Image for What went right this week: how to ‘slow’ time, plus more

What went right this week: how to ‘slow’ time, plus more

Scientists revealed how to ‘slow’ time, a Finnish factory grew ‘food out of thin air’, and lazy gardeners boosted butterflies, plus more good news

Scientists revealed how to ‘slow’ time, a Finnish factory grew ‘food out of thin air’, and lazy gardeners boosted butterflies, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

good news
Scientists revealed how to ‘slow’ time

Does it feel like the days are whizzing by? You’re not the only one: many among us wonder where the time goes. What if you could slow it down? 

Well, a growing body of research suggests that you can – or at least slow your perception of time – by experiencing novel and interesting things. 

Adding to that evidence this week were scientists at George Mason University in Virginia, US. In a study, they found that memorable visual stimuli slows our perception of time – a phenomenon known as time dilation.  

For the study, 100 participants were shown small, cluttered scenes – such a full cupboard – and images of big open spaces. Researchers found that people were more likely to think they had been looking at small, cluttered scenes for a shorter period than they actually had, whereas the opposite was true for larger scenes. 

Prof Martin Wiener, co-author of the study, said time dilation could be a result of our brains trying to gather information about scenes we find memorable. 

“What it suggests is that if we want time to feel like things are [taking] longer, we need to seek out things that are themselves more memorable,” he told The Guardian

Image: Jose Galarza

Positive news: WHO report highlighted progress on tackling malaria
Next-generation mosquito nets ‘saving lives’

A new type of mosquito net has averted 13m cases of malaria and 24,600 deaths, research suggests.

The New Nets Project piloted the use of dual-insecticide nets in malaria-endemic countries between 2019 and 2022 to address the growing challenge of insecticide resistance.

Some 56m mosquito nets were distributed across 17 sub-Saharan nations. Studies suggest they improved malaria control by 20-50% compared to standard nets. The new nets are comparable in cost to older versions but could save health services millions. 

“There is no silver bullet to eliminating malaria and we cannot rely on single interventions, but rather invest in a suite of tools,” said Dr Michael Charles, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. “The dual-insecticide nets are a shining example of one of these tools and the results, coupled with the savings for health systems, make the case for their continued rollout globally.”

As well as nets, vaccines are also being deployed against malaria. In January, Cameroon became the first country to start routine jabs against the disease.

Image: Syed

IPCC report
A sound solution for struggling coral?

As scientists warn that a fourth mass coral bleaching event is under way, researchers have made a discovery that “could prove a gamechanger for reef restoration”. 

They found that playing recordings of fish sounds can lure coral larvae to settle on degraded reefs, enabling the ecosystems to recover. 

“This result is exciting as it offers a new pathway for enhancing coral and reef restoration to increase the scale of larval settlement through acoustic enrichment,” said Prof Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University, Australia, who led the research. 

Prof Harrison previously pioneered a coral larval restoration technique known as ‘coral IVF’. It helps corals reproduce more successfully in the safety of a floating nursery before release on degraded reefs.

The first use of the combined techniques to repair reefs in the Maldives is documented on the BBC series Our Changing Planet. The hope is that the technique could be replicated at scale. However, scientists maintain that reducing emissions is the best thing we can do for the beleaguered ecosystems.

Image: Hiroko Yoshii

England approves ‘kinder’ treatment for brain cancer

A new targeted drug treatment – described as a “step-change in care” for children and teens with brain cancer – will be offered to patients in England on the National Health Service (NHS). 

The drugs – dabrafenib and trametinib – have been shown to slow or halt the development of paediatric gliomas. Gliomas are the most common type of brain cancer in young people. The twin treatment be taken orally as an alternative to chemotherapy, which can delay children’s education, restrict socialising and have a lasting emotional impact.

This week, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended the treatment for use in young people in England. 

Prof Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer, said the new treatment is “a significant step forward” that would “help children have a better quality of life for longer”.

Image: Anna Shvets

Lazy gardening boosts butterflies – study

Letting your garden grow wild with long grass can increase butterfly numbers by up to 93%, according to study by the UK charity Butterfly Conservation.

The research analysed butterfly sightings from more than 600 gardens, collected by members of the public over six years through the charity’s Garden Butterfly Survey. 

The results provide the first scientific evidence that having long grass in your garden increases butterfly abundance and diversity. In agricultural areas, gardens with long grass saw up to 93% more butterflies, and those in urban areas showed an increase of 18%.

With gardens covering more than 728,000 hectares of the UK – equivalent to more than a million football pitches – the potential to provide wild spaces for butterflies and moths is significant. 

 “Whether you have a large garden, a small patch of grass, a community or school space, or a balcony or window box, anyone, anywhere can help,” said Dr Richard Fox, head of science at Butterfly Conservation. 

Image: Jonathan Göhner

The booming wind sector got some vital intel

Research has revealed which locations are best for generating consistent wind power – vital intel for the surging renewables sector.   

The study saw researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, US, analyse climate data from as far back as 1979 to identify trends in wind strength.  

The American midwest, Australia, Argentina, Central Asia, South Africa and the Sahara were earmarked as ideal locations for wind turbines, due to their combination of high power and low seasonal variation.

“The potential wind power of these regions in Asia and Africa remains mostly untapped,” researchers noted. North-west Europe was shown to have high power density and significant variation across seasons. Still, the sector there is booming: data shows that wind provided almost a third of the UK’s power in the last year. 

Image: Anastasia Palagutina

good news
Biden supercharged the US ‘solar for all’ scheme

US president Joe Biden unveiled a $7bn (£5.6bn) grant scheme this week to help low-income families install solar panels on their roofs.

Speaking at an event timed for Earth Day, Biden said the Solar for All programme would result in 900,000 households having solar for the first time, while creating 200,000 jobs. “Families will save over $400 (£321) a year on utility bills,” he said.  

The president launched the grant scheme in Prince William Forest Park, where he was talking up his environmental record, which has divided critics. While his $369bn (£297bn) Inflation Reduction Act is considered the most significant climate legislation in US history, data shows that US output of oil and gas reached record levels in 2023.    

Image: MariaGodfrida

A textile recycling pilot launched in the UK

UK homes contain an estimated 1.6bn items of unworn clothing, which could be re-used or recycled. However, a third of people don’t know what to do with their old garments, research shows. 

To tackle the problem, Marks & Spencer – the UK’s largest clothing retailer – is trialling a free postal donation service, launched this week with Oxfam.

People can order pre-paid bags from the charity’s website. Couriers will then pick the garments up and send them to Oxfam to be resold, reused or recycled.

“Whether it is wearable or unwearable – we want it all,” said Katharine Beacham, head of sustainability at M&S. 

Lorna Fallon, trading director at Oxfam, added: “By recirculating our clothes, and buying and wearing secondhand, we can help to reduce the demand for new clothes, which could in turn help to reduce the damage to our planet.” 

Image: Pixabay

Good news - a new protein alternative is on the way made from 'thin air'
A factory opened to ‘grow food out of thin air’

Growing food from thin air – that’s the promise of a new factory that opened in Finland this week to produce a new planet-friendly protein.

Solein is grown out of a mighty microorganism using CO2 and electricity. The result – following fermentation and drying – is a yellowish powder that its makers say could provide a “bountiful harvest born out of thin air”. 

Solar Foods, the firm behind Solein, hopes to initially produce 160 tonnes of the alternative protein annually – enough for around 5m meals. The company admits that such quantities are “a drop in the ocean” but claims its product is easily scaled. 

“Protein can be grown anywhere so long as there is energy. Removed from the demands of traditional agriculture, Solein could be grown even in outer space,” it said.   

Solein has already received a novel food regulatory approval in Singapore. 

Image: Solein

good news
Nature became a musician

A new initiative will see nature recognised as an official artist on streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music. 

Musicians who use natural sounds in their recordings can choose to list nature as a featured artist – and a share of their profits will be distributed to environmental causes.

A diverse mix of global artists have already joined Sounds Right, releasing new tracks or remixing old hits to include sounds from the natural world. Among them are Brian Eno (remixing David Bowie’s Get Real), Ellie Goulding, and Norwegian singer Aurora. 

“Popular culture, like music, has the power to engage millions and millions of people, ignite positive global change at scale, and get us all on a more sustainable path,” said Katja Iversen, CEO of the Museum for the United Nations, which launched the initiative. 

Main image: skynesher/iStock

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