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What Went Right Last Week

Synopsis of last week's most important good news highlights.

Two girls jumping for joy

Hunting for Nessie: It was 90 years ago that Aldie Mackay burst into a bar one evening to tell dumbfounded patrons she had just witnessed a “water beast” in Loch Ness. It was this sighting - zealously reported in the Inverness Courier - that began the modern myth-making around an elusive monster surviving in the depths of the Highland loch - and this weekend hundreds of Nessie enthusiasts are expected to take part in the biggest organised hunt for the mysterious creature in 50 years.

Much Better Than Feared: This one's a bit controversial, but if accurate then it's very, very good news. According to Dutch researchers, who looked at over 20,000 measurements worldwide, the extent of plastic soup in the world's oceans is closer to 3.2 million tons, far smaller than the commonly accepted estimates of 50-300 million tons, reports the NL Times.

Edinburgh Fringe: The winner of this year's best one-liner has been announced: "I started dating a zookeeper - but it turned out he was a cheetah." See the runners-up...

Harrison Honoured: Harrison Ford has had a Peruvian snake species named after him. The newly discovered species has been named Tachymenoides harrisonfordi to honour the actor’s environmental advocacy. The actor, who is the vice chair of non-profit group Conservation International, said it was a “humbling” development.

Social Safety Net: School feeding programs have become some of the largest and most widespread social safety nets in the world, and more children now have access than ever before, according to a new report from the World Food Programme. The number of children benefitting from school meals worldwide is now 418 million, 30 million more than the 388 million reached before the pandemic in early 2020.

Comms Upgrade: Humanity has made remarkable leaps since the dawn of the Space Age, having visited every planet in our solar system and even sending robotic spacecraft into interstellar space, but it may surprise you to learn that all missions are still hamstrung by radio communications that haven't changed much since the 1960s and still transmit data at ludicrously slow speeds. NASA is about to change that...

End of Polio? Could 2023 be the year that humanity stops polio? Pakistan has reported just two wild polio cases this year; Afghanistan, five. The virus appears to be cornered - transmission is now restricted to just seven districts in Pakistan and two provinces in eastern Afghanistan. 'We’ve never seen what we’re seeing now,' reports Nature.

Ancient Canals: A sprawling network of irrigation canals across Spain, created by the Moors 1,000 years ago, are being excavated and brought back to life to adapt to climate change, says the New York Times. Over 100km (62 miles) have now been uncovered, with many, many more to come. 'Some farmers who were 80 or so were crying because they thought they would never see the water flowing again.'

Unique Find: For the first time ever, a trove of Iron Age gold coins has been discovered in Wales. Metal detectorists found the 15 rare artifacts in a field on the island of Anglesey, which sits off of Wales’ northwest coast, according to a statement from the Museum of Wales. The coins, known as staters, date to between 60 and 20 B.C.E. One side depicts the god Apollo, while the other features a horse surrounded by symbols.

Ecuador's Amazon: Ecuadorians just voted against drilling for oil in a protected area of the Amazon. The decision will require the state oil company to end its operations in a region that’s home to two uncontacted tribes and is a hotspot of biodiversity.

Life on Mars? NASA’s Curiosity rover has found an array of medallion-sized, hexagonal mud cracks on the surface of Mars’ Gale Crater. The distinctive shape of these patterns suggests the Red Planet was once much balmier and that it cycled through wet and dry episodes for millions of years - the perfect environment for life to flourish. Is there life on Mars? Or was there? Scientists aren't yet ready to answer that question, but belief in the possibility is growing.

Major Progress in Kenya: The country looks increasingly like it could become an anchor for broader progress in East Africa. Last year Kenya conducted peaceful and democratic elections, 87% of the population now has access to the internet, electricity access has increased from 32% of households in 2013 to 75% in 2022, and the grid is already over 80% renewable, says Bloomberg. The last decade has also seen significant progress in healthcare. The percentage of mothers who deliver under skilled care in Kenya is now 89%, compared to 66% in 2013, resulting in a dramatic decline in maternal and child mortality rates.

Removing Microplastics: Researchers may have found an effective, green way to remove microplastics from our water using readily available plant materials. Their device was found to capture up to 99.9 percent of a wide variety of microplastics. It's called bioCap and they say it's simple and cheap to produce and can be scaled up or down, depending on its intended use. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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