5 Everyday Objects That Are Secretly Saving The World

The surface of the Earth is 70% water, 28% land, and 2% an ever-growing mountain of useless junk that we bought because it looked cool, then threw away. Ironically, some of that junk is currently helping us save the planet in awesome and unexpected ways. Here are a few everyday items that science is turning into unlikely saviors.

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5
Bras Are Saving Injured Turtles

Turtles' shells get cracked in a variety of ways, from run-ins with cars to lawn mowers to mutated punk rocker warthogs and rhinos. This is absolutely life-threatening for them, so wildlife rescue groups do their best to patch them up. Good ol' glue and tape are usually the first line of treatment, but larger cracks can be difficult to repair efficiently ... unless you happen to have a bunch of old bras laying around.

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You see, in a turn of events worthy of some ridiculous '90s adventure game, it seems that glued bra clasps do a pretty good job of wiring cracked turtle shell pieces together so they can heal. Yes, people's worn-out double Ds are doing double duty as turtle bandages. This also ensures this crack can never be reopened by 98% of horny teenagers.

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After the shell has healed, caretakers sand down the leftover adhesive and remove the wire and bra clasps -- a step the turtles probably refer to as "second base." The almost-good-as-new turtles are then returned to the wild, blissfully ignorant of the massive debt they owe to some old underwear. (Has this been Victoria's secret all along?)

The idea was popularized when a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary in rural Iowa asked the internet for old bra clasps to mend some broken turtles, and the post went viral. In fact, they were soon drowning in bras (even more than wildlife rehab workers normally are, we mean), and had to ask people to stop sending them. Other animal rescue centers around America and the world began doing the same thing, with equally overwhelming results. If there's one thing people like more than helping animals, that's helping animals while getting rid of their junk.

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Related: 5 Ways People Are Trying To Save The World (That Don't Work)

4
Old Smartphones Help Protect Rainforests

Most people dispose of their old smartphone by giving it to a parent who has no idea how to use it or a toddler who could probably use it to hack NORAD. But some phones find a higher calling after their days of sexting and toilet-reading comedy websites. (That's right, Brad. We know.) Instead of being trashed or put in a drawer until the end of time, they embark on a new and noble mission: saving rainforests from illegal logging.

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After stumbling upon a rogue logger with a chainsaw while hiking in a remote area of Indonesia, San Francisco engineer Topher White had an idea. And no, it wasn't "Maybe I'll just go to the park next time." Determined to create some sort of device that could detect loggers and notify authorities of their location, White grabbed some old cellphones and McGyvered them into solar-powered devices capable of detecting the sound of chainsaws. After only two days of testing, his prototype had caught a bunch of men acting like tools with their tools.

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The most impressive part is that he can get a signal in the rainforest, while yours can't get one in your local Target.

White now runs the nonprofit tech startup Rainforest Connection, which places logger-catching devices in forests all over the world. And it's not just trees they're helping. White has designed cellphone stations that detect the (awful, we imagine) sounds of poaching, so animals can be saved as well. And while he hasn't specifically said he'll one day turn these little gizmos into full-fledged eco-zords capable of fighting and apprehending those bad guys, come on, it's implied.

Related: The 5 Weirdest Ways Science Is Trying To Save The World

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3
Reefs Are Being Put Back Together With Superglue

Cracked has kept you updated on the enthralling saga of Maya Beach, the paradisaical spot in Thailand that was made popular by the movie The Beach, got destroyed by DiCaprio-loving tourists, and was finally closed off indefinitely last year. Fortunately, the organization Ocean Quest Global has decided to fix the badly damaged reef the same way we fix anything around the house: with a heaping helping of superglue.

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The whole thing sounds like something a well-meaning but not very bright third-grader might come up with, but it works. Divers retrieve pieces of injured or broken coral, as well as pieces of substrate (i.e. rocks) from the seafloor, and then carefully glue it all together in coral nurseries, where they're monitored and protected. After about a week, the coral is able to grip the terrain itself. And since prolonged exposure to salt water is superglue's kryptonite, the substance will dissolve on its own, leaving the coral to regrow naturally.

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So the next time you superglue your fingers together, simply soak them in salt water for a week.

Scientists say these revived corals are way better than artificial reefs, because those posers don't impact the carbon cycle the same way and aren't a self-sustaining food source. Since the Maya Bay project has been extremely successful, scientists are hopeful that this method of restoration could work on different types of coral in other parts of the world as well. So for anyone counting, that's Leo fans: 0, scientists: 1.

Related: 6 Terrible Ideas That Science Says Will Save The Planet

2
Mayonnaise Is Used To Study Nuclear Fusion

Even if you love mayonnaise, we're guessing you've never really given the stuff a whole bunch of thought. Well, the next time you smear some of the white creamy stuff on a warm bun, bear this in mind: Mayo behaves so similarly to molten metal that scientists are using it to study nuclear fusion. And no, it has nothing to do with what happens to our digestive system after we eat it.

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Molten metal is tricky to analyze, since human beings tend to also melt at extreme temperatures. That's where mayonnaise comes in. Turns out mayo and molten metal are both "elastic-plastic materials" -- one just happens to go great with a BLT as well. In fact, they're similar enough that scientists can experiment on mayo and draw applicable conclusions on metal-lava from its behavior, saving themselves the pesky issue of having to firebend. After all, messing around with molten substances when you don't have to has a supervillain ring to it.

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So what sort of cutting-edge scientific investigations involve mayonnaise? Basically, they're studying what happens "when a light material, like air, tries to push against a denser material, like metal." Apparently, if you do a lot of work with nuclear fusion, this is both fascinating and groundbreaking. The important thing to know is that somewhere out there, a lucky jar of mayonnaise got to live its best life as part of a nuclear experiment instead of ending up decorating your toilet.

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Related: 5 Ways You Can Improve The World With Almost No Effort

1
Table Salt Is Making Skin Grafts Affordable For Acid Victims

Acid attacks are a serious problem in Pakistan, especially in poor remote areas, and triple-especially with women. As if the terrible disfigurement part wasn't bad enough, those who survive such attacks also face a tremendous risk of infection, psychological trauma, and isolation. Skin grafts cost upwards of $900 per square inch, which is like adding salt to an already painful wound. Wait, no, it's the other way around. Adding salt is what's giving these women hope.

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A doctor at Jinnah Burn & Reconstructive Surgery Center in Lahore has successfully cultivated artificial graft skin using salt. Instead of the absurdly expensive enzyme normally used, the center is growing the skin with something that's both readily available and very cheap (since they're using regular table salt, not the fancy kind they sell at Whole Foods). How much cheaper? Skin grafts cultivated with table salt cost about $5 per square inch. Please take a step back and consider how insane the phrase "You can buy a square inch of salt-based skin for less than a Big Mac combo meal" sounds. It's probably more nutritious, too.

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So far, 13 patients have received the grafts, and none have yet suffered complications, infections, or high blood pressure. And while "normal" skin grafts are difficult to transport and can only be stored for a short period of time, the salt grafts can be safely stored for up to two years. As a bonus, the tears produced by the executives at the drug company that makes the expensive enzyme guarantee that we won't run out of salt for the foreseeable future.

For more, check out 6 Horrifying Videos That Prove Nature Is Trying To Kill Us:


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