2016 Roundup: 8 Things You Probably Missed

On December 31, 2016 by Tim Newman

As with all previous years, there were some seismic goings on in 2016. This year’s happenings, however, seemed slightly more seismic than others. Brexit, Trump, the migrant crisis, rising global temperatures, and the demise of Bowie and co. – they were all so shocking that many of 2016’s other landmarks were sidelined.

In this post, I will briefly cover some of 2016’s events that didn’t catch quite as much of the limelight. Some are good, some bad, and some neither, but they’re all interesting:

1) The Gotthard Base Tunnel


On the 1st of June, 2016, the Gotthard Base Tunnel opened underneath the Swiss Alps. It’s the longest and deepest traffic tunnel ever constructed. It’s more than 35 miles long and is the first flat, low-level way to travel through the Alps.

The tunnel will make freight easier to transport in a more energy efficient manner. It will also reduce the number of fatalities of drivers who take on the hairpin challenges above.The Gotthard Base Tunnel cost around $12 billion to build, and 9 people died during the build.

If you’re wondering about the stunning bull-based flag in the image above, it comes from the Uri region of Switzerland. The flag was first designed right back in the 13th century.

2) Juno Reaches Jupiter’s Orbit


Also in June 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter’s orbit and begins a 20-month survey of the planet.

Juno will be monitoring Jupiter’s water content, its atmospheric conditions, gravity, magnetic fields and charting its lower wind speeds which can reach over 380 mph.

Juno is the second craft to have ever orbited Jupiter, but it is the first to explore outer planets using only solar power.

India’s Internet Boom

India has overtaken America in the number of internet users. They are now second only to China. India now has 277 million connected users. Over the past year, the number of internet users globally has risen by 7%, in India, it has jumped up 40%.

3) The Final Videocassette Recorder


On July 22nd, the final videocassette recorder was manufactured by the Japanese company Funai Electronic Co. Although the VCR had been on its last legs for some time, its 60-year reign over convenient entertainment will not be forgotten… Actually, it will, probably.

Although the VCR’s death is a huge deal and will be mourned by retro-tech geeks, the Washington Post wrote that “Funai Electric Co. declined to comment on the passing.”

Funai is being tight-lipped, so here’s a quote from Richard Corliss, the TV and film critic, taken during the meteoric rise of the VCR:

“Today is a time of turbulence and stagnation, of threat and promise from a competitor: the magic, omnivorous videocassette recorder (VCR). In other words, it is business as usual.”

4) Pandas No Longer Endangered


According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the panda is no longer “endangered,” he’s classed as “vulnerable” instead.

So that’s better, but it’s no excuse to go on a habitat shredding bonanza. Although panda numbers are rising, there are still only around 2,000 in the wild, i.e. not enough.

5) Ebola Vaccine Hope


On average, across all strains, 50% of people who contract Ebola will die from it. Ebola is a deadly disease. In fact, some strains kill 90% of those infected by it. Having recently swept through West Africa, designing a way to stop the disease is more urgent than ever.

In December 2016, the prevention of Ebola took a huge leap forwards. A new vaccine – VSV-EBOV (Recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus–Zaire Ebola virus) – was reported to be 70-100% effective against Ebola. Although its effectiveness over time is not yet known, this marks a huge switch.

A study in the Lancet concluded:

“The results add weight to the interim assessment that rVSV-ZEBOV offers substantial protection against Ebola virus disease, with no cases among vaccinated individuals from day 10 after vaccination in both randomised and non-randomised clusters.”

VSV-EBOV is the first proven vaccine against Ebola; however, there is still no treatment. Research grinds on.

6) Catholic and Orthodox Leaders Meet

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill hug each other after signing agreements in Havana

Two wings of the mighty Christian church – Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism – met for the first time in almost 1,000 years. Yes, that’s right, although they are both kind of on the same team, they do not see eye to eye.

Since the Orthodox fellas split from the Catholics in 1054, they’ve done their best to pretend the other one doesn’t exist. They’ve tried to make friends over the years, but it never sticks.

In February 2016, Pope Francis of the Catholics finally met with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. And, if the picture above is anything to go by, things got pretty saucy.

The churches initially split from each other in an event known as the Great Schism. Although the date of this rupture was 1054, the two teams had been bickering over vital religious questions for many years before that. Among other important matters, the churches fell out over the source of the Holy Spirit, whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, and the place of the See of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy.

Not everyone is impressed with the motivations behind the recent meet and greet. George Demacopoulos, Greek-Orthodox chairman of Orthodox Christian studies at Fordham University said:

“This isn’t benevolence. It’s not a newfound desire for Christian unity […] It is almost entirely about (Kirill) posturing and trying to present himself as the leader of Orthodoxy.”

Oh well.

7) Trachoma On The Ropes


Trachoma is a horrid disease caused by the bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis; it renders sufferers irreversibly blind. It is responsible for causing blindness in an estimated 1.9 million people alive today.

In March this year, China, Gambia, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, Myanmar and Oman all achieved their trachoma elimination goals. These successes will prevent millions of people from becoming blind today and in the future.

8) New Welsh Dragon Found


A new species of dinosaur was found in Wales, UK this year. He has been dubbed Dracoraptor hanigani. The fossil is the most complete carnivorous Jurassic dinosaur ever to be found in Europe.

9) You Survived Another Year


Well done.

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