The week's good news: March 23, 2023
In rural Madagascar, a clean water tap empowers woman to follow her dream
Clean water changed everything for one family in rural Madagascar. Before a tap was put in her community, Honorine got up at 3 a.m. to walk several miles for water, which was dirty and made her family sick. Recently, Helvetas installed a clean water pump in her community, and "when the tap was finished, everybody screamed," Honorine told charity: water. "The children and the adults alike all yelled, 'The water pump is finished! The water pump is finished!'" Immediately, life was easier. Honorine could stay home and bilharzia, a disease caused by parasites that live in dirty water, was no longer plaguing the community. The clean water also allowed Honorine to follow her dream of opening a restaurant. Her days are now spent baking bread, making soup, and welcoming diners to her café, and the money she makes ensures her family always has enough food and her children's school fees are paid. "This restaurant is my job now, and I find it wonderful," she said. "We are happy. Really happy."
Global happiness has been 'remarkably resilient' over the past three years
The World Happiness Report, released Monday, ranks the happiest countries in the world based on average life evaluations in 150 nations. There's good news: happiness remained "remarkably resilient" over the past three years, with global averages aligning with the three years before the pandemic. "Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support twice as strong as those of loneliness," report co-author John Helliwell told CNN. "Benevolence to others, especially the helping of strangers, which went up dramatically in 2021, stayed high in 2022." Finland also continues its streak as the world's happiest country for the sixth year. The report evaluates a country's happiness based on GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, perceptions of corruption, and dystopia. "Finland seems to excel here because of the Finnish welfare system's ability to help its citizens feel taken care of," Aalto University lecturer Frank Martela said.
Smart telescopes offer a 'transformative' experience for citizen scientists
Scott Kardel is seeing the night sky in a brand new way. An astronomy professor at Palomar College in California, he bought a Unistellar smart telescope at the start of the pandemic. Operated through a smartphone app, it has an electronic eyepiece that delivers more precise images, and Kardel can connect to Zoom to show his students a live view of the sky. Compared to a traditional telescope, "It is just transformative," Kardel told The Week. It also makes it easier for amateur astronomers to turn into citizen scientists. Unistellar users can collect and submit astronomical data to the SETI Institute, which takes these observations and analyzes them. That's what happened in September, when Kardel and several other users observed and tracked the Dimorphos asteroid before, during, and after it was hit by NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft. The SETI Institute used their observations to confirm Dimorphos was nudged enough to change its orbit, and Kardel and the other citizen scientists were listed as co-authors of a research paper published in Nature. This, Kardel said, was "pretty exciting."
Radiated tortoise Mr. Pickles becomes a first-time father at 90 years old
This is a really big dill. Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise and the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo, became a father for the first time last week. Mr. Pickles and his 53-year-old partner, Mrs. Pickles, welcomed three hatchlings: Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. Radiated tortoises, which can live for up to 150 years, are critically endangered and rarely produce offspring, Houston Zoo officials said. Zoo workers noticed Mrs. Pickles laying her eggs, and they quickly moved them to the Reptile and Amphibian House, where they could hatch under the right temperature and humidity levels. "If you don't see the female actually digging a hole and laying the eggs, it can very easily be missed," Jon Rold, supervisor of herpetology and entomology at the Houston Zoo, told The New York Times. "And if it is missed and the eggs don't get in the proper setup soon enough, they just won't develop."
More companies are cutting insulin prices
After years of urging by patient advocates, companies are lowering the costs of insulin, a move that could help millions of Americans. French drugmaker Sanofi announced last week that it will slash prices of its insulin by up to 78 percent, and cap out-of-pocket costs on its most popular version of the life-saving diabetes medicine, Lantus, at $35 per month for patients with private insurance. Sanofi is the third major insulin producer to make drastic price cuts; Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly recently cut U.S. insulin prices up to 75 percent and 70 percent, respectively. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act capped Medicare beneficiaries' insulin costs at $35 a month. A 2020 survey by advocacy group T1International found 1 in 4 Type 1 diabetes patients rationed insulin due to the drug's cost.