For Earth, bleak times lay ahead. The COVID-19 disease is known to cause respiratory illness and fever, but some extra symptoms sweeping across the globe right now seem to be stress, fear, and anxiety. To provide some light relief in these dark times, we’ve collated 15 of our favorite good news stories to remind you that not everything is awful. Hold tight everybody, 2021 will come eventually.
The Super Pink Moon is coming
You might be stuck at home as part of your self-isolation, but luckily the night sky is about to put on quite a show as April sees the return of the Super Pink Moon. Full moons happen every month and were given different names by the Native Americans to map out the year based on significant events that ran in tandem with the occurrence of a full Moon. April’s is known as the pink moon because it appeared at the same time as pink spring flowers. This April’s will be a Super Pink Moon as it is the second supermoon of the year, a term used to describe the slightly enlarged appearance of the Moon as it’s fully illuminated by the Sun due to Earth’s position between the two. Quarantine or no, if you've got access to a window you should be able to catch sight of this beauty on April 7 and when you do, think of all the other people looking up at the same moon. Self isolation doesn't mean you're alone.
Mice have been cured of diabetes
An astonishing discovery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has revealed that human stem cells could be successfully engineered to cure diabetes in mice, offering an avenue of hope for the treatment of this debilitating disease. They used human pluripotent stem cells, cells that have the capacity to become any cell in the body, to create insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. The engineered stem cells supplemented the diabetic mice’s inability to produce insulin, curing them of the disease for 9 months to a year before relapse occurred.
There’s a new green fuel in town
Hydrogen fuel was fast shaping up to be a hopeful route for a zero-emissions means of running things, but its costly production in terms of energy was affecting hopes for it being a sustainable resource. A team in Tokyo has now managed to refine the process to yield 25 times more hydrogen than previous methods all while using thrifty ingredients including light and a specific kind of rust. Combined with all the solar power breakthroughs currently occurring, green energy is on the up.
A crash course in what not to do, according to one Stanford University psychologist.
Babies love baby talk
Even if it makes your skin crawl to hear adults cooing over little ’uns, it turns out babies across the globe are universally partial to baby talk. The news comes from Stanford psychologist Michael Frank who led the largest study to date looking at how the different ways adults speak is received by babies across the world. While all babies were fans, older babies liked it best and even showed a preference for baby talk in their native language as they likely recognized it most even if they couldn’t speak it yet. The overall winner was “oohs” and “coos”, so think twice before scorning your new-parent friends for embarrassing you in public – the babies have spoken.
Important change in the winds for HIV treatment
Shortly after a UK man became the second person cured of HIV – a fantastic breakthrough in the treatment of this once devastating disease – there’s more good news in the UK as PrEP, a preventative drug that prevents HIV infection, will finally be available nationwide on the NHS having already been made available in Scotland. After a 3-year study involving 20,000 participants, the drug will be made available to those at higher risk of exposure from April. PrEP is already available in the US and you can find PrEP providers near you here.
Plasters finally take a step towards racial inclusivity
Major UK superstore Tesco has taken the long-awaited step to introduce skin tone diversity into their range of bandaids. Previously, widely available bandaids, or plasters in the UK, have mainly catered to Caucasian individuals and the racial oversight was brought to light by a moving Tweet from Domonique Apollon in April 2019 after he wore a bandaid suitable for his skin tone for the first time. Longtime readers of Malorie Blackman's literary series Noughts and Crosses will appreciate this poignant detail becoming a reality, as will those watching the current BBC dramatization available to watch via iPlayer in the US (excellent for those self-isolating).
Universal flu vaccine passes integral stage
Watchers of the Pandemic documentary on Netflix (we wouldn’t recommend catching up now if you missed it) may remember the plight of flu-fighting epidemiologists as the constantly shape-shifting nature of influenza meant strains were annually moving beyond existing vaccinations. Now, a “universal” vaccine is becoming a reality as for the first time a vaccine, called FLU-v, has been developed that can induce immune responses that last at least six months. Phase I and II of the clinical trial have been approved meaning its safety for use in human subjects and we hotly await what comes next for the groundbreaking vaccine.
Top marks for lights out in “dark sky” nation
Sometimes a bit of darkness can be a good thing, and when it comes to nighttime, the tiny South Pacific island of Niue tops the charts. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is a non-profit working to protect our most precious natural spaces from light pollution, and this year chose Niue as the first entire country ever to be accredited as a Dark Sky Place. This classification recognizes responsible lighting policies that preserve the natural darkness of nighttime carrying with it endless benefits for the biological cycles of animals, plants and humans.
People hating on National Parks created beautiful art
In a glimmering example of “you can’t please everybody”, artist Amber Share decided to take some of the best worst reviews of National Parks in America and turn them into tourism posters, showing that we can still make something funny in the face of people's negativity. You can see the whole collection on her Instagram account @subparparks, but a personal favorite has to be the above magnificent minimization of Yellowstone.
CRISPR may hold the key for curing genetic blindness
Surgeons at Oregon Health & Science Institute have attempted to use gene hacking to cure Leber congenital amaurosis, a genetic condition that leads to the onset of blindness in early childhood. By directly gene editing within the patient’s eye, researchers hope to “...take people who are essentially blind and make them see," according to researchers.
The Arctic seed vault in Svalbard is thriving
Last month saw an enormous glut of 60,000 seed samples added to the ever-growing collecting in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Tucked beneath a mountain in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, the initiative began with hopes to create a “Noah’s ark” for plant diversity to protect our green spaces should a global catastrophe occur up top. The collection now includes 1.05 million seed varieties including the first-ever donation from an indigenous US tribe. Nicknamed the "Doomsday vault", we may need it sooner than thought.
Sea sponges can sneeze, and the footage is amazing
The “aah” and “choo” of a sneezing sea sponge has been caught on camera for the first time and the recording is hilarious. Stumbled upon almost by accident, the discovery came about while researchers were observing sea cucumbers and sea urchins “sniffing” the sea floor. The video shows the two-part sneeze of a tulip-shaped sponge as it expands before contracting, expelling particles as it goes. Researchers aren’t yet sure what the sneezes are in response to. Let’s hope it’s not a case of the suds.
Vernal equinox brings early spring
The times might be dark but for the Northern hemisphere, the days won’t be, as spring arrives on March 19, the earliest date in 124 years. The variation in the date is the result of leap years and daylight savings time. It should be noted this is the astronomical definition of spring, which refers specifically to the position of Earth's orbit in relation to the Sun, so perhaps don’t expect to hear a gay little spring song in your garden just yet.
It’s possible some dinosaurs could GLOW IN THE DARK
A titillating discovery published in the journal Historical Biology recently revealed that some dinosaurs may have glowed in the dark thanks to ultraviolet fluorescing feathers and horns. Many extant bird species are tetrachromats, defined by a fourth cone in their retina that means they can see the UV spectrum. Co-author Jamie Dunning's work on the photoluminescence of puffin beaks under UV light inspired the questions, could dinosaurs have this too? We'd like the answer to be yes, please. The only thing cooler than dinosaurs is glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs.
If you need more positivity in your life right now, take a look at these ingenious social distancing moments from around the world that will restore your faith in humanity.