The Brightside Blog: volume 5

Welcome to the latest Point 6 Brightside blog! As the sun has cruelly departed just as swiftly as it arrived, and with ‘Freedom Day’ pushed back by a month, we feel that a little bit of good news from around the world is just what the doctor ordered (though if the doctor wants to order some decent weather and maybe an end to this persistent pandemic nightmare too then I’m sure each would be well received).

For now, though, a much-needed dose of pleasantness.

Made for each other

Ever think your bond with your dog was something special? Something intrinsic? Something bestowed upon you by fate or nature or whatever name you wish to call it, because if it wasn’t then how on Earth could you and this creature be so fundamentally, buoyantly in sync? Well, your instinct was right.

Animal behaviourists at the University of Arizona conducted a study on the puppy to human connection of 375 Golden and Labrador Retrievers. The study was done to examine whether human-canine communication, specifically pointing gestures, were an onboard biological ability or a learned trait through exposure to humans, and whether the skill was passed through genetic heritage.

The study found that reliably following human pointing gestures—a skill even chimpanzees, our closest animal relatives, are unable to do—was just as prevalent in 8-week-old puppies as it was in adult dogs.

What’s more, their ability to follow a human finger to a hidden treat did not improve over time, rather hovering consistently around a 67% success rate. This suggested to the authors that the puppies were born with the ability, no learning required. The saying dictates that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, when it comes to new dogs, it turns out, you don’t even need to. Humans and dogs were simply designed to be best friends. Science says so.

Can’t get you out of my head

You may love it, it may be driving you crazy, but that song that’s stuck in your head—the one that’s followed you to work, around the supermarket, in the shower, under the covers and essentially been a steady stand-in for your shadow for longer than you’d care to fathom—may actually be helping to improve your long-term memory.

The existence of an associative link between music and memory has long been understood by scientists, but as Petr Janata, UC Davis professor of psychology and co-author of a new study on the subject, states: “What hasn’t been understood to date is how those memories form in the first place and how they become so durable, such that just hearing a bit of a song can trigger vivid remembering.”

This new research offers an initial glimpse into these mechanisms and finds that the songs that get stuck in your head help the process of strengthening memories as they first form, placing recent experiences directly into the long-term memory bank.

So next time you wake up overawed by shame-inducing flashbacks of giving a drunken, word-perfect rendition of Shaggy’s ‘It Wasn’t Me’ at a late-night kebab shop (who’s to say if this is written from experience?) then alleviate those regrets with the knowledge that you were simply sharpening that brain of yours into a healthier long-term state.

Diamond geezer

In 1993, Meat Loaf famously sang, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”, forever leaving the world at large to speculate as to what the that in question could possibly be. While we may never know the answer, I’d hazard a guess that at least one of Meat Loaf’s that’s might be travelling 2000 miles across the United States in the speculative hope of personally mining a diamond for your fiancée’s engagement ring. And, better yet, finding one.

If that’s the case, then it’s Christian Liden one, Meat Loaf nil.

The 26-year-old Washington resident made a six-day journey to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas in the hope of fulfilling his longstanding childhood dream of creating a one-of-a-kind, DIY engagement ring for his future spouse. Now engaged, Christian finally had his chance to make this dream a reality, and after three days of hard mining a 37-acre search zone later, he fulfilled his wish. In some style, too.

Christian pulled a 2.2 carat yellow diamond from the dirt and named it Washington Sunshine. Quest complete.

So next time your partner insists it’s your turn to drag yourself up from the sofa and make the laboured trip to the front door to accept the takeaway from the delivery driver, take inspiration from Christian—rather than Meat Loaf—and do the that.

Absolutely buzzing

‘Vaccine’ may be the buzz word of 2021, so perhaps it’s fitting that our world’s bees will be buzzing a little longer due to a newly invented vaccine designed to save them from malignant pesticides.

James Webb, a student at Cornell University, has invented a pollen-sized micro-particle that contains a compound which neutralises one of the most toxic and commonly used pesticides bees encounter, malathion.

Beemunnity, as the product is known, contains an enzyme that enters the digestive system and breaks down the malathion before it reaches the bee’s brain. It was found by a Nature journal study to prevent 100% of bee deaths caused by exposure to malathion.

The vital ecological role bees play on our planet is well-documented, so anything that keeps the sting in their tail that little bit longer is well worth celebrating.

There were 14,000 green bottles hanging on the wall…

Allow us to say something radical: humans use too much plastic and it’s bad for the planet. Yep, you heard it here first. We all need to cut down in whatever small ways we can. Or find ingenious methods of turning our dastardly plastic into something useful, like, say, a sustainable construction business that builds houses entirely from discarded plastic bottles. Oh wow, would you look at that, some wonderful humans in Nigeria have already done that.

The homes are offered for lower prices, the structures are capable of withstanding earthquakes and even bullets, with Al Jazeera reporting that this so-called ‘bottle-brick technology’ produces walls 18-times stronger than regular bricks.

The project employs out-of-school or jobless youth to fill the bottles with sand, before stacking them amid a glue of traditional mud technology and securing the outside with a net. As many as 14,000 plastic bottles go into making each house, with the staff at the Development Association for Renewable Energies hoping to pitch the project to the Nigerian government in order to secure additional funding.

The project may be the definition of making the best of a bad situation, and it’s hard not to find inspiration in the delightful people at its centre. 

That’s all until next time — feel free to check out the other editions of the Brightside Blog for more good news. 

  • 25th June 2021
  • 6 min read
  • Robert Darke
  • Categories

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