By Inverse Video
Filed Under Neuroscience & Sleep

There are many mysteries behind the science of dreams. There are also many questions about why you keep having that dream where Jeff Goldblum asks to borrow your calculator. (Why is Jeff in your middle school math class? Where did his calculator go? Why isn’t he wearing pants?) The biggest mystery about dreams, however, is why you can’t read in them.

This phenomenon goes widely unnoticed and unbelieved among the sleeping population. Of course, you’ve read a book, a clock, or a sign in your dreams before. How else would you know the way to Santa’s Sweet 16 party? Well, as it turns out, this is most likely not true. Scientists and dream experts believe that reading, writing, and most aspects of language are nearly impossible to use while dreaming.

Your brain is still relatively functional while you sleep but certain parts are far less active. Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, for instance, two parts of the brain responsible for interpreting language, show significantly less activity while you dream. Stringing a coherent sentence together is much more difficult when your Wernicke’s area is off duty.

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This doesn’t mean that dreamers can’t understand ideas; it just means that the way those ideas are interpreted is different. Most people can identify what someone is saying in their dreams, but they can’t really pinpoint the specific words. Some even describe their communication in dreams as a form of telepathy.

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

Touchdown confirmed! The Mars InSight Lander’s 205-day journey from Earth is complete.

A little before 3 p.m. on Monday, November 26, 2018, the scientific exploration device made by NASA safely landed on the red planet. The video above shows the emotional moment inside mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Califorrnia, when they received word that InSight handed touched down on Mars.

What do your car, phone, soda bottle, and shoes have in common? They’re all largely made from petroleum. This nonrenewable resource gets processed into a versatile set of chemicals called polymers — or more commonly, plastics. Over 5 billion gallons of oil each year are converted into plastics alone.

Polymers are behind many important inventions of the past several decades, like 3D printing. So-called “engineering plastics,” used in applications ranging from automotive to construction to furniture, have superior properties and can even help solve environmental problems. For instance, thanks to engineering plastics, vehicles are now lighter weight, so they get better fuel mileage. But as the number of uses rises, so does the demand for plastics. The world already produces over 300 million tons of plastic every year. The number could be six times that by 2050.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 25 most WTF moments in the world of science in 2018. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. There are stories on kangaroos that got high on DMT, surprising research into fake news, a weird fact about early memories, a scientific study on booze, an explanation for why you’re sad after sex, and an appreciative ode to Neanderthals.