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Person to Watch in 2012: Sonar Luthra

Joined: 1/26/2012
Posts: 1
Of all the celebrities, politicians, and sports stars who will be making headlines in 2012, the person to watch is actually an innovator who is not yet a household name. He is Sonaar Luthra, a scientist who is pushing the boundaries of the known world, dreaming up solutions to pervasive problems, and executing his ideas in practical, affordable ways. Luthra, a graduate of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and a contributor to UNICEF’s Innovation Lab, has invented the Water Canary- a handheld and easy-to-use gadget that will ensure the safety of water for everyone in the world. While Luthra’s efforts may be dwarfed in the media by political banter as the presidential election approaches, the Water Canary is doing more than just alerting users to bacteria in water; it is utilizing science to empower individuals across the globe.
The physical Water Canary, as well as the idea behind it, is very simple: small, rectangular and yellow, it will determine the drinkability of a water source by flashing either a red or green light. For such a straightforward device, the technology behind it is actually quite impressive; it can gauge the bacteria and microbe levels in water by analyzing how much light is absorbed. It can also inform users of possible nutrient pollution and microbiological contaminants. This means that after a natural disaster, relief workers could efficiently determine which areas need the most supplies and can limit the range of subsequent damage by keeping victims healthy and safe. Luthra’s idea actually arose from the news that cholera, a disease primarily of the past, had resurfaced in Haiti after the earthquake because residents didn’t know which water sources to avoid. Using this device on a large scale, we can fight epidemics and malnutrition more effectively.
Even more impressive than the Water Canary’s function is the trend it will set. We have already seen the rise of personal technology with cell phones, iPods and computers, as well as the rise of personal journalism through twitter, blogs and other social media outlets. Now, Luther is ushering in the era of personal science, when the lack of pricey lab equipment and multiple degrees won’t prevent people from taking their health into their own hands. It represents a leveling mechanism that virtually everyone can use.
Therefore, I believe the person to watch in 2012, Sonar Luthra, is an innovator who is changing the way people access and interact with high-tech science across the globe. His invention of the Water Canary will ensure the safety of people affected by natural disasters, and will also come into widespread use over the next year. I actually think he might be the person to watch in 2013 as well, since someone this dedicated who draws from “cross-disciplinary thinking” and has a global mindset will only continue to make significant progress in the world.
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