OGN New Year's Day

Getting 2022 off to an uplifting start with a collection of good news nuggets. Happy New Year!

  • Researchers have been trying to build an artificial heart for more than 50 years. Now, an Australian team is planning human trials for a design that could have huge implications for our health. BiVACOR is revolutionary because it doesn’t attempt to work exactly like a real heart – it tries to one-up evolution instead with an efficient and sustainable way to pump blood around the body. It utilises spinning disc technology, which sees a circular pump suspended between magnets in an artificial heart made of titanium. So far, the technology has only been tested temporarily in heart transplant patients, although a full human trial is on the horizon. If it works, it could be massive. For example, a quarter of all UK deaths result from heart disease.

  • A Māori journalist has made history in New Zealand by becoming the first person with traditional facial markings to host a primetime national news program. After she hosted her first 6pm bulletin for Newshub on the TV channel Three, Oriini Kaipara said: “I was really elated. I was over the moon.” In Māori tradition, the facial markings tattooed on the chin for women are known as moko kauae.

  • Fossil fuel use on the UK’s power grid dropped to an all-time low this week, in a sign analysts say is further evidence of the “renewables revolution” under way on the British electricity generation. Just before midnight on Wednesday evening coal and gas were providing just six percent of electricity, according to Drax Electric Insights. In the place of coal and gas, wind was generating 55 percent of total electricity to the grid, with nuclear providing 24 percent, and biomass eight percent.

  • It only took 66 million years for the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs to get a rebranding. By analyzing over 50,000 pollen records and at least 6,000 leaf fossils from across Colombia, scientists found that the dinosaur-killing asteroid’s explosive impact also created modern rainforests. Their paper in Science suggests that when the impact caused 45 percent of existing plants to go extinct, it created an opportunity for tropical flowering plants to diversify. The team, which included Smithsonian paleontologists, suspect the fiery impact also caused a global downpour of ash, which likely fertilized soil and spurred fast-growing rainforest trees.

  • Cat lovers everywhere know how much felines enjoy sitting in a box. The behaviour, observed in big cats as well as domestic moggies, is believed to make them feel safe and concealed – handy, because they evolved as ambush hunters. Now a citizen science project led by researchers at Columbia University in New York has found just how deep-rooted the behaviour is. The project found that cats will even sit in imaginary boxes. Cat owners created square shapes on the floors in their homes, using stickers or tape, and watched as their pets plonked themselves in the middle of them.

  • Tokamak Energy, a company working on nuclear fusion technology to provide the world with near-limitless energy, has recently announced a major breakthrough. Testing of its cryogenic power electronic technology for its superconducting magnet's high-efficiency operation was, by all accounts, a big success - demonstrating twice the efficiency of previous systems, thereby lowering the cost of future fusion power plants by 50 percent or more. This is a critical step toward commercializing and scaling fusion technology.

  • Hats off to Nancy Meherne, the oldest surfer in New Zealand. The 92-year-old’s now pumice-like board was made in the 1970s but, unlike its owner, it’s a little worse for wear (its blue and red pattern is long gone) – but it’s easy to carry and suits the nonagenarian just fine. Meherne never learned to stand up but she loves catching waves on her belly. A keen vegetarian, Meherne credits her good health to a sugarless diet, and says she will keep surfing for as long as she is able to “do a little jump” to get on the waves. Simon Brown, 63, a founding member of her local Longboarders club, reckons Meherne qualifies as a surfer, despite not standing up, “because she’s not just going down there for a swim; she’s going down to get rides”. Adding: “She has definitely kept the bar pretty high. She has aged but she hasn’t got old – you know what I’m saying?”

  • Tomorrow's OGN Sunday Magazine has some great articles and a couple of remarkable videos.

Quote of the Day

"If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, 'He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.'" Epictetus

On this Day

1 January 1801: The Act of Union of 1800 joined the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Both the Irish and British parliaments passed acts in 1800 and it came into effect on 1 January 1801.

1892: Ellis Island opens as a US immigration station.

2002: On this day the euro, the monetary unit of the European Union, was introduced.

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