Getting the week off to a bright start with an upbeat collection of good news nuggets.
An architect-designer in southern Finland has returned to a frozen lake with a snow shovel to draw a large animal on the ice for the sixth year in a row, creating an artwork that he hopes will “make people happy and encourage them to go out to hike in a beautiful nature.” Pasi Widgren's fox measures about 90m (295 feet) on Lake Pitkajarvi, north of Helsinki. In previous years, he used a shovel to sketch a bear and an owl, always using the same lake as his canvas.
Moderna has announced its success in an early-stage human clinical trial testing a new more effective version of the flu shot, reports Science Alert. Even though current flu vaccines save countless lives, they only decrease the chance of stopping the influenza infection by half. But the good news is that Moderna's new shot - based on the same mRNA biotechnology as the successful Covid-19 vaccine - allows multiple strains to be targeted in one go, heightening its efficacy. Also, the way in which the mRNA molecules can be manufactured is much more cost effective and ethical than traditional vaccinations.
A podcast that offers ‘sound postcards from beautiful places’ is deservedly becoming a bit of a hit. It only features the sounds of landscapes around the UK – no music or talking. Called Radio Lento, it was set up by two busy parents and podcasts last between 15 and 90 minutes, and all are soundscapes of places the family has discovered on walks and other trips. They have lovely whimsical names like Night Beside a Stream in Wales and Rising Tide in a Rock Garden.
The US government has officially halted financing overseas fossil fuel projects. The new policy comes after the US joined nearly 40 other countries in a COP26 pledge to end foreign fossil fuel financing by the end of 2022. The US will also halt diplomatic and technical assistance for such projects.
The family of the Indian billionaire and self-proclaimed “prince of vaccines” Adar Poonawalla are donating £50m to Oxford University for the construction of a new research centre that will house the team who developed the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. The Poonawalla family, who own and run the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute of India, announced that they had agreed to give the university the sum to build a new home for the Jenner Institute. The new centre will be named the Poonawalla Vaccines Research building.
Five ice-age mammoths in an extraordinary state of preservation have been discovered in the Cotswolds, central England, to the astonishment of archaeologists and palaeontologists. The extensive remains of two adults, two juveniles and an infant that roamed 200,000 years ago have been unearthed along with tools used by Neanderthals, who are likely to have hunted these 10-tonne beasts. More are expected to be found because only a fraction of the vast site, a gravel quarry, has been excavated. Judging by the quality of the finds, the site is a goldmine and is likely to offer new clues into how our Neanderthal ancestors lived in the harsh conditions of ice-age Britain, a period of prehistory about which little is known.
In Quebec, near to where the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers meet, a seven acre island teeming with birds and turtles sits surprisingly untouched amid suburban sprawl. The island, called Île Ronde, was spared from this development by the dollars of one man back in the 1960s, who after decades of refusing to sell to real estate and property men, has just donated it to the Nature Conservancy Canada to be protected forever. Now at 93 years of age, Thor Wikström is at peace knowing the forests and marshlands, the little cabin and birdhouses he built, will all be protected forever. “It’s just a good feeling in my heart. I know this will be there forever,” he told CBC News.
A new kind of battery that is both flexible and washable has been developed by researchers. The battery can be twisted and stretched to twice its normal length while also being machine washable. “Wearable electronics are a big market and stretchable batteries are essential to their development,” says Dr Ngoc Tan Nguyen, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of applied science. “However, up until now, stretchable batteries have not been washable. This is a critical addition if they are to withstand the demands of everyday use.” The battery could be used in watches, medical patches, and smart clothing.
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“Today’s goals: Coffee and kindness. Maybe two coffees, and then kindness.” Nanea Hoffman
On This Day
20 December 1946: Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" film premieres in New York, directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.
Dive in Deeper
Manta rays are smart enough to give instructions and can even signal to 'cleaner fish' the body parts they want cleaning.