Finding some good news amid all the bad
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2022 (182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
GRIM news abounds, including destructive hurricanes, a madman in the Kremlin who says he’s not bluffing about the possibility of using a nuclear weapon, and the ongoing evidence that the climate is warming toward a point that will endanger humans.
Not to downplay the seriousness of such issues, but there’s also plenty of encouraging news. A good place to look for uplifting reports is the frontier of technology, where scientists pursue breakthroughs that can improve our lives and might even help save our planet.
These heroes in white lab coats are our best hope that the human race can innovate its way out of trouble. Here are some examples of what the geniuses are working on:
COMMENDABLE CRASH LANDING
NASA intentionally crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid on Monday, the first ever such experiment. They guided the spacecraft on a 10-month, 9.6-million-kilometre voyage and scored a direct hit. Bulls-eye!
NASA called it a “planetary defence test,” in case it’s ever necessary to nudge an asteroid’s trajectory away from Earth.
In the 1998 disaster movie Armageddon starring Bruce Willis, a nuclear bomb is exploded within an asteroid that’s heading to Earth. The real-life drama at NASA this week warrants more glowing reviews than any H0llywood script.
SMART CONTACT LENSES
Engineers at MoJo Vision are developing contact lenses that are wired to replace our phone screens.
Bloomberg technology reporter Pharmy Olson reports about a visit to the laboratory in Saratoga, California, where engineers are “churning out prototypes of smart contact lenses stuffed with tiny circuits, batteries and tiny displays.”
Olson tested the technology, which includes augmented reality (AR) that lets online feeds blend into the view of the real world. “I direct a small cursor simply by moving my eye. I could read from a teleprompter that showed a series of words as I moved my eye, and looked around the room to see arrows pointing north and west, designed to help with outdoor navigation. To close the app, I’d look away for a full second.”
MoJo Vision is not alone in this exciting field. Apple is expected to launch a mixed-reality headset later this year, and is also developing AR glasses for possible release later this decade. Facebook reportedly expects to launch its first AR glasses in 2024.
DIY HEARING AIDS
Teams of acousticians and engineers who develop new models of hearing aids were given powerful incentive on Aug. 16 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for over-the-counter hearing aids that could be as inexpensive as US$300 for a device.
The change means U.S. consumers will be able to bypass doctors and hearing specialists and buy hearing aids directly from stores or online retailers.
It’s still unknown whether Canada will follow the U.S. in this regard, but it should. In this country, hearing aids cost between $1,000 to $4,000 per ear, and are usually not covered by insurance. A prescription by a doctor or audiologist is mandatory.
The many Canadians whose hearing loss is only mild to moderate, without complications, would welcome the opportunity to diagnose themselves with an online hearing test and order their own hearing aids at a fraction of the current price.
WINNIPEG TRANSIT GOING ELECTRIC
At long last, Winnipeg is moving forward with electric vehicles. On Sept. 15, the city issued a request for proposals seeking companies to provide its first round of environmentally friendly buses.
The first batch of 16 buses — eight battery electric and eight fuel-cell battery electric — should be quietly riding routes on Winnipeg street by 2024. The city has committed to add about 100 zero-emission buses to its fleet by 2027.
Here’s hoping the success of electric buses will prompt governments to take the next step and provide adequate charging infrastructure so more Manitoba motorists can finally make the switch with their personal vehicles.
BREWING UP GOOD HEALTH
And finally, for those enjoying a coffee as they read the morning newspaper, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reported Monday a new study of 43,000 people that concluded drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is associated with increased longevity and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Go ahead, enjoy a refill.
Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.
Senior copy editor
Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.