© 2017 Tricia Tisak
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate
Taiwanese Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage
Taiwan’s constitutional court has ruled that the country’s civil laws barring same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, giving the legislature two years to fix current laws or enact new ones allowing gay marriage — which would make the tiny island nation the first in Asia to do so.
Storing Image Files in Living Memory
Scientists have figured out a way to store moving images in the unlikeliest of places — inside living cells. Harvard Medical School researchers encoded a series of stills of a galloping horse captured in 1878 by Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer and moving-image pioneer, inside the DNA of common bacteria. The images stored in the DNA survived as the bacteria divided and multiplied, an advancement that could have far-reaching uses as the technology evolves.
Brazil Grapples With First Strike in 20 Years
Violence erupted in Brazil in April, when protesters and police clashed in the country’s first general strike in two decades. Workers were angered by President Michel Temer’s calls to overhaul labor laws and trim the nation’s generous pension system.
A British couple became the first to officially wed in the British Antarctic Territory. The polar field guides, who work for the British Antarctic Survey at a research station on Adelaide Island, were married in subzero temperatures in July.
A Holy See First for Four Countries
Of five men that Pope Francis elevated to the position of cardinal in June, four of them are the first ever to be so named in their respective countries: El Salvador, Laos, Mali and Sweden. The pope’s picks remain consistent with his mission to diversify the ranks of the cardinals, the church authorities who will choose the next pontiff.
In France, Too-Thin Models Are Out
In a first for the country considered by many to be the birthplace of fashion, France has enacted a law essentially banning underweight models. The law, which took effect in May, will require doctors to vouch for the well-being of models — including having a healthy body mass index. It also requires commercial photographs of models that are retouched to say so, or the agency will be subjected to a hefty fine.
For the first time in the United States, scientists have successfully edited out a dangerous mutation in human embryos, according to a study published in Nature in August. Using a tool called Crispr, scientists managed to erase genes that cause a heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life.
Facebook’s virtual-reality arm, Oculus, premiered its first full-length V.R. film, “Miyubi,” at the Sundance International Film Festival, in January. Set in suburban America in the 1980s, the 40-minute film allows the viewer to experience life as seen through the eyes of a toy robot.
In commemoration of its 150th anniversary, Canada released a glow-in-the-dark coin into circulation, a first for the country. The $2 coin, which Canadians call a “toonie,” features a lake scene with a sky that glows blue-green, in honor of the aurora borealis.
China’s first homemade aircraft carrier was launched in April. The still-unnamed ship, which was built in less than four years, will be ready for combat by 2020. And less than a month later, China’s first domestically manufactured passenger jet took off from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport for its maiden voyage. The country hopes to enter the international aviation market with the C919 plane.
A Cancer Drug Breakthrough
For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug to treat any tumor sharing certain genetic characteristics — regardless of cancer type. For years, doctors focused on treating cancer cells depending on where they were in the body. Pembrolizumab (known by its brand name Keytruda) is an immunotherapy drug that blocks the cancer cell’s ability to protect itself from the body’s immune system.
Pinpointing Baby Dinosaur’s Parentage
For the first time, paleontologists have determined the species of one of the largest known dinosaur eggs, found in central China nearly 25 years ago. According to scientists, the fossilized embryo is a giant oviraptorosaur, a large feathered dinosaur that weighed up to one ton and had sharp claws and a toothless beak.
India’s space agency set a new world record when it launched 104 satellites from a single rocket in February, overtaking Russia’s previous record of 34. It is no secret that the country has made space exploration and commerce a priority, and this latest launch makes it a serious contender in the private space-travel market.
Nepal Holds Local Elections
For the first time in two decades, millions of Nepalese voted in local elections, seen as a promising if precarious step as the country slowly transitions to a full-fledged democracy. Nepal has been plagued with years of political instability and virtually no local governance following a 10-year civil war that ended in 2006 and the abolition of the monarchy in 2008.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting, “Untitled,” featuring a skull rendered in his distinctive street-art style, sold at auction for $110.5 million, in May, making it the most expensive painting sold by any American artist to date.
For the first time, companies are equipping their employees with technology inside their bodies. Epicenter, a company in Sweden, has given its workers the option to have radio frequency identification, or R.F.I.D., technology implanted in their hands. A U.S. company, Three Square Market, has followed suit, giving its employees the option to be “chipped,” which would allow them to open doors and log in to their computers, among other abilities. Critics, however, are wary of privacy concerns.
Scientists have discovered a new organ in the human body. Called the mesentery, it was first thought to be a fragmented part of the digestive system. Researchers in Ireland, however, have proved that it is one organ — a set of tissues that line the abdominal cavity.
A royal decree has lifted the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. The decision, which will allow more women to work and ease the financial and logistical burden of having to hire a driver, is in line with the new crown prince’s plan to stimulate the country’s stagnant economy. The kingdom will start granting women driver’s licenses in June 2018.
An indigenous woman is running for president in Mexico in 2018, making her the first in the country to do so. Maria de Jesús Patricio Martínez, also known as “Marichuy,” is a healer from Jalisco, and has the support of the Zapatistas, a left-wing group that led a 12-day uprising in the country’s south in 1994.