Good News: The mysterious return of Darwin's missing notebooks and a new record for women's football
Welcome to the Good News round-up. Here's this week's pick of what's going well in the world:
- Scientists have decoded the entire human genome
- A new record in women’s football
- The mysterious return of Charles Darwin’s missing notebooks
- How saving the planet will save us money
- And some good news for seahorses
Watch the video above for more on each story, or read on below
1. Scientists have decoded the entire human genome, filling in millions of missing pieces of DNA
The genome now covers every chromosome from end to end with no gaps, and unprecedented accuracy.
The breakthrough is so momentous that Professor Benedict Paten, biomolecular engineering associate director at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, said many people in the field didn't expect it to actually happen.
The development, called T2T-CHM13, was made possible by state-of-the-art technology and worked on by more than 100 scientists.
The first working draft of a human genome sequence was achieved back in 2000, and the research led to huge advances in our understanding of human biology and disease, even though crucial regions of the genome were still hidden from scientists.
"Now with this reference, we can begin to look more closely at the genome and see if there's new information that can guide new discoveries,” said Karen Miga, one of the lead researchers in the discovery and assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at the Genomics Institute.
Being able to see the entire sequence unlocks the potential for scientists to better understand the role of genetic variants in disease, allowing developments such as improved health screening, better identification of treatment options for cancer patients, more accurate early screening in pregnancy and better understanding of human genetic heritage.
The sequence was made publicly available when it was first discovered back in the year 2000, and the newly discovered full sequence is also freely available, allowing scientists around the world to keep pushing the boundaries of what's possible in healthcare.
2. A new record for women’s football was set
A crowd of more than 91,000 broke the attendance record for a women’s club match when Barcelona played Real Madrid at Barca’s Camp Nou stadium – the first time the women’s team has played on the iconic pitch in front of a crowd, as it’s usually reserved for the men’s team.
Spanish sports journalist Paula Vilaplana told Euronews: "The women's team normally plays in a much smaller practice stadium, with a capacity of only 7,000 spectators. But the club saw the opportunity to host this game at Camp Nou, because first of all, it was a very important game in the Champions League and because Barça women have worked their way up to this over the last few years.
"Last season they won the Champions League, La Liga, the Copa del Rey – all the possible titles, with a record number of goals; an average of seven per game. And this good period for Barça women's football has coincided with one of the worst periods of football in the men's team, which is the most important team here in Barcelona. And what did that lead to? Well, that Barcelona fans saw the women's team as their only hope."
Vilaplana says many fans and members of the press attributed the record crowd to the fact that the team was playing against Real Madrid, Barcelona's biggest rivals. But she adds: "Their next opponent is Wolfsburg, a German team that is hardly known here in Barcelona, and history has repeated itself.. the match will be played again at Camp Nou and in less than 24 hours the tickets were sold out."
Women’s football has been on the up ever since the 2019 Women’s World Cup – the most-watched FIFA Women’s World Cup yet, reaching 993.5 million people. This was up 30 per cent on the reach of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which had 764 million viewers.
3. Two notebooks that belonged to Charles Darwin have been anonymously returned, 22 years after they mysteriously disappeared
The notebooks, which turned up at the Cambridge University Library, are filled with Darwin’s notes and sketches, including the famous “tree of life” drawing which shows his early theory on how related species may have originated from the same starting point.
"The most important theory in the natural sciences is probably the theory of evolution by natural selection which was discovered by Charles Darwin, and these are the notebooks in which Charles Darwin worked out his theory," said Professor Jim Secord, director of the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University.
The notebooks appeared outside the library – in a spot where there are no cameras – inside a bright pink gift bag with a note that read “Happy Easter.” Prof. Secord has confirmed they are genuine and there are no pages missing.
The return of the relics has brought joy and relief – but also a lot of questions. Who took them in the first place and how? Where have they been for 22 years? And why have they been returned now?
4. Mitigating climate change will be cheaper than not doing so
The latest UN climate change report has found that to halt global warming, greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than 2025. And that emissions need to be reduced by 43 per cent by the end of 2030. So the next few years are critical to the future of humanity.
However, the report emphasises that it’s not too late to take action, and gives us one piece of positive news you may not have been expecting: saving the planet will save us money. Mitigating the climate crisis will be cheaper than not doing so.
"We should be more optimistic about what mitigation can achieve. The de-carbonisation of the energy system is becoming very accessible and potentially even cheaper than the business-as-usual fossil fuel trajectory," said Dr Alexandre Köberle, one of the researchers in a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change entitled The Cost of Mitigation Revisited.
Dr Köberle told Euronews there are three things to consider. First, the costs: "The direct costs [for mitigating climate change] have come down. Renewables have come down in cost very quickly, much faster than we had expected."
Second, the damage we will avoid is significant, "so that will tip the balance as well. And three, there are additional co-benefits, such as health outcomes in particular that also should weigh in on this equation".
The Global Electricity Review 2022 also found that wind and solar power, the fastest-growing sources of electricity, reached a new record usage in 2021.
Read more about the economic benefits of climate action here.
5. The seahorse population of Rio de Janeiro is on the rise, thanks to positive policy changes
"Seahorse trade did not have specific legislation so people came, collected them and sold them to many aquarium shops, whether in Brazil or for export, and there were no rules," said Professor Natalie Freret-Meurer, a biologist at Santa Ursula University.
But a ruling passed in 2014 banned the collection, handling, and storing of seahorses. And that changed everything for these extraordinary creatures.
“In 2015 we had two animals every 400 square meters. In 2018 this number went up to eight animals every 400 square meters, and last year in 2021 we had 13 animals every 400 square meters. So it's clear that after the new law we had an important increase in the wild population," says Prof Freret-Meurer.
Local fishermen have also been taught how to help with the conservation project.
"When we set out our fishing nets sometimes the seahorses pass by and get stuck. So when we pull the net we return them to the water. When they are weakened, through our association with the seahorse project we... take them to the university to treat them and later return them to the sea," explains Manasi Rebouças, president of the Copacabana fishing colony.
A little bonus: Watch the video above to witness what the residents of Dinoša in Montenegro are calling a 'miracle' from Mother Nature
Thank you for reading and watching the Good News round-up.
Seen an uplifting story you’d like to see featured on the show? What would you like to see more of? We’d love to hear your thoughts – tag us on social media using #GoodNewsEuronews to send your comments to the team.
And if you're still hungry for more positive news, there's more below...
Good News from the week of April 1st: Promising tech for cancer treatment and how the pandemic has made us nicer.
Good News from the week of April 8: The Austrian government is paying for people to have their old stuff repaired and we are living longer and healthier lives.