I have to admit that the news has been a bit of a misery lately.

I, like most people, have been diverted by the highly unedifying stories involving alleged sexual misconduct in Canberra.

Not only is the content of these happenings an argument against anyone with a sunny or optimistic view of human nature, but it also has resulted in Malcolm Turnbull being called upon for commentary – something I find almost as depressing as the story itself.

Amongst all this, I find myself drawn to the plight of four people – the parents of Brittany Higgins and of the un-named young lady who committed suicide last year and who made the allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter.

To not only live through such allegations of an assault on your child, but for this to become fodder for the media and political gain, for commentary and discussion, must be a rare kind of heartbreak.

So it was something of a joy to hear about the following on the radio on a recent Sunday morning.

You have probably never heard of Nat Marshall, and neither had I.

But in any sort of a fair or just world, he would have the following of a rock star, or at very least a reality show contestant.

Nat is a university student at the University of Queensland, who seems to be well furnished in the brain department and also the possessor of a large bottle of the milk of human kindness.

You see, Nat has decided to mix Artificial Intelligence with prosthetics in quite an amazing way.

He has invented a system that he can place on the arm of a non-amputee which will gather information about how that person uses muscles, tendons and nerve impulses to control the movements in their arm and hand.

So far, so good.

But here’s where it gets quite inspired.

Nat’s arm thingy can then use this information when the wearer is an amputee.

The invention can translate the information from the nerves and impulses of the amputee, into movement of a prosthetic arm.

Basically, an amputee can control their prosthetic arm in exactly the same way as they used to control their “real” arm.

Now tell me that’s not extraordinary! Nat’s end goal is to develop an artificial arm that is basically indistinguishable from the real thing.

That would have been music to the ears of Captain Hook.

As if that is not enough, Nat believes that the current cost of prosthetics is way too high (up to $150,000 for an arm) and is working to make the costs far more affordable.

What was the realm of science fiction – I think Luke Skywalker needed a replacement arm after a disagreement with Darth Vader – is now increasingly science fact.

So, if you are feeling a bit jaded after a year of coronavirus, and the latest appalling behaviour from our betters, you could do worse than google Nat Marshall and again give a bit of thanks that there is so much to be genuinely in awe of and thankful for in this old world.

Because, at times, that can be easy to forget.

Bill Doyle, The Courier’s occasional guest columnist

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