- Coronavirus vaccine found to be 90% effective
It can be hard to imagine a time when the coronavirus wasn’t having a profound effect on our lives. Fortunately, we shouldn’t need to imagine for too much longer. Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have reported 90% efficacy in their phase 3 trials for a vaccine, and the World Health Organisation thinks it could be completed by early next year. BioNTech’s Professor Ugur Sahin says there’s every chance life will be right back to normal by next winter.
So, everyone was right when they said it would be over by Christmas! (They just meant Christmas 2021.)
- Two new marsupials discovered in Australia
Until recently, the greater glider was thought to be just one species. It turns out it’s three distinct ones. They all use membranes between their legs to glide between trees (a bit like the Washington Monument scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming).
This is excellent news for Australian biodiversity, and helpful for scientists aiming to conserve species under threat. Plus – they’re very, very cute. There are officially two more cute species on the planet than there were before, and that, scientifically, is a good thing.
- Virgin Hyperloop completes its first manned journey
The Virgin Hyperloop is a stunning new piece of technology. It takes a small capsule, levitates it with magnets, then propels it through a vacuum at incredible speeds – and, as of 10 November, has now done so with people inside of it. The Virgin Hyperloop could revolutionise travel; with a potential top speed of 600mph, it would make HS2 look like a Fiat Panda, and could undercut domestic flights, providing a new service at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact.
Welcome to the future. Here, we take a rollercoaster to work.
- NASA teaches indigenous people the benefits of satellite technology
NASA has begun courses for Native Americans where they are being taught remote sensing – that is, the science of monitoring the conditions of a physical area via satellite – to help them with natural resource management within their traditional tribal lands. After engaging in talks with indigenous leaders, NASA has tailored its courses to the specific needs of each tribal community. The indigenous people’s need to take care of their land is spiritual as well as practical, and with these programmes, NASA aims to help Native Americans overcome new threats presented by climate change.
- Sir David Attenborough joins Instagram
I do not believe there is a single person in Britain who has anything bad to say about David Attenborough, and nor should there be. What’s not to love about this National Treasure taking to Instagram? Letting more Attenborough into our lives can only ever be a good thing, and will help to raise awareness about climate change – which is the veteran broadcaster’s motivation for making the jump into social media.
- First new reef discovered in the Great Barrier Reef in 120 years
For years, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been considered particularly vulnerable due to changes brought about by climate change. As the oceans grow warmer, the corals become stressed; they jettison their algae into the water in a process known as ‘coral bleaching’, named for the colour-draining effect it has on the wildlife. But recently, a new reef has been discovered, proving that the Great Barrier Reef still has plenty of fight in it yet. Not only is it enormous – that is, taller-than-the-Empire-State-Building enormous at a whopping 1,640 feet – but it contains all the signs of a flourishing ecosystem. Scientists theorise that reefs such as this one could serve as a safe haven for species unable to survive in hotter waters, until such a time as the climate is brought back under control, and the damaged reefs once again become capable of supporting life.
- Success for Marcus Rashford’s campaign to feed schoolchildren over the winter
The whole of the UK seemed to rally behind Manchester United and England player Marcus Rashford this month in an impassioned moment of national unity. Rashford’s tireless campaigning, inspired by his own personal experience of childhood food poverty, has secured financial support from the government to the tune of £170 million to put school meals in the bellies of hungry children this winter. “Time we worked together,” Rashford said in a powerful statement put out on Twitter. “This is not politics, this is humanity.”
Since then, spurred on by the success of his campaign he has also started a children’s book club in the hope of providing kids from all socio-economic backgrounds with the escapism of reading. What a guy.
Featured Image: A mural to Marcus Rashford in Manchester, via Wikimedia Commons