Extreme situations demand extreme solutions

Gareth Kershaw

Friday 18 January 2019

Technologies are a bit like people. The more that’s demanded of them, the greater the pressure they’re put under, the more they seem to deliver. And so, if we do say so ourselves, it is with the Lenovo ThinkPad. From helping medics in the Amazon to monitoring whale-song in the Atlantic, to studying the cosmos itself, it seems it really is now possible to work wherever you want, whatever the environment…

Imagine being bitten by so many venomous creatures that you eventually become allergic to both their venoms and the anti-venoms that treat them.


Can’t quite picture it?

Well you could always ask world-renowned biomedical scientist, Pharmacology PhD, and National Geographic explorer Dr Zoltan Takacs, who travels the globe studying venoms to innovate cures for life-threatening diseases. Because that’s what happened to him.

Takacs’ work often takes him to places where technology doesn’t tend to fare especially well, but whether he’s tackling the tiniest scorpions or the 5cm fangs of a Gaboon viper snake, one piece of equipment is never far away – his ThinkPad.

Describing it as his office while he’s in the field – from the bottom of the ocean to the heart of the Amazon, whatever the weather, terrain, or environment – it is essential to his work.

Indeed, he explains, it was central to the development of Designer Toxins, the platform he co-invented which creates millions of combinatorial variants from the world’s natural animal toxins and selects those with the highest potential for drug development and other biotech solutions.

Wow. Remarkable story right? And yet, even more remarkably, it is by no means unique.

Take marine biologist (and ballet teacher!), Tammy Silva, and her pioneering work tracking and analysing whale-song in Massachusetts Bay; trying to understand how dolphins and whales are impacted by human activities.

It is a field run predominantly by men, but whether out at sea or busy analysing the bio-acoustics measurements that result from such voyages, Silva is a leading light. And her ThinkPad, which she says has precisely the robust processing power and functionality she needs, is vital to her ground-breaking research.

Assessing the vocal behaviour of ocean animals places some unique demands on your technology, but with her ThinkPad, she says, it couldn’t be easier, leaving her free to focus on what matters rather than technical issues.

Then there is Markus Reinert, who might reasonably be dubbed one of the rising stars of astronomy. Just 19-years of age, Munich University student Reinert has created a piece of software powerful enough to photograph and analyse stars.

How? Like many budding astronomers, he found his countless hours observing
the night sky were being compromised by the light-pollution so common in urban areas like Munich. So he decided to do something about it.

Within a year he had developed his light pollution compensating algorithm, which essentially filters through the ‘static and background noise’ of big city lights and renders the universe into a refined, simple image – all on his ThinkPad.

The kind of powerful machine with “a seemingly never-ending battery life” he needs, he says, it handles both his exacting demands and the elements whilst allowing him to connect and leverage his camera and telescope to maximum effect.

Now I just need my camera, my telescope, and my ThinkPad, and I can learn something about the universe, he smiles.

We could go on.

Tell you about University of Southampton student Przemek Zientala, whose ThinkPad (which he calls his “little beast”) helps him locate clean drinking water in Tanzania through machine learning.

Or clinical research fellow Dr Duncan Murray, who uses his ThinkPad in his work with flow cytometry, in turn helping to cure T-cell lymphoma.

Or Hivemind. An agricultural start-up from New Zealand whose work tracking bees is, in a very real sense, shaping the future of agriculture. And whose owner Bryan Hoyt describes his ThinkPad as embodying the “it just works” mentality to which his own company aspires.

The point though, is this: now more than ever PC is coming to stand not for Personal Computer, but Personal Computing. And personal computing, as we have seen, comes in wider variety of shapes and sizes today than ever before.

Luckily, there appears to be at least one device able to cope with the rigours of them all…

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