The Brightside Blog: volume 6

When we’re up to our eyeballs in uncertainty, consistency is comforting. So here we are, as sure as the sun rising in the east, your monthly package of positivity: The Brightside Blog volume 6. Fair warning, it’s a corker.

Goodbye pricks

No, this isn’t me going out in a blaze of rude and aggressive glory. We’re talking about something far more important, especially for those living with diabetes.

As a one-off, sure, a little finger prick doesn’t hurt too much. But anyone familiar with regular blood glucose monitoring knows the pain all too well. Imagine having to draw blood in basically the same place, several times a day — just so you can enjoy a meal.

Luckily, some of the world’s leading physicists have been hard at work on a pain-free alternative. Experts are in the process of developing a test that measures blood glucose in a patient’s saliva, removing the need for irritating finger pricks. Easier said than done, since glucose concentration in saliva is around 100 times lower than in blood.

The good news is researchers, funded by the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative, can now continue their groundbreaking work thanks to a new $6.3million research centre. Such positive financial backing will give this life-changing innovation the best chance of success, and brings lead researcher Professor Paul Dastoor’s wish closer to being granted:

“Our vision was to create a world where no one needs to bleed in order to eat”. We couldn’t agree more, Paul!

Heart starters

LUCAS-3 in action. Image from The Good News Network

Every so often, tragedy thrusts a topic into public discussion. When Danish footballer, Christian Eriksen, collapsed in his team’s match against Finland at Euro 2020, it was natural to fear the worst. He had experienced cardiac arrest and whilst he survived, not everyone is so lucky.

The incident has reiterated the importance of CPR in these life and death situations and the latest technologyis currently being trialled by the UK’s South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS). Meet LUCAS-3, a robot capable of performing the chest compressions required for CPR. It means paramedics have their hands free to take care of other vital tasks and provide a better all-round emergency response.

LUCAS-3 is being lauded as the next big thing in first-response technology, and Dr John Black, medical director at SCAS, knows exactly how important it could prove to be: “We know that delivering high quality and uninterrupted chest compressions in cardiac arrest is one of the major determinants of survival to hospital discharge, but it can be very challenging for a number of reasons”.

The early signs are that LUCAS is up to that challenge. A paramedic can transition from manual compressions to the CPR robot in just seven seconds, and it’s immune to fatigue, mistiming and stress. It performs CPR according to various inputs such as time between compressions, force of compressions, or according to the guidelines of medical institutions, making it a must-have for medics around the country.

Out of this world

Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars-based helicopter. Image from NASA.

If we ignore the slightly distasteful ‘battle of the billionaires’ space race between Bezos and Branson for a second, there’s some real, fascinating science work being done over on the big red planet.

Perseverance, the NASA rover that’s been roaming around Mars for just over a year, was also equipped with a small helicopter called Ingenuity — they must be running out of these names by now. And Ingenuity appears to be living up to its name if the latest images are anything to go by.

Having performed the first ever rotary flight around the planet earlier this year, the helicopter is now on its ninth flight — and on July 5th, it revealed details about the geography of Mars that will be crucial to completing the rover’s mission.

Its findings included images of raised ridges in an area of the planet scientists call Lake Jezero. Experts believe investigating this terrain could reveal secrets about ancient life on Mars.

As a NASA representative says: “Spying the ridges in images from Mars orbiters, scientists have wondered whether water might have flowed through these fractures at some point, dissolving minerals that could help feed ancient microbial colonies”. Beat that, Bezos.

“I can be kind”

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Kind-hearted Sebbie watering a neighbour’s plant. Image from the BBC.

We all like to believe that we’re kind at heart, and when called upon, we’ll do the right thing. But going out of your way to do good deeds for people you don’t even know is true kindness, something Lichfield-based teenager Sebbie Hall has in abundance

18-year old Sebbie — who has learning difficulties due to a rare chromosome anomaly — was asked by his mum at the start of the pandemic what he thinks he could do to raise money for those struggling in his area. His answer was simple: “I can be kind.”

From then onwards, Sebbie hasn’t looked back, performing over 1,600 selfless deeds. His acts of kindness have included walking neighbours’ pets, watering gardens, posting mail for isolating locals, washing cars — and even a boat — and baking cakes for nurses.

And thanks to his JustGiving page, Sebbie’s deeds have helped to raise nearly £30,000 for local charities. But now that things are slowly returning to something we recognise as normal, will he stop there?

“Kindness is my superpower. I’m not stopping. I want to raise more money and make people more happy”. I think that answers that one.

Naturally proficient pups

What natural talent is your doggo hiding? Image from Good News Network.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘But Point 6, we’re nearly at the end of the blog and you haven’t mentioned dogs!’

Well rest assured my friend, we couldn’t let you leave without your monthly pupdate.

We all know those people who have a natural gift in something, whether that be playing the piano, long-distance running, or arts and crafts. They just make it look so easy, and no matter how much you practice, you’ll rarely be as good as them. Well, turns out a similar trait can be found in dogs.

A study in Nature has found that, just as in humans, some particular pooches display more innate talent than others. 34 dogs from around the world were set a challenge of learning the names of more than 200 toys. (Their owners were involved too, they’re not that clever.)

Using a strictly controlled testing method, researchers assessed the dogs’ learning outcome every month. The results showed zero correlation between successful dogs and their breed or age, leaving assessors to conclude that some dogs are just innately better at it than others.

And a special shout out to Olivia the border collie who was the only one of 34 participants to learn all of the names. Well done Olivia, sending you congratulatory tummy scratches from everyone at Point 6. 

Missed the last Brightside Blog? Check out Volume 5 now! 

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