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The week in good news: Rat selfies, space pics and a lesson from Elmo

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Someone recently asked me what my “process” is for writing this newsletter. You get that question a lot in this line of work, and I assume people are waiting for a sophisticated answer like, “Oh, I pour myself a cup of decaf green tea and take notes in a leather-bound book full of brilliant ideas until the spirit of Joan Didion or whoever guides my eager mind.” Sadly, that is not the case. Mostly I just frown at my computer screen until a thought materializes. Sometimes I get up and walk into another room, forget why I’m there, then move to the window and watch the birds, and then sit down again hoping something has shaken loose. It’s really not that glamorous. Very rarely, no inspiration comes at all. Of course, that’s very rare. Definitely not happening right now! I guess it’s time for another bird break.

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Our favorites this week

Get going with some of our most popular good news stories of the week

Getty Images
Getty Images

What a friend we have in Elmo
Oh, Elmo. Our lovable friend from Sesame Street walked straight into a steaming pile of sad this week when he checked in with his followers on X — formerly known as Twitter — to ask how they were doing. To summarize the many, many replies: Not so great, Elmo! Thanks for asking. People were being so open with the fuzzy little guy that all of his Sesame Street friends on X, along with the main Sesame Street account, started posting more messages of support for people going through a rough time. The whole thing was kind of funny in a dark way. More than that, it was surprisingly heartwarming: Saying you’re not doing well takes courage, and people were more than ready to be vulnerable with a trusted childhood icon. As Elmo said in one response,  “Wow! Elmo is glad he asked. Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing.” I wrote about the nice little social media moment here and talked to a therapist about ways you can open up to a friend — or be that all-important listening ear.

Vasiliy Koval/36976562/Vasiliy Koval - stock.adobe.com
Vasiliy Koval/36976562/Vasiliy Koval - stock.adobe.com

Say cheese!
Apparently rats like taking selfies! What a lovely little fact to carry around. Artist Augustin Lignier witnessed the adorable behavior after he bought two rats as pets in 2021. He built them an elaborate cage and, using a mechanism that gave the rodents sugar whenever they pressed a button, he trained them to take pictures of themselves. The project is a commentary on the notions of pleasure, reward and the addictive behaviors induced by social media. Lignier says the images offered a “playful” way to explore topics like reduced attention spans and the impact of social media algorithms. After taking selfies for a few days, the pair was sent to Lignier’s mother’s house in the Provence region of France to live out the rest of the rodent days in peace (and anonymity).

Read the whole story here.

The future is locked in
A South African entrepreneur who designed a smart locker system that improves access to health care has won a major award for African engineering. Neo Hutiri is the creator of Pelebox, a system of internet-enabled lockers that dispense medication for chronic conditions to patients. This secure approach helps cut down on lines and wait times and eases pressure on hospital resources. For his future-changing device, Hutiri was awarded £50,000 ($63,000) by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The event marked the 10-year anniversary of the Academy’s prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which recognizes entrepreneurs who have developed technology to address local challenges on the continent, from improving access to power to adapting to climate change.

Read the whole story here.

You gotta see this

This collection of 19 face-on spiral galaxies from the James Webb Space Telescope in near- and mid-infrared light is at once overwhelming and awe-inspiring. - NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team
This collection of 19 face-on spiral galaxies from the James Webb Space Telescope in near- and mid-infrared light is at once overwhelming and awe-inspiring. - NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team

Yep, we can definitely see the family resemblance! The James Webb Space Telescope has captured mind-expanding portraits of 19 spiral galaxies and the millions of stars that call them home. The telescope’s ability to observe the universe in different wavelengths of infrared light, such as near-infrared and mid-infrared, showcases the stars, gas and dust within the intricate structure of each galaxy. Our own little solar system resides in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way.

Read the whole story here.

Hear, hear!

Resist the lie that violence and destruction are inevitable, that this is the way it has to be. We have a responsibility to imagine another way to be human.

— writer Cole Arthur Riley

Shameless animal video

This week’s video comes from a retired postman who set up a camera to capture who had been tidying up his garden shed at night. (Click here to view)

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