Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thinking outside the box

My husband, who's a science geek to the core, always tells me I'm the creative one in this relationship. But creativity isn't limited to fantasy worlds artists create, whether it's with words, music, or paint.

It's about thinking outside the box. The ability to imagine something that isn't there. Frankly, I marvel at scientists. The lengths they go to, the research they undertake to try and make this world a better place, so many things that all of us take for granted.

For instance, I was reading today about some recent research done at Harvard. A group of people from various disciplines - mechanics, tissue engineering, and materials science - have been working on creating a new substance, a hybrid hydrogel with phenomenal strength and elasticity. Though it's still in developmental stages, the preliminary results are incredibly encouraging in a number of fields, including many potential applications in medicine. It's being posited that it could become an artificial cartilage, replacing broken or destroyed cartilage in humans, a process that is currently impossible.

How amazing would that be? Osteoarthritis plagues millions of people, with joint replacement on the rise. There is no cure for it, just treatment, but if ten or fifteen years down the line, the scientific community finds a way to utilize this hydrogel safely within human biochemistry, a common affliction could become much less so. Those aches and pains that so many have to live with could be a thing of the past.

And that's not even taking into consideration other possible uses for it. The article mentions both robotics and optics, as well as artificial muscles, but I'll bet that's just the tip of the iceberg. It always is, isn't it? We're only limited by our imaginations.

Lucky for us, scientists have some of the best ones.