction, and helped lethargic patients remain alert.

5. Pugedon recycling receptacle

The Pugedon recycling receptacle aims to address two problems at once—promoting recycling and feeding stray cats and dogs. The machine, which is about the size of a refrigerator, is placed on the street and powered by a solar cell. When someone throws in a recyclable bottle, the machine dispenses food for hungry strays. If users want to empty their water bottles before disposing of them, the machine also funnels that leftover water to a bowl that the strays can access. The profits garnered from the sale of the recyclables pay for the kibble dispensed by the unit. The machine was introduced in Istanbul, Turkey, which is home to more than 150,000 stray cats and dogs. Engin Gargin, the machine’s inventor, said he was inspired by the idea of giving residents a cost-free way to help strays, while improving Turkey’s recycling rates.

One of the concerns with the units was that they would attract hordes of hungry dogs, but according to one article, that has not transpired. In India, the machines were planned with a slightly different user in mind.  Pugedon units have been placed near areas where pet owners walk their dogs, in the hopes that the prospect of a free dinner for their canine companion may encourage residents to recycle.

4. The Upsee harness

Debby Elnatan, an Israeli mother of a son with cerebral palsy, was determined to see her son walk, despite doctors that counseled her that her 2-year-old, “didn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them.” Elnatan worked with her son to build his walking skills, an arduous task. Elnatan says the idea of the Upsee, a harness that attaches a child to an adult, allowing the child to stand upright and to take steps with the support and motion of the adult, came from the “pain and desperation” she experienced while trying to find a way to help her son walk.

A group of 20 families with mobility-challenged children tested an early version of the product, and shared favorable results: the children enjoyed using the harness and the Upsee enabled families to undertake more activities together. The Upsee was put into mass production by Irish company Leckey, and is now improving the lives of children with mobility challenges around the world.

3. Embrace infant warmers

Complications from preterm births are responsible for approximately 1 million infant deaths a year. A major contributing factor to these deaths is the hypothermia many premature babies experience, as they lack the body fat needed to regulate their temperatures. In wealthier settings, where preemies can be placed in incubators in hospitals, they have much better outcomes than those preemies who are born in resource-poor settings, where hospitals may be distant, electricity may be intermittent, and incubators that can cost up to $20,000 just aren’t affordable.

Addressing this gap in care was the challenge faced by Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Linus Liang, and later, Naganand Murty, who first received the project in a Stanford class called “Design for Extreme Affordability.” Using design thinking and rapid prototyping the team developed the Embrace Infant Warmer, a sleeping-bag type warmer that relies on paraffin pouches for heat and costs hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands. The product has since helped more than 300,000 babies worldwide. In order to ensure the product’s sustainability, the company introduced a for-profit sleep sack, the sales of which support charitable distribution of the Embrace Warmers throughout the developing world.

2. Lifestraw water filter

The Lifestraw story begins with Guinea worm, a tropical parasite that incapacitates those who consume its larvae by drinking unclean water. In 1986, Guinea worm disease afflicted more than 3.5 million people in Africa and Asia. By 2017, the disease was nearly eradicated, with only about 30 reported cases. One of the factors driving down the incidence of the disease was a filter developed by Vestergaard, a Swiss-based company, which removes Guinea worm larvae from drinking water.

After its success with the Guinea worm filter, Vestergaard turned its attention to dealing with other water contaminants. In 2005, it introduced the LifeStraw, a personal straw-like filter, designed for use in emergency situations and in the developing world, where clean drinking water may not be easily accessible. Today, the company offers a range of products based around this idea, from water bottles for hikers to larger community-level water purification systems. For each product purchased, the company commits to providing clean water (via school-based systems) to a child in the developing world for a year. LifeStraw’s philanthropic efforts have provided clean water to more than 1 million children in the developing world.

1. Be My Eyes App

The idea for this app, which helps people who are visually impaired by crowdsourcing volunteer assistance with short, simple tasks, came from founder Hans Wiberg’s own experiences as a visually impaired individual. Wiberg’s blind friends shared that they often relied on FaceTime or other video phone apps to ask for help from family and friends for help with everyday problems like reading the expiration date on a milk carton or the departure board at a train station, though many of them worried that they were burdening their loved ones with a plethora of micro-tasks.

Wiberg saw an opportunity to connect the visually impaired with a network of volunteers who could help with things like identifying the contents of cans, or reading the amount of an electric bill. After pitching his idea at 2012’s Startup Weekend in Aarhus, Denmark, Wiberg quickly connected with a team that helped turn the idea into a reality, and the free mobile app was launched for iOS in 2015 and Android in 2017. Since the app’s launch, more than 80,000 blind and visually impaired individuals have been helped by more than 1.3 million sighted volunteers. There are so many volunteers that they have to be quick to the draw to be able to help; as of late 2017, the app’s response time averaged 20 seconds, meaning that most users were able to get help almost as soon as they needed it.


Hope 4 Humanity –

WIF Inventions