Thomas Edison once said, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” What are the limits of human potential? Have you ever wondered if the universe has a boundary? Is there a wall there? For years, people in track and field thought there was a wall that kept anyone from breaking the four minute mile until someone did and many have followed since then.
Think of the great feats that have been accomplished over the past 100 years or so in the fields of aircraft and space exploration. The Wright brothers were bicycle repairmen and then peddled themselves into history with the invention of the airplane. Then companies like Boeing made the impossible possible by producing planes that can get us to far destinations in a matter of hours. In space exploration, people have walked on the moon and instruments have landed on Mars to study that planet. Some evening on a clear night, go outside and look up into the night sky and look at the stars and moon. It’s amazing to think that people have actually walked on the moon’s surface.
In 1997, missions to the planet of Mars were in the news as the Mars pathfinder landed on its surface. It sent images and data of the planet back to scientist so they could learn more. Then two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) safely reached the red Planet having traveled 300 million miles from Earth to Mars. The Rover Spirit landed on Mars in 2004 and sent back 3-D images and trekked across the rocky Martian soil. Looking for evidence of some form of life was the mission.
In the medical field, scientists deciphered the human genetic code in the year 2000. A historic step in the understanding of human biology and a powerful new tool to find cures for diseases. Researchers have used mice for a long time to study diseases. They’ve also come up with innovative ways to study how cancer grows by using new breeds of clear tropical fish. They can see how the cancer grows inside the fish while it is alive and then develop medicines that deceive cancer so it can’t attach to certain areas of the body and spread. Recently, I read an article about the development of an artificial eye. The Dobell institute invented one by mounting a camera onto a pair of glasses and wiring them directly to the brain. It’s amazing how far technology has come. Recently I heard of a guy with a prosthetic leg who was not allowed to run the 100 meters race because they believed his prosthetic leg gave him an advantage.
Personal computers became a mainstay in the mid 1980’s. Microsoft made the Windows operating system so that individuals could harness the amazing productivity generated by the symbols found on a keyboard. The ability to store electronic data continues to astonish smaller yet more powerful electronic devices that can store more and more information. Smart phones now that can hook into your home computer and apps to make us more effective and efficient in everything we do.
All the champions of sports, science, and medicine that cause the impossible to become possible have a few traits in common; they see things differently. They see a problem and think of it as an opportunity. Isaac Newton didn’t see getting thumped on the head with an apple a negative thing. It didn’t ruin his day but just the opposite; inspiring thought that ultimately led to the Universal Law of Gravitation. We now can communicate with each other around the world because of his law. Putting satellites in orbit are vital in telecommunications and gravity is the reason objects remain in orbit.
One of the most important medical advances in history began by accident. On the morning of September 3rd, 1928, Professor Alexander Fleming was dreading the chore of cleaning up his cluttered laboratory. Upon sorting through a number of glass plates that had previously been coated with staphyloccus bacteria as part of research Fleming was doing, one of the plates had mold on it but it was in the shape of a ring and the area around the ring seemed to be free of the bacteria. The mold was penicillium notatum. Fleming had a lifelong interest in ways of killing off bacteria and he concluded that the bacteria on the plate around the ring had been killed off by same substance that had come from the mold.
Further research on the mold found that it could kill other bacteria and that it could be given to small animals without any side effects. This was interesting to Fleming and he mulled over it for a long time before moving on to other medical issues. Ten years later, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, working at Oxford University, isolated the bacteria-killing substance found in the mold - penicillin.
In 1941, a doctor, Charles Fletcher, at a hospital in Oxford had heard of the work of Florey and Chain. He had a patient who was near death as a result of bacteria getting into a wound. Fletcher used some of Chain’s and Florey’s penicillin on the patient and the wound made a spectacular recovery. Unfortunately, Fletcher did not have enough penicillin to fully rid the patient’s body of bacteria and he died a few weeks later as the bacteria took over the patient’s body. However, penicillin had shown what it could do and the only reason the patient did not survive was because they did not have enough of the drug.
The champions I’ve written about today all thought outside the box. They put some thought into what they saw and noticed things that most did not notice. They kept their mind open to solutions until they eventually found the answer. You can do the same. What might you come across today, document, and think about that may lead to amazing discoveries for tomorrow? You have skills that no one else has because no one has lived your life. You, my friend can change the world for the better because of who you are.
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