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A fortnightly convocation of science, technology, electric floating spiders, and good news. Not necessarily in that order.
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The Crunch # 62


Clean energy, coming soon. Plus, MURICA don't care bout no 'nadoes, AI crew members on the ISS, full colour 3D X-rays and good news on Ebola, plastic bans and ocean conservation. 

In our last newsletter, we asked our subscribers what subject we should cover next here at Future Crunch. The results are in. Of the 1,473 of you who cast a vote, an overwhelming 53.7% chose clean energy. The next choice was artificial intelligence, with 33.2% of the vote and in last place, space, with a dismal 13.1%. We blame Elon. 

The tribe has spoken (if you'd like to know who won the Amazon voucher it's at the end). 

After tallying the votes we set out, steely-eyed and determined to write a barnstorming story on how it's wind and solar all the way baby, and big oil is doomed... only to discover the whole thing is a lot more complicated than we thought. There's a lot of information out there and so many opinions, from pessimists like Vaclav Smil, to optimists such as Ramez Naam (it's always men by the way - if anyone knows any great female thought leaders on energy please let us know).

The further we got, the more we realised that in order to make a real contribution, we needed to write something that was comprehensive, easy to read and most importantly, accurate. And that's hard. In the words of Michael Liebrich, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “the world doesn’t need fairy stories, it needs clear thought, robust analysis and data, data, data.”

This is all a really long-winded way of saying we're not there yet. We hope you'll give us a little more time to get it right. To make up for the delay we've packed this issue full of more good news than you can shake a stick at, and our favourite 'photo' of 2018 so far. 

Thanks for your patience, and enjoy! 

Good news you probably didn't hear about 


Ireland has become the world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament. Guardian

Six sovereign wealth funds representing more than $3 trillion in assets have committed to only invest in companies that factor climate risks into their strategies. UNFCCC

In 2017, the solar industry in the United States employed 250,000 people on a full time basis. Coal industry jobs are now less than half of that, at 92,000. #MAGA. Clean Technica

Between the 17th and 23rd June, the Qinghai province in China used only hydropower, wind and solar to generate energy for 6 million people. Business Insider

Meet Ethiopia's new prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed. He's been in office for 100 days, and has already ended a 20 year war with Eritrea and released 7,600 political prisoners. BE

Less than three months since it was declared, and after only 50 cases, the latest Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been contained, largely thanks to a new vaccine. HBR

In 2003, half of Sierra Leone's population was infected with river blindness. By 2017 only 2% of the country was infected, and complete elimination is expected by 2022. Economist


The share of black men in poverty in the US has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% today, and the share in the middle class has risen from 38% to 57% in the same time. CNN

India, home to 500 million internet subscribers, has just approved the principles of net neutrality, ensuring online access is unrestricted and non-discriminatory. Times of India

Seattle has become the first US city to ban plastic straws, and New York and Virigina have become the first two states to enact laws requiring mental health education in schools. 

Thanks to anti-pollution measures, parking restrictions and new cycle lanes, the number of vehicles on the streets of Paris has fallen by 6.5% since the beginning of 2018. road.cc

75% of Americans say immigration is good for the nation, the highest share since 2001, and only 29% say it should be decreased, the lowest share since 1965. NYT

Thanks to better preparedness, the US is on track for the safest year ever for tornadoes. For only the second time on record, no one was killed in May or June. USA Today
Single use plastic bans FTW. The use of plastic bags in Holland has dropped by 71% since the government banned shops from giving them out for free in 2016. NL Times

This is extraordinary. India's second most populous state, Maharashtra, home to over 120 million people, has banned all single use plastic, including packaging. Indian Express

Spain is creating a new marine reserve for the migrations of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean, and will prohibit all future fossil fuels exploration in the area. AP

Following "visionary" steps by Belize, UNESCO has removed the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, from its list of endangered World Heritage Sites. BBC

Colombia has officially expanded the Serranía de Chiribiquete to 4.3 million hectares, making it the largest protected tropical rainforest national park in the world. WWF

Indistinguishable from magic


SpaceX just sent a new resupply to the ISS that included a floating volleyball-shaped robot named CIMON that is the station's first ever AI crew member. The Verge 

The first ever purchase on the Lightning network has been made for a pizza, by the same guy that made the first ever Bitcoin purchase in 2009 for, you guessed it - a pizza. CoinDesk

Scientists have figured out the centuries old behaviour of spiders called ballooning. They use the Earths' electric field to travel 4km up in the air, and 1,600 km out to sea. Atlantic


AI is getting closer to replacing animal testing. An algorithm predicted the toxicity of tens of thousands of unknown chemicals, and was as accurate as live animal tests. Quartz

Scientists at Yale have used CRISPR to remove a blood disease from a mouse before birth, the first time gene editing has been delivered to a mammalian fetus. Digital Trends

Caltech researchers built a neural network from synthetic DNA that recognises numbers coded in molecules < WTF DOES THIS EVEN MEAN? GO HOME SCIENCE YOU'RE DRUNK. 

A father-son team from New Zealand has created an x-ray machine that uses technology from the Large Hadron Collider to take full colour images of human bodies. Futurism

The information superhighway is still awesome


John Lanchester is one of the most astute financial commentators working today, and his ten year review of the financial crisis should be required reading for all policymakers. LRB

People say men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but the brain is a unisex organ.” Professor Lise Eliot would like us to know we're a lot more alike than we think. Atlantic

An excellent, in-depth exploration on the current state of play at Netflix, by the people at Vulture, who are doing some of the best TV reporting on the internet right now. 

Have you heard of Fortnite yet? It's the internet's newest craze. 125 million people around the world are playing the game, and parents everywhere are freaking out. Engadget

Serious times demand serious questions. The nerds at MoveHub have stepped up to the plate, using hard science and data to answer “what’s the most hipster city in the world?” 

Four people have died seeking buried treasure in the Rockies, with only a riddle as a guide. As the casualties mount, the millionaire who hid it insists it’s not a hoax. Guardian

The removal of the Elwa Dam in 2011 was the largest in US history. This wonderful video documents the return of its new, thriving ecosystem of fish, bears and plants. Nautilus

Thanks again for your patience, and apologies again for the delay.

As always, if you like this newsletter you can support us on Patreon. Be careful, we're going to end up giving all your money away.

And if you don't feel like this thing is worth the price of one cheap sock, we'd really appreciate it if you could at least encourage other people to subscribe

Much love, 

Gus and Tane


PS - congratulations to Richard Turner from the Netherlands, who won the $25 Amazon gift voucher. 
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