Five awesome things in the news

Story highlights

Behind the big headlines are other stories ...

A college president who pushes back his pay ...

New looks at the lives of whales, thanks to drones ...

And other stories that make a difference in their own right

CNN —  

The big headlines have been pretty grim: Airstrikes in Iraq, where civilians are fleeing an advancing extremist militia. Ebola in West Africa, and worries about the deadly virus around the world. The end of a cease-fire in Gaza.

But in addition to the necessary, big stories, there’s other news – some of it eye-opening, some of it feel-good, all of it interesting and important in its own way.

Here are five things that are all, in a word, awesome:

1. College president takes $90k pay cut to give others a raise

Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University
Courtesy Kentucky State University
Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University

Raymond Burse, the former and now interim president of Kentucky State University, announced he is taking a $90,000 pay cut so that 24 minimum-wage employees – earning $7.25 an hour in Kentucky – can earn $10.25 an hour.

Burse, the youngest of 13 children who went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, told CNNMoney this week that he learned the value of hard work as a young man, when he worked several minimum wage jobs, including as a caddy and a tobacco cutter.

2. Prehistoric treasure trove discovered in Wyoming

Scientists in Wyoming rappelled 85 feet into an underground cave and discovered a prehistoric treasure trove. Deep inside the Natural Trap Cave at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, researchers told CNN that they’ve uncovered the remains of hundreds of animals, some of which went extinct more than 20,000 years ago.

CNN looks at five awesome things in the news
jim barber/shutterstock
CNN looks at five awesome things in the news

The cache of remains, which are believed to include the extinct North American lion and the American cheetah, was an awesome surprise for the scientists who dug it up – they were expecting to uncover the remains of Ice Age-era mammals inside the cave, which is likely to have been a sinkhole-like pit.

3. Inexpensive robot helpers are on the way

For years it’s been lamented: “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make a cheap robot to do my chores for me.”

Okay, no one has ever said that, but when you hear about this, you’ll be wondering why not.

Researchers at MIT and Harvard said that they achieved a landmark feat of engineering by creating a sophisticated machine – and doing so inexpensively and quickly – that has the ability to autonomously interact with its environment.

Rob Wood, the professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard who led the research team, said his long-term dream “is to have a facility that everyone could access around the clock in their communities when they might have a need for robotic assistance – from everyday house and porch sweeping to detecting gas leaks in the neighborhood – (where) you would be able to come in, describe what you need in fairly basic terms, and come back an hour later to get your robotic helper.”

4. Whale-watching drones

In the more than 20 years he’s been captaining whale watches off the coast of Southern California, Dave Anderson thought he’d seen all it all. He hadn’t.

Late last year Anderson starting incorporating drones into the tourist activity, and the result has been breathtaking video that’s garnered millions of clicks on YouTube.

Anderson – who told CNN that through the drones he’s seeing things and learning things about the mammal that he’d never seen in his decades of operating tours – posted recent drone video he shot of a humpback whale and her calf playing with a sea lion. He says the mother and child have been regularly spotted this summer in the waters off Dana Point, near Newport Beach.

5. Sunday: Supermoon, and meteor shower in the forecast

It took Tim Durkan a few stretches of lonely nights to get the perfect shot of the supermoon over the weekend.
Courtesy Tim Durkan
It took Tim Durkan a few stretches of lonely nights to get the perfect shot of the supermoon over the weekend.

Attention iReporters: If you missed the first supermoon of the summer, fear not: the lunar phenomenon is set to make a second appearance on Sunday, and this time around experts say it will be one of the year’s largest and brightest full moons.

A supermoon isn’t just any old full moon – it only happens when the moon becomes full on the same day as its perigree, which is the point in its orbit when it’s closest to Earth.

And if that’s not enough cosmic drama for you, the annual Perseids meteor shower peaks on Wednesday, August 13.