Bite sized chunks of good news to brighten the day.
On crisp autumn mornings in the woods and hills of Italy, it's a familiar sight – truffle hunters, their faithful hounds at their side, tramping off in search of the elusive subterranean tuber. Now, after an eight year campaign by the Italians, the fine art of searching for truffles has been awarded recognition by Unesco. It has joined a long list of traditions and practices called Intangible Cultural Heritage, a compendium of customs, ceremonies and traditions from around the globe ranging from competitive grass mowing in the Balkans to the sauna culture of Finland. Truffle hunting is not just about procuring the aromatic tubers, which are much prized in a wide variety of Italian dishes from risotto to pasta, but a rural tradition with a long history, Unesco said.
Scientists have made an historic discovery on Mars: "significant amounts of water" are hiding inside the Red Planet's Valles Marineris, its version of our grand canyon system. While we already knew there was water on Mars, most earlier discoveries were detected near the poles, subsisting as ice. But now, with what seems like a comparative abundance of water in Valles Marineris, we've taken a major step toward establishing a reliable source of water on our closest alien world.
Hyde Park could be redesigned and lost species including beavers reintroduced to London under ambitious rewilding plans. The park is one of 1,600 places designated by local authorities as sites of importance for nature conservation, covering 20 percent of the capital. London's mayor has released seed funding to assist the projects, which will help the city reach its net zero goal. Further fundraising will take place, with members of the new London rewilding roundtable group tasked with sourcing private donations.
A number of the world’s biggest record labels have united to commit to action on their environmental impact. The three major labels – Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group – plus numerous independents have signed the Music Climate Pact which will see them pledge “actionable climate targets”. The companies will sign up to one of two existing schemes, Science Based Targets or the SME Climate Commitment, the latter part of the the UN’s Race to Zero initiative. Both schemes require signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and achieve a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
Millipedes have been living a lie! No known creature actually had 1,000 legs - until now. Eumillipes persephone, discovered deep underground in Australia, is the first millipede ever identified with more than 1,000 legs. The count actually comes to a whopping 1,306, a number that absolutely demolishes the previous record holder (750 legs) and wins E. persephone the title of most-legged animal on Earth. All hail. Given the milli- in the animal’s name, you might feel duped upon learning that it’s long been a bit of a misnomer. But, hey, we'll all get over it eventually.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is set to become the biggest human taxpayer in the United States, after confirming that his taxes will total more than $11 billion dollars. “For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year” Musk tweeted. The tweet appears to be aimed at Senator Elizabeth Warren, who accused Musk of "freeloading off everyone else" last week when Musk was declared Time Magazine's Person of the Year.
Inspired by an introductory coding and computer science class at Berkeley, a young man from Zimbabwe is replicating his experience for talented students in his homeland - hopefully launching their academic journeys into schools like Northwestern and Stanford. Like many young Zimbabweans, Eric Khumalo didn’t have a lot of schooling options but had a breakthrough moment in a US-sponsored academy near his home town of Wulau. A fascination with coding merged with a desire for sharing knowledge, and a background in teaching that would end with Khumalo starting Emzini WeCode, an education program that has grown to hosting online classes for more than 1,000 students in Zimbabwe.
Archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old synagogue - constructed out of volcanic basalt, limestone and plaster - in the ruins of the ancient Jewish community of Migdal, the supposed birthplace of Mary Magdalene. The structure is the second of its kind found at the site, reports Jerusalem Post. The discovery “casts light on the social and religious lives of the Jews in the area in this period, and reflects a need for a dedicated building for Torah reading and study and for social gatherings,” says excavation co-director Dina Avshalom-Gorni, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa. The find marks the first time two synagogues dated to the Second Temple period (roughly 516 BCE to 70 CE) have been unearthed in a single town.
Calling it a colossal waste of resources that could be used far more wisely, more than 50 Nobel laureates have signed an open letter calling for all countries to cut their military spending by 2 percent a year for the next five years, and put half the saved money in a UN fund to combat pandemics, the climate crisis, and extreme poverty. Such a fund, they claim, could amount to $1tn by 2030.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius
On This Day
21 December 1970: Elvis Presley meets US President Richard Nixon in the White House - the image of this meeting is the most requested photo from the entire National Archives.
2012: "Gangnam Style" by Psy becomes the first video to reach one billion views on YouTube. 2020: US President-elect Joe Biden receives the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine live on TV.
Dive in Deeper
After weeks at sea feeding herself up, mother penguin treks 100km across the ice to find and feed her chick - who has been in the care of dad.