Pandas are no longer endangered
In September, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature moved panda bears from their “endangered” list to merely “vulnerable.” And pandas aren’t the only ones. The fuzzy creatures that inspired teddy bears got de-red-listed, and monarch butterfly populations seem to be bouncing back as well. Keep up the good work, guys.
SpaceX sticks the landing
Remember that time, back in April, when SpaceX made history by landing its rocket on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean? That was pretty cool. It was also kind of a big deal. Landing on a moving platform makes it easier for the company to recover and (hopefully one day) reuse their rocket boosters, which could cut the costs of going to space by 30 percent.
Virtual Reality for Regular People: Sony Playstation VR
The strict requirements of high-def VR gaming require beefy PCs to use. The PlayStation VR makes the experience plug-and-play for Sony’s more than 40 million preexisting PS4 owners. Unlike cheapo phone-based systems (think Google Cardboard), the headset delivers full 1080p images to each eye and a wide 100-degree field of view. Titles like Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One are the closest you’ll get to sitting in an X-Wing. $400
Hero judge defies petroleum industry, lets kids sue government over climate change
The world is heating up, and the next generation is going to have to bear the brunt of the melting ice caps, drying farmlands, wildfires, and more severe storms. But thanks to Oregon judge Ann Aiken, a group of 21 youths has won the right to sue the government for failing to curb climate change. This strategy worked last year in the Netherlands, when a court ruled that the government “has to ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 percent lower than those in 1990.”
A virus that fights cancer
Scientists have long known that viruses could trigger the immune system to attack cancer, but modifying the viruses without affecting our resistance to them has taken time. In late 2015, IMLYGIC became the first FDA-approved viral cancer drug. Green-lit to treat melanoma, the modified herpes virus is injected into a tumor, where it may ignite an immune response to the cancer.
Artist’s concept of a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. This particular planet was catalogued in 2005 as 2003UB313.
WhatsApp encryption makes 1 billion people safer
Starting in April, WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption for voice calls and texting, making it much harder for the NSA or third-parties to snoop on our conversations.
New nature preserves
Thanks, Obama! No, really, thank you for setting up marine preserves in Antarctica and the Atlantic Ocean. The penguins, orcas, and octopi that live there would probably thank you, too, if they could.
A vaccine for dengue
Every year, 400 million people contract dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease that causes high fever, severe headaches, vomiting, and sometimes death. This year, the World Health Organization started recommending the first vaccine to prevent dengue, and inoculations have begun in hot zones like Brazil and the Philippines.
A potentially habitable neighbor
The exoplanet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system, in an artist’s impression.
Solar Impulse II flies over the Golden Gate Bridge
The ozone hole is healing
The giant hole in the ozone layer that protects Earth from UV radiation has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles since its peak in 2000, thanks to a combination of a reduction in CFCs and changing weather patterns.
When a Tasmanian devil is ready to give birth, she sticks her rear in the air and “the joeys dribble in the mucus” down into her pouch, says Devil Ark general manager Tim Faulkner. The four joeys that reach her teats first will spend several months developing in her pouch before emerging to ride on her back.