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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 28, 2017

Empty Nest: The Future

By Curt Swarm

Future cars may be driverless and powered by hydrogen.  Toyota already has a hydrogen fuel-cell model ready for the market, with other auto makers scrambling to catch up.  I don’t know why it is the foreign manufacturers that seem to grasp what American consumers want or will be driving.  The Japanese were the first with high-mileage, low-emission cars, and first with hybrids and electrics.   
The only emission from these hydrogen-powered autos is water.  Nice.  The main problem, so far, is that there’s a shortage of hydrogen-fuel stations.  Right now the closest hydrogen-fuel stations for Iowans are Chicago and St. Louis.  I expect we’ll soon see them in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities.  Like anything else new, it takes time, and (this is the most important) a change in attitude.
The driverless cars are being worked on by all the major auto makers.  They have to, because the driverless cars have to communicate with each other.  These driverless cars are equipped with a lot of surrounding cameras and radar.  What I haven’t seen addressed is what happens when the camera lenses become dirty or covered with ice, as is wont to happen in the Midwest.  The rear-view camera on my car now is next to worthless when it is covered with dirt, which is most of the time in winter, considering Iowa’s slushy roads.  Hopefully, the automakers have taken this into consideration, since they test these autos in all sorts of severe conditions.    
I wonder if texting will be allowed in driverless cars.  How about reading, working crossword puzzles, or writing the Great American Novel?  It would sure make the drive across Nebraska a lot easier if one could nap or surf the Net while driving.    
In the near future, we may even see humans on Mars.  A select group of people are being groomed now for such a trip.  A one-way trip!  Gulp.  Not for me.  I like the comforts of home.     
Life expectancy of a baby born today may be 146, according to Time magazine.  If obesity can be whipped, people will live longer, be more productive and, hopefully, happier.  It mostly has to do with drugs.  Scientists are experimenting now on mice with a drug called rapamycin, “which seems to slow aging and the damage it can do.”  Rapamycin is already used as an anti-rejection medication for organ transplant recipients, so the arduous FDA approval process has already been met, at least for organ transplants.  If it can work on mice, it may work on people.  By the way, the antibiotic, rapamycin, was first discovered in dirt.  We’ll see how “the best laid plans of mice and men” work out.      
There’s also resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine, that’s espoused to have antiaging attributes.  It’s gotten a lot of press, and is quite popular, because it gives folks the excuse to have a glass (or more) of red wine per day.  
Then there’s an enzyme called telomerase, which works on telomeres, the timekeepers of a cell’s life.  With the use of telomerase, telomeres “might be manipulated and extended to halt aging related problems.”  
With people living longer, where will they all live?  You’d think the old codgers would flock to the sunbelt.  Nope.  Also according to Time magazine, it’s cities, and “of the largest cities in the U.S., Madison, Wis. is the best in which to grow old.”  This is based on access to health care, transportation, social networking, and cultural stimulation.
If people live to be 146, they darn well better not be driving!

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.  Curt also reads his columns at www.lostlakeradio.com.