Author Archives: Bob Welbaum

Why is There Mint in Your Toothpaste?

Have you ever wondered why mint is in your toothpaste?  Or for that matter, almost every dental product?  I didn’t either until I heard the March 16, 2018 podcast of NPR’s Marketplace. It seems until the twentieth century, few people brushed their teeth.  Then an ad man named Claude C. Hopkins came along.  He created

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Restoring Feeling in Lost Limbs

Having been in the military for twenty years, I’m very sympathetic to anyone who has lost a limb.  Great progress has been made in fabricating lifelike and functional prosthetics, but they still have one major disadvantage —  feeling.  There is no sensation in metal and plastic.  So the only way to control an artificial hand,

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How To Think Better

Who wouldn’t like to be better at solving problems?  Recently, I ran across something that might help.  It involves using “mental models” to think in different ways. A mental model is simply an explanation of how something works.  It can be a concept or framework in your brain, like game theory, that helps you understand

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Where To Get Your Crazy Socks

Maybe it’s because I’ve been working a lot with special-needs kids at my local high school recently, but  recent story caught my eye. John Lee Cronin is a young man with Down syndrome who loves unique and colorful socks.  His life took a new turn when he decided to study retailing and customer service at

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How To Talk To Plants

Have you ever heard of Sprout?  Google the word and you get a lot of different results.  But this definition is an agricultural application on Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that enables you to communicate with plants. You may already know that plants can grow without soil.  It’s called hydroponics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponics); basically, exposed roots are

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Who Needs a Sewer?

During my first trip to a third-world country (Egypt in 2002), I was fascinated to see how they were modernizing.  The best example was they were adopting cell phones, thus skipping land lines.  In effect, they were leaping over an entire iteration of technology. I thought of this while reading an article about how an

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The Secret Lives of Trees

One of the hallmarks  of the Disney animated TV show “Darkwing Duck” was a cadre of eccentric villains, like Dr. Reginald Bushroot, a vengeful botanist who became part plant after a failed experiment (http://darkwingduck.wikia.com/wiki/Bushroot).  I recalled this when I read about a German forester who is giving plants credit for some very human characteristics. Peter

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Birds Who Start Fires

Smokey Bear would be appalled. Australian Aborigines have always used fire as a hunting aid and to keep ecosystems healthy.  They realized something long before we did — small fires burn away excess plant material and prevent catastrophes.  But according to Aboriginal lore, there was another native species who saw the value of fire —

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