Now we’re talking! Eyesight is being restored to the blind! As part of an experimental pilot program by the National Eye Institute, 37 people have had partial eyesight restored to them via corneal implants. With varying degrees of clarity, people who could not see can now distinguish shapes, shadows, light, people and in some cases large lettering. While still in its early stages, the results have been nothing short of miraculous to the people formerly inhabiting a black world. Recent leaps in miniature electronics, gene therapy, artificial corneas with camera eyeglasses and medical science are bringing to fruition the ultimate Holy Grail of medical science. How cool is that?
Which leads one to wonder what else we can do. Apparently making cars that get decent mileage is more complex than restoring sight to the blind or putting a man on the moon like we did 40 years ago, so you get sort of confused by the mixed results on the science front. While it’s been very obvious that the amazing computer and communication advances have transformed the world dramatically in recent years, the medical field seems to be particularly adept at adapting the new technologies.
Consider those afflicted with serious heart conditions, which 30 years ago routinely killed people at a young age or condemned them to taking it very easy lest they drop dead from the slightest exertion. These days injured hearts are repaired in routine bypass operations, valves are being replaced and weak hearts made strong again so that even people who have had major heart attacks can live long and productive lives. Amputees can also look forward to an amazing new generation of prosthetic limbs that will respond to brain impulses like a living limb, also thanks to electronic miniaturization being adapted to living tissue.
There’s a lot of great work going on. Now if they could cure cancer, diabetes, AIDS and malaria. But who knows, technology is making such rapid leaps that those cures may come soon enough to save many people suffering today. Cancer survivability is better than it was 5 years ago, and researchers are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as far as figuring out just how the hell AIDS works, the first step to finding out how to cure it. There are already drugs available to help HIV infected patients live normal lives and avoid developing full-blown AIDS, so that disease is no longer an automatic death sentence.
The industrious and successful medical researchers make you wonder what’s up with other branches of science, especially in the field of energy, an increasingly critical issue for humanity. We’ve known that oil is a finite and polluting resource for generations already, but so far we’re still setting greasy stuff on fire to propel us from place to place, sending ever more noxious fumes into the air we all breathe. The suspicion is that the energy scientists are counting on their more talented counterparts in medical research to come up with a cure for emphysema so we can keep burning stuff until there’s nothing left to burn and then they’ll figure something out.
Apparently the United States Government agrees with that strategy. When addressing mandatory gas mileage for cars, the best they could do is demanding that automobiles get 35 miles per gallon, 7 years from now! There’s already cars that get that mileage right now, just not all that many of them. And that’s not even a very impressive figure in a world where the demand for petroleum is growing swiftly and the earth isn’t making any more of it, at least not for a few hundred million more years when enough of us rot into a greasy black goo. Most experts agree that we just don’t have that kind of time.
As far as funding a broad and compelling search for alternatives to internal combustion? Not a huge priority. Maybe the jugglers and clowns that pass for our legislators forgot that we are the nation that put a guy on the moon when most of them were still in grammar school. Perhaps too many of them would sorely miss the bribes, vacations, campaign donations and expensive gifts from the oil and auto industry lobbies. Or just maybe they forgot that the leap to the moon was commissioned by the government. They called it The Apollo Project, made it a huge priority and assembled the requisite scientists, technicians and aviators into a well-funded and intelligently coordinated effort that produced the desired results of landing a man on the moon and them some.
The “then some ” byproducts of the race to the moon was the cornucopia of miniaturized electronics, fiber optics and silicon chips that fueled the rapid development of incredible computer devices and ushered in the Information Age. Imagine using these fruits of the Apollo Project to form a New Apollo Initiative to search for new sources of energy? Just as in the original Apollo, there’s no telling what other incredibly beneficial technologies might emerge from this effort. The inventions made possible and real by that monumental effort were at the time considered impossible, just as many people today consider clean and plentiful energy an impossible goal. Hell, we have people restoring eyesight to the blind right here and right now! Don’t tell us what’s impossible anymore. Men on the moon, eyesight to the blind. We have made miracles. We can make more.