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FC100: Indistinguishable From Nature

Plus, ice craters on Mars, the best science fiction movie of the last three decades, and good news on funding for the WHO, prison rates in the US, and conservation in Pakistan.

Future Crunch
Future Crunch

Good news you might not have heard about

The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to a global ceasefire, adopting a resolution that demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities around the world, in order to unite efforts to fight the coronavirus in vulnerable countries. UN

COVID-19 is poised to usher in the biggest retreat for global meat eating in decades. Global per-capita consumption in 2020 will fall to the lowest in nine years, and the 3% drop from last year represents the biggest decline since at least 2000. Bloomberg

Meet Hasina Kharbhih, whose NGO, has, in the past two decades rescued over 72,000 women and children trafficked across India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. Ozy

This one got swamped by pandemic news, but it’s still a big deal - Congo has declared the second-largest Ebola outbreak ever is over after two years. Channel News Asia

Germany will almost double funding for the WHO this year, contributing more than half a billion euros. "We need a strong, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever," said the country’s Health Minister Jens Spahn. DW

The US Supreme Court has passed a landmark ruling protecting LGBTQIA+ citizens from workplace discrimination. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the decision: “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that person based on sex.” BBC

The US imprisonment rate is at its lowest level in more than two decades, with the greatest decline coming among black Americans, whose imprisonment rate has decreased by 34% since 2006. Pew

… and as rates fall, former prisons, jails, and detention centers are being converted from facilities that confine people into ones that support them, such as mental health clinics, community centres and homes for former convicts. FreeThink

Georgia’s parliament has passed a landmark democratic reform, bringing the distribution of parliamentary seats into line with the national vote results, and ending the excessive consolidation of power by a single political group. Eurasia

Volkswagen, one of the world’s biggest carmakers, just produced its last ever combustion vehicle at Zwickau, one of its biggest factories in Germany. That factory is now Europe’s largest electric vehicle plant. Next Web

California has approved a groundbreaking policy to wean its trucking sector off diesel, requiring manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles from 2024, a ‘major step’ toward reducing the state’s emissions. Reuters

Amazon India has eliminated all single-use plastic in its packaging across fulfillment centers in the country, and local rival Flipkart says it has cut down the usage of plastic packaging in its own supply chain to about 50%. Reuters

Germany has agreed to end the sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and food containers from July 2021, bringing it in line with a European Union directive intended to reduce the amount of plastic waste. DW

Pakistan has just announced the creation of 15 new national parks, expanding protected areas from 12% to 15% of the country, and creating 5,000 ‘guardians of nature’ jobs for young people in the next three months.  Gulf News

More than two million people gathered in northern India last week, and planted 250 million trees to tackle climate change. AP

You know those online petitions? Sometimes they work. Following a campaign that garnered more than 280,000 e-mails from concerned shoppers, beauty retailer Sephora has banned mink-fur eyelashes. Independent

Following a concerted reintroduction effort two decades ago, Kentucky is now home to the largest population of elk east of the Mississippi. Their homes are the hillsides of former coal mines. NYT

Indistinguishable from magic

It’s one thing knowing there’s ice on Mars, another actually seeing it. Check out this flyover of the 2km deep Korolev crater on the planet's northern polar cap. Youtube

Alphabet Loon has just switched on its first fully commercial service: 35 floating balloons providing 4G internet across an area of 50,000 km² in the western and central areas of Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi. The Verge

NASA engineers are using generative design algorithms to help them fabricate portable life support systems for their next generation space suits, reducing the mass of some components by up to 50%. Wired

A San Diego startup has launched the world’s first autonomous freight network, a 50 truck service operating between six major cities in Arizona and Texas. Vox

Australian researchers have genetically modified cotton to make it naturally-coloured, a breakthrough they hope will remove the need for harmful chemical dyes. ABC

Scientists from Duke University have invented a hydrogel that’s finally strong enough to replace arguably the most amazing substance in the human body: the cartilage in human knees. Science Alert

Engineers at Festo have built one of the most beautiful, elegant machines we’ve ever seen, a bionic swift (any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature). Youtube

Off the beaten track in the dark forest

What’s the greatest science fiction movie of the last three decades? Clue - humanity gets its ass kicked, and the themes almost perfectly align with the current political moment in the United States. New Yorker

Great interview with sex anthropologist, Helen Fisher. “We’ve evolved three distinctly different brain systems for mating and reproduction: sex drive, feelings of intense, romantic love, and feelings of deep attachment.” Nautilus

This translated essay, The Coronavirus Pandemic and a Once-in-a-Century Change, from one China’s most respected international affairs scholars, Yuan Peng, is an excellent window into how the country views this current geopolitical moment.

If you’ve visited a yoga studio at any point in the last decade, chances are you’ve heard the strains of at least some of this 2014 sunset set from Above & Beyond. Beloved by yogis everywhere, for good reason. Soundcloud

Someone asked Twitter for recommendations on the best essays ever written and now there’s a list and it’s amazing. Start by picking only three, don’t choose more you’ll be overwhelmed, and give yourself plenty of time and space to read. Notion

Pankaj Mishra gives us a political economy masterclass on the implosion of Anglo-American capitalism. “COVID-19 has shattered what John Stuart Mill called ‘the deep slumber of a decided opinion’, forcing many to realise that they live in a broken society, with a carefully dismantled state.” LRB

You know that thing you’re doing every night? It’s called doomscrolling, and you really need to stop. The promise of good news or some kind of answer always feels one click away. It’s not, or at least, you won’t find it in the news or on social media. Wired

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

You might have noticed that we haven’t made much of a fuss about the fact that it’s our 100th issue. Instead, we’re going to reserve our celebrations for the 101st, which is, naturally a prime number. Too nerdy? Possibly, but there you go. We’re making a big announcement, so make sure you don’t miss it.

Thanks as always for the support and encouragement. We try to respond to everyone who writes in, even if it does take us a while. Hope you’re doing alright out there amongst all the madness.

Much love,

FC HQ


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We're a team of science communicators. Our mission is to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and create a 21st century that works for people and the planet.