This Week’s GOOD NEWS From Around The World (December 10/16)

Tech and Medical Advancements

A Look at Apple’s Accessible Tech

Apple’s programmers and engineers are committed to making tech more accessible to people of all abilities. This article looks at VoiceOver and Swift Playgrounds, two programs that work in tandem, reading onscreen text aloud for the visually impaired, and introducing beginners to the Swift programming language, respectively. With these two technologies, and more, the blind can create their own apps for iPad and iPhone. (CNET.com)

UCB Creates High-Jumping Robot


A robotics team at UC Berkley has designed a robot that’s being hailed as the highest jumper and most agile robot yet. SALTO (Saltatorial Locomotion on Terrain Obstacles) stands 26 centimeters tall and weighs 100 grams, yet is able to leap up to a meter in a single jump. The designers hope that one day the bot’s jumping power which could be used to help with search-and-rescue mission in rubble or unstable terrain. (TheVerge.com)

Woogie the Alien AI Answers Kids’ Questions

Woogie is an AI housed in a cute alien body that is designed to help children with homework as well as entertainment or general, unstructured learning. The alien is programmed to identify questions being asked and reply with selected useful content. Woogie is also designed with a distinct personality to make him more approachable to kids in the 6-12 age group. (TechCrunch.com)

Canadian Student to Assist in World’s First Head Transplant Surgery

Canadian grad student William Sikkema is set to become one of the first participants in a groundbreaking head transplant procedure. The first surgery of its kind — which involves removing and reattaching the patient’s head — will be performed on a Russian man suffering from spinal muscular dystrophy. (CTVNews.ca)

Magic Mushrooms Offer Hope for Cancer Patients With Depression

New research increasingly points to the idea that controlled doses of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin mushrooms may be beneficial for patients with depression and anxiety. A recent study on so-called “magic mushrooms” pointed to controlled “trips” helping to alleviate depression in cancer patients. Though psilocybin and similar drugs have been illegal in the U.S. for almost half a century, medical science is increasingly pointing to such potential benefits. (TheGlobeAndMail.com)


Earth and the Environment

Mexico to Preserve its Coastal Ecosystems

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto declared Monday that large chunks of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Baja coast and the surrounding deeper ocean areas are to become protected reserves. The announcement was made to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, currently taking place in Cancun. The reserve will encompass some land as well as coral reefs, protecting over 2,000 species of plants, animals and fish that reside on the coast. (ENS-Newswire.com)

New Discovery Sheds Light on Ancient Dinosaur Life

The feathered tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been discovered preserved in amber in Myanmar. Important for being the first time that dinosaur remains have been found in amber, this discovery also helps to shed light on a generation of dinosaurs that had previously been something of a mystery. (BBC.com)

Marijuana Growers Aim to Make Crop More Sustainable

As more and more U.S. states are voting to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana, environmental groups are increasingly concerned about the size-able carbon footprint of large-scale growing operations. Green-minded growers and dispensary owners are now looking for ways to make production more sustainable – for example, one Portland grower has moved his operation to a greenhouse using LED lights rather than traditional high-pressure sodium bulbs. (LiveScience.com)


Humanistic Inventions

App Helps Prevent Food Waste

The app FoodCloud, designed to prevent food waste, is growing in popularity. FoodCloud helps food-service businesses notify nearby charities, shelters and food banks when they have extra food that they need to get rid of. With the help of the app, surplus food is being delivered to those who need it most, rather than ending up in the compost. (TheGuardian.com)

NonProfit Creates Cheap, Open-Source Water Filters

Nonprofit organization OHorizons has created an open-source design for a water filter, allowing anyone with the construction manual to quickly and cheaply build it. The BioSand filter as thus far been constructed by over 400 people and groups, and is allowing thousands of people in developing areas access to sustainable, clean drinking water for about one tenth of the cost of other filtration devices. (Inhabitat.com)

New Invention Helps Parkinson’s Patients Write Again

Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge Haiyan Zhang has been working together with graphic designer Emma Lawton to create a device that will help sufferers of Parkinson’s disease to write again. Lawton, 33, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012, and her tremors had reached such severity that she could no longer write even her own name. Zhang and Lawton worked together to create a wrist-band device that stabilizes Lawton’s hand enough for her to write. (Cambridge-News.co.uk)

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Dallas Jeffs is a freelance writer, art school grad and lover of all things sci-fi. Visit her personal website HappySpaceNoises for book and art reviews, or follow her on Twitter.