Often, when we think of a scientific discovery, of someone finding something that we have never seen before, we envision grown ups in white lab coats, surrounded by high tech equipment, feverishly researching some new awe-inspiring discovery they know will change the course of history. And while I am sure many scientists WISH this is what they were doing, most of the time new discoveries are found in a very unexciting setting.
This was the case when three high school seniors in Rochester, New York swabbed three surfaces we see every day: a smart phone screen, a door handle and a hand dryer. Very typical and, well, boring sounding, right? Well, while the surfaces themselves were nothing to get excited over, once their swabs were analyzed, the teenagers realized they had found a brand new bacterium on their swab!
Now so far this new bacteria does not have any known potential use, but it just might. That is the exciting part of discovery; you really have no idea how helpful they will be. When electrons were discovered over 100 years ago, no one thought they would really be useful at all. Well, come to 2019, and our entire world is operated on electricity and its communicative abilities. Maybe this bacterium will be what helps find the cure for cancer. Or maybe it it better at dissolving grease than hand soap. Or maybe when heated to the exact right temperature, it learns to talk! Well, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. Science is not necessarily about looking for things that you know will do something, it is about looking for something you hope will do anything.