Good News This Week: April 20, 2024 - Rhinos, Vaccines, & Pillbots

A photo collage of an MRI scan on a computer screen, a vial and injection, a solar farm, a Southern white rhino, and a person holding a pillbot

Every day the Good Good Good team collects the best good news in the world and shares it with our community. Here are the highlights for this week!

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The Best Positive News We’re Celebrating This Week —

Using the world’s most powerful MRI, researchers got detailed photos of the brain — they could help with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s research

French researchers just unveiled images of the human brain taken by the world’s most powerful MRI. The images are almost 10 times as detailed as those of a standard hospital MRI, and could lead to future breakthroughs in treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more.

The scans were taken of the brains of about 20 people over the course of four minutes — using a standard MRI to take similar scans would normally take hours.

With these highly detailed images, researchers can better understand how the brain functions, look for changes, see how it interacts with various treatments for different disorders, and achieve even more medical breakthroughs.

→ ​​Read more

More good medical news to celebrate:

Global death tolls from natural disasters have actually plummeted over the last century

Since the 1960s, the world has seen a spike in the number of natural disasters, largely due to rising sea levels and an ever-gradually increasing global surface temperature.

The good news? We’re getting better at helping each other when disasters strike. According to a recent study from Our World In Data, the global toll from natural disasters has dramatically dropped in the last century.

Researchers gathered data from all geophysical, meteorological, and climate-related disasters since 1900, including earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, drought, wildfires, severe storms, and mass floods.

In the early-to-mid 20th century, the average annual death toll from these disasters was very high, often climbing to over a million.

But that’s shifted in recent decades, and as the researchers observe, “Even in peak years with high-impact events, the death toll has not exceeded 500,000 since the mid-1960s.”

One of the biggest reasons for this improvement: human beings are getting better at predicting and preparing for natural disasters.

R​​ead more

Nigeria just became the first country in the world to roll out the “revolutionary” new meningitis vaccine

Last year across 26 countries in Africa, there was a 50% increase in annual cases of meningitis — and Nigeria is a hotspot. Between October 2023 and mid-March 2024, there 1,742 suspected cases in the country and 153 deaths recorded across the country’s seven states.

The World Health Organization has a goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030 — and they just took a bit step toward that goal.

Nigeria just became the first country to roll out a “revolutionary” new vaccine to protect against meningitis. Unlike the initial vaccine that only worked against one strain, this new vaccine protects against the five major strains of the disease found in Nigeria.

Read more

More good vaccine news:

A man in Gaza is using solar panels to clean and provide water for hundreds of his neighbors

As humanitarian aid continues to struggle to reach those in need in Gaza, one man is making a difference by meeting a critical need: clean water.

Mohammed Assaila has a solar-powered well in his house, and in addition to use it to provide clean water for “at least 1,000 people” ever day, he’s also working with people in other neighborhoods to operate more wells.

Assaila has assembled a team of experts to help: an alternative energy engineer, a welder to install the solar panel bases, and a plumber that fixes wells.

And while they’re battling inflated costs due to the war, the materials they need are all available to assemble more solar panel wells to help more people get clean water.

And the need is great: back in February, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported that around 70% of people in Gaza were drinking salinized or contaminated drinking water, and at least half of water and sanitation facilities had been destroyed or damaged.

The work Assaila and his team of helpers are doing is more critical than ever before, and an inspiring example of people stepping up to make a difference — even in the most horrifying circumstances.

Read more

Setting a major clean energy benchmark, renewables exceeded 100% of energy demand in California for 30 of the past 38 days

California just set a major new benchmark for clean energy: For 30 of the past 38 days (and counting!), renewables have exceeded 100% of energy demand on its main grid.

This consistent level of clean energies meeting energy demands — not necessarily 24/7, but for an extended number of consecutive days — has never been achieved… until now.

California also has the world’s largest grid-connected battery storage facility that just came online in January. So, while renewables were exceeding energy demand during the day — that was all getting stored to be utilized later.

Why is this good news? As the world works to put itself on track to limit warming and prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, these are exactly the clean energy milestones we’ve been looking forward to. This benchmark is so significant that one expert predicted the state will run entirely on renewables and battery storage by 2035 — ten years ahead of its self-imposed deadline.

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New research shows a genetic breakthrough could help save a rare rhino species from extinction

The white rhino can be divided into two sub-species that are genetically similar — but while one, the southern white rhino is thriving thanks to conservation efforts, the other faces extinction.

There are only two female northern white rhino species still alive today, both of which are past the age of carrying offspring. Their numbers have dwindled so devastatingly due to poaching, poorly managed land, and other human activities.

Against that dire backdrop, and thanks to breakthroughs in genetic technology, a conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance found that genetic samples frozen at the zoo contain enough genetic diversity to bring back the species from extinction.

Read more

More good news for endangered animals:

Scientists unveiled a new remote-controlled ‘pillbot’ — a microrobot that you can swallow for early disease detection

While internal medicine has advanced in leaps and bounds throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, checking the human body for cysts, tumors, and other predictors for a range of diseases is still not an easy undertaking.

At TED 2024, a physician and an engineer presented their solution: the PillBot. It’s a small, remotely controlled wireless robot that can swim around in a water-filled human stomach.

It’s small enough to swallow (which they demonstrated live on stage), inexpensive to make, there’s (thankfully!) no retrieval needed, and gives physicians an immediate view of the stomach.

Why is this good news? The current method for achieving this is an endoscopy, which is a relatively expensive and invasive procedure — and it requires a special visit to the hospital. The duo believes we can do better — for physicians and patients — and even alluded to its usefulness for another unpopular procedure: colonoscopies.

Read more

An Israeli and Palestinian activist are working together to build hope and peace in the Middle East

Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian peacemaker, author, and tourism entrepreneur — his brother was killed by Israeli soldiers when he was 19 years old. Maoz Inon is an Israeli social entrepreneur and peace activist — his parents were killed by Hamas in the October 7 attacks in Israel.

Both of these men — who are so often reduced to the actions of their government or the historical conflict of their people — are friends.

Facing each other on the TED 2024 stage, the two took turns sharing their stories, including photos of beloved friends and family who have lost their own lives, or have lost dozens of family members in the months since October 2023. They talked about their efforts to build bridges in the region — and the difficulties they faced in doing so.

Most of all, they talked about their renewed commitment in the region: for a future that is not free of anger and rage, Abu Sarah clarified, but a rage that will fuel the fight for peace.

This better-world-inspiring anger, Inon agreed, is called hope. He said that this feeling — along with the legacy of his parents and everything they instilled in him — are what keep him going.

Read more (and watch their full conversation!)

More good news of the week —

To fight bots and inflated fees, Maggie Rogers is selling concert tickets to her fans in person at venue box offices. Rogers just dropped her third album, and is having fans buy cheaper tickets to her upcoming tour “like it’s 1965.”

A new AI model could help detect a large percentage of people at risk of developing childbirth-related PTSD. The program identified signs of CB-PTSD by evaluating short narrative statements of patients who have given birth.

After years of being ravaged by coral disease, a nonprofit successfully planted 40,000 coral reefs in the Caribbean. FUNDEMAR has been vital to Caribbean reef restoration amid threats like stony coral tissue loss disease, which is on the rise around the world.

India just announced a new alliance to fund conservation efforts for seven big cats. India is home to 75% of the world’s wild tiger population as well as the only habitat for Asiatic lions — and it’s already successfully reintroduced the cheetah and the leopard.

A Fisk University gymnast just made history as the first HBCU gymnast to be the collegiate champion. Originally from Lebanon, Morgan Price is now the first to hold the title of USAG All-Around National Champion with a score of 39.225.

Skyscrapers in Texas are “going dark” to protect migrating birds. A major flyover state, Texas sees approximately two billion birds — one in three birds migrating through the U.S. — migrate through the state in the spring.

In a breakthrough, neuroscientists identified a genetic mutation that fends off Alzheimer’s in people at high risk. The variant reduces the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70% and may be already protecting thousands of people in the U.S. from the disease.

For the first time since 1920, the federal government raised the price to drill on public lands. While the cost is still lower than states or private landowners charge, the increase is overdue and is an effort to better protect public lands and reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Germany’s parliament just passed a landmark law allowing transgender and non-binary people to more easily update their legal documents to reflect their gender identity. Under the new law, trans and non-binary people will no longer need “expert” opinions or medical certificates to make the change.

Doulas, midwives, and policymakers are working to make birth safer for Black people. In 2021, 1,205 people in the U.S. died from birth-related causes, up from 754 in 2019 — and Black birthing people are at disproportionate risk.

Over half a billion dollars in electric vehicle tax rebates were issued by the U.S. Treasury to car dealers in 2024. Consumers overwhelmingly took advantage of an Inflation Reduction Act rebate that allows buyers to receive a $7,500 tax credit for new electric vehicles as an immediate discount.

Greece just became the first country in the EU to ban bottom fishing in marine protected areas. This destructive method of fishing involves dragging heavy nets along the seabed, damaging ecosystems and releasing carbon trapped in the seabed.

Iconic TED Talks will now use AI to be dubbed into a dozen different languages. Connecting even more viewers with TED’s inspiring talks, the original speaker’s lip movements will also be changed to match the dubbed language.

TED announced its 2024 global cohort of “Fellows” — people working in health care, art, science, and more to make the world a better place. Now a global community with over 500 members from over 100 countries, the TED Fellows program is helping equip those changing the world for the better with the skills needed to maximize their impact.

RuPaul celebrated the importance and ‘power of drag’ from the TED stage. As the LGBTQ+ community continues to push for basic human rights, RuPaul and his drag empire have become a safe space for those who need a little extra fabulosity in their lives.

Article Details

April 22, 2024 12:00 AM
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