We are slightly late this month, thanks to Easter, but here it is. Moneygap’s round-up of the month’s good news.
And in the month when Notre Dame burned down, Brexit was kicked into the long grass until Hallowe’en and my football team lost in the FA Cup semi-final, we need all the good news we can get. So here it is, from the robot that tidies your child’s bedroom to drunken honeybees to rural broadband…
The robot that tidies your child’s bedroom
This is the fourth in our series of good news articles and – for parents at least – this is the best news yet. The Japanese have invented a robot which will tidy your child’s bedroom. Yes, all your birthdays really have come at once, thanks to technology company Preferred Networks.
Robots are good at repetitive jobs – and they never get bored. So if you take a job like welding a car chassis in a factory, doing the same job day after day after day, a robot will be far superior to a human. But where robots struggle is with chaos – patterns that are not orderly. And what could be more disorderly than your child’s bedroom?
But in a basement in Tokyo, a tech start-up is trying to fix that. Preferred Networks are applying machine learning and AI to ‘disorderly situations.’ Essentially, it is the same technology that will be in driverless cars – but what the robots have to do here is identify every object: is that really just a piece of crumpled paper, or is it your child’s latest masterpiece? Are those underpants meant to be on the floor? And what about all these discarded sweet wrappers…
Quite clearly, if Preferred Networks get this right, there will not be a bank big enough to store their cash…
The honeybees survive Notre Dame
Not only is the Notre Dame Cathedral the spiritual home of France, but it was also home to 180,000 honeybees. As we all now know, Notre Dame was very badly damaged in a fire on 15th April, with 400 firefighters taking nine hours to put out the blaze – but the honeybees survived.
The three beehives on top of the cathedral’s roof were installed in 2013, as part of a plan to increase the number of pollinators in the French capital. The beehives were only a hundred feet above where the roof was burning, but they all survived – in fact, the bees may even have enjoyed the fire…
They have been looked after since 2013 by beekeeper Nicolas Geant, who was naturally delighted to find his bees alive and well. “Instead of killing them the Co2 from the smoke makes them drunk,” said Nicolas. “It puts them to sleep.”
This month’s Good Samaritan
Last month we reported on Middlesbrough resident Dean Moore, who gave a Scottish man a seven-hour lift to his dying mother’s bedside. This month the Good Samaritan award crosses the Atlantic and goes to police officer Roger Gemoules of Cahokia, Illinois.
Roger spotted a car been driven illegally – the licence plates had expired. He pulled the driver over, only for Ka’Shawn Baldwin to explain that he was on his way to his first job interview – and borrowing a friend’s car and driving illegally was the only way to get there.
“He was just really respectful when I pulled him over,” said Roger. “I could tell that Ka’Shawn really wanted to get to the job interview.” So rather than arrest him, Roger gave Ka’Shawn a lift to the interview: he was a few minutes late – but he got the job.
Are you disorganised? That’s great…
Would you class yourself as disorganised? I hope so – because the latest research suggests that the more disorganised you are, the smarter you are.
That is great news because right now my desk has books, pens, tissues, a cup of tea and a potted plant scattered across it. Oh, and my phone, a calculator and a ‘desk tidy’ – which I bought and which I now studiously ignore.
Steven Johnson is the author of the book: Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation and – drawing on research from bio-psychologist Robert Thatcher – he makes a simple claim: ‘the more disorganised your brain is, the smarter you are.’
He goes right back to Charles Darwin’s first encounter with a coral reef and its teeming ecosystem – literally millions of solutions to the simple problem of staying alive.
‘Wandering minds’ are, he says, more creative and ‘messy’ ideas have a profound impact on creativity. ‘Being wrong forces us to be more creative.’
I could write more on this but I need a coffee. The trouble is, I’ve lost my money on my desktop…
Smiling really does make you happier
It has long been thought that smiling makes you happy. But back in 2016, it was frowns all round as scientists failed to replicate the results of an experiment to prove that smiling made you happy.
Now a new study from Texas A&M University, pulling together data from 138 studies and more than 11,000 participants has found that yes, making facial expressions does impact the way we feel. Smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier and frowning makes them feel sadder.
So can you smile your way to happiness? Not yet, says Nicholas Coles of Texas A&M. “We still have a lot to learn, but this analysis puts us closer to understanding how emotions work.”
Faster broadband for the countryside
There is a heading I never thought that I would write. The UK’s rural areas have long struggled with slow broadband speeds, with the phone companies deciding it is not economically viable to upgrade the networks, and the UK Government letting them get away with it.
But now people are doing it for themselves: one such organisation is Broadband for the Rural North, a not-for-profit headed by former network engineer Barry Forde.
“We’re able to bring communities together,” he says, “And go across people’s land without paying for it, as it is benefitting the whole community.”
What a great idea: you have to think that Barry’s desk might just be a touch disorganised…