This Week’s Good News From Around The World (February 4th, 2017)

Tech and Medicine

Brain Interface Gives Locked-In Patients Gift of Communication

A new brain-computer interface is helping patients with locked-in syndrome. A team of scientists — headed by Niels Birbaumer at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland — have created a system that combines measurements of electrical impulses in the brain and blood oxygen levels to measure brain activity in the patients. A rudimentary “yes” or “no” system allowed the patients to answer questions for the first time. (Wired.co.uk)

Holocaust Survivors’ Songs Digitized After 70 Years


Audio recordings of songs sung in 1946, shortly after the Holocaust ended, are being heard again for the first time in over 70 years. Recorded on spools of steel wire using an early wire recorder, the songs are in Yiddish and German, sung by survivors of Nazi death camps. The recordings are now digitized at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at Akron University, in Ohio. (LiveScience.com)

Science and The Environment

Islamabad’s Largest Park Switches to Solar Energy

The largest public park in Pakistan has switched to full solar power, after increasing power cuts put a dent in the times that visitors could find their way in the darkness. Using a grid of 3,400 solar panels, the 750-hectare park is able to power all its lights, as well as power two office buildings located within its boundaries, 24 hours a day. The park is a valuable part of the local community in Islamabad. (Tribune.com)

NASA Satellite Picks Up Possible Evidence of Dark Matter

NASA’s Chandra satellite has picked up a small signal that could be instrumental in proving the existence of dark matter. The x-ray satellite detected photons with a different energy signature than what might be expected if the photons were produced through processes that are already understood, leading to speculation that they may have been produced by dark matter. This type of matter  is widely believed to compose up to 80 percent of the mass in the universe, but scientists still have only clues about its true nature. (BBC.com)

Chinese Scientists Create Tuberculosis-Resistant Cows

Scientists in China have created the world’s first tuberculosis-resistant breed of cows. The disease is a significant problem for cattle farmers, particularly in developing nations in Asia and Africa. The scientists altered cow DNA used a gene-editing system called CRISPR/Cas9. By inserting a protein that is resistant to the bacteria responsible for TB, they were able to improve the cows’ resistance to the deadly illness. (Gizmodo.com)

Humanity and Politics

New York Police Will Wear Body Cams by 2019

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner James O’Neill announced this week that all New York City police will be legally required to wear a body camera while on the job, by 2019. Over the past few months, the police department has been making preparations for such an eventuality, including drafting a policy that outlines appropriate usage for the cameras. As of yet, an official policy has not been made available. (TheVerge.com)

Texas Town Welcomes First Openly Transgender Mayor 

Texas’ first openly transgender mayor has received a hopeful amount of support and tolerance from her community. Jess Herbst, a former alderman, was unexpectedly appointed mayor when the previous mayor of New Hope died suddenly from a heart attack. After being unanimously appointed, she made the decision to publicly embrace her female identity. (DallasNews.com)

Regina Food Bank Gets to Grow its Own Vegetables

A $100,000 grant from Co-op has enabled the food bank in Regina, Saskatchewan, to grow its own food in a greenhouse. The new greenhouse facility includes 48 tower-style vegetable gardens, growing broccoli, Chinese cabbage and other crops. The new operation will allow the food bank to provide its users with fresher, healthier food year-round. (CBC.ca)

Fields Medal for Mathematics Awards First-Ever Female Winner

Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, a prize awarded once every four years to mathematicians under 40 who show exceptional promise and achievement. Mirzakhani’s hopes that her win will help to inspire women and girls to go into the fields of science and mathematics, and help improve gender equality. (MotherJones.com)

Texas Boy Invents a Device to Save Kids From Heat Stroke

10-year-old Bishop Curry V of McKinney, Texas, has invented a device that could save children from hot car deaths. Last year, 39 children died of heat stroke after being left alone in overheated cars in the United States. Curry’s project, called Oasis, is envisioned as a car seat that will alert parents to a child’s plight, as well as providing cooling while the child is the car. (NBCWashington.com)

Maryland Tattoo Studio Offers Free Cover-Ups for Racist Tattoos

A tattoo parlor in Maryland is offering free tattoos to cover up racist or gang-affiliated ink. Elizabeth and David Cutlip, who own and operate Southside Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, announced on their Facebook page that they would cover up offensive tattoos with new custom designs, giving people a chance to walk away from beliefs they may no longer hold. The shop has received an unprecedented number of customers hoping to redecorate. (Vice.com)

State Department Overturns Trump’s Visa Ban

The U.S. State Department reversed Trump’s Visa ban on Saturday morning, allowing people to enter the United States from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The president took to Twitter to harass federal judge James Robart for overturning the decision. (NYPost.com)