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Can You Get Through This Science Post Without Feeling Optimistic?

Anything’s possible when we work together...

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1. Science is advancing peace in the Middle East.

IAEA Imagebank / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: iaea_imagebank

Europe has CERN. Now, the Middle East has SESAME. It’s an experimental particle accelerator that will bring together scientists from Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey for the first time ever. After attending the opening earlier this year, CERN’s director-general Fabiola Gianotti said, “SESAME truly embodies the spirit of scientific curiosity and fruitful collaboration among people of different ethnicities, cultures, and traditions." We’re feeling the love, too.

2. There's an affordable treatment for hepatitis C.

Fillmore Photography / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: fillmorephotography

Curing a disease is a great accomplishment, but making that cure affordable to everyone has even greater public health benefits. Now, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, a group of international nonprofit organisations, together with the Egyptian company Pharco Pharmaceuticals, has developed a new hepatitis C treatment that costs just $300 instead of the existing $80,000 drug combination. This treatment is being distributed to Egyptians free of charge by government pharmaciess. Currently, 71 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C worldwide. This affordable treatment is the first step to eradicating the disease for good and has already been used to treat over 1 million people since 2014.

3. Russia and the USA are working on a moon space station.

the real Kam75 / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Via Flickr: perry-pics

Whether they’re friends or foes, it’s good to know that these two superpowers are on the same page when it comes to the stuff that really matters: moon bases. NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, announced the deal at the recent International Aeronautics Congress in Australia. The project will build on the success of the International Space Station, which has been orbiting around the Earth for almost two decades, and will act as a deep-space gateway. A lunar station sounds like a handy stopover on the way to Mars – or even further…

4. A universal flu vaccine is on the horizon.

NIAID / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: niaid

It may seem trivial, but the common flu is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every single year. Virus strains evolve quickly – it’s why getting a flu vaccine is so unreliable. During one recent winter season, it was only 3% effective. Now, a group of researchers from Lancaster University, Birmingham’s Aston University, and Complutense in Madrid think they’ve nailed the answer: targeting short fragments of the virus, called epitopes, instead of entire strains. Their universal vaccine looks like it’ll be around 88% effective on every single strain and could last for a decade or more.

5. We can turn CO2 into stone now.

GeorgeDement / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Via Flickr: georgedement

In 2012, a ragtag bunch of dreamers in Reykjavik realised you could turn carbon emissions from a nearby geothermal energy plant into stone by injecting the gas into Iceland’s rich volcanic basalt. It’s called the CarbFix project. Last year, after receiving funding from the EU and collaborating with institutions and tech partners throughout Europe, they announced 95% of the carbon dioxide stays buried hundreds of metres underground. They’re tackling climate change and rocking our world!

6. A team of refugees competed in Rio last year.

Fernando Frazão / Agência Brasil / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 BR / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Last year, for the first time ever, 10 refugees from four countries — all displaced by war or persecution — were the stars of Rio. Now the Refugee Nation has an official flag and anthem as well. A spokesperson from Amnesty International sums it up: “By giving these athletes a sense of national team, a flag and an anthem to call their own, we're sending a powerful message to all the refugees in the world… We're saying that every human being has the right to have a place to call home."

7. 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees in 12 hours.

publicresourceorg / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: publicresourceorg

India, along with most other countries in the world, has a huge problem with deforestation. As part of the Paris climate agreement, they’ve pledged to plant 95 million hectares of new forest by 2030. To kick off the pledge, an army of 1.5 million men, women, and children planted 66 million saplings in the space of 12 hours. The effort even won a world record!

8. Landfill waste from Tanzania is getting 3D-printed.

Jeffrey Attaway / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: attawayjl

Tanzania’s largest city, Dar Es Salaam, generates 400 tonnes of plastic waste every single day. Previously, there were two options for all that landfill waste – it was either burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, or it was picked up by waste collectors and shipped to China. Now, some of the best social enterprise minds are recycling the problem. They’ve launched STIClab, a new 3D-printing centre run by local engineers that buys plastic waste direct from pickers and turns it into innovative new products like circuit boards, prosthetic legs, and agricultural equipment. Better yet, the products are being sold by unemployed young people, pumping the profits right back into Dar Es Salaam’s economy.

9. Barn owls are bringing hope to the Israel–Palestine border.

ahisgett (CC BY 2.0) / Via Flickr: hisgett

After farmers in both Israel and Palestine began poisoning mice to protect their crops, researchers at Tel-Aviv University realised this practice harmed the barn owl population, who ate the mice and became poisoned too. They launched a conservation project that’s brought together ecologists from across Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, united for a common cause. Now there’s chat about doing something similar between North Korea and South Korea to cool hostilities in the region. It seems nature really knows no borders.

Faith in humanity = restored.

This year, the World Youth Forum takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh, from 4–10 November.

It’s a rare chance for young people to engage with top policy makers and network with peers from around the world. Check out the video below and head to egyouth.com to sign up.

Because when we get together and talk, we can make a real difference in the world...

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com / Via World Youth Forum

Who knows what could be possible?