Climbing Mt. Shasta: A Journey After Spinal Fusion Surgery

-Emily Fraysse

My eyes opened at the sound.

The nurses dressed in all white with hairnets and facemasks were clinking the industrial set of tools around on a steel patter to my right. I drifted off again as I felt a sting of the IV slide into my right arm.

My eyes opened at another sound.

My father’s alarm had gone off. It was three o’clock in the morning and I had just been dreaming a flashback to the spinal fusion surgery I had undergone around two years before.

Sliding on my down coat and slipping on my booties, I heaved myself out of the comfort of my royal blue tent and out into the cold, deserted ice. I could see my father had already begun boiling the water for tea and my younger sister, Madeline, still fast asleep in her sheltered cocoon.

With a full moon over head, the view was stupendous. It was still the dark hours of the morning, but with the full moon, the shadows of the luscious pines and the sparkle of the snow was clearly visible. Looking up at the slope of Mt. Shasta, a lit ant trail of climbers were already making their way up to the looming ridge above.

A bowl of oatmeal later and I was snapping my crampons onto my boots and heaving my thirty-pound pack on my semi-sore back. My back has been an issue for many years due to a duel with scoliosis. I spent the winter break of my senior year of high school getting a spinal fusion (two titanium rods fused to my spine to prevent the curve from gaining distance). The surgery, thankfully, worked, and a mere two years later I was climbing again. I had climbed before my surgery, but just a few times here and there with my father and sister.

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One step. Stop. Breathe. Another step. Stop. Breathe.

And that’s how it went for the next eight hours uphill. Any faster and the climber would find themselves exhausted after only three hours, unable to scale the 14,179 foot California mountain.

This was my battle. Battling my body, my mind, my mountain.

One step. Stop. Breathe. Another step. Stop. Breathe.

I couldn’t necessarily feel the rods, but I knew they were there. It had taken me about six months after the surgery until I was fully healed, and even then I was still not allowed to go on rollercoasters or partake in any other potentially dangerous activities for an entire year. Luckily, a mountaineering backpack sits on your hips, thus lessening the pressure on your spine.

I pushed my body and my mind, step by step. It wasn’t enough to cause injury, but I wanted to push myself to see how far I really could go. The first doctor I went to when I had first found out that I had scoliosis said that there was nothing I could do for it—not even surgery would help. But I took the plunge: a scarily deep plunge that has left me with a giant scar going all the way down my back. I wanted to prove to myself and to him that I could do it.

And I did.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: Five Ways to Make Working Out More Fun

-Marissa Tomko

Running on a treadmill reminds me of hamsters, running and running on their little hamster wheels, going no where, getting no closer to a destination. Talk about boring.

I don’t know about you, but my attention span on one of those mechanisms is about five minutes. I start getting antsy about my music, eyeing the clock, and redoing my ponytail fifty times in a row. I just can’t take the repetition!

Unlike a hamster though, I am able to break out of my cage and make a more exciting workout routine for myself. And with that in mind, I present to you my top five favorite ways to work out without being bored to tears!

Zumba

Call me crazy, but this Latin-inspired workout is probably the best I’ve ever partaken in. Zumba is basically just a big dance party, and at the end of it, you’re sweating your face off and you can kiss the gym goodbye for the day! My personal favorite thing about Zumba is how it can turn even the most uncoordinated person into a superstar. All you have to do is check your inhibitions at the door, and I promise you’ll have the best, most fun workout of your life.

Hiking

If you live in Eugene, you probably have some sort of affinity for the outdoors. Instead of a repetitive hour on the elliptical where you just awkwardly stare out the same window, why not take your talents outside so you can enjoy some ever-changing scenery and become one with nature?

Workout videos

Hear me out: I realize you would probably feel silly in your house or apartment taking orders from some random person on your television. However, it can actually be the best time of your life. Grab a few friends and pop in an amusing workout DVD. My personal favorite is Brazil Butt Lift. The guy on the video cracks me up, and even if I end up not working out for the whole time, I get some nice abs from laughing so hard.

Water fights

Pardon my theatrics, but these days it is so hot, I feel like I am super-glued to the sun and I can’t escape the heat. That makes going on a run pretty difficult because heat stroke is not something I am trying to get out of my workout. So I enjoy the occasional impromptu water fight complete with Super Soakers and water balloons! It entails a lot of running around, and you can finally cool down from the Eugene summer weather.

Rollerblading

My roommate and I have big plans for the summer that involve buying overalls and rollerblading all over Eugene. This activity is a surprisingly good calorie burner, as well as a nice blast from the past! So strap on those wheels and get going!

On Trend: Makeup to Beat the Heat

 

-Rache’ll Brown

It’s 97 degrees and you are pouring sweat. Your eye shadow is creasing, your blush is streaking, and your skin is shinier than a freshly waxed floor. You decide to take a dip in the pool, and your mascara runs down your face making you resemble a raccoon.

This is every girl’s nightmare in the summer. In the past, when the temperature reached 80 degrees plus, I’d be stuck with a dilemma—should I attempt to look like a semi-decent human being, or should I ditch makeup altogether to avoid the inevitable mess that ensues via the blazing sun? But then I learned about the magic of waterproof makeup and immediately started giving the products a little test run. This is what I’ve been left with; may the days of running mascara be left behind for good. Amen.

For the Eyes

In any occasion, whether the temperature is insanely high or not, eye shadow primer is always a necessity. Always. Not only does it help your shadow stick longer, but it also makes the colors more vibrant. Another alternative is cream eye shadow, or Maybeline’s new color tattoos. In the summer I stick strictly to light, neutral colors because if something is to go awry the mess is less noticeable. I’d also recommend skipping a lot of eyeliner—simply lining the waterline should suffice, and if it is a necessity use waterproof liquid, not pencil or gel. And of course, opt for a waterproof version of your favorite mascara to finish off your eyes because mascara is one of those products that should be present even if nothing else is.

For the Face

Just like an eye primer, a good moisturizer is something that should be used year-round. The sun will dry out your skin, and a moisturizer with an SPF will keep your face supple and protect from sun damage. If you don’t have problematic skin, great! Skip foundation at all, or opt for something like a BB Cream or Skin Tint—they both offer light, sheer coverage that’ll let your skin breathe in the heat. I have a naturally porcelain complexion, so I always use bronzer. In the summer, Stila’s One Step Bronze is perfect because it gives a little color without a cakey finish. Lastly, use a cream blush or cheek tint for a pinch of color; they are long lasting and look more natural on the skin as long as they are thoroughly blended.

So this summer, skip the streaky mess and sport a more put-together look. By using long lasting and breathable products, your face with stay in place all day while still being comfortable in the summer heat.

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The Art of Raising Chickens

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-Emily Fraysse

I’ve had chickens since I was about ten years old. I’d spend my mornings letting them out and collecting the fresh eggs nestled in the straw of the nesting boxes.

It all started when my older sister, Anne, was found constantly sketching ideas of chicken coops and practically begging our father to build one so that she could pretend like she was Amy from the film Fly Away Home. A year later and the beautiful coop was built with a flock of ten stunning Barred Rock, Sex-Link, Buff Orpingtons, and one Indian Runner duck. Over time, the ivy grew up and over the sides of the coop, hiding it in the field.

My parents, sisters, and I had little knowledge of how to take care of chickens when starting out. We learned as we went. The baby chicks, unable to be in the giant coop just yet, spent the first few weeks in a galvanized tub with shavings, wood, water, and a heat lamp. When they began to get their feathers and gain strength, we let them roam in the coop and the outside “pen” area. They spent another week there before we finally let them roam the one-acre property.

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The first batch of chickens that we had, we had to manually put them into the coop at night because they would not go on their own. Although this was a bit tricky and a hassle, they eventually they got the hang of it. Now, they go inside independently when the sun begins to set and the predators roam about. Living in the suburbs of San Francisco, there are owls, foxes, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and other animals that are around.

The only up-keeping that I find necessary with the chickens is to clean the coop every month (take out old straw and replace it with fresh straw), close them in at night, let them out in the morning, and make sure they have food and water. Also make sure that, especially after you’ve introduced a new flock of chicks to the older chickens, none of the chickens get picked on. Chickens can be pretty mean to each other and will single out one or a few chickens that look “different” to them. Once chickens get the taste of blood in their beaks, they go crazy for it in a very cannibalistic way.

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I have found that I can no longer eat regular eggs from chickens that have not had the ability to roam free and have been cooped up their entire lives. The ones allowed to roam free have different sized eggs and the yoke is a deeper yellow. I have yet to buy the jumbo white eggs that are found at the local grocery store. I love my chickens and could never, ever imagine growing up without them.

The Best of Oregon Camping

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-Rache’ll Brown

In the past two decades I’ve had my fair share of bug bites, sun burns, Big Foot sightings, and campfire stories. I’ve caught fish, made s’mores, polar-beared, and had my tent tipped. Some of my best childhood memories were spent in the great outdoors, and as an Oregonian born and raised, I have spent most of my time in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Students and locals alike should experience a night or two in Oregon’s natural beauty, and these are a few places that I think are worth a visit.

Moonshine Park

Growing up on the Central Oregon Coast, an appearance of the sun meant a trip to Moonshine, not the beach. A mere fifteen dollars grants campers an overnight stay at Lincoln County’s most popular park. Plus: the people-watching is prime on a nice day.

Paulina Lake

Central Oregon is so beautiful, and although the weather can get excruciatingly hot for this coastal girl, Bend and La Pine are some of my favorite spots in Oregon. For fourteen dollars, campers can be right next to the lake, which means fishing and rock skipping.

Coldwater Cove

I am terrified of lakes and deep bodies of water, mainly because I have no idea what lies beneath the surface. At Coldwater Cove, this isn’t an issue.  For eighteen dollars per night, campers can hang out in my favorite body of water, Clear Lake.

Yukwah Campground

Twenty dollars per night for a camping plot, but the timeless memories come free. This camping ground located outside of Sweet Home, OR is one of my favorite. It’s right across from the South Santiam River and is encased by beautiful Douglas Firs. This spot is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest.

Link Creek Campground

For sixteen dollars a night campers can experience one of my favorite places in Oregon: Suttle Lake. The first time I drove through the Santiam Pass and saw this lake I was blown away, and getting up close and personal with it was breathtaking. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

The Cove Palisades State Park

Growing up, lake stories didn’t count unless they took place on Billy Chinook. At twenty dollars per night campers get to experience the lake and the beautiful red cliffs surrounding it. The best part is the diverse range of outdoor activities: hiking, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing are some options that can please all.

Popcorned: “Arrested Development” Developments

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-Casey Klekas

In less than a week the new season of Arrested Development will be on the nation’s Instant Queue. In case you haven’t been re-watching every episode like me, here’s where we left off:

Michael, George Michael, and a hidden George Sr., are on their way to the model house in Cabo. Lucille was driving the Queen Mary along with Tobias, G.O.B, the captive investors, and the hot se—er, sailors. Forty-year-old Lindsay is not a Bluth (she was almost a Sitwell!). Buster is in the water with a loose seal. Maeby is meeting with executives trying to sell the family’s life story as a TV series, which is denied, “But maybe a movie!”

So, where are we headed? Well, in case you missed it, they’ve released a trailer for season four, and it has revealed a few delicious nuggets to chew on until May 26th.

George Michael goes to school at UC Irvine, hinted on a pennant during Michael’s intrusion on his son’s dorm room, where he finds George Michael and his cousin Maeby continuing their hidden affair. Recall, at the end of season three Michael told his son that he and his cousin were not indeed blood relatives, but still family. We will have to wait to see more of Les Cousins Dangereux.

It’s hot at the airport where Michael asks the cab driver if he knows of a “good place to live,” because he’s “looking for a new start.” The sign says Sky Harbor, an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, which suggests that it is cut from episode one of season four, titled The Flight of the Phoenix. Michael burns his hand on the taxi’s door handle, not unlike the Cornballer from season one. In another scene, Michael appears to be buying a new car. Later, Michael stands in front of a new housing development managed by “The Michael Bluth Company,” which is stalked by a vulture, “Not a great sign.”

Lindsay has short hair in one scene, then long hair in another, where Tobias suggests getting her to that acting class. Tobias later sees the sign he’s been waiting for: a model Hollywood Sign saying “Hooray for Tobias.”

Maeby has grown into a fine young woman. At one point in the trailer she is startled by an ostrich inside the Balboa Apartments.

Michael approaches Kitty, who still holds some grudges from when Michael threatened her, then tried to blow her up with a boat. Hopefully she has a man in her life.

We see G.O.B. with his characteristic charm trying to pick up a woman at a bar. He also has some new magic act that looks like it might have “Roman Slave” as its title.

Lucille is dragged away by the police at a seafood restaurant, possibly Senor Tadpole’s, threatening Buster with abandonment. Buster is fitted with a shiny new hook. In one scene, he reveals that he has not outgrown his love for juice.

Well, that’s all I could gather from the trailer. Again, the new season will be released all at once this Sunday, May 26th. Thank heavens it is also Memorial Day weekend, and thank heavens for the auto-play feature at the end of every Netflix episode.

Image from http://www.redcarpetnewstv.com.

1.21 Gigawatts: Seahorse Armor Inspires Robotic Engineering

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-Sarah Keartes

Seahorses don’t exactly radiate toughness, but recent studies show that the bone structure of these delicate fish might be the key to unlocking a breakthrough in robotic armor. Iron Man á la seahorse?

First of all, yes, seahorses are in fact fish. Their genus name, “Hippocampus,” stems from the ancient Greek hippos meaning “horse,” and kampo meaning “sea monster.”

These tiny “sea monsters” (the largest reaching eight inches in length) face a multitude of challenges in open water, the most problematic being that they are poor swimmers. The fifty-four known species of seahorses must spend their days clinging to kelp, sea-grass, and coral so as not to be carried away by strong currents while feeding on crustaceans—something they must do constantly as their digestive tracts are extremely short.

What do the engineers at University of California San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering want with a teensy-tiny poor-swimming eating machine? The treasure is in the tail.

Seahorses use their prehensile (grasping) tails as anchors, holding them in place while they feed. The tails have to be strong enough to protect them, but flexible enough to wrap around rocks and move with the tide.

“The tail is the seahorse’s lifeline,” Michael Porter, a Ph.D. student in materials science said in an interview.

The typical tail is made up of thirty-six bony segments. Because most of their predators (including crabs, rays, turtles, and seabirds) capture seahorses by crushing them, the Jacobs team wanted to see if the bone segments  act as protective armor.

In order to study the bones’ structure more clearly, the team used a chemical process to strip them of their minerals and proteins. Amazingly, seahorse tail-bones contain a lower-than-most percentage of hard minerals (15 percent lower than cow bone). When we think of shielding materials, we often assume the stronger the better. But just like foam or other porous materials, the tail bones actually absorb energy during impact.

“The connective tissue between the tail’s bony plates and the tail muscles bore most of the load from the displacement,” the team said.

Each segment of the tail is composed of four L-shaped corner plates which are connected by small joints that allow the bone plates to glide and pivot freely over one another without being damaged. The structure is reminiscent of the Hoberman Sphere toys we all know and love.

 

“[In our tests] the tail could be compressed by nearly 50 percent of its original width before permanent damage occurred…even when the tail was compressed by as much as 60 percent the seahorse’s spinal column was protected from permanent damage,” the team found.

If the team is successful in recreating this structure, imagine the applications of armored plating that could withstand that kind of pressure.

The Jacobs team plans to use 3D printers to create artificial bony plates lined with polymer muscles, which will help them to better understand how to apply these structures to their robotics.

“The final goal is to build a robotic arm that would be a unique hybrid between hard and soft robotic devices. A flexible, yet robust robotic gripper could be used for medical devices, underwater exploration and unmanned bomb detection and detonation,” they said.

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Image by Jacobs School of Engineering.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: Spring Has Sprung – Contracting Spring Fever

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-Marissa Tomko

Someone just gave me a really weird look at a stoplight because I was screaming Luke Bryan at the top of my lungs in the car. Alone. It was the greatest moment of my life because it was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and I just wanted the whole world to share in that with me. I can’t help it though because I have come down with a severe case of spring fever!

Here in the rainy northwest, even the smallest bit of sunshine is a game changer. It takes over social media sites and brings students outdoors to bask in its rays. Classes are suddenly less full because everyone is out taking a “mental health day,” also known as a “lets go ride our bikes by the river” day. Fun in the sun takes priority, and no one seems to have an issue with their procrastinated assignments or unkempt houses. Everything is happy!

Even though the sun might be considered a novelty around here, there might be more to the fact that it makes us feel happy. According to the Huffington Post, a severe case of spring fever might be scientifically explicable. Unlike in the wintertime when we produce more melatonin and therefore sleep more, spring sunshine means less melatonin, causing you to feel more awake.

The rays don’t only mean less melatonin but also more serotonin, the chemical your body produces to put you in a better mood. I don’t know about you, but for me, being in a better mood means I’m more restless and more prone to celebrating the good weather as opposed to working in spite of it.

Word to all you fellow spring-fever-prone people out there though: just because the rain is gone does not mean that your responsibilities are too! Even though the memories you make on a beautiful day are important, so are your grades. Playing hard doesn’t come without working hard. Happy spring!

1.21 Gigawatts: Giant Snails do Demo in Florida

african land snail

-Sarah Keartes

South Florida residents have begun a battle with public danger in the form of . . . snails. Giant Snails, to be exact. Precisely when the thousands of Giant African Land Snails invaded the Sunshine State is unknown, but the new neighbors are posing real problems for the local flora, fauna, and—architecture?

Not only do these snails grow to approximately eight inches in length and consume more than five hundred species of plants, but they can also eat through plaster and stucco, which provides the calcium needed for shell restoration.

Unknown to most, snails feed using a radulae, tiny (or in this case, not-so-tiny), toothy organs. No chewing necessary—the teeth on a radula (which can number in the thousands) are used to tear, grate, and grind, and are replaced as they wear down. Some species of snail also produce an acidic secretion to break down calcium sources like the shells of other mollusks.

 

Florida certainly has a knack for accumulating visitors. In fact, about one thousand people move there every day. Why Florida? Perhaps it is the promise of low taxes, competitive school districts, and affordable housing—perhaps it is the allure of the beach. For Florida’s most recent set of squatters, it is most certainly the weather.

Native to east Africa, the giant snails thrive in warm climates, and have already settled their brigade of mobile homes in Barbados, the Hawaiian Islands, and India.

What have the southerners done to combat the hungry home-wreckers? Enter the snail-hunters. The Agricultural Department of Miami-Dade County has a staff of fifty dedicated to nothing but slimey search-and-destroy.

“Nearly one thousand snails per week are being rounded up” using a bate made with iron phosphate, Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told BBC.

Is the mollusk mass-murder really necessary? This question has caused some conflict among the locals.

“They’re huge, they move around, they look like they’re looking at you … communicating with you, and people enjoy them for that,” Feiber said. “…But they don’t realize the devastation they can create if they are released into the environment where they don’t have any natural enemies.”

A fertile Land Snail can lay up to 1,200 eggs per year, and can live up to nine years. One snail becomes over 10,000 before it bites..no wait…grinds the dust? It’s certainly a problem that needs solving, but I can’t help but cringe at the thought of sending 117,000 (and counting) of them to an oozy grave.

This isn’t the first exotic invasion Florida has had to face. A recent invasion of Burmese pythons sparked “The Python Challenge.” Sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the challenge presented locals with the opportunity to “competitively harvest” Burmese pythons. In other words? After paying the $25 entry fee, and signing the extensive waiver, locals plunged into Florida waters to wrangle and kill the exotic snakes—hoping to nab the $1,500 grand prize.

Sure, we’re thinking up creative ways to deal with new “pests,” but the underlying problem behind these exotic “invasions” lies within our own exotic pet trade, which makes up a multi-billion dollar black market industry in the U.S. alone.

The US Department of Agriculture has already confiscated illegal Giant African Land Snails from commercial pet stores, schools and private breeders Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio, and Michigan.

As officials continue to round up the sunshine-snails, the fate of the far-from-home mollusks and closer-to-home drywall remains to be seen.

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1.21 Gigawatts: Glowing Plants – Lighting the Path into the Future?

Glowing Plants

-Sarah Keartes

Just two weeks ago, in what they call “the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting” a team of Stanford scientists headed by Antony Evans, a Singularity University alumnus, launched the “Glowing Plant” project—the first ever synthetic biology proposal to hit kickstarter.

Inspired by fireflies and aquatic bioluminescence (think Life of Pi), the project aims to create glowing plants that could eventually replace electric or gas lighting. What’s incredible is that all of the technology required to jump-start the plant production already exists.

“What is innovative and exciting about this project is not so much new application of  technology—it is that these three guys [in a DIY science lab] are bringing synthetic biology into the mainstream,” Lisa Smolenska PhD Molecular Plant Virology told Flux.

“They are taking an idea and bringing it to the public—and the public is listening and playing their part in scientific development for their future. That is what’s cool about it,” she said.

“Glowing Plants” (GP) builds on research dating back to 1986. The process started with isolating and sequencing the Luciferase-luciferin gene, which codes for an enzyme that allows organisms like fireflies and bioluminescent bacteria to glow.

Now sequenced, the genetic information can be manipulated using software like “Genome Compiler” to make it more readable by the plant’s cells. The newly designed plant friendly code is “printed”—after  it is synthesized to the correct length, lasers are used to cut out and throw away any  codes  that do not perfectly match the design.  This new DNA will eventually be introduced into the plant using a Gene Gun. Initially, transforming the plant will be done using the Agrobacterium method:

“Our printed DNA will be inserted into a special type of bacteria which can insert its DNA into the plant. Flowers of the plant are then dipped into a solution containing the transformed bacteria. The bacteria injects our DNA into the cell nucleus of the flowers which pass it onto their seeds,” the team explains.

Gene Guns, computer programs making DNA—and printing copies? If this is all starting to scramble your brain, fear not. Think of it this way: Genome Compiler, which was founded by GP team member Omri Amirav-Drory, works by viewing biological genetic code much like binary computer code (made of ones and zeroes). The program is able to “design, debug, and compile” the code to make it readable by chromosomes and genomes (the software)  that run in living cells (the hardware).

“Living things are just another form of information technology,” they explain. “We can design living things the same way we can design computer code.”

Using similar techniques, the University of Cambridge 2010 iGem team was able to create modified E. Coli bacteria which produced enough light to read by, and in several colors. Their creation, cleverly dubbed “E. Glowli” set the benchmark for synthetic bioluminescence, one which GP hopes to eventually meet.

“It’s certainly feasible…can you make something that is brighter than what is occurring in nature? That is the grand challenge—for now the challenge is making something beautiful,” Harvard University Professor of Genetics George Church said in an interview.

By choosing to launch their project on kickstarter, the GP team is getting the public involved.

Through funding platforms like these “scientists can practice science without having to go to large, highly competitive funding bodies or corporations, and highly technical projects now have visibility to the general public,” Smolenska said.

The project soared past its initial $65,000 goal, and has now raised over $190,000 pledged by 3342 curious supporters (myself among them). The funds raised will be used to print DNA—a process that costs a minimum of twenty-five cents per base pair. Sounds cheap enough, right? Keep in mind that the sequences used for the project are approximately 10,000 base pairs long, and multiple sequences will be printed for testing.

Pledges of forty dollars or more are being rewarded with a batch of GP seeds, which will be sent out in late 2014.

Luciferase is not a pesticide or known toxin, and the GP team is taking precautions to ensure this project is “as safe as we can get.” Still, as with all genetic modification (GM) centered projects, some debate has risen regarding the ethical implications and ecological risks of introducing these plants—as what could happen remains unknown.

The Glowing Plants project has roots in the past and eyes on the future—building on what was started by those before them, and turning to those around them. Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes:  Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.

“What you’ll be getting is more than a glowing plant…the glowing plant is a symbol of the future, a symbol of sustainability, a symbol to inspire others to create new living things,” Evans said.

Want to grow your own glow? Watch the Kickstarter video!

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Image by Jay Salamandras.