3 Good Things: Sniff test, winds of change and free college

Karlotta Freier / For The Times

number one

Stop and smell the peaches

It turns out that as much as history, culture and language may separate people around the world, we all have similar ideas about what smells good or bad. Whether researchers ask hunter-gatherers, fishers or farmers, in cities, mountains or rainforests, the results are consistent: People like vanilla the best, followed by the peachy-scented chemical ethyl butyrate. The most repellent substance was isovaleric acid, which is found in cheese and soy milk … and also in foot sweat. We’re united by one of our most powerful senses. Shakespeare was right: That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

number two

Farewell, fossil fuels

On March 29, for the first time in the records of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind power generated more electricity in the United States than coal or nuclear sources. It was second only to natural gas in that 24-hour period.

Graph showing wind power eclipsed coal and nuclear on March 29
Apparently March went “out like a lion”….
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Another exciting development for the planet: Stanford researchers have developed solar panels that generate electricity even at night. Natural gas is looking worse by the day as we see how Russia uses its profits, and green alternatives look better and better.

number three

Low-cost higher education

New Mexico is offering tuition-free college for all state residents — not just new high school graduates, but also older adults. The offer applies to all public colleges, tribal colleges and community colleges. There’s no income cap. The idea is to make higher education available to the public like K-12 public schools are. If many employers are going to insist on degrees, then degrees should be available to any student who’s willing to do the work. Nice job, New Mexico.

And one more ...

Parents who struggle to re-enact “Leave It to Beaver” every evening should cut themselves some slack. One study looked at hurdles to family dinner and suggested parents try flexible meal times and involving kids in planning menus. Other research points to adjusting our expectations: Maybe three family dinners per week is a win. And maybe, for a toddler, 10 minutes spent squishing broccoli counts as a positive first encounter with our cruciferous friend.