Some very respectable pollsters say about 70 percent of us are worn out by the news. Nearly 40 percent avoid it almost completely. I’m one of those people. Ironic, since I work in media.
But political ugliness and everything associated with it is a thundering drumbeat of gloom that makes it hard to maintain awareness of (or interest in) people who are just trying to survive, in many cases, literally.
Still, I do like being in this paper; they make every effort to avoid talking about dirt and scandal, so at least I don’t need to write about hateful things too.
So, here is where I can get my head out of the sand and remember all the ordinary citizens, scientists, astronomers, and leaders who produced good news in 2019.
• First, for all you climate worriers, NASA told us the Earth is 5 percent more green than it was 20 years ago. Satellites show more than 2 million square miles—the equivalent of another Amazon rain forest—with new leaf cover.
• Also in the natural world, the number of mountain gorillas increased in east Africa. India’s wild tiger population grew 30 per cent, to number almost 3,000, and humpback whales in southwest Atlantic now number some 25,000. Combine that with the planned reverse engineering of quaggas, dodos, and perhaps saber-toothed tigers in the next decade, we’re on a roll.
• Scientists turned human stem cells into insulin-producing cells, which could mean a cure for type 1 diabetes. Researchers in San Francisco have already created some of these cells in a petri dish, which is a step closer to human implantation. Considering the inflated cost of insulin in the U.S., this is great news. If that doesn’t work for you, we also now have a bionic pancreas that automatically regulates insulin. Steve Austin would be proud!
• In 2019, we got our first good look at a black hole. Using a virtual telescope made up of eight sites, and a “view” as large as the diameter of the Earth, astronomers were able to put together a silhouette image of the center of galaxy M87. Seems like it should have been hard to miss since it is 6.5 billion times the size of our sun. But what’s also cool about this is the telescope and all the educational prospects for students of trigonometry, physics, algorithms, and astronomy.
• Purely for entertainment value, I loved reading about all the people who stormed Area 51 with the idea that they were going to see aliens because the military installation somehow belonged to them because they pay taxes. Turns out it was a joke, which is good because “lethal force” is not a military Facebook meme. It ended up being a big party in the desert that kept a lot of “eccentric” people out of trouble for a few days. Maybe I will make plans for the 2020 Alien-Stock.
• Forget global warming (again). Physicist Dominik Czernia successfully created a digital tool that mathematically calculates the outcome of a real-life vampire apocalypse. Apparently the calculator really works and humans make great prey. If you’re super bored, you can input what types of humans and vampires you want to pit against each other at OmniCalculator.com/other/humans-vs-vampires.
• The future arrived in July. French inventor Franky Zapata succeeded in crossing the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard he designed, zooming over the Strait of Dover in just over 20 minutes.
• Even more future, as in real StarTrek, scientists successfully teleported just a few weeks ago. They transmitted data, via individual photons, at the speed of light of course. Since that is about as fast as anything can go, it’s pretty much teleporting. Bonus; turns out teleporting is pretty much hackproof too.
• Did you know there’s a website that catalogs weird stories that all start with “Florida man…”. Honestly, I’m not that surprised.
• And the best good news, President Trump established the U.S. Space Force as an official sixth branch of our armed forces. It’s basically an offshoot of and organized under the Air Force, but at least he’s thinking ahead. That one is enormously impactful and I’m just sad the first mainstream news outlet to even mention it was at the bottom of page 2 of my search.
Anyway, no one walking on Mars or curing cancer yet, but on the plus side, I haven’t thought about impeachment, Pelosi, gun grabbers, or Ukraine for two hours. So far, 2020 is going great.