Bayard & Holmes Youth Achievement Cyber-Hug 2013

By Jay Holmes

In order to give my tired brain a break from the often painful world of foreign policy, I did some recreational reading today. The vacation from our world’s wars and genocides did me good. I found some great information about a couple of young people who deserve recognition and national cyber-hugs.

Unlike real-time hugs, cyber-hugs avoid the danger of exposing these fine youngsters to that odd sadistic creep relative who finds every chance to squeeze the breath out of children. The awardees will be thrilled to know that neither this dangerous old crank nor anyone else will actually be showing up at their house expecting to touch them.

The truth is that I haven’t yet discussed the particulars of how we would handle such an award with my writing partner, Piper Bayard. But have no fear. Piper is busy tonight doing more of that “work” stuff that our “working relationship” requires.

Piper is a bright and judicious attorney. She managed to get through law school without asking me to help any of her fellow students or her professors stumble upon any unfortunate accidents, so I know she is good at thinking like a lawyer. Furthermore, she had the good sense to enlist the aid of our world class publishing attorney and historical mystery author, Ms. Susan Spann. Susan knows her stuff. Between Susan and Piper, I am confident that details of this award will be well managed.

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

This year, we have a two-way tie for our first Bayard and Holmes Youth Achievement Award. The first amazing young person is a 17-year-old scientist by the name of Sara Volz from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sarah converted a space in her bedroom into a science lab. She is using that lab to research algae as biofuel.

Thus far, algae have proven to be stingy in the amount of oil they give us in exchange for the polluted waters that we so generously share with them. Sara uses artificial selection to find algae with a better work ethic that produce more oil. The implications of this 17-year-old’s work seem very significant. Intel also thinks it’s significant. Her research won the Intel Science Talent Search and was awarded $100,000, which she indicated she will use for her education.

Note to oil executives. Leave her alone. My bad guys are better than your bad guys, and I know where you and your surplus significant others all live. Do not disturb this child.

Note to DOE. We give you folks vast sums of cash, and you burn it faster than a gaggle of drunken Secret Service agents in a Colombian house of ill repute. Pay attention. Ill-conceived DOE Director Bill Richardson is long gone, and you people should be producing more science again. If you were operating at this girl’s level of efficiency, I would already have a safe-to-use, pocket-sized fusion generator fueled by toxic waste and surplus body fat. If you haven’t hired this young lady yet, you need to come to your senses and do so ASAP.

Jonah Kallenbach, image from Intel.com

Jonah Kallenbach, image from Intel.com

Our other awardee is a 17-year-old named Jonah Kallenbach of Ambler, Pennsylvania. Jonah won second place in the Intel Science Talent Search for his groundbreaking work with proteins along with $75,000. Unfortunately, I don’t understand Jonah’s work well enough to explain it you. Fortunately, Jonah does understand it. The upshot is that he is discovering how to get proteins to react better with medications. The long term implications for the health of cranky old guys like me are very significant.

Wow, if fifteen of our world’s adults were getting half as much done as these two fine young people, imagine the results.

We congratulate both of you fine young scientists for getting so much done with so little funding. Thank you, Sara and Jonah, for your remarkable work. Because of you two, I’ll still be healthy enough to drive my wife and myself to a shuffleboard competition when I get a little older, and I will still have the fuel to get there.

I cringe when I hear my fellow old cranks complaining about “kids today.” It’s nonsense. There are a lot of great young people doing great things. Instead of looking down our wrinkled noses at today’s youth, we would better serve our own interests by helping youngsters find the opportunities to develop their talents. In a world with so much tragedy and human suffering, young people like Sara and Jonah give us all cause for hope.