Man-made technology is great, but Mother Nature is the greatest inventor of them all -- and scientists are discovering new ways to take advantage of the tools found in nature. Take, for example, a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University who developed a solar cell using the photosynthetic protein found in spinach. In New York, Scape Studio has proposed to use the oyster's natural cleaning ability to help clean up the contaminated waters of the Gowanus Canal. The firm has received funding to create Oyster-tecture, an oyster park at the mouth of the canal where millions of mollusks will "eat" toxins. Meanwhile, the US Forest Service has been deriving cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp extract to create a material that's stronger than Kevlar and carbon fiber.
There's still something to be said for human ingenuity, though. Rogers Feng, a student of Northwestern University, took home a James Dyson award this week for inventing a human-powered refrigeration system that's designed to aid in the distribution of vaccines in developing nations. Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics and DARPA announced that their Cheetah robot can now hit 28MPH -- faster than Usain Bolt. Australian researchers successfully implanted and tested an early prototype bionic eye, while online retailer Ditto released its new 3D virtual fitting technology that lets customers try on glasses online. And this week we also checked out RUX, a company that produces heirloom baby rattles that feature hand-carved silhouettes of parents.
In green transportation news, NASA awarded an engineer from the University of Miami $100,000 to develop a fuel-efficient supersonic jet that's shaped like a ninja star. In Los Angeles, the space shuttle Endeavor's final journey is causing controversy, as more than 400 trees are being cut down to make way for the spacecraft. California also passed a bill that would allow self-driving cars on the road, while Claire Lomas became the first person to take a ReWalk bionic exoskeleton home for daily use. And German designers unveiled Fliz, one of the strangest bikes we've seen -- a pedal-less, foot-powered bike that suspends its rider in a harness instead of a seat.
To ease congestion at London's Heathrow Airport, the architecture firm Gensler recently unveiled plans for a floating airport that would be built right in the middle of the River Thames. That might sound like a long shot, but this is actually going to be built: Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, just announced plans to construct a gigantic shimmering crystal ball in advance of the tournament. And in one of the coolest art projects we came across this week, Chinese artist Wang Yuyang used thousands of compact fluorescent light bulbs to create a replica of the Moon.