Another instalment of the Good News round-up is here to cheer up the weekend. Here are five stories that will give you hope.
- A revolutionary Swiss 'water battery' that will become one of Europe's main renewable sources of energy.
- Life-saving drugs descend from the sky in the UK
- The unlikely return of a Canadian rockstar’s guitar after half a century
- Virtual reality is managing to replicate the physical effects of exercise
- A breakthrough in understanding whale song
Watch the video above for more on each story, or read on below…
1. A revolutionary Swiss 'water battery' is to become one of Europe's main renewable sources of energy.
It took 14 years to complete, but Switzerland has finally activated a vast ‘water battery’ that has the same capacity for storing electricity as 400,000 electric car batteries – roughly 20 million kilowatt-hours.
The green battery will become one of Europe's main renewable sources of energy, playing an important role in stabilising power supplies in Switzerland and Europe. It stores any excess electricity from renewable sources.
The system uses two large reservoirs of water located at different altitudes.
"It stores any excess electricity from renewable sources by pumping water"
When the water pumps from the lower lake to the upper lake, the battery is "charged". And when the direction of the pump is reversed, the flow of water rotates a turbine, which generates hydroelectric power.
The battery can generate vast quantities of hydroelectric energy, enough to power around 900,000 homes.
2. Life-saving drugs descend from the sky in England
Britain’s National Health Service will start using drones to fly chemotherapy drugs to cancer patients on the Isle of Wight, cutting delivery times from four hours to 30 minutes.
Drones will transport doses from Portsmouth, on the mainland, to a hospital on the island.
The drones will be able to carry up to 20kg of doses, and each delivery will replace two car journeys and one hovercraft or ferry journey per delivery – reducing carbon emissions as well as speeding up the process.
Some chemotherapy drugs have a short shelf life, so the new delivery method will offer a better option for cancer patients living on the island, many of whom have previously had to travel to the mainland for treatment.
Cancer patients in England would be the first in the world to benefit from the new delivery method, according to the government.
“It's clear that the pace of change and improvement is only accelerating as our fantastic staff seeks to make most of the life-changing advances to improve patients' lives,” said NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard.
3. The unlikely return of a Canadian rockstar’s guitar after half a century.
Back in 1961 $400 was a lot of money, but that’s what the Canadian 18-year-old Randy Bachman needed to buy his dream guitar, a 1957 Gretsch, and he worked several jobs to get it.
Now a music legend, Bachman went on to write hits such as American Woman on the guitar, and was devastated when it was stolen from a Toronto hotel 46 years ago. He never stopped looking.
“This guitar was magical. It was my tool, my hammer, to make songs and make music and make money,” he said.
Luckily for Bachman, one of his Canadian fans is something of an internet detective and spent hours scouring images of the same model until he managed to track down the exact guitar thanks to a unique mark in the wood grain.
It belonged to a Japanese musician by the name of Takeshi, who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing the story behind it.
"I owned it and played on it only for eight years but I'm really sad to return this now. But he was feeling sad for 46 years, it's time for someone else to play the sad role.”
In exchange, Bachman gave Takeshi an almost identical Gretsch guitar, made the same week as his own.
“They're both the same guitar, they're so close, they're unbelievable,” said Bachman, “But there is something special about this one and it is the one, so it's just fantastic."
Virtual reality is managing to replicate exercise giving similar physical effects to the real thing
4. A study by a group of researchers in Japan suggests that immersive virtual reality exercise has similar effects to the real thing.
From preventing illness to promoting mental health and reducing stress. Moving our bodies is proven to be essential to our wellbeing. But for many people, such as patients with reduced mobility, or people with neurological or physical disorders, exercise is not an option.
In the Japanese trials, participants watched themselves ‘run’ for 30 minutes from a first-person perspective, and their heart rates increased and decreased with the virtual movements. After the workout session the neural benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, were the same as those that take place after real physical activity.
The potential of immersive VR for clinical purposes could be life-changing.
“This kind of virtual training represents a new frontier, especially in countries like Japan, where high-performance demands and an ageing population exist,” said Professor Dalila Burin, who led the study.
5. A breakthrough in understanding whale songs
Whales are exceptionally clever creatures. They sing to communicate, locate food, socialise and find each other.
Whale song may be the most complex in the animal kingdom, and is especially fascinating to marine biologists, who haven’t been able to decipher it.
But researchers at the University of Queensland have made a breakthrough. They have found that humpback whales can learn incredibly complex songs from whales from other regions, without simplifying or leaving anything out.
“Whales are learning from each other. Even if it's really, really complicated, they can copy the whole thing,” Dr Jennifer Allen, lead researcher at UQ's School of Veterinary Science, told Euronews.
Allen says the findings are a “huge, amazing, rare phenomenon.”
“The fact is that we literally don't see this level of cultural exchange outside of humans,” she said.
The findings support the idea that songs are being learned by whales on shared migration routes like New Zealand or shared feeding grounds like Antarctica.
The researchers hope that the results will provide a model for further study of the evolution of cultural communication in animals and humans.
“It gives us a piece of evidence to this bigger picture of how did humans evolve their cultural communication to the extent that we have because we've evolved it beyond any species. But how did we do that? And it's looking like this segmented learning is one of the big pieces of that puzzle,” adds Dr Allen.
And if you're still hungry for more positive news, there's more below…