Today's collection of good news nuggets from around the world to brighten the day.
Bye Bye Coal
The largest coal-fired power plant in Australia will close seven years early because it can’t compete with renewables, its operator says. Australia has doggedly stuck with the dirtiest fossil fuel despite the unfolding climate crisis. In 2017, the Australian prime minister Scott Morisson, then treasurer, brought a lump of coal into parliament, where he cooed about its “energy competitive advantage”. The good news is that any such advantage has now gone up in smoke, according to Origin Energy, which runs the Eraring Power Station. Origin said that it will close in 2025, seven years ahead of schedule. In a symbolic move, the site could be used to store electricity – much of it generated from renewables.
Today's date is both a palindrome and an ambigram, and can be read the same way forward, backwards and upside down! 22 February 2022 is doubly rare as it's not just a palindrome but an ambigram as well, and as it falls on a Tuesday (the second day of the week), many people are calling it 'Twosday'. 22 February 2022 is written as 22/02/2022 numerically and is, therefore, a palindrome as it can be read the same way forward and backwards. It is an ambigram as well because it is the same upside down! If we drop the slash marks from today's date, 22022022, we will notice that it contains only two digits - 0 and 2. The palindrome and ambigram work for the British date format (dd-mm-yyyy) but not for the US date format (mm-dd-yyyy) for the 22nd of February 2022.
"How do figure skaters not get dizzy?" That's been a top Google search as the world watched Olympic figure skaters and collectively wondered how they don't stumble and fall over all the time. Top skaters will say they just get used to it, but there's a more scientific explanation. Kathleen Cullen, a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, says that feeling of dizziness comes when fluid in the brain's rotation sensors continues to move even after you've stopped spinning, giving your brain the false sense you're still going. Over years of training, figure skaters' brains literally change. Their brains learn to compare what kind of movement is actually happening in the body to what sensory receptors are saying. Eventually, they learn to ignore this error.
Scientists have created a map of “whale superhighways” to help protect the animals on key migratory routes. Whales encounter many threats as they navigate the oceans, including container ships, seismic surveys and fishing nets. The latter alone kills around 300,000 whales, dolphins and purposes annually, according to the WWF. The new map could help. Based on tracking data collected from 900 whales, it has identified critical migratory routes that could help inform conservation strategies. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka scientists are seeking to move a shipping lane to help save blue whales.
The English countryside is criss-crossed with historic walkways, many of which have been forgotten. The public had a deadline of 2026 to register bygone walkways, or risk losing them forever. However, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has just acquiesced with campaigners and agreed to scrap the deadline. Path users have been trawling records in recent years to find old walkways, but were unlikely to locate them all before the deadline. “We are pleased that Defra has taken this sensible and pragmatic decision,” said Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society.
California Clean Air
The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of restoring California’s ability to set strict tailpipe emissions limits, while at the same time looking at adopting a version of the state’s stringent rules for heavy-duty trucks in an effort to cut smog-forming pollution. The EPA’s restoration of California’s Clean Air Act waiver reverses the Trump administration’s revocation, and the new truck rule aims to drastically reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from trucks.
Germany will offer its population a new protein-based Covid-19 vaccine comparable to conventional flu jabs this week, in the hope of swaying a sizeable minority that remains sceptical of the novel mRNA technology used in the most commonly used vaccines. About 1.4m doses of the Nuvaxovid vaccine developed by the US biotech company Novavax are to arrive in Germany this week, with 1m more the following week.
Research suggests that the pandemic has had a significant impact on childrens' educational development, with one study saying it may have knocked 22 points off the average baby’s IQ. The decline is attributed to the closure of early educational facilities and parents having to balance home working with their child’s development. Enter the Lego Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Danish toy company. It is offering a £100m prize fund to find solutions to what it describes as the “global early childhood emergency”. Organisations that have a positive impact on young children are invited to bid for a proportion of the grant. Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the LEGO Foundation’s CEO, said: “This competition is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the youngest children.”
Quote of the Day
"When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'Damn, that was fun.'"
On this Day
22 February 1932: The Purple Heart, a U.S. military decoration originally instituted by George Washington in 1782 to honour bravery in battle, was revived as an award for those wounded or killed in action.
Dive in Deeper
A photograph of five hungry whale sharks feeding in the waters off the Maldives has resulted in Rafael Fernández Caballero being named underwater photographer of the year 2022. Have a look...
After years of wishful thinking, it’s suddenly happening. Air taxis are no longer a distant dream. Read on...
Whilst playing the Sound of Silence on her harp, unbeknown to her, the performance turns into a bit of a Disney moment.