Inspiring News Stories
Excerpts of Highly Inspiring News Stories in Major Media
Below are one-paragraph excerpts of highly inspiring news stories from the major media. Links are provided to the original stories on their media websites. If any link fails to function, click here. The inspiring news story summaries most recently posted here are listed first. You can explore the same list with the most inspiring stories listed first. See also a concise list providing headlines and links to a number of highly inspiring stories. May these articles inspire us to find ever more ways to love and support each other and all around us to be the very best we can be.
In most people, speech and language live in the brain's left hemisphere. Mora Leeb is not most people. When she was 9 months old, surgeons removed the left side of her brain. Yet at 15, Mora plays soccer, tells jokes, gets her nails done, and, in many ways, lives the life of a typical teenager. "I can be described as a glass-half-full girl," she says, pronouncing each word carefully and without inflection. Her slow, cadence-free speech is one sign of a brain that has had to reorganize its language circuits. Yet to a remarkable degree, Mora's right hemisphere has taken on jobs usually done on the left side. It's an extreme version of brain plasticity, the process that allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances. People like Mora represent the upper bounds of human brain plasticity because their brains were radically altered very early in life – a period when the wiring is still a work in progress. During an interview with Mora, both her abilities and deficits were apparent. So was her outgoing personality and curiosity about the world. Mora began by telling me a joke: "How do you make a hot dog stand?" she asks. "You take away its chair." What scientists still want to know is precisely what allowed Mora's brain to rewire so extensively. One thing is clear: Understanding the basis of this sort of extreme plasticity, they say, could help millions of people whose brains are still trying to recover from a stroke, tumor, or traumatic injury. And Mora is helping scientists deepen their understanding, simply by being herself.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.
Our capacity to care about others may have very, very ancient origins, a new study suggests. It might have been deep-rooted in prehistoric animals that lived millions of years ago, before fish and mammals like us diverged on the tree of life, according to researchers who published their study Thursday in the journal Science. Scientists are usually reluctant to attribute humanlike feelings to animals. But it's generally accepted that many animals have moods, including fish. The new study shows that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too – and that this ability is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans. The researchers demonstrated this by deleting genes linked to producing and absorbing oxytocin in the brains of zebrafish. Those fish were then essentially antisocial – they failed to detect or change their behavior when other fish were anxious. But when some of the altered fish received oxytocin injections, their ability to sense and mirror the feelings of other fish was restored – what scientists call "emotional contagion." "They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us," said ... neuroscientist Ibukun Akinrinade, a co-author of the study. The study also showed that zebrafish will pay more attention to fish that have previously been stressed out – a behavior the researchers likened to consoling them. Previous research has shown that oxytocin plays a similar role in transmitting fear in mice.
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The brew is so potent that practitioners report not only powerful hallucinations, but near-death experiences, contact with higher-dimensional beings, and life-transforming voyages through alternative realities. Often before throwing up, or having trouble at the other end. Now, scientists have gleaned deep insights of their own by monitoring the brain on DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, the psychedelic compound found in Psychotria viridis, the flowering shrub that is mashed up and boiled in the Amazonian drink, ayahuasca. The recordings reveal a profound impact across the brain, particularly in areas that are highly evolved in humans and instrumental in planning, language, memory, complex decision-making and imagination. The regions from which we conjure reality become hyperconnected, with communication more chaotic, fluid and flexible. "It is incredibly potent," said Robin Carhart-Harris, a professor of neurology and psychiatry. "People describe leaving this world and breaking through into another that is incredibly immersive and richly complex, sometimes being populated by other beings that they feel might hold special power over them, like gods." He added: "DMT breaks down the basic networks of the brain, causing them to become less distinct from each other. The major rhythms of the brain – that serve a largely inhibitory, constraining function – break down, and in concert, brain activity becomes more entropic or information-rich."
"Don't get dirty!" was once a constant family refrain, as parents despairingly watched their children spoil their best clothes. Today, many parents may secretly wish their children had the chance to pick up a bit of grime. According to recent research, the dirt outside is teaming with friendly microorganisms that can train the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses, including allergies, asthma and even depression and anxiety. Certain natural materials, such as soil and mud ... contain surprisingly powerful microorganisms whose positive impact on children's health we are only beginning to fully understand. Our brains evolved in natural landscapes, and our perceptual systems are particularly well suited to wild outdoor spaces. Supporting this theory, one study from 2009 found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were better able to concentrate following a 20-minute walk in the park, compared to a 20-minute walk on the streets of a well-kept urban area. People who grow up on farms are generally less likely to develop asthma, allergies, or auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease [due to] their childhood exposure to a more diverse range of organisms in the rural environment. Michele Antonelli, a doctor from Italy ... has researched the ways that mud therapies can influence health. People with [skin] disorders ... seem to have an impoverished community of organisms. "These microorganisms can play a major role in many major chronic diseases," he says.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Mental states can have a profound impact on how ill we get – and how well we recover. Understanding this could help to boost the placebo effect, destroy cancers, enhance responses to vaccination and even re-evaluate illnesses that, for centuries, have been dismissed as being psychologically driven. Neuroscientist Catherine Dulac and her team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have pinpointed neurons in an area called the hypothalamus that control symptoms including fever, warmth-seeking and loss of appetite in response to infection. "Most people probably assume that when you feel sick, it's because the bacteria or viruses are messing up your body," she says. But her team demonstrated that activating these neurons could generate symptoms of sickness even in the absence of a pathogen. An open question, Dulac adds, is whether these hypothalamic neurons can be activated by triggers other than pathogens, such as chronic inflammation. The insula ... is involved in processing emotion and bodily sensations. A 2021 study ... found that neurons in the insula store memories of past bouts of gut inflammation – and that stimulating those brain cells reactivated the immune response. Such a reaction might prime the body to fight potential threats. But these reactions could also backfire. This could be the case for certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, that can be exacerbated by negative psychological states.
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As food prices rise around the world and access to healthy nutrition falls, trials in France and Belgium are experimenting with a unique "social security" for food. The affordability of food is a growing concern for increasing numbers of households worldwide as people struggle to cope with the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. With some forced to cut back on food to meet other essential expenses, food insecurity is on the rise around the world. The idea of social security for food might sound far-fetched. But through recently launched projects in Montpellier in France and Brussels in Belgium, burgeoning collectives of NGOs, farmers, researchers and citizens are experimenting with the idea that quality, nutritious and organic food should be accessible to everyone – regardless of income. "Eating healthy and having access to quality food is expensive and only a minority of the population can afford to do so," says Margherita Via, project manager at BEES Coop. Inspired by universal healthcare systems such as those in France and Belgium, civil society groups have proposed establishing a new branch of social security, under which each citizen would receive a monthly allowance enabling them to buy food meeting certain environmental and ethical criteria. At its heart, the idea is about moving away from food as a commodity. "A total overhaul of [the agro-industrial food] system based on the right to food is necessary," says agronomist Mathieu Dalmais, who has led the movement since its inception.
Last month, a small warehouse in the English city of Nottingham received the crucial final components for a project that leverages the power of used EV batteries to create a new kind of circular economy. Inside, city authorities have installed 40 two-way electric vehicle chargers that are connected to solar panels and a pioneering battery energy storage system, which will together power a number of on-site facilities and a fleet of 200 municipal vehicles. Each day Nottingham will send a combination of solar-generated energy – and whatever is left in the vehicles after the day's use – from its storage devices into the national grid. What makes the project truly circular is the battery technology itself. Funded by the European Union's Interreg North-West Europe Programme, the energy storage system, E-STOR, is made out of used EV batteries by the British company Connected Energy. After around a decade, an EV battery no longer provides sufficient performance for car journeys. However, they still can retain up to 80 percent of their original capacity, and with this great remaining power comes great reusability. "As the batteries degrade, they lose their usefulness for vehicles," says Matthew Lumsden, chairman of Connected Energy. "But batteries can be used for so many other things, and to not do so results in waste and more mining of natural resources." One study ... calculated that a second life battery system saved 450 tons of CO2 per MWh over its lifetime.
Around the world, people have been turning to swapping, trading and bartering during the coronavirus pandemic, whether to do their bit for the local community, save money or simply source hard-to-find baking ingredients. With economic uncertainty looming and anxiety levels soaring, barter is becoming an emerging alternative solution to getting by – and staying busy. The increase in bartering is nowhere better exemplified than in Fiji. The country has a long tradition of barter, known as â€veisa' ... and Fijians have harnessed modern technology to connect even more people. "I knew that money would be tight to stretch out and even harder to come by. I asked myself what happens when there's no more money? Barter was a natural solution to that," says Marlene Dutta, who started the Barter for a Better Fiji group on 21 April. Its membership is just under 190,000 – more than 20% of Fiji's population. Items changing hands have run the gamut – pigs for kayaks, a violin for a leather satchel and doughnuts for building bricks – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food. Bartering isn't just for individuals looking for baking items or help with grocery shopping, however. Businesses are increasingly interested in joining barter exchanges, which have "doctors, lawyers, service companies, retailers – you name it", says Ron Whitney, President of the US-based International Reciprocal Trade Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1979 that promotes and advances modern trade and barter systems.
Swarms of honeybees can generate as much electrical charge as a thunderstorm, new research shows. In a study published in the journal iScience on Monday, researchers from the University of Bristol ... discovered this phenomenon by chance. Biologist Ellard Hunting [said] that the Bristol team was studying how different organisms use the static electric fields that are everywhere in the environment. Atmospheric electricity has a variety of functions, mainly in shaping weather events and helping organisms, for example in finding food. "Flowers have an electric field and bees can sense these fields. And these electric fields of flowers can change when it has been visited by a bee, and other bees can use that information to see whether a flower has been visited," Hunting explained. Having set up equipment to measure atmospheric electric fields at the university's field station, which features several honeybee hives, Hunting and his team noticed that whenever the bees swarmed, there was "a profound effect on atmospheric electric fields," even though the weather hadn't changed. All insects create a charge during flight as a result of friction in the air, with the size of the charge varying between species. Individual bees carry a charge that is small enough to be overlooked by researchers, so "this effect (in swarming bees) came as a surprise," Hunting said. They found that, depending on the swarm density, the atmospheric charge could be similar to that of a storm cloud, thunderstorm or electrified dust storm.
For the past couple of years, I've been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as "hyperaccumulators": plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the "travelling salesman" problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.
Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.
Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes can level entire towns, and for the search and rescue teams trying to find survivors, it's a painstaking task. But an unlikely savior is being trained up to help out: rats. The project, conceived of by Belgian non-profit APOPO, is kitting out rodents with tiny, high-tech backpacks to help first responders search for survivors among rubble in disaster zones. "Rats are typically quite curious and like to explore – and that is key for search and rescue," says Donna Kean, a behavioral research scientist and leader of the project. In addition to their adventurous spirit, their small size and excellent sense of smell make rats perfect for locating things in tight spaces, says Kean. The rats are currently being trained to find survivors in a simulated disaster zone. They must first locate the target person in an empty room, pull a switch on their vest that triggers a beeper, and then return to base, where they are rewarded with a treat. While the rodents are still in the early stages of training, APOPO is collaborating with the Eindhoven University of Technology to develop a backpack, which is equipped with a video camera, two-way microphone, and location transmitter to help first responders communicate with survivors. APOPO has been training dogs and rats at its base in Tanzania in the scent detection of landmines and tuberculosis for over a decade. Its programs use African Giant Pouched Rats, which have a longer lifespan in captivity of around eight years.
Note: Don't miss the images of these adorable and heroic rats at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Some of the women are wearing papier-mache headdresses shaped like long-necked birds. As they sing, one of them gets to her feet and starts dancing. They are part of the "hargila army", a group of rural women in the Indian state of Assam who work to protect one of the world's rarest storks: the greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) – or hargila (meaning "bone swallower" in Assamese) as the scavenger bird is known locally. They are celebrating the recent UN Environment Programme's Champions of the Earth award, conferred on the group's biologist founder, Dr Purnima Devi Barman. Barman won the award for her achievement in mobilising more than 10,000 women to help save the stork. "They are the protectors of the birds and of their nesting trees," says Barman. The birds were not just reviled, they were seen as a bad omen and carriers of disease. Villagers attacked them with stones, cut down trees where they roosted communally and burned their nests. Today the greater adjutant is endangered, with fewer than 1,200 adult birds in its last strongholds. Most of the global population is found in Assam, making Barman and the hargila army's work critical to its survival. Today, the once-maligned bird is now a cultural symbol, appearing on everything from towels to road-safety campaigns. In the villages of Dadara, Pacharia and Singimari (all in Kamrup district), greater adjutants' nests have increased from 28 in 2010 to more than 250 according to Barman's last count, making the area the world's largest breeding colony.
Minecraft has established itself as a cultural phenomenon for many reasons: it's creative, collaborative, and sufficiently facile as to be considered accessible to almost anybody. These benefits ... form the perfect vehicle for Reporters Without Borders' Uncensored Library, a virtual hub housing a collection of otherwise inaccessible journalism from all over the world, with specific sections devoted to Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. "In Egypt there's no free information," Reporters Without Borders media and public relations officer Kristin BĂ¤sse tells me. Mexico is the country where journalists are most at risk, she adds, with governmental and cartel interference often culminating in the death of those voices deemed dissident. "It's a different form of censorship," BĂ¤sse explains. "People don't want to publish because they're scared." "In the Mexico room we built memorials to 12 Mexican journalists who have been murdered," [said Blockworks managing director James] Delaney. Delaney tells me that the forms of censorship in Egypt are more blatant. "The articles you see in this room are actually banned," he explains. "If you live in Egypt you're unable to access them unless you come to our Minecraft server." This is the case for the Russian, Vietnamese, and Saudi Arabian sections, too. "The content you find in these rooms is illegal, but we can see from the server logins that we've already had people from all five of these countries join and read up on this information," he says.
Those debating the future of Twitter and other social-media platforms have largely fallen into two opposing camps. One supports individuals' absolute freedom of speech; the other holds that speech must be modulated through content moderation, and by tweaking the ways in which information spreads. Both sides are peddling an equally dismal vision. My purpose here is to point out a logical third option. In this approach, a platform would require users to form groups through free association, and then to post only through those groups. This simple, powerful notion could help us escape the dilemma of supporting online speech. Platforms like Facebook and Reddit have similar structures–groups and subreddits–but those are for people who share notifications and invitations to view and post in certain places. The groups I'm talking about, sometimes called "mediators of individual data" or "data trusts," are different: Members would share both good and bad consequences with one another, just like a group shares the benefits and responsibilities of a loan in microlending. This mechanism has emerged naturally ... on the software-development platform GitHub. Whatever its size, each group will be self-governing. Some will have a process in place for reviewing items before they are posted. Others will let members post as they see fit. It will be a repeat of the old story of people building societal institutions and dealing with unavoidable trade-offs, but people will be doing this on their own terms.
Note: This was written by Jaron Lanier, who is widely considered to be the "Father of Virtual Reality." Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Avery Smith ... and LaToya, a podiatrist, tied the knot in 2008. A year and a half into their marriage ... she was diagnosed with Stage 2A Melanoma. A minor surgical procedure is usually enough to cure it. But the following 18 months were revealing for Smith; on December 9th, 2011, LaToya died. He was left scarred by the experience: "I learned about going through illness while being Black," he says. Today, over a decade later, Smith is putting his skills as a software developer to work in an effort to end the racial bias and inequity in skin care that contributed to his wife's death. In 2021, he launched Melalogic, a Baltimore-based startup that provides skin health resources to people with dark skin. A 2016 study shows that the five-year survival rate of Black people with skin cancer is 65 percent, compared to 92 percent for white people. The problem is rooted in racial inequities and biases in medical research and technology. In skin cancers, for instance, AI systems have been used to drastically improve diagnosis. However, these are mostly helpful to white people because diagnostic AI datasets are trained with images of white skin. Smith teamed up with dermatologist Dr. Adewole Adamson to conduct a research project, endorsed by the American Medical Association, on machine learning and health care disparities in dermatology. It was from the research's findings that Smith conceived Melalogic, an app ... dedicated to providing Black people with skin health resources.
Certain mushroom species have the ability to consume polyurethane, one of the main ingredients in plastic products. Some scientists believe that these natural composters could be the key to cleaning up our planet. Mycoremediation is the natural process that fungi use to degrade or isolate contaminants in the environment. A 2020 study published in Biotechnology Reports found that mycoremediation applied to agricultural wastes like pesticides, herbicides, and cyanotoxins is more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and effective. A project using the mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom similar to a plant's root system) of two common mushrooms made headlines in 2014. Using Pleurotus ostreatus, also known as the oyster mushroom, and Schizophyllum commune, aka the split gill mushroom, the team was able to turn plastic into human-grade food. The mushrooms were cultivated on circular pods made of seaweed-derived gelatin filled with UV-treated plastics. As the fungus digests the plastic, it grows around the edible base pods to create a mycelium-rich snack after just a few months. According to a study by the University of Rajasthan in India, plastic-eating mushrooms can sometimes absorb too much of the pollutant in their mycelium, and therefore cannot be consumed. If more research is performed regarding the safety aspects, however, mycoremediation through mushroom cultivation could perhaps address two of the world's greatest problems: waste and food scarcity.
Huge amounts of plastic ends up rivers and oceans every year, harming the environment and potentially also human health. But what if we could pull it out of water with the power of magnets? [Chemistry student] Ferreira became determined to find a solution to remove microplastics from water. He started by designing his own spectrometer, a scientific instrument that uses ultraviolet light to measure the density of microplastics in solutions. "I could see there were a lot of microplastics in the water and they weren't just coming from big plastic breaking down in the sea," he says. It was on his local beach that Ferreira came up with a solution that could extract microplastics from water. "I found some oil spill residue with loads of plastic attached to it," he says. "I realised that oil could be used to attract plastic." Ferreira mixed vegetable oil with iron oxide powder to create a magnetic liquid, also known as ferrofluid. He then blended in microplastics from a wide range of everyday items, including plastic bottles, paint and car tyres, and water from the washing machine. After the microplastics attached themselves to the ferrofluid, Ferreira used a magnet to remove the solution and leave behind only water. Following 5,000 tests, Ferreira's method was 87% effective at extracting microplastics from water. Ferreira is currently in the process of designing a device which uses the magnetic extraction method to capture microplastics as water flows past it. The device will be small enough to fit inside waterpipes to continuously extract plastic fragments.
Note: Researchers from Australia are also finding innovative ways to rapidly remove hazardous microplastics from water using magnets. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
At Radical Family Farms, Leslie Wiser recently planted bitter melons, what she refers to as "one of our most beloved crops", a staple in many types of Asian cuisine that grows on a vine and is related to zucchini, squash and cucumber. Women like Wiser are increasingly the face of farming in California, and nationally as well. Experts say the growing presence of women in agriculture is having an impact on how the industry operates, especially in the face of generational challenges like pandemics and climate change, with research showing that women-led businesses are more likely to take a community-minded approach to how they operate and fill in gaps during crises. During the pandemic, for example ... women farmers filled the gaps in local communities for food access. Radical Family Farm stepped in to feed food-insecure seniors throughout the Bay Area when it was not safe for them to go to the grocery store or farmers' market. "A lot of this was driven by the attacks on our Asian elders during the pandemic," Wiser said. "It's still happening, with seniors afraid to walk on the streets." Her long-term goal is to dedicate one-third of the produce from her farm to seniors in the Bay Area. "It is part of my cultural heritage to honor our elders," she said, adding that her grandparents on both sides took care of her growing up, so delivering "culturally relevant produce" to seniors is meaningful. "Instead of getting bags of potatoes, they can get vegetables, produce and herbs that are familiar to them."
Crosswalks don't work. According to various studies, only between five and fifteen percent of drivers slow down at pedestrian crossings. The vast majority of drivers simply don't pay attention to them. America's deadly streetscape is the subject of The Street Project, a new PBS documentary about citizen-led efforts to make streets safer. When filmmaker Jennifer Boyd started making it, she assumed distracted driving must be behind the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths. But as she soon learned, digital screens are less of a culprit than most people realize. "Less than one percent of pedestrian deaths involved portable electronic devices," she found. Instead, she discovered that two of the biggest factors are speeding and bigger cars. If speeding and visibility are the problem and crosswalks can't stop it, color might. The Asphalt Art Initiative, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides grants to create art to modify dangerous streets. One of these projects is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where artists and residents transformed a high-traffic commercial thoroughfare with a block-long asphalt mural, while students marked safe walking paths in the area with stencils and wheat paste. Overall, according to the Initiative, "the data showed a 50 percent drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37 percent drop in crashes leading to injuries. Intersections with asphalt art saw a 17 percent reduction in total accidents."
Note: Don't miss the great pictures and video of public art available at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
An animal sanctuary in rebel-held Syria rescued a cat trapped inside its human's shop for three days, a chicken stuck in the middle of a flooding river and a dog bleeding profusely from its leg. But it couldn't save them all. "Just like humans, we had to do triage," said Mohamad Youssef, one of two veterinarians with Ernesto's Sanctuary for Cats in Syria. "But we saved a lot, and we are still searching." As hopes for rescuing earthquake survivors in northwest Syria dwindled, roughly a dozen of Ernesto's workers continued pulling out dogs, cats, goats and chickens from underneath the rubble. In a region devastated by tragedy upon tragedy, returning lost pets to owners can bring emotional comfort, and gathering up displaced farm animals ensures a steady source of food for a people largely cut off from international trade. "Humans cannot exist without dogs, without cats, without goats, without chickens," Youssef said in Arabic. "They are part of our families, like a mom or a dad. They give us food, they give us happiness, they give us comfort. We would not be without them." After a traumatic event such as an earthquake, Youssef added, pets provide a love that few humans can match, a psychological support that can be a lifeline following so much loss. They ... now have roughly 2,000 cats, 30 dogs, five monkeys, three donkeys, a horse, a fox, a chicken and a goat. Ernesto's hopes to change the culture of violence toward animals that roam the region in part by going out to villages to sterilize ownerless dogs.