Good News Tuesday

Whenever I let something else preempt a Good News Tuesday post, the good news — and the interesting news and the mysterious but cool news — really piles up. Got a lot here this week. Where to start, where to start … maybe with medical good news, always something that catches my eye, as I’m sure you have all noticed.

Here is something that may help a whole lot of people with failing vision:

Organic semiconductor could reverse degenerative blindness

An organic retinal implant designed in Italy can stimulate retinal neurons and send signals to the brain, restoring near-normal vision indefinitely to rats with degenerative blindness without causing apparent damage to the rats’ eyes.

Here’s another article about (I’m pretty sure) the same thing:

Scientists Have Created an Artificial Retina Implant That Could Restore Vision to Millions

And I know we always see “a cure for cancer” right on the horizon, and then it turns out to be more complicated than we had hoped. Still, this is promising:

Cancer Pill Gleevec Keeps Patients Alive and Well for a Decade

Everyone hopes and wishes for that last-minute cancer breakthrough that will save doomed patients. It almost never actually happens. With Gleevec, it did.

The once-a-day pill turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, from a certain death sentence into a manageable disease. Now data shows it’s helped 83 percent of patients live 10 years or longer.

There are side effects. But shoot, with results like those, this looks like a great start. Given something at works this well, it ought to be possible to come up with related drugs that work even better and with fewer side effects. Faster, please! Far too many of us are going to die of cancer. Let’s see that become a much rarer cause of death — preferably this decade.

The whole article is good — if you have a minute, click through and read the whole thing.

And you know, if all goes well, we will REALLY want cures for all the cancers because we won’t be dying of much else:

Harvard geneticist says CRISPR has potential to reverse effects of aging

That’s a video, so I can’t quote a snippet. But, onward! Let us by all means reverse the effects of aging. This would be a fantastic decade to make major strides in that direction … speaking as someone who is starting to feel her age.

Moving on from medicine, here’s a new development in technology:

German institute successfully tests underwater energy storage sphere

A German research institute has spent years trying to tailor pumped storage to ocean environments. Recently, the institute completed a successful four-week pilot test using a hollow concrete sphere that it placed on the bottom of Lake Constance, a body of water at the foot of the Alps. The sphere has a diameter of three meters and contains a pump and a turbine. Much like traditional pumped storage, when electricity is cheap, water can be pumped out of the sphere, and when it’s scarce, water can be let into the sphere to move the turbine and generate electricity. … In an underwater “energy park,” dozens of these spheres could be connected near an offshore wind farm to create a system that would be able to add extra reliability to a renewable-heavy grid.

This isn’t an area I understand all that well, but it sounds promising. Unreliability of wind power is a big problem. Maybe this could help solve that issue.

And in the category of wild-and-crazy-astronomy, we have this:

Astronomers Just Found a Star Orbiting a Black Hole at 1 Percent the Speed of Light

Astronomers have just spotted a star whizzing around a vast black hole at about 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and it takes only half an hour to complete one orbit. … For the black hole to overcome the white dwarf’s own intense gravity, the bodies need to be fairly close together. Over time, as material is stripped away, the now-lighter white dwarf would slip a little further back.

“Eventually so much matter may be pulled away from the white dwarf that it ends up only having the mass of a planet,” said researcher Craig Heinke. “If it keeps losing mass, the white dwarf may completely evaporate.”

Neat, eh?

Also this:

Could Mysterious Cosmic Light Flashes Be Powering Alien Spacecraft?

Bizarre flashes of cosmic light may actually be generated by advanced alien civilizations, as a way to accelerate interstellar spacecraft to tremendous speeds, a new study suggests. … a transmitter capable of generating FRB-like signals could drive an interstellar spacecraft weighing 1 million tons or so, Lingam and Loeb calculated.

“That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances,” Lingam said in the same statement.

Yeah, well, the use of the word “study” in this quote is highly imprecise phrasing, as I think the author of the post simply means, “A team studying fast radio bursts is enjoying wild speculation about their weird findings.”

Still … their findings are pretty weird.

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