Most countries have ground to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, but we don’t have to look too far to feel hopeful again.
Global Shakers has selected another ten stories from the past week to keep you feeling optimistic.
1. The ozone layer is recovering
Photo on Science Alert
Good news! The hole in the ozone above Antarctica is recovering.
For the first time, we’ve also seen the effect of that recovery on the climate. Studies have discovered changes in air flow and a reversal of previously expanding jet streams.
The success—while distinct from carbon emissions—is the result of an international ban on ozone-depleting gases from 1987.
2. A super bright comet is coming
Astronomers think that a new comet, Atlas, is on course to set the sky alight.
If it doesn’t break up, the comet could be the brightest in the sky since Hale-Bopp in 1997.
Officially called C/2019 Y4, Atlas has an atmosphere half as wide as the sun and could be visible during the day by May 1. It’s also apparently taking a path similar to one of the great space events in history: the Great Comet of 1844.
3. Animals now control the cities
Photo on Bored Panda
As the pandemic forces humans to hibernate indoors, animals are taking control of our cities.
In Spain, packs of wild boar have been gleefully running through the streets. Goats have been examining town squares. Bears have explored empty roads and birdsong is stronger than ever.
The same is true around the world: Sika deer were seen crossing the road in Japan, wild turkeys were seen at a primary school in the US, and monkeys are becoming bolder in inner-city Thailand.
4. Genetic disease gets CRISP’D
For the first time, scientists have used gene editing technology to tackle a disease inside a patient.
The procedure involved injecting a microscopic virus into the eye of a person blinded by a genetic disorder to see if CRISPR could ‘cut away’ the disease and help the person see again.
While CRISPR had been used to treat cancer and rare blood disorders before, this had involved removing cells and editing them outside a patient’s body.
5. Homelessness solved in UK
Photo on Invisible People
Politicians have spent decades promising to solve the housing crisis. Yet in 2018-19, 9,000 people slept on the streets of London alone.
Last week, amid Coronavirus concerns, the UK Government ordered local councils to give every person living on the streets a place to stay. With one order, homelessness was solved.
Could this be the ‘new normal’?
6. Minecraft helps defeat censorship
Minecraft, the hugely popular online video game, has just become a clear defender of free speech.
An enormous virtual library in the game is housing banned journalism from Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam in a project coordinated by Reporters Without Borders.
The idea was to reach gamers in counties with stringent press censorship. Minecraft was chosen as it’s so popular that it will be difficult to shut the project down.
7. Scar-faced dinosaur discovered
Photo on Popular Mechanics
PhD student Jared Voris has identified the first new Canadian tyrannosaur in 50 years.
The fossils, first found in 2010, show the new dinosaur had unique ridges on its jawbones and an oval shape on its cheekbone, unlike other tyrannosaurids.
The discovery brings crucial understanding to show how tyrannosaurs developed into the dominant predators we’ve come to love—immortalised by the famous T-Rex.
8. Madagascar is planting 60 million trees
To celebrate 60 years as an independent country, Madagascar just planted one million trees.
It now plans to plant 59 million more to offset major forest loss over the past century.
The reforestation drive comes after President Andy Rajoelina was re-elected on a familiar, but more positive platform: “Make Madagascar Green Again.”
9. No-one left behind in Portugal
Porto, Portugal. Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash
In every country, people from abroad spend months waiting to hear whether they have permission to work or stay in a country.
During the quarantine, Portugal has taken the admirable decision to give everyone waiting for a decision immediate access to healthcare and economic support.
“It is in these moments that it becomes even more important to guarantee the rights of the most fragile, as is the case of migrants,” the government said.
10. New AI to help paralysed people talk
Scientists have developed an AI tool that could turn thoughts into text.
The system currently works with patterns in the brain when someone is speaking, transcribing small quantities of text more effectively than professional human transcribers.
But experts have said the tech could eventually help communication for people who cannot speak or type—such as people with locked in syndrome.
Bonus: Yale University’s hugely popular ‘happiness course’ is now online and free to study.