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First YouTube video uploaded in 2005

On 23/04/2005 the first ever YouTube video was uploaded. The 18 second video was created by Jawed Karim, one of the founders of YouTube. In the video titled ‘Me at the zoo’ Karim is seen in front of an elephant. Whilst the video is not a masterpiece, it has still been viewed 227 million times as of 2022.

HIV Virus is discovered in 1984

The virus that causes AIDS was discovered in 1984 by French virologists Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinouss. Both men were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

Roy Orbison was born on this day in 1936

Roy Orbison. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Singer and songwriter Roy Orbison was born on 23 April 1936. The singer is well known for his hits, including Pretty Woman and You Got It. He also founded The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup with many famous names, including Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Bob Dylan.

Shakespeare is born on this day and died on the same day too! The infamous playwright lived to the ripe old age of 52, and was born in 1564.

Man born with one hand creates himself a new one from recycled plastic bottles

Enzo Romero from Peru was born with one hand; however, this has not held him back in life. Instead, he developed his own hand, which is made completely out of recycled PET plastic bottles. Romero was born in Cusco, a small city of just over 400,000 people in Peru. Growing up, people were used to seeing him excel in life with one hand. Playing basketball, riding a bike and playing guitar were just a few of his pastimes growing up. Despite not feeling at a disadvantage with just one hand, Enzo was inspired to create a new hand after watching Star Wars. In ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ movie, Luke Skywalker receives a prosthetic hand that looks and feels just like a real one.

Enzo went to the capital, Lima, to study mechatronics, so that he could learn to make mechanical limbs. Whilst in Lima he felt for the first time what it was like to be starred at for having a missing limb and hid his missing limb in his hoodie to avoid any pitying stares. Whilst at university he developed his own way of making a limb for himself. Enzo created a 3D printing filament from old plastic bottles, which he used to create his own blue bionic hand.

After graduating from university, Enzo created his own company, LAT Bionics, selling robotic limbs. So far he makes two kinds of bionic hands. One is a more mechanical model for $800 USD, the other uses an electromyographic (EMG) sensor, which controls the hand through tiny muscle movements the wearer makes and sells for $2400 USD. There are currently three million people worldwide who are arm or hand amputees; 2.4 million of those live in developing countries. The average cost for a bionic hand is $40,000 USD and can take months to make. The turnaround for one of Enzo’s hands is one week. So far Enzo has fitted 20 amputees with bionic hands, with many of them losing their hands in workplace accidents. Despite being much cheaper, the cost is still expensive in a country where the average monthly wage is $435. To allow for this Enzo’s clients can pay back the cost of the hands in installments, making it more accessible.

Enzo has been accepted as a TED Fellow, and hopes in the future to expand to neighbouring countries, including Bolivia and Ecuador, where many amputees who cannot afford prosthetic limbs would benefit from his affordable option.

Glucose monitoring devices subsidised for all type 1 diabetics in Australia

From the 1st July 2022 all type 1 diabetics in Australia will be offered heavily subsidised Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) devices. Currently they are only subsidised for around 59,000 Australians who are pregnant, under 21 years of age or concession cardholders. Under the new announcement today by both of Australia’s major political parties all type 1 diabetics will now be eligible for the subsidy. CGMs cost an average of $400 per month, which is a great cost barrier for most. However, under the new announcement, the costs will be capped at $32.50 per month- the same cost as finger pricking strips.

CGM technology is game changing for people living with type 1 diabetes. The device provides close to real time readings of blood sugar levels without the need to prick your finger. This allows better management of blood sugar levels, greatly reducing the risk of complications and further health concerns.

Subsidy get bi-partisan support

The announcement was first made by Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison who said that type 1 diabetes was “an insidious condition that cannot be prevented and costs Australians thousands of dollars each year”. The opposition shadow health spokesperson from the Labor party, Mark Butler, said that Labor will match the government’s announcement if they win the upcoming election.

Life-changing devices

Diabetes Australia Group CEO Justine Cain said that CGMs are life-saving and life-changing for people living with type 1 diabetes.

“Living with type 1 diabetes is a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year job and this technology helps make that job a lot easier. It reduces the daily burden of frequent finger prick checks and means people have to spend less of their time just managing diabetes. This can translate to improved mental and emotional health and a better quality-of-life.”

Cain went on to say that CGMs significantly lowers a person’s risk of both short-term complications like hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) and long-term complications including blindness, heart and kidney disease and limb amputation. Today’s announcement makes Australia one of the only countries to offer subsidised CGMs to all people living with type 1 diabetes.

First woman crosses the English Channel on 16 April 1912

The first woman to cross the English channel on this day 16 April 1912. 110 years ago today Harriet Quimby made the trip from Dover to France in her tiny Bleriot monoplane, an early plane first made in 1909. The airplanes of the early 1900s were much less streamlined than those today, constructed out of wood, canvas and piano wire.

Harriet had been flying for less than a year when she crossed the channel. She was the first woman to have flying lessons when she first started learning in May 1911. It was chance that led her to this career in aviation, and a pioneer for future female pilots. Harriet was a successful theater critic, which brought her into contact with a flying instructor that would begin her career. She received her pilot’s license in August 1911, just three months after her first lesson, and began a short-lived career in the industry.

Harriet Quimby, the first woman to cross the channel in her plane. Courtesy of Lifesatrip.ca

Pilots were few and far between in this era of aviation. Quimby herself was only the 37th person in the United States to receive a pilot’s license. In the media she was known as the ‘China doll’ due to her petite stature and pale skin, and capitalized on this new-found fame. She drew crowds wherever she went, and as part of an exhibition team travelled across the states and to Mexico, earning as much as $1500 in appearance fees.

On the day of Harriet’s flight, she took off early in the morning to avoid strong winds. The trip from Dover to Calais was only 25 miles, however due to weather conditions, Harriet could barely see where she was going, relying solely upon her compass for parts of the trip. She made the trip in just under one hour and landed on a beach about 25 miles from Calais.

Solar Panels that generate electricity at night

In groundbreaking research, solar panels have been created that generate electricity when there is no sun… at night! The solar cells were developed by researchers at Stanford university and work by generating electricity from the temperature difference between the cells and the air around them.

The possibilities for this technology are boundless, and bring hope to the 770 million people without access to electricity. It is also promising in the wake of global supply issues of electricity, due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Solar energy has come a long way since photovoltaic cells were created in 1954. Since that time solar energy has become more affordable, allowing households to generate their own electricity. Currently, solar electricity generated during the day can only be used at nighttime by using batteries. However, batteries are expensive and current batteries have a limited lifespan and will end up in landfill. Researchers have been working for years to discover a way to utilise solar cells at night, and now they are one step closer.

So how exactly do the new solar panels work?

The device uses a thermoelectric generator, which harvests electricity from the temperature difference between the cells and the air. It does this through a process called thermal radiation, which occurs at night when heat leaves objects and radiates toward outer space. This causes objects to cool down, which then become cooler than the ambient air. The researchers at Stanford published a paper that explained how they used the thermoelectric generator to turn those temperature differences into electricity.

Presently, the solar cells that the researchers developed can generate 50 milliwatts per square meter. It would take about 20 square meters of solars cells to power conventional lights. However, the technology is new and still in development, and the solar device was built using store-bought parts. Once the technology improves, it is expected the output will rapidly improve too.

Hubble telescope spots most distant star ever at 28 billion light years away

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The Hubble telescope has spotted the most distant star it has ever recorded, at a record 28 billion light years away. The star has been nicknamed Earendel, the old English word for ‘morning star’. According to astronomers not only is this the most distant star ever seen, but it is also humongous. The team estimates the star is 50 to 500 times the size of our sun- and millions of times brighter.

The previous record holder for the most distant star captured was Icarus. This star is 9 billion light years away from Earth. Put into context, the only stars we see in the night sky belong to our galaxy, The Milky Way. Within our own galaxy it is estimated that there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. The furthest star discovered in our galaxy is 900,000 light years. This makes Earendel is over 30,000 times further away.

Earendel first appeared in space 12.9 billion years ago, just 900 billion years after the Big Bang. This makes it one of the oldest stars in space- formed when the universe was only 6% of its current age. In the 12.9 billion years since Earendel was formed the star has become further away from us due to expansion of the universe.

If you’re wondering how our telescopes could detect a star 28 billion light years away, you would not be alone. As advanced as The Hubble telescope is, it is in fact a natural phenomenon that enabled astronomers to detect Earendel. This phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing which Albert Einstein predicted in his General Theory of Relativity. Gravitational lensing makes distant objects seem closer, when their light has to bend and travel around the gravity emited by large objects in space. When Earendel was spotted, gravitational lensing was caused by the star’s light being magnified by the gravity of a cluster of galaxies. Thanks to this well-timed alignment of the stars, Earendel appeared thousands of times larger than it normally would.

Because of its age and size, the massive star is most likely long gone, according to Brian Welch, the PhD student at John Hopkins University who discovered the star.

“Given its mass, it almost certainly has not survived to today, as more massive stars tend to burn through their fuel faster and thus explode, or collapse into black holes sooner.”

First hand held mobile phone call

On the 3rd of April 1973 the very first mobile phone call was made using a wireless hand held phone. The call was made by Motorola researcher and executive Dr. Martin Cooper to his rival Dr. Joel Engel from Bell Labs (which eventually became part of Nokia).

The prototype mobile phone used by Dr. Cooper weighed a whopping 2kg and measured 23x13x4.5cm. The battery life of the prototype offered just 30 minutes of talk time from a 10 hour charge. Whilst wireless calling technology had existed in trains and some luxury cars since the 1920s and 1959 respectively this was the first call from a hand held device. Dr Cooppers research has helped paved the way for the modern smart phones used globally today.

Meet the disabled pet duck who doesn’t like water

Tiddles the duck is unlike most other ducks. Amongst many of his unusual traits, this duck is afraid of water. This male Indian Runner duck lives with his human mum Alicia and was born with a disability that makes him unable to walk properly. Tiddles’ spine has a genetic deformity, which means he cannot control his legs properly. Due to his disabilities Tiddles cannot be left alone, as he will fall over onto his back. However, this has not stopped him from leading a fulfilling life. Tiddles is treated to a lavish lifestyle, which includes being chauffeured in an animal pram. He is also treated to bush walks whilst being carried in a backpack by Alicia, where he enjoys taking in and absorbing the scenic views.

Tiddles the duck on one of his many adventures. Courtesy of Tiddles the Pteroduckdal

Tiddles grew up on Alicia’s property in Melbourne, Australia. When Tiddles was 3 weeks old Alicia had a heart attack- at the same time the duck started displaying signs of not being able to walk properly. During this time, Tiddles and mum Alicia developed a bond, as each helped the other through their health challenges. Tiddles soon began to display his unique character. His character traits include a love of dinosaurs, laying in bed and sleeping under a cosy cover. Unusually for a duck, Tiddles also has a huge phobia of water. Ducks will naturally use water to clean their eyes and nostrils whilst they are swimming. Tiddles’ phobia is so bad that he has to drink from a glass of water to clean himself. Bath time is also an ordeal for Tiddles- so much so that he has to be cuddled for two hours afterwards.

“Cuddling him is usually three hours a day. Our longest cuddle session was five hours,” Alicia said.

Tiddles is now the subject of several books that document his adventures. And his mum couldn’t be more proud of him.

“He’s half duck, half dog, half human.”

Apple is formed 1st April 1976

Forty six years ago Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne formed Apple Computer Inc. The company’s first unofficial headquarters was in Steve Jobs’ garage.

In 1976 Apple sold their first Apple I computer kits, designed by Wozniak. Their next design, the Apple II was sold in 1977, followed by the Apple III in 1980. By this point, Apple were a fully-fledged company with a production line. Apple have come a long way since their humble beginnings and are now the biggest company in the world.

Netherlands becomes first country to legalize same-sex marriage

On this day in 2001 The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage. Since that date, more than 20,000 same-sex couples have married in The Netherlands.

April Fools’ Day

When and where did April Fools Day originate? The exact timing is a little undecided, however, some speculate it dates back to 1582 when France changed their calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian. The new calendar celebrated new year as we do today- January 1st. The older Julian calendar celebrated new year around April 1st. It is believed that people began to mock the old fashioned people that followed the older Julian calendar, beginning the tradition of April Fools.

Baby makes medical history with first heart and thymus transplant

A baby has made medical history by becoming the first recipient of both a heart and thymus transplant together. The combination may herald the end of anti rejection drugs for transplant recipients. Easton Sinnamon, from North Carolina, USA, was born with both a heart defect and a thymus condition. Easton’s heart condition was so severe that at five days old he had open heart-surgery. Despite the surgery, Easton still required a heart transplant. At the same time his thymus condition meant that a thymus transplant would also be necessary. Easton had so far been treated at Duke University Hospital, one of the leading research facilities in the country. Amazingly, doctors at Duke University had also been studying the idea of a combined heart and thymus transplant.

“We thought, if we did a thymus and heart transplant on Easton, there’s a potential that taking that from the same donor will allow that transplanted heart to be recognized as self,” Dr Joseph Turek, chief of pediatric surgery at Duke commented. A donor was found and matched with Easton for both the thymus gland and a heart. He received the heart transplant in August 2021, followed two weeks later by a thymus transplant.

Revolutionary method

The combination of both a heart and thymus transplant has doctors hoping that lifelong anti-rejection drugs may not be needed. The thymus is a gland that sits at the top of the chest. Its job is to train the immune system to recognize its own tissues, and to kill foreign invaders. The immune system, however, recognizes transplanted organs as foreign invaders. Currently, recipients of donor organs must take immunosuppressive drugs for life. Because immunosuppressants can have long-term damaging effects, the lifespan of an organ is greatly reduced. A heart transplant typically lasts only 10-15 years. Easton’s combined transplant is seen as a possible pioneer for future transplants- one where medication is not needed.

Easton and sister Ivy. Courtesy of Sinnamon family.

Tests taken nearly six months after the transplant show that the transplanted thymus has started to produce immune cells called T-cells. Doctors are now planning to taper Easton off the immunosuppressants to see if his immune system accepts his new heart. Easton’s mother, Kaitlyn Sinnamon, hopes her son’s experiences can help others in future.

“We not only were able to be given the gift to have our son back, but we were also able to give the gift of this possibility with the thymus, to help expand this for other children that are going through the same thing.”

Easton is now living at home with his parents and older sister and continues to improve every day.

“Even through all he went through, he’s one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen,” his mother said.

102-year-old Thai man breaks 100 meter record

A 102-year-old man has broken the 100 meter sprint record for a centenarian. Sawang Janpram, from Thailand, ran the race in a record-breaking 27.08 seconds- that is 8.25 miles per hour (13.2 kph)!

Sawang competed in the 100 to 105 year old category at the Thailand Master Athletes Championships. He came first against others in his age category. Sprinting was not the only sport he excelled in. Sawang also picked up three more gold medals for the dash, javelin and discus events. So what is the secret to Sawang’s vitality?

Keeping fit and eating well, according to Sawang. He eats three meals a day, based upon a diet of vegetables and chili paste. Every day Sawang keeps fit by sweeping leaves in his garden, and taking walks with Siripan, his 70 year-old daughter. Siripan is also her father’s coach, and helps him train for competitions. In training season, Sawang will also increase his exercise and practice sprinting twice a day.

“My father always has positive thoughts … so he is in a great mental health condition. In terms of physical health, he has gotten much stronger,” Siripan says.

Taking up exercise later in life

Far from being a natural athlete, Sawang has not always been a fan of keeping fit. In fact, he had previously lived a sedentary lifestyle and did not start exercising until he was 80. After one of his friends became bedridden, Sawang decided that keeping fit was the best way to stay healthy. Since 2017 the centenarian has been competing in competitive races.

“Getting into sports made me strong and well. As well as this, exercising helps improve your appetite so you eat well too,”

The Thailand Master Athletes Championships is for participants between the age of 30 and 105. It first started in 1996 with 300 participants, and today has over 2000 athletes.

“As you can see, everybody who’s here to compete has all forgotten about their ages. Once they forget about their ages, they are happy,” Viwat Vigrantanoros, president of Asia Masters Athletics said.

First telephone call is made 10th March 1876

On this day on the 10th March 1876 the first telephone call was made. The phone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the phone. The call was made to his assistant, Thomas Watson, and the first words spoken on a telephone were, “Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

Strangely, Bell did not have a telephone himself, seeing it as a distraction from his main studies. By the 1930’s the telephone had become common within the United Kingdom.

Human Hair used to clean up oil spills

Not-for-profit, Matter of Trust, is leading the circular economy; but not in a way you might expect. They are reusing hair and fur donated from salons and pet groomers to create mats and oil booms to clean up oil spills and to prevent oil reaching waterways. The non-profit group has a round-the-world team who volunteer their time to make and send out these devices.

Why Hair?

Hair and fur naturally soak up oil easily; in fact hair can absorb between 3 and 9 times its weight in oil. The hair booms are much more efficient than the petroleum-based synthetic booms used by the oil industry for cleaning up oil spills too. Commercially used petroleum booms sink and are hard to recover. However hair-based blooms actually float on the surface of the water for easy collection.

Matter of Trust was founded by Lisa Gautier in 2000 to try and help solve the problem of cleaning up oil spills. But the idea of using hair to clean up oil spills started much earlier. In 1989 hair stylist Phil McCroy was watching the Exxon oil spill in Alaska on TV, which showed otters covered in oil. McCroy noticed that the water around the otters was cleaner. Putting two and two together, he realised that the otters’ fur was in fact soaking up the oil. He wondered about the idea of using hair cut from clients in salons to clean up spills. Ten years later Phil partnered up with Lisa Gautier to expand the project.

People now donate hair from all over the world, with hair regularly coming from over 30 different countries. Gautier said “We have what we call the hair force, people mail it (hair) in every day”. Gautier went on to say that some people might find using human hair gross or weird, however she doesn’t.

“I don’t find it gross at all, I have a lot of hair and it doesn’t bother me,” adding that using human hair ‘adds to the charm of it’.

The positive impact

Phil McCrory, hair mat inventor, and Lisa Gautier, Matter of Trust founder.
Phil McCrory, hair mat inventor, and Lisa Gautier, Matter of Trust founder. Matter of Trust

The hair mats made by Matter of Trust have been used for countless oil spills, including one of the world’s most high-profile oil spills, the BP spill in the gulf of Mexico in 2010. Donations were coming in thick and fast in response to the spill. The non-profit packed 19 warehouses, each one 100,000 square feet filled with donated hair and fur. Volunteers were recruited en masse to deploy the hair mats at the spill site.

Matter of Trust is now using their hair boons in another innovative way. They have started to use their hair boons to tackle another environmental hazard- run off oil from cars leaking into our waterways. Up to 800 million litres of oil ends up in waterways every year- just from motor vehicles. This is sixteen times the amount of oil that leaked in the 2010 BP spill. Preventing the oil entering drains using their hair mats and boons will potentially have an extremely positive environmental impact.

If you are interested in donating hair or volunteering you can find out more at matteroftrust.org

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Exercise lowers dementia risk, scientists say

People who are more physically fit have a lower risk of dementia, according to a recent study The study was one of the largest to test the link between physical fitness and the risk of dementia. Almost 650,000 people who had served in the military were studied by Edward Zamrini and his colleagues at George Washington University.

At the beginning of the study none of the participants had symptoms of dementia. They were followed up for a period of almost nine years, and during that time 44,105 of those developed dementia.

At the start of the study the participants were split into five groups based on their performance in a treadmill test. The treadmill test measured how much oxygen the participants used during exercise. The results spoke for themselves. Those in the least fit group could decrease their risk of developing dementia by thirty-three percent if they increased their exercise to the level of the fittest group. Even if they only increased their fitness to the level of the second least-fit group, their risk drops by 13%!

There are several theories as to why exercise lowers dementia risk. Zamrini says that improving blood flow to the brain and increasing connectivity between neurons may be one theory. Other factors include exercise lowering the risk anxiety and depression, which are correlated with developing dementia.

Several studies have already shown how exercise decreases the dementia risk. In fact, some previous studies have indicated that exercise can also help to stimulate and create new brain cells also.

World’s first fully electric truck company to start production this year

Volta Trucks is beginning production on their Volta Zero 16 Tonne truck later this year, thanks to securing funding. Volta Trucks, a new company from Sweden, is the world’s first fully electric truck company. Their flagship truck, the Volta Zero, promises a much smaller carbon footprint. Their travel range will be 150 to 200km on a single charge- making them ideal as city-dwelling delivery trucks.

The first trucks to roll off the production line in 2022 will be piloted by customers in London and Paris. These cities were chosen due to having notoriously treacherous delivery routes, because of traffic congestion, narrow streets and a high number of bike users. However, Volta Trucks believe they have improved safety thanks to the driver’s seat being situated in the center of the vehicle! According to the company this improves driver visibility.

Whilst the trucks initially will be driver-controlled, there are plans to work on self-driving capabilities in time. Volta already has 5,000 orders backorders, which it plans to deliver during 2023 using a custom-built production facility in Austria. Volta plans to ramp up production in the next few years, producing 14,000 and 27,000 trucks in 2024 and 2025 respectively.

CEO of Volta Trucks, Essa Al-Saleh, said that current orders exceed €1.2 billion. “[This] gives us and our investor confidence that our pioneering product and service offering is both wanted and needed by our customers.” Al-Saleh also said “As an innovator and disruptor in commercial vehicles, we are working at industry-leading pace and have significant ambitions.”

Steady growth in EVs

Consumer electric vehicle sales have been growing steadily over the past few years. With electric and PHEV sales making up 10.3% of all sales in 2021 up from 5.3% in 2020. The commercial electric vehicle market was worth $52.99 Billion USD in 2020 and is expected to reach 252.97 Billion USD by 2026. Thus offering a very lucrative market for Volta Trucks to enter as the first fully electric truck company.

Click here to see how Porsche’s electric vehicle is outselling their flagship car!

10 of the cutest tiny animals

These animals are not only cute, but also happen to be some of the smallest animals around! If you need an instant pick-me-up, or a reason to smile, keep reading about these tiny critters.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

1. Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

The Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is not just super cute, this tiny little mammal is also a primate! There are over 20 species of mouse lemur, and this variety is the smallest of all of them. In fact, this little critter is the smallest of all primates, at just 9.2 cm long and weighing in at 30 grams. These guys dine on a diet consisting of fruits and tree gums, sugary insects excretions and are also know to consume insects and small lizards. They are only found on the island of Madagascar, and are critically endangered due to logging.

Etruscan shrew- credit Minipixel

2. Etruscan Shrew

The Etruscan shrew is the smallest mammal mammal by mass- weighing only 1.8 grams. Though it is small in size, it has a huge appetite- eating up to 2 times its body weight every day! The tiny shrew has a heart rate that can reach up to 1500 beats per minute, which is faster than any other animal on the planet. The Etruscan shrew is solitary by nature, apart from during mating season. You can find these shrews in various countries across Europe, including France, Croatia, and Turkey.

3. Kitti’s hog-nosed bat

The Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is named for its pig-like nose, but that is where the similarities with a hog ends. This little bat weighs a minuscule 2 grams and is around 3 cm on average- it is nicknamed the ‘bumblebee bat’. The bats live together in small colonies of up to 100 bats, and reside in Thailand and Myanmar.

Courtesy of Ashlee Benc/Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife

4. Pygmy Possum

Australia is well-known for its wildlife. The country is famous for their marsupial mammals, like the kangaroo and koala. The pygmy possum is a little known marsupial, however, that might be because they are so well hidden. The smallest of these possums is known as the little pygmy possum. They are found in Tasmania and Kangaroo Island.

Courtesy of Frank Glaw, Jörn Köhler, Oliver Hawlitschek, Fanomezana M. Ratsoavina,
Andolalao Rakotoarison, Mark D. Scherz & Miguel Vences

5. Brookesia lizard nana

The first reptile to make it onto the list is so small it can easily sit atop a finger. The Brookesia lizard nana hails from Madagascar and is actually a type of chameleon, and believed to be the smallest lizard in the world. There are over 30 species of Brookesia lizard, all of which are small in size, though the nana is the smallest at 21.6 mm long.

Courtesy of mgiganteus @ commons.wikimedia.org

6. Monte Iberia dwarf frog

This frog hails from the rainforests of Cuba, though good luck seeing it! These guys are only 9.5mm in length, but don’t let their size fool you! These miniature frogs pack a poisonous punch, releasing a muscle-paralyzing toxin that freezes any predators that might think about eating them. Interestingly, this frog is never a tadpole, and hatches as a fully-formed frog.

Courtesy of pinterest

7. Dwarf three-toed jerboa

This world’s-smallest-rodent looks like a strange cross between a mouse and a kangaroo. The dwarf three-toed jerboa, otherwise known as the Baluchistan Pygmy Jerboa, are native to Pakistan, and live in desert regions. This little mammal is 5 cm long, and is an incredible jumper- thanks to its kangaroo-like legs. Fun Fact: Jerboa do not drink water, getting all of the moisture they need from the plants they eat.

Courtesy of Patty McGann, Flickr

8. Bee hummingbird

The beautiful bee hummingbird is named for its size, and the fact that it is commonly mistaken for a bee. These birds grow to around 6 cm and are the smallest of any bird currently on record. Like all hummingbirds, they have incredibly fast wings- their wings beat 80 times a second, which allows them to fly up to 20 hours without a break! Their heartbeat is around 1260 times a minute, which is much faster than the average humans (60-100 bpm). Everything about these birds is small, including their tiny eggs, which are around the size of a coffee bean. Their nests are also tiny- around the size of an American quarter!

9. Speckled Cape Tortoise

Compared to most species of tortoise, the Speckled Cape is remarkably small. This little one weighs in at a mighty 160 grams- compare this with the Galapagos tortoise which can reach up to 300 kg! The mating ritual of the Speckled cape tortoise involves the male and female nodding heads at each other. Very civilized!

Courtesy of Taronga zoo

10. Fennec fox

This little fox is the smallest of all fox species, and arguably the cutest! The Fennec fox is indigenous to North Africa, and lives in the Sahara desert. They grow to only 20 cm in height, and can weigh anywhere between 1 and 1.9 kg. Their huge ears actually help these little canids hear better, and keep them cool in the heat of the Sahara. These foxes are extremely friendly and sociable, and hang out together in groups. These foxes are also extremely committed spouses- they are monogamous and mate for life!

Saving our oceans… with artificial whale poo

A team of scientists are devising ways of saving our oceans and tackling climate change with fake whale poo. The international team are a collaboration of six universities and research centers looking at the benefits of dispersing the poo. The project will take place over the next two months off the coast of India, with David King, former scientific advisor to the UK government at the helm. The aim of the project is to help to boost fish populations and subsequently help climate change.

How whale poo help tackle climate change

Embed from Getty Images

Though it sounds surreal, whale feces acts as a natural fertiliser for the ocean surface. Whales defecate around 2% of the food they consume a day- up to 3 tons if you’re a blue whale! Though whales feed in deep water, they go to the (figurative) toilet closer to the surface. Their waste is full of essential vitamins and resources- iron and nitrogen being some of those- which fertilises plankton. Billions of fish and other marine life rely on this plankton as their source of food. The plankton is not only a food source for fish, it can also capture carbon! As the whales’ waste feeds the plankton close to the surface, the plankton absorbs the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the plankton sinks to the ocean floor, it takes the carbon with it, where it is stored.

Whales have been rapidly declining due to humans hunting them, accidents with boat, and trawler fishing. Since whales are so vital to the ecosystem, creating artificial poo that mimics whales’ is seen as a way to encourage plankton populations. Whilst the team has yet to decide what they will make the faux poo from, iron-rich sand and volcanic ash are two possibilities. The most important element is that it chemically matches what the whale excretes. After the mixture is prepared it will be put onto baked rice husks, and be launched out to sea.

Similar projects

A similar project has already happened in Australia. Sydney-based WhaleX has been launching their own faux whale poo into the oceans since December last year. Their mixture is a seaweed gel, made up of nitrogen, phosphorus and trace elements. WhaleX’s primary aim is to remove carbon from the atmosphere. They are taking part in a competition created by Elon Musk to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and are hoping for part of a $100 million prize.

Good news in history 23 January

Have a look at good news from different points in history.

1921

First US transcontinental airmail flight between New York and San Fransisco.

1954

The first mass inoculation against polio began in 1954. By June the same year over 2 million children had been vaccinated against the disease.

1975

In response to their energy crisis, the US began daylight savings two months early.

1999

Twenty three years ago today American rapper Eminem releases his first major record, The Slim Shady LP. The album went on to sell 10.4 million copies.

2002

The Nebra sky disc was recovered in a police sting in Basal, Switzerland. The sky disc is said to be the oldest artifact in the world that depicts the stars, sun and night sky. The disc is said to be 3600 years old, and was excavated in modern day German before being sold illegally. It is now permanently located in the Halle State Museum of Prehistory.

Vaccine the future for treating multiple sclerosis?

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A recent study has found the likely cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), and pharmaceutical companies are already developing a vaccine. The study was conducted from the data of 10 million military personnel in America by Dr. Bjornevik and his team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The research suggests that MS is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus, also known as the ‘kissing disease’ was present in over 99% of those diagnosed with MS.

“We found that EBV-infection was associated with a 32-fold increased risk in MS,” Dr. Bjornevik said, adding that “a risk of this magnitude is unusual in scientific research.”

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, and causes damage to the myelin sheath- a protective layer that forms around nerves, which allows nerves to quickly transmit signals. The symptoms of MS range from mild to severe, and can include paralysis and extreme pain.

Further confirmation that EBV is the trigger for the disease is that no other virus that the participants caused them to develop MS. “Our study is the first that provides compelling evidence of causality, i.e., it suggests that EBV is the leading cause of MS,” Dr Bjornevik said.

The twenty-year study

The study looked at the blood work of military personnel over a 20 year period, from 1993 to 2013. Researchers isolated the people who did not have Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) at their first sample collection who later were diagnosed with MS. Out of the 801 people who developed MS, only one person tested negative for EBV.

Since many of the population have antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus, having the virus alone does not trigger Multiple Sclerosis. Dr William Robinson and Dr Lawrence Steinman from Stanford School of Medicine, California offered their own view. “Other factors such as genetic susceptibility, are important in MS pathogenesis.”

Vaccine for multiple sclerosis

This breakthrough could herald a new age in treatments for multiple sclerosis. Drs Robinson and Steinman talked of the potential therapies that could now be offered. They offered the possibility of a vaccine that targeted EBV, or even anti-virals that target the disease. The pharmaceutical company Moderna have already begun testing a new MRNA vaccine, with the first participant dosed in phase 1 of their trial. It seems that hope is on the horizon, with Robinson and Steinman concluding: “Now that the initial trigger for MS has been identified, perhaps MS could be eradicated.”

First train journey ever on 21st February 1804

Nearly 200 years ago a new era in history was heralded when the first train took its maiden voyage. The early prototype was developed by the English engineer Richard Trevithick. The railway journey began at the ironworks of Penydarren, South Wales and was over nine miles long. It had 5 wagons and carried 10 tons of iron and 70 men. It took a total of 4 hours and 5 minutes for the locomotive to complete the trip. With a speed of 2.4 mph (3.9 km/h) the average human would’ve outpaced the train (3-4 mph).

The steam engine was not originally intended to be a train. In fact, it had been commissioned by the owner of the ironworks, Samuel Homfray, to drive hammers at the mines. Trevithick showed Homfray another use for the steam engine. He mounted the engine onto the wheels to illustrate how it could be turned into a locomotive. Impressed, Homfray bet another ironworks proprietor, Richard Crayshaw, that his new machine could pull 10 tons of iron. Homfray won the bet- though the train managed to break the cast iron tracks on its return trip, due to its heavy weight. The steam engine only had one journey as a train before being retired from the railway. It was kept for its initial job of driving hammers though.

It took another twenty years for the first official passenger train. On 25 September 1825 a line opened taking a total of 550 coal workers from Shildon, UK to Stockton-upon-Tees, UK. More advancements later followed. Click here for a history of the train.

Heart-shaped wetland, Faiyum Oasis, spotted in Egypt from space

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, NASA have released a photo of a heart-shaped wetland taken from space, 250 miles above Earth. The image was captured by the International Space Station (ISS) as it was in orbit over Egypt. The heart-shaped land mass is also known as the Faiyum Oasis, a huge mass over 450 miles square miles in size.

The beautiful oasis sits in the middle of the desert and is home to many species of birds and fish. The area has also supported human life for more than 8,000 years. The basin originally had no life, and gradually filled up with water, thanks to the river Nile diverting water in its direction. The river Bahr Yussef (translates as River Joseph) directs the water from the Nile to the Faiyum Oasis. In 2300 BC, the river was widened into a canal, which helped to regulate the flooding that the Nile was prone to.

The oldest farming communities were discovered in Faiyum, with ruins dating back to 5200 BC. Today the area is still a rich agricultural area, thanks to the fertile soil of the area. Ancient Egyptians created this fertile oasis by damming Lake Moeris thousands of years ago. Though the original lake does not exist, a smaller saltwater lake named Qarun Lake has taken its place.

Courtesy of reflectiontravel.net

The area is also home to ancient ruins that rival those of Egypt. It is also the site of Wadi Al Hitan; an open-air museum and UNESCO World Heritage site. The site depicts the evolution of life, and contains thousands of fossils, and contains the first intact fossil of an intact whale from 40 million years ago.

Early campaigner for women’s rights, Susan B Anthony was born 15 February 1820

Susan B Anthony, was born on this day more than 200 years ago in Massachusetts, USA. Anthony was an early advocate of equal rights and social reform. She was an early member of the women’s suffragette movement, as well as actively petitioning against slavery. Although her name may be unfamiliar to some, Anthony’s work helped pave the way for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in the USA, giving women the right to vote. She was arrested in 1872 for illegally voting, at a time when only men were allowed to do so.

Early life and career

Anthony was born into a Quaker family, the second of seven children. Her parents were both progressive, and her father brought up Susan and her six brothers and sisters to be independent. Growing up in a household that valued human rights- her father was an abolitionist- instilled strong moral values in Susan. In fact, many of her siblings grew up to support social justice, and the emancipation of slavery. Her father’s early lessons on being independent and self-sufficient also made a mark on her. Anthony never married, instead carving out a career as a teacher. She would eventually work her way to being a headmistress in 1846, at the age of 26.

In addition to being a teacher Anthony dedicated her time to social justice. She campaigned on many different issues related to social justice, particularly as an abolitionist activist. Anthony argued that black people should be allowed to vote, and admitted to schools and colleges. She was heavily invested in equal rights, and equal pay between men and women. She and her good friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed a friendship and working relationship that lasted over 50 years. Together they travelled the country making speeches, about equal rights, women’s rights and abolishing slavery. They co-founded the American Equal Rights Association and created a paper called The Revolution, that promoted ideas of rights and equality for women.

Anthony was active in her role as an activist for most of her life. Two years before her death in 1906 she said:

“The world has never witnessed a greater revolution than in the sphere of woman during this fifty years”.

At the time of her death, women had received the vote in several states, including Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho

The first Reader’s Digest magazine is first published this day in 1922

It has been one hundred years since the first Readers Digest magazine was first published in 1922. The periodical was the brainchild of Dewitt and Lisa Wallace. The couple saw a gap in the market for a magazine that published abridged and easy-to-read articles on a variety of subjects. Today it is the 4th largest magazine in circulation in America and thanks to global editions Readers Digest is the best-selling monthly journal in the world. The publication has reached 70 million people globally, and has been printed in 21 languages over 70 countries.

How Reader’s Digest was formed

DeWitt Wallace had the idea for the Reader’s Digest whilst he was recovering in hospital from shrapnel wounds during World War 1. Wallace’s idea was to gather articles from a variety of magazines and to rewrite them, whilst simplifying and shortening them.

The magazine grew beyond Wallace’s original projections. He had hoped the magazine would allow him $5,000 USD a year net income. By 1929, just 7 years later, the magazine would net $900,000 USD and have over 290,000 subscribers.

Today, Reader’s Digest has rebranded itself into a digital-first platform. Readers Digest had faced bankruptcy and closure, however, it is now thriving, reaching 1 in 4 Americans through digital and print media.

Dogs can differentiate between languages, research reveals

Researchers have confirmed what many dog owners may have suspected for years- dogs understand when a foreign language is being spoken! Whilst many dogs’ humans may have noticed their puppy friend prick their ears at another language, it is only now that science has confirmed their ability to discern between languages.

“This is the first nonprimate species for which we could show spontaneous language ability — the first time we could localize it and see where in the brain this combination of two languages takes place,” said Atilla Andics, head of Ethology (the study of animals) at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary.

The study was developed by Laura Cuaya, a postdoctoral researcher behind the study at the Eötvös Loránd University. She created the research project after moving from Mexico to Hungary with her own dog, Kun-kun. Kun-kun was been brought up around Spanish speaking people. “I wondered if Kun-kun realized that people in Budapest spoke another language,” Cuaya said. The curiosity developed into the recently published research project involving 18 dogs- Kun Kun being one of them.

The study began with training the 18 dogs- five golden retrievers, six border collies, two Australian shepherds, one cocker spaniel, one labradoodle, and three mixed breeds- to stay still so that a brain scan could be performed. Whilst the dogs were in the MRI machine they were read to in both Hungarian and Spanish. Out of the motley group of dogs, sixteen of the dogs’ native language is Hungarian, whilst the remaining two is Spanish. The text that was chosen to be read to the dogs was The Little Prince- a book that none of them had heard before. Chapter 21 of the book was read to the dogs by both a native Hungarian speaker, as well as a native Spanish speaker. After they were read to in the two languages, a third made-up gobbledygook language was added into the mix.

Results

After the tests were conducted Cuaya and the other researchers compared the findings of the MRI scans. The results showed different patterns of activity in the primary auditory cortex when nonsense words were spoken than when dogs heard a real language. The scans also showed different areas of the brain became active when an unknown language was spoken versus when familiar speech was heard.

“Our findings suggest that during their lives with humans, dogs pick up on the auditory regularities of the language they are exposed to,” Raúl Hernández-Pérez, a postdoctoral fellow who co-authored the study said.

“This is actually pretty similar to what we see with very young preverbal infants who can differentiate between languages spontaneously before they start to speak,”

Another fascinating finding of the experiment was that older dogs and dogs with longer snouts were the best at understanding the differences in languages.

First music store in America opened on this day 1759

It was the 13th December 1759, and Michael Hillegas opened the first music store in America in the city of Philadelphia. It wasn’t quite the same as the music stores we know today- there were no CDs or records on sale. The shop sold a range of musical goods, including instruments, sheet music, ruled paper and music tutors.

The owner of the store, Michael Hillegas, was an extremely wealthy merchant. His business interests generated a lot of money, and used to support the Revolutionary War. Interestingly, Hillegal also went on to become the first treasurer of the USA.

Rescued greyhounds help to rehabilitate prisoners

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An unlikely partnership has formed between prisoners in Australia and rescued greyhounds. The charity Greyhounds As Pets SA (GAP SA) and two prisons in South Australia have formed a mutually-beneficial relationship. Since 1997 GAP SA has been rescuing greyhounds from the racing industry with the aim of retraining and re-homing them. The new partnership with Mobilong and Adelaide Women’s prisons sees inmates employed to take care of and retrain the dogs. After completing their training the greyhounds are adopted to the general public. Mobilong prison, which is one hour from Adelaide, currently has 18 greyhounds who are each paired with a prisoner.

Josh who is one of the prisoners in the GAP SA program, spoke to the ABC about the experience. Josh said the harsh realities of prison life are inescapable, except for when he gets to spend time with his greyhound Rosie. “Dogs aren’t judgemental like people,” he said. “They don’t care what you’ve done in the past, they don’t care who you are as a person as long as you have a good relationship with them, so it means a lot to us.” Hayley Mils the deputy correctional services chief executive said the prisoners’ moods completely changed around the dogs. She said, “The program brings out that nurturing side in the men and that’s really important,”. Mils went on to say “The men who are in our care here are fathers, they’re partners, they’re sons, and that [nurturing is] such an important skill to take back out with them.”

Rehabilitation

The program has two main aims: to retrain and prepare the greyhounds for family life, whilst also providing a meaningful program for prisoners. It has also increased the mental wellbeing of the prisoners involved. Being involved in the program also allows prisoners to study Certificate II in Animal Studies. Four hundred dogs have now gone through the program at Mobilong prison. Additionally 200 dogs have been retrained and re-homed through Adelaide’s Women’s prison.

Adopting rescued greyhounds

Greyhounds make great pets. Despite their reputation for running greyhounds can also be couch potatoes and are suitable for apartment living. They are also kind, nurturing, playful and gentle.  If you are considering rescuing or fostering a greyhound check out the local greyhound rescue in your area. If you happen to live in South Australia you ca rescue a greyhound like Rosie directly from GAPSA.

Reverse Advent Calendar: The advent calendar that gives back

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We all know that Christmas is the season for giving and receiving. And this organisation based in Ballarat, Australia has decided to do a lot of giving. Reverse Advent Calendar has taken the tradition of the advent calendar, and reversed it. Traditionally, advent calendars have 24 doors, and behind each of those doors is a tasty treat. The organisation decided to start its own tradition- instead of taking out a treat in the lead up to Christmas, put one in instead.

Participants are given an empty box, and in the twenty days before Christmas, put one treat in a day. Items that can be put in the box include non-perishable food items, toiletries, and Christmas gifts. After the box is filled it is dropped off at select locations and distributed to food relief organisations who give them to those in need in the community.

Heather Luttrell came up with the idea after seeing it online. The program started informally on Facebook in 2018 when she created a post asking for friends to create boxes. “The response was incredible, and we ended up with over 70 boxes,” Heather said. Only three years later, the Reverse Advent Calendar project has grown beyond expectation. In 2020 the organisation filled over 3,000 boxes across Victoria, and the ACT (Australian Capital Territory). This Christmas they expect to receive over 4000 boxes. Heather is amazed by the success, saying: “It blows my mind to think that from one box in my family, in just four years, it’s become 4,000 families or individuals across Australia”

Sanna Marin became the youngest state leader two years ago today!

Sanna Marin may not be a name you’re familiar with, however, on 8th December 2019 she was selected as the Prime Minister of Finland. Marin became the youngest leader of a state or country at thirty-four years old. She was also the youngest Finnish Prime Minister on record, and the country’s third female to take on the role. Though, in 2021 the title was taken away from her when 27 year-old Giacomo Simoncini became the leader of San Marino.

Marin was born on 16 November 1985 in Helsinki, and graduated from university with a Master’s degree in Administrative Science. She took to politics at an early age, joining the Social Democratic Youth in 2010. Her career in politics continued after she graduated from university, where she successfully ran for a position on the City Council of Tampere. In 2015 she was elected to the Finnish Parliament and became an MP for the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Marin worked her way up the ranks, becoming the Minister of Transport and Communication in June 2019. It was only six months after this appointment that she was voted by the SDP to become leader.

Marin’s policies are forward-thinking, and focus around the climate, and social equality. Her government is one of the few that has a majority of female politicians- 12 of the 19 cabinet members are women. She is also passionate about her role of Prime Minister, and bringing attention to current issues.

“I’m in politics because I thought that the older generation wasn’t doing enough about the big issues of the future. I needed to act. I couldn’t just think, It’s somebody else’s job.”

7th December 1995: Space probe Galileo orbits Jupiter

Twenty-six years ago Galileo became the first probe to orbit Jupiter. It was launched in 1989 with the intent to study Jupiter and its 4 moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. It would take six years to reach the big red planet.

Galileo’s journey to Jupiter

The journey was meant to happen in 1986, with a rocket powerful enough to get from Earth to Jupiter. However, due to safety issues the launch was postponed until 1989. A less powerful booster rocket was attached to Galileo- however it wasn’t powerful enough to fly to Jupiter. Instead, a technique called the gravitational slingshot was used. This technique allows a spacecraft to fly into the orbit of other planets and use their gravity to increase the spacecraft’s speed. Like a slingshot (hence the name gravitational slingshot) the spacecraft is then propelled into space. Using this technique Galileo flew by Venus, swinging past Earth twice to create enough momentum to propel itself to Jupiter! It took six years for the spacecraft to arrive into Jupiter’s atmosphere- which it did at a speedy 100,000 miles per hour (mph).

Galileo spent eight years orbiting Jupiter and its moons. During its trip it made many discoveries, which it transmitted back to Earth. Amongst them is that Europa has an ocean below its surface with more water than found on Earth. It was also uncovered Ganymede is the first moon to have its own magnetic field, and that Io’s volcanoes are 100 times more active than those on earth.

During its eight year tenure, Galileo made 34 trips around Jupiter. The spacecraft traveled more than 2.8 billion miles before it was purposefully crashed into Jupiter after it ran low on fuel. “We’ve gained a steppingstone into the future of space exploration,” said Dr. Torrance Johnson, Galileo project scientist.

For an overview of the Galileo mission, click here to look at NASA’s website.

104 year-old woman learns to read and write

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In the city of Kottayam, in the south Indian state of Kerala, Kuttiyamma, a 104 year-old woman, has learned to read and write. Despite being over 100 years old, Kuttiyamma is incredibly active, and still tends to her garden and feeds her chickens. The centenarian had always wanted to learn to become literate, however, never had the chance after becoming married at the age of sixteen.

“I always wanted to learn… but I could never study because I had to do household chores,” she said. Kuttiyamma also revealed that she had always wanted to become a teacher. When she reached the age of 103 Kuttiyamma was given the opportunity to learn. Watching her great grandchildren reading and writing gave her the inspiration.

“I would sit next to my grandchildren while they studied and observe carefully. Then a teacher said she would give me books if I was interested. I read those books over and over again. I asked questions if I couldn’t understand something.”

Volunteer teacher M Rehna taught Kuttiyamma in her home every morning and evening. Kuttiyamma’s only condition to learning was that the teacher spoke loudly so that she could hear.

Passing with flying colours

Amazingly, after taking a literacy exam Kuttiyamma scored 89 out of 100 and said she didn’t find the exam difficult. She is now planning to take the next exam.

In 1989 Kottayam was declared the first city with 100% literacy. It is also known as the ‘city of letters’. The city is on a mission to ensure that those who missed education opportunities in the past can have the chance to learn later in life. Education centers are run by the local government, and offers opportunities to older people such as Kuttiyamma.

Despite her recent achievements, Kuttiyamma has one wish. “I hope I live long enough to see my grandchildren succeed and get good jobs.”

The First Artificial Heart

Today in 1982 the First Artificial Heart was implanted into Barney Clark a 62 year old dentist from Seattle USA. At the time this was a medical breakthrough. Although artificial hearts had been used since 1952 during heart surgery this was the first permanent implant. The world watched on eagerly following the surgery with over 350 reporters camped out in the hospital. The operation was widely viewed as being as important as the moon landing. The implanted heart was named Jarvik-7 named after physician and inventor Robert Jarvik, MD). The surgeon performing the operation was Dr William DeVries who was a Cardiothoracic Surgeon.

When Barney woke up after the surgery and started looking around, Dr DeViries asked Barney, ‘how do you feel, do you have any pain?’ He said ‘no pain’ but that he was aware of a strong heart beat in his body for the first time in a long time. Then he looked up at his wife, Una Loy, and said, “I want to tell you even though I have no heart, I still love you.”

Barney’s bravery and commitment to help others has left a legacy and pioneered more medical research in this field. Before the surgery Barney said: “I’ve been kept alive for the last four years through all kinds of medicine and therapies that other people have given their lives to inform me; now, it is my time to pay them back.”

Madame Tussauds creator Marie Tussauds is born 1st December 1761!

Madame Tussauds museums are famous throughout the world for their lifelike wax models of the rich and famous. The first of the museums was opened by Madame Tussauds herself- Marie Tussaud! Marie was born on 1st December in France 260 years ago! She learnt the art of wax modelling from Philippe Curtis, who was a Swiss physician and wax modeller. Curtis met Marie whilst her mother worked for him as a housekeeper. He took her under a wing and taught her how to create realistic figures when she was still only a child. Philippe Curtis would eventually give up his trade of physician to become a full-time wax model maker. Upon his death, he left Marie Tussaud his entire collection of wax lifelike figures.

Marie had an interesting and varied life. She was the art tutor of Louis XVI’s sister, and would later spend 33 years touring with the wax figures Curtis had made, and her own. She opened her famous Madame Tussauds museum in 1835 in Baker Street, London. Some of the original wax works still exist, including ones made by Curtis. There are currently 21 museums around the world.

Fun facts about Madame Tussauds

The wax figures each take about 4 months to create with a cost of over $300,000!

Each strand of hair is individually inserted- that’s over 100,000 strands of hair that are carefully put in by hand!

The wax figures regularly undergo maintenance, where their hair and makeup are both touched up.

Around 300 photos are taken of the person being recreated in wax, to make sure that every nuance of their body is taken into account!

Red silk thread is used to create the veins inside the eyes and knotted ropes are used as veins for the body!

Students rescue food from farms and deliver to food banks

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In Calgary, Canada, graduate student, Cindy Zhang saw a gap in the market for food waste. During the pandemic many restaurants closed due to lockdowns, leaving farms with huge amounts of food with nowhere to go. Cindy had recently spoken to food banks and found out they had a shortage of food- the idea was seeded in her mind to bridge a gap between the two.

“I just started to talk to food banks in Calgary and Edmonton, and heard there was an increase in demand. We wanted to connect the two with our organization.” she said.

Cindy founded the non-profit organisation Farms to Families with her friend Tom Zhao in May 2021. She looked for guidance from U.S based not-profit The Farmlink Project. The huge U.S. farm-to-food bank was an invaluable resource, helping Cindy find out how to connect with farms. Initially, Cindy and Tom would cold-call farms from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta. They drove to pick up food from farms and greenhouses that generously donated their produce.

“In the beginning, we partnered with a few greenhouses because it wasn’t harvesting season yet,” said Zhang. “Then we partnered with hydroponic lettuce farms, and then more greenhouses and regular farms that produce lettuce and tomatoes.”

Increasing demand for food banks

The organisation has grown hugely, as farms continue to donate. Today they have 15 student volunteers and have saved 40,000 lbs (18,143 kg) of food from being wasted. The students donate their time to contact farms and put them in touch with food banks- creating a bridge between the two.

“We began reaching out to farms in Alberta, and eventually expanded to Ontario,” said Zhang. “We’re continuing to build more farm connections. We definitely have more than when we first started. We’re hoping to work with farms weekly or monthly. We do a few deliveries here and there, but we definitely want to do more constant deliveries.”

Food banks have seen a huge increase in visits since the pandemic. In Alberta there has been a nearly thirty percent increase in people accessing them compared to 2019. Organisations like Farms to Families provide a vital resource by assisting food banks gaining access to more food supplies to help fill the increased demand.

“We also hope to empower students in reducing food waste and help individuals who may face a barrier to accessing nutritious food and make access easier for them.”

Germany to phase out coal by 2030

German’s incoming government has revealed plans to stop using coal by 2030. The coalition, formed by The Greens, Social Democrats and the Free Democrats are planning to bring forward their carbon-friendly agenda earlier. In fact, the plans to phase out coal is eight years ahead of schedule!

The announcement comes at the same time that the incumbent Government has announced a sweep of new environmentally-friendly policies. This includes a goal of 80% renewable electricity by the end of the decade. To help meet this goal 2% percent of German land will be used to create wind farms! The Government also wants to see an uptake in electric vehicles, and proposed 15 million vehicles will be electric by then. This will no doubt be helped by the Government’s generous electric vehicle scheme. Under this scheme those in the market for a new car can claim back 9,000 euros on a brand new electric car purchased for under 40,000 euros.

Under the recent election in Germany, The Greens saw their best result, winning 118 seats – 15% of the vote. Annalena Baerbock- co-leader of The Greens spoke about how the climate is top of their agenda.

“We can transform our economy so it becomes climate neutral. We have an agreement where climate neutrality is a common denominator.”

Their new plans will see Germany climate-neutral by 2045.

Farmers band together for the climate

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A group of farmers have banded together to help the climate. With the added bonus of creating an extra revenue stream for themselves. There are a number of government grants and initiatives available under under Australia’s Emissions Reduction scheme. Some of the eligible projects include carbon capture and carbon offsets, as well as other environmental improvements that farmers can make. Previously these grants were almost impossible for most farmers to access, as they were only available to large agricultural organizations. Until now.

The solution

Meet ‘Regen Farmers Mutual’; a first of its kind. The group is farmer-owned, and allows small-scale farmers to sign up as members. The group then applies for the government grants as a single entity on behalf of its members, which is divided between members. As a result smaller farmers are able to get paid for improving the environment. Projects include planting trees, improving soil fertility and increasing ground cover. In addition, grants also cover initiatives such as improving waterways, providing habitats and increasing biodiversity. The group has already signed up 215 farmers as members and is growing rapidly. It was the brainchild of Rohan Clarke, an investment banking and conservation finance professional, alongside co founder Andrew Ward who has a background in regenerative farming.

“A lot of farmers want to improve their land, to put methods in place to make a drought less severe. Now they can be recognised for it and paid for it. It puts farmers in the driver’s seat,” Rohan Clarke said.

Regen Farmers Mutual is currently running a crowd funding campaign allowing people to invest as little as $100.

Permaculture farming

Elizabeth Evans on her farm. Source: Supplied

One farmer taking advantage of the scheme is Elizabeth Evans. Elizabeth runs a 275 acre permaculture farm in NSW, which produces fruit and vegetables. She also makes traditional indigenous medicine and grows nuts. Permaculture is a type of farming which takes a holistic approach. Moreover it is about creating sustainable self sufficient ecosystems. Its ethos is to produce and reuse almost everything on the farm, including fertilizers and having its own water supplies. The scheme has allowed Elizabeth to be paid to lock away 250 acres for regeneration. As well as building dams and putting in ground cover.

The future is bright for the energy-saving industries. Currently the carbon market in Australia is worth an estimated $226M. However Australia is committed to have net-zero emissions by 2050. As such the carbon market is forecast to reach $24 Billion by 2030.

Jimi Hendrix born 27th November 1942

Jimi Hendrix was born 79 years ago today! The legendary singer and musician is regarded as one of the most influential guitarists in history, and tops ‘best guitarist of all time’ polls. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as ‘arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music’.

Hendrix was born in Seattle, and started playing the guitar at the age of 15. He quickly picked up the instrument, inspired by blues and rock and roll. After he was medically discharged from the army, Jimi worked as a freelance musician. He was a backing musician for many famous acts, including Ike and Tina Turner and Sam Cooke. However, he felt limited in this role, and set out on his own.

His foray into fame came in 1966, when he was discovered in New York and brought to London. It was here that he first found success when he formed the band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix had many hits in his short career, including All Along the Watcher, The Wind Cries Mary and Purple Haze. A year after arriving in London he returned to the USA, where his career boomed after performing at the Monterey Pop Festival.

In his career he created three studio albums, and three live albums. Although Jimi passed away at a young age, his legacy is still alive today. Even some of the most famous and influential artists have been captivated by his abilities, including Eric Clapton.

“He played just about every style you could think of, and not in a flashy way. I mean he did a few of his tricks, like playing with his teeth and behind his back, but it wasn’t in an upstaging sense at all, and that was it … He walked off, and my life was never the same again”.

Patient is cured of HIV by own immune system

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A woman has been cured of HIV after no traces of the virus was found in her body. The 30 year-old woman from Argentina is believed to be only the second person to have been cured of HIV without medication. The woman remains anonymous due to the stigma HIV carries in Argentina. Researchers have dubbed her the ‘Esperanza patient’, named after the town she is from. Esperanza also means ‘hope’ in Spanish.

The woman was first diagnosed with the virus in 2013. She belongs to a rare class of people with HIV called ‘elite controllers’. These people have no ‘viral load’ despite testing HIV positive. This means that despite having the virus, they are virtually symptom-free, without the need of antiviral medication. Many of these patients live for decades without any complications from the virus. Joel Blankson, a professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine, is a researcher who has dedicated his career to HIV research.

The Esperanza woman expressed her sentiments in a statement.

“I have a healthy family. I don’t have to medicate, and I live as though nothing has happened. This already is a privilege.”

The woman’s case is featured in a study published in ‘The Annals of Internal Medicine’ on 16th November 2021.

Bernese Mountain Dog retrieves golf balls for charity

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Eleven year-old Davos is doing his bit for charity. Unlike most 11 year-olds helping out with charitable causes, Davos happens to be a dog! The Bernese Mountain Dog, along with his owner, Al Cooper, are raising money for charity by collecting golf balls. The duo find the balls on their local golf course, where Davos uses his sensitive nose to retrieve balls that have gone awry.

Al took in Davos whilst he was battling cancer. He said the dog helped him through his dark days.

“Ever since I’ve had him he’s just been a perfect companion for me and keeps me smiling,” Al said. “I call him my rescue dog because he rescued me in a sense.”

Rescuing golf balls

Al discovered Davos’s talent at finding balls when he took the dog with him to the golf course one day. The giant dog would jump off the golf cart he and Al were on to retrieve balls. The pair ended up with so many balls they even had to store them in their freezer!

One day, it finally dawned on Al what he should do with the balls. Whilst watching TV one night, an advert came on that showed distressed and neglected dogs. Al said Davos was deeply affected by the advert.

“He started crying at all those destitute dogs in those cages and stuff. [My wife] came up with the idea of selling the balls and donating the money to the Humane Society,”

So that’s what they did. The money that was made selling the golf balls was donated.

On Give to the Max day, a day of charitable giving in Minnesota, USA, Davos and Al donated $1000 to the Humane Society! Their donation also coincided with National Animal Shelter week. This means their donation will also be tripled by kind anonymous donors!

“We get the pleasure of starting the day with a big check from a big dog with a big heart,” said Deanna Kramer of the Animal Humane Society, Golden Valley.

Doctor Who airs on TV on this day in 1963

On November 23rd 1963 Doctor Who first aired. The TV series revolves around the time travelling doctor, an extraterrestrial Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey taking human form. The doctor travels through space in his TARDIS (a time travel machine) to fight evil, save civilisations, and help those in need. The original doctor was played by William Hartnell, who took on the role for 3 years. Due to Hartnell’s ill health and falling ratings the lead role was given to a new actor, Patrick Troughton. Since then there have been 13 actors taking the role, including the first woman in 2017!

Doctor Who famously always has a companion. His first companion was his granddaughter, Susan, and there has been more than 40 since. The show is also famous for the Dalek’s, the doctor’s nemesis throughout the series.

The show was originally intended to be a kids’ TV show. The show’s format was to be an educational blend of science in history, which was prevalent in the earlier years of the show. Whilst there are still historical elements to the show, it is less central to the storyline.

Doctor Who had two tenures. The first lasted from 1963 until 1989. The show restarted in 2005 and became a hit all over again.

France bans wild circus animals and mink farms!

In a step forward for animal rights, the French parliament voted to end the use of wild animals in circuses, and farming mink. The law, which will come into effect in two years’ time will also ban the highly controversial use of live dolphin shows. It will also be illegal to own wild animals such as tigers, lions, and bears in seven years’ time.

The bill was brought forward by Loïc Dombreval, a member of the La République En Marche! (LREM) party in France. It received unanimous support across all parties. Dombreval, who worked as a veterinarian before turning his hand to politics, tweeted his joy at the bill:

“Victory for our animal friends! The National Assembly adopted the bill against animal abuse unanimously minus one vote. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all MPs of all political parties. It’s a fact: animals bring us together.”

Dombreval is known in France for his love of animals, and is the president of the animal welfare group, Condition Animale. He has also spoken out against the live export trade, animal testing and hunting. Most recently he petitioned to have marmot hunting banned in France and spoke out against the lax penalties against people who committed animal cruelty.

Amongst the changes in the law, committing animal cruelty will be subject to steeper penalties. Those found guilty under the new laws will face up to five years in prison and fines of 75,000 euros. There will also be more restrictions on the sale of pets. Including banning dogs and cats being sold at pet shops, to decrease the level of abandonment.

Polls in France show that the majority of people in France want to see an improvement in animal welfare. More than 70% of respondents on a study in 2020 said that they wanted to see more ethical treatment of animals.