Welcome to my regular round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, as reported or commented on in the media. Plus links to debunking of alarmism, and general discussion of the struggle between optimism and pessimism.
* As has been widely reported, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station on its first scheduled flight, and four fresh astronauts boarded the station. SpaceX and NASA’s first long-term manned mission marks the end of the dependence of the U.S.A. on Russian rocketry.
* Voice of America reports that “Pakistan Plants 500 Million New Trees” and is now heading for many more, having this month… “generated adequate [tree] nursery stock [of over 300 million] over the last two years”, many in new private tree-nurseries that are providing local employment in impoverished districts. To forestall the nay-sayers, there will also now be… “unprecedented third-party monitoring” of the national programme from 2020 to 2024.
* Science Mag reports on how “New genetic tools will deliver improved farmed fish, oysters, and shrimp”… “Aquaculture breeders can tap a rich trove of genetic material; most fish and shellfish have seen little systematic genetic improvement for farming, compared with the selective breeding that chickens, cattle, and other domesticated animals have undergone. “There’s a huge amount of genetic potential out there in aquaculture species that’s yet to be realized,” says geneticist Ross Houston of the Roslin Institute. … “The technology is amazing, it’s advancing very quickly, the costs are coming down,” says Ximing Guo, a geneticist at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. “Everybody in the field is excited.””
* In the latest Reason print magazine, an article on the ongoing work to narrow some of the more hysterical “child neglect” laws in the USA… “In 2018, Utah passed the nation’s first “Free-Range Parenting” law, which states that it is not neglect to let kids walk or play outside, stay home alone, or wait briefly in the car in some circumstances.” The same edition of the magazine reports that… “states are finally revoking cops’ licence to steal”, which is done through the wide mis-use of the “civil forfeiture” laws that were supposed to be used against drug-barons.
* After the U.S. election, Jewish News asks “What happened to the violence?”… “Remember all the hysterics about a civil war hitting our streets … What happened? Where did all that violence go?”
* The UK’s Law Gazette recalls the more positive side of the 1970s, “Dare to believe in white heat”… “the seventies [1970s] was a decade of extraordinary progress. It was when we eradicated smallpox. It was the climax of Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which would eradicate mass famine from Asia thanks to the promotion of dwarf high-yielding cultivars of wheat and rice. Thus our current confidence that we will be able to feed a population of 9.7 billion people in 2050. If you still think the world’s population is running out of control, check when your teacher went to school: the rate of growth has been declining since 1962.”
* The Army Times reports on “A new way to create diamond-structured crystals”, discovered by researchers funded by the U.S. Army and which… “creates a method for scientists to build more powerful lasers”.
* And finally, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been getting up close and personal with camel sweat glands. The inspired result is a hydrogel-aerogel bi-layer surface which can keep food or medical supplies cool “for 250 hours” in hot climates — five times as long as current methods. That’s not to be sniffed at.
Enjoyed this post? There’s more at the ‘Something for the Weekend’ newsletter archive.