Good News: A robot that helps wheelchair users walk, and how the book business is booming

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Welcome to another episode of the Good News round-up. Today we’re covering new research on a way to help plants survive extreme heat; an exoskeleton that is allowing wheelchair users to walk; how the books business is booming; a study that says friends appreciate being contacted more than we think; and how macaws that were extinct in the wild have made a flying comeback in Brazil.

Watch the video above for more on each story, or read on below.

1. New research on a way to help plants survive extreme heat

Scientists from the US and Chinese universities have discovered that at high temperatures, plants are unable to produce a hormone called salicylic acid, which helps them fight pathogens and pests.

They experimented with a plant called thale cress and discovered that many of the genes that were “switched off” at high temperatures were controlled by a master gene called CBP60g.

When this master gene got too hot it stopped functioning. And under heat stress, the plant’s immunity was compromised.

Scientists think that if they create a mutant plant with the CBP60g gene permanently turned on, its defence system will be maintained even in fierce temperatures.

If they are able to reproduce the same heat resistance in common crops, it could prevent food crises during periods of extreme heat.

Read the full story by Euronews’ Rebecca Ann Hughes here.

2. An exoskeleton is helping wheelchair users walk

A French company has been busy creating a bionic future for people living with disabilities thanks to a new robotised exoskeleton.

Wandercraft’s invention enables wheelchair-bound people to stand up, walk and do most simple tasks.

Their goal is to allow people living with disabilities to be independent and to give elderly people the chance to walk again.

The exoskeleton takes just a couple of minutes to put on, and Kevin Piette, who lost the use of his legs 10 years ago, says he can do it by himself.

“The first time you stand up is pretty impressive because you can do it very easily, very quietly, comfortably. And then you have this upright posture that you had actually forgotten about,” said Piette to Euronews Next.

“It’s also really nice to be able to be at the same level as people instead of always looking up at them from below.”

Being able to stand up also brings health rewards. Piette says it has improved his blood flow, which helped his digestion and also allowed him to reduce the amount of medication he takes.

The latest model of the exoskeleton is also being used in hospitals to help with the rehabilitation process.

Read the full story by Euronews’ Pascale Davies here.

3. The books business is booming

E-readers are great, but nothing beats the smell of a book.

Two years ago, the future of independent bookselling looked bleak. But something unexpected happened.

In some unexpected happy news, bookshops across the US are booming, according to the New York Times.

The paper is reporting that more than 300 bookstores have opened in the past couple of years — and the revival is attributed to consumer demand for “real recommendations from real people.”

Existing bookshops have also reported an increase in profits, according to a recent survey. The American Booksellers Association found that some 80 per cent of respondents said they saw higher sales in 2021 than in 2020, and nearly 70 per cent said their sales last year were higher than in 2019.

Back In Europe, the second-hand book business is also booming.

Graham Bell, CEO at World of Books, says the sustainability aspect has driven demand.

His company sells a book every two seconds, totalling 18 million sales a year, and it grew 30 per cent in 2021.

E-books, on the other hand, were predicted to bring about the end of the paper book, but have plateaued at 20 per cent of the market share.

4. A study that says friends appreciate being contacted more than we think

A new study says that getting in touch with that old friend you’ve been meaning to call will be much more appreciated than you might think.

And the greater the surprise, the greater the appreciation, says a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

After conducting experiments with nearly 6,000 people (which is substantial, many skincare brands test their miraculous products on a couple of dozen), scientists have found people consistently underestimate how much others in their social circle might appreciate an unexpected phone call, text or email just to say hello.

“People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” said Peggy Liu, PhD, lead author of the study from the University of Pittsburgh.

5. Macaws make a flying comeback in Brazil

The bright blue Spix’s macaw, a species that once died out in the wild, is back flying in the skies of its homeland Brazil after a remarkable international rescue project.

The species had suffered a gradual process of extinction due to the destruction of its habitat and its capture for the illegal wildlife trade.

In the 1970s and 1980s, two traffickers were responsible for removing 23 macaws from the wild. In 1986, the last known wild population was down to three birds. By 1990, only one male remained. Ten years later, there were no more birds of the species left other than those in captivity.

Their apparent extinction from their natural habitat caused a worldwide commotion and the bird became one of the symbols of biodiversity loss. It was even portrayed in the US animated feature film “Rio”.

But after an agreement with the German breeding centre ACTP, 52 macaws were brought back to Brazil two years ago.

Fast forward to today, when a flock of Spix’s macaws soars freely over its natural habitat.

Later this year, conservationists plan to release more birds and hope the parrots will start breeding in the wild next spring.

And if you’re still hungry for more positive news, there’s more above.