Today's extended, eclectic collection of positive news nuggets from around the globe.
As the Northern Hemisphere fell asleep last night, the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo probe zoomed past Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system. Swooping by at an altitude of around 200km, the probe made its closest pass to the planet over the course of its mission. BepiColombo will make five more flybys of Mercury in the coming years, before entering orbit and starting science operations in 2025. Its instruments will image the planet’s heavily-cratered surface, study its magnetic field and try to give scientists clues to the origin and evolution of this strange world. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Oscar Mayer wants to take their Wienermobile to new heights...
NASA sent out a request last week for a new vehicle to replace their Astrovan, which serves only to shuttle astronauts from their quarters to the launch pad - a distance of under 10 miles. Oscar Mayer, the company best known for making hot dogs and bologna stepped up, tweeting, “Hey NASA, we got you” with a photo of the infamous machine. NASA said that, in preparation for their Artemis missions, they were searching for a vehicle that would be “unique, embrace new technology and visually embody Artemis to the public.” While a Wienermobile is certainly unique, it's unlikely to make it past NASA's steering committee.
Researchers excavating a cave network on the Rock of Gibraltar have discovered a new chamber, sealed off from the world for at least 40,000 years, that could shed light on the culture and customs of the Neanderthals who occupied the area for a thousand centuries. Efforts to explore and excavate further are being planned, but the researchers believe the new area could yield precious clues about the existence and society of these coastal, Mediterranean Neanderthals.
When their time comes, many of the richest people on Earth have committed to giving away the bulk of their fortunes. Education, poverty and the arts have traditionally benefited from philanthropy, attracting billions for important causes. But increasingly, nature and the climate crisis have become a focus of giving. Last week, a group of nine philanthropic foundations made the largest ever donation to nature conservation, pledging $5bn to finance the protection of 30 percent of land and sea by the end of the decade. The really good news is that, in effect, the money covers the estimated cost of the 30 percent goal for this decade.
Last week proved wildly lucrative for three lucky stonemasons in Brittany, France. Whilst renovating an old farmhouse they discovered 239 gold coins, minted before the French Revolution. Experts valued the haul at around €250,000 ($290,000), but at Wednesday's auction the coins sold for €1m ($1.2m). Under French law, the finders - three fortunate stonemasons - get to share the windfall 50/50 with the property owners who, effectively, got their renovations done for free.
David Bowie fans will be delighted to learn that his lost 2001 album, Toy, which mixed new songs and new versions of lesser-known songs from 1964-71, will officially be released on 26 November as part of a new box set.
Is it possible that the shortage of fuel at UK filling stations will hasten the switch to electric vehicles? The country's largest chain of bicycle stores reports that sales of e-bikes have just doubled and according to Auto Trader, views of new electric cars on its website rose 28 percent compared with the prior week, and views of used ones climbed by 61 percent.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Ford is now building three new EV battery plants, one in Tennessee and two in Kentucky, with 129 GWh capacity, which is enough to power 1 million all-electric vehicles. Yes really, a million.
Good news for northern England as an ambitious project to plant 50 million trees has taken a step forward after the UK government pledged £15m to the cause this week. According to the Woodland Trust, which is overseeing the project, that will be enough to plant 1m trees over the coming year - 3m have already been planted. It’s all part of the Northern Forest initiative: a plan to create a leafy corridor from Liverpool to Hull, taking in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. It launched three years ago to boost tree numbers in an area that has just 7.6 percent woodland cover, compared to a national average of 13.2 percent.
The Salish and Kootenai Tribes are celebrating the long-awaited final approval of a $1.9 billion water rights settlement. Signed this week by US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the deal resolves tribal claims to waterways throughout Western Montana and authorizes funding to upgrade 1,300 miles of canals known as the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. The agreement is the largest settlement amount ever awarded in an Indigenous water rights case. In addition to solidifying water rights, it also provides funding for habitat restoration and transfers control of the National Bison Range to the tribes.
A table where JK Rowling wrote sections of her Harry Potter books has been salvaged from a huge fire. The BBC said the blaze on Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge last month badly damaged flats and businesses including The Elephant House café, where Rowling has worked on her books. She wrote in The Elephant House cafe in 1996 and 1997, after her first Harry Potter book was published, and often sat at a particular antique wooden table.
Last week, China declared that any cryptocurrency transactions conducted within its borders are now illegal, further tightening the noose around crypto miners. While the country has called cryptocurrency a threat to "social order," there are also surprising benefits to making it illegal; like freeing up enough energy to power countries, including Finland, Chile, Belgium, and the Philippines, for an entire year.
More dinosaur bones have been found on the Isle of Wight - just off England's south coast - than anywhere else in Europe. Hardly surprising, therefore, that it's often referred to by paleontologists as Dinosaur Island. This is further reinforced by the recent discovery of two new killer dinosaurs. The terrifying beasts had bizarre “crocodile-like skulls” that enabled them to hunt on land – and in the water. Both species reached 30 feet long, over 10 feet tall and weighed about five tons. They are closely related to the giant Spinosaurus – the largest terrestrial meat eater that ever lived. The curator of the Dinosaur Isle Museum is, of course, delighted.
As unlikely as it may sound, Russia celebrated its first royal wedding in a century yesterday when Nicholas II’s purported heir was married in the former Imperial capital of St Petersburg. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, a hereditary pretender to the Russian throne is marrying Victoria Romanovna Bettarini amid a “lavish two days of imperial pomp and ceremony” complete with Fabergé wedding rings, royal guests and a banquet provided by the catering tycoon known as “Putin’s chef”, reported The Telegraph.
Fun Fact: In the 19th century, the science of weather forecasting began, with the invention of the electric telegraph in 1835. Soon after, the Royal Navy officer Francis Beaufort developed the wind force scale. It would later become known as the Beaufort scale. The sinking of the Royal Charter ship in a storm off the north coast of Anglesey in October 1859 inspired Beaufort’s Royal Navy protégé Robert FitzRoy (pictured) to develop weather charts which he described as “forecasts”, the first known usage of the term. He went on to help set up 15 land stations, which used a telegraph to transmit daily weather reports and led to the creation of a gale warning service. In 1861, the first daily weather forecasts were published in The Times.
More Good News
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A drone captured the incredible moment a whale pushed a paddleboard with its fin. Maximiliano Jonas filmed the amazing footage off the coast of Puerto Madryn, Argentina, in August.