5 Motivational Stories: Optimism, SALTO robot and Paris Car Ban - Dispatch Weekly

December 8, 2016 - Reading time: 9 minutes

Winter may bring cold, Trump may bring uncertainty and PewDiePie’s plans to quit YouTube if he gets 50m subscribers may bring you to tears (or not); but don’t fret because we’ve found 5 motivational stories to perk up your mood, making you believe in humanity again.

#1 How Can Women Live Longer? By Being Optimistic

According to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, having a positive outlook on your life could boost your mood and health, helping women to live longer.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, discovered that:

optimistic women had a lower risk of dying from diseases such as: respiratory disease, cancer, strokes and heart disease, compared to women who were not as positive.

The study stated that, “It has been demonstrated in randomized trials that optimism can be learned. If associations between optimism and broader health outcomes are established, it may lead to novel interventions that improve public health and longevity.”

Researchers examined data from 70,000 women who took the Nurses’ health Study, tracking health every two years from 2004-2012.

Results showed those in the top 25 percent had nearly 30 percent lower risk of dying from the major diseases, compared to the least optimistic participants from the lowest 25 percent.

The most optimistic women had:

  • A 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.
  • A 38 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.
  • A 39 percent lower risk of dying from stroke.
  • A 38 percent lower risk of dying from respiratory disease.

Eric Kim, research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-lead author of the study said:

“Our new findings suggest that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges.”

#2 SALTO Robot Does Parkour

Photo Credit: Stephen McNally/UC Berkeley

SALTO, Saltatorial Locomotion on Terrain Obstacles, a 26cm tall robot, made by UC Berkeley researchers has been created to be the most agile jumper in robotics that could be used in future search and rescue missions.

The study, published in the journal Science Robotics, documented how the small robot is able to jump 2.25 meters despite its tiny size and mere 100-gram weight.

Energy is stored in its crouched legs, which instantly jumps, allowing it to double bounce off walls and surfaces.

The design was inspired by observations on the galago, or bush baby, which is one of the best jumpers in the animal kingdom. The galago can jump five times in four seconds to almost 28 feet.

It has a tail that controls direction mid-flight which helps with bouncing off surfaces, like parkour experts.

The research that was supported by the US Army Research Laboratory could be helpful in the future for rescue missions.

#3 Young Women Who Have Frequent Sex Have Better Memory


Research from McGill University, Canada, found that young women who have sex regularly remembered abstract words, suggesting that frequent sex led to better memory.

The study involved 78 women under 30, undergoing memory tests and questionnaires as well as answering questions on oral birth control and sexual behaviors using people’s faces and abstract words.

The results were published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior and examined whether sex influenced memory and neurogenesis (growth of nervous tissue).

The researchers concluded that those who had more sex were better able to recall abstract words although their scores for remembering faces did not improve.

The findings link memory to the hippocampus functioning, improving memory, which could be explained because sex is a physical exercise, helping to lift stress, anxiety and depressive moods.

#4 Paris Tackles Air Pollution By Banning Half of Cars

Paris has banned half of all cars for five days, with only carpooling services and even-numbered plates allowed to enter the city center in a bid to limit pollution due to high smog levels.

It is the ninth time this year that Paris has been warned about its dangerous pollution levels.

Lyon and Villeubanne will follow suit in a similar exercise, aiming to reduce air pollution.

Since Nov 30 the Paris City Hall has pointed towards weather and diesel fuel reliance as an explanation for high pollution that is threatening residents’ health.

Paris’ Velib bike-share and Autolib electric cars as well as Paris metro and bus were free for the public on Tuesday.

Air Quality In Europe states, “If we only take into account the capital, 20% of the regional population live in Paris on less than 1% of the territory. Indeed, Paris contributes to 12% of the regional emissions of hydrocarbons (volatile organic compounds, VOC), to 6% of the regional emissions of fine particles (PM10) and up to 11% of the nitrogen oxides emissions.”

The site adds, “Between 3 and 4 million of people are exposed to levels of pollution above the European regulations due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particles (PM10) levels in the Paris agglomeration.”

#5 The Power of Your Thoughts Can Play 2D Computer Game

Photo Credit: University of Washington
Photo Credit: University of Washington

The University of Washington has created a magnetic coil worn at the base of the head to play 2D computer games, powered by participant’s thoughts.

A paper published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI, shows how humans playing games using direct brain stimulation can influence gaming.

The subjects navigated 21 mazes, with two choices to move forward or down depending on whether they sensed a visual stimulation artifact, or phosphine.

Rajesh Rao, senior author said, “The way virtual reality is done these days is through displays, headsets and goggles, but ultimately your brain is what creates your reality.”

He added, ““The fundamental question we wanted to answer was: Can the brain make use of artificial information that it’s never seen before that is delivered directly to the brain to navigate a virtual world or do useful tasks without other sensory input? And the answer is yes.”

Rao noted that this research on AI and neuroscience could have “profound implications for assisting people with sensory deficits while also paving the way for more realistic virtual reality experiences.”

Feeling inspired and ready to take on the world? What’s the most motivating story you’ve read this week?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.