NEWS DIGEST 05.12.2020: Curious squirrels pose for photos, while a jet engine smashes records

Good morning. Today’s News Digest comes to you via Facebook. A group of residents in the English town of Romford, Essex county have launched a website petitioning for the development of the ‘Rom Yard’, a patch of disused land alongside the river Rom from which their town got its name. The land, once the Rom Valley Retail Park and Seedbed Centre, has now fallen into disrepair. Supporters of Planning Application P1226.2, which will transform the Yard into a residential community with riverside walkway, children’s play area and a health centre, are now trying to gather support via the site – The Rom Yard

The British government has announced via its official portal that more than one million cases of coronavirus infection have been successfully via the Test and Trace app launched by the country’s National Health Service. Measures such as improvements to the digital self-service, which make it faster and easier to provide tracing information, as well as changes to the process for contacting under-18s in a household, have begun to show tangible improvements, with 72.5% of contacts now reached, up from 60.5% in the previous week. The app enables users to indicate which places they have visited and informs them to self-isolate should they come into contact with people who are infected – More than one million cases reached by NHS Test and Trace (

A pair of otters living in a wildlife sanctuary in the English seaside town of Scarborough have won people’s hearts after finding love with each other following the deaths of their previous partners. Harris from the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, whose partner died four years ago, moved to Sea Life in Scarborough to be with Pumpkin. She was lonely after losing her elderly partner Eric and her animal care team hoped a new male otter would cheer her up. Tamara Cooper, a curator at Harris’ former home, said the otters’ new-found love was a ‘fairytale romance’. Both are of the Asian short clawed otter subspecies, and have already been on a series of ‘dates’ to get to know each other – Otters find ‘fairytale’ love in lockdown (BBC News UK Cornwall)

The UK government have said that half-a-million people are now participating in coronavirus research alongside public health agencies into both the effects and treatment for the virus. Many have been signed up in the past eight months, which has enabled British researchers to launch pioneering treatments, including four vaccine trials, one of which has already been approved for public use this past week – Over half a million people taking part in pioneering COVID-19 research (

A photographer has made the internet a warmer, fuzzier place with his ‘delightfully candid’ pictures of curious wild squirrels sniffing flowers and playing around with different humorous props. Geert Weggen, from Sweden, has a group of red squirrels living in his back garden. He managed to befriend them with the help of some free nibbling treats, and gives them props like pretend weights and a miniature shopping trolley to pose with while he takes photographs with a Nikon camera. The animals welfare is carefully maintained and they are treated with respect, with Weggen’s studio being part of the forest that backs onto his home – Photographer Captures Delightfully Candid Photos of Wild Squirrels Being Very Curious (My Modern Met)

Researchers in China have developed a new hypersonic jet engine that can enable aircraft to reach sixteen times the speed of sound, which means a passenger plane could reach anywhere in the world in two hours or less. Engineers in the People’s Republic capital Beijing, have already run successful wind tunnel tests on the Soramjet prototype, which reached Mach 9 speeds, the very upper limit of the test tunnel, but its developers say it could reach Mach 16. The engine could be used to power planes that take off from a traditional runway, fly into orbit and land at an airport after re-entering the planet’s atmosphere, said Britain’s Daily MailChina builds a hypersonic jet engine capable of flying at 16 TIMES the speed of sound that could fly to anywhere in the world ‘in two hours’, Beijing claims (Mail Online Science & Tech)


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