Inverse Daily: This Weekend's Killer Heat Wave Is Just the Beginning

Climate scientists say July 2019 is on course to become the hottest month ever.

TGIF, Inverse Daily fam. While I’m ugly-crying over this heartbreaking Stranger Things fan art of Hop and Eleven, let’s get you ready for the weekend.

Shout-out to reader Dustin C. for winning our AirPods contest this week. Check back with us on Monday for another surprise!

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“They’re more likely to save, and they’re also more likely to exercise.”

— Psychology professor Hal Hershfield, Ph.D., on an unexpected benefit of FaceApp’s aging filter.

Too Hot to Handle

Man, it’s a hot one. Here in New York, like much of the Eastern United States, the weekend is shaping up to be especially steamy; extreme heat warnings have been issued along the Atlantic Coast. A similar thing happened a few weeks ago, in Europe, when record-breaking heat waves swept across the continent. This is not a freak of nature but a bonafide trend driven by the climate crisis. Last year was Earth’s fourth-hottest year on record, and there’s plenty of reason to think we’ll be breaking more records soon.

That’s why the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group that is exactly what its name describes, released its report, “Killer Heat in the United States.” As Sarah Sloat tells me, it’s “scary stuff!” It shows that Americans are going to experience more days that feel like it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit each year than they did in years past. Between 2036 and 2065, we’ll experience an average of 36 of these extreme heat days per year. By late century, that number will rise to 54. Consider that the summer is usually about 92 days long.

Find out how many extreme heat days your city will experience here.

The more you know:

Seeing It Through

Solar panels line the roofs of homes, offices, and airports, providing much-needed renewable energy to the grid. What they don’t provide is natural light. For the most part, solar panels, as we know them, are opaque. That’s been okay so far, but it certainly limits the number of places we can put them. But as Mike Brown reports, that may soon change, thanks to a breakthrough in solar panel research that has resulted in transparent, glass-based solar panels.

These solar panels, built using certain phosphor materials in the glass, can let visible light through while redirecting UV and infrared rays to small solar panels mounted at the sides. Depending on the size of the panel, it can be used anywhere, from the screen of a cell phone — imagine a self-charging phone! — to the windows of a house.

Find out how a see-through panel can collect energy.

The more you know:

Seeing Things

In most of the instances in which we discuss hallucinations in Inverse Daily, we’re talking about the effect of psychedelic substances. But not this time. In a strange new study, scientists showed that they can make mice hallucinate by shining beams of light onto their brains. No, they’re not doing it for the heck of it: They’re doing it because understanding how hallucinations work can help us understand how to treat people who experience them as a result of mental illness.

As Peter Hess explains, the experiment is rooted in a new-ish field of science called optogenetics. This branch of science uses genetic manipulation to make animal cells express proteins that are reactive to light. (These proteins exist naturally in some light-sensitive animals.) When light is shined on those cells, they can be turned “on” and “off.” In this particular study, the light-sensitive cells were the ones controlling visual perception — which is why mice exposed to light saw things that weren’t actually there.

Learn how this can be helpful for treating mental illness.

The more you know:

Tree Trouble

Joshua trees mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, they call to mind Bono and his crew; to some, they’re symbolic of the book The Glass Castle; to others, a sweet Instagram opportunity. Part of their allure is that the famously slow-growing ancient trees have been around for a long time, even outliving the woolly mammoths of the Ice Age. Now, sadly, their time on this planet appears to be coming to an end.

The climate crisis has taken a toll on Joshua trees, which were once abundant in the Mojave Desert, to the point where now scientists predict they could go extinct by the end of the century. “This outlook for US desert national parks is dire,” scientists wrote in a recent report.

But not all hope is lost. If we can get it together and tackle the primary sources of climate change together — that is, reduce atmospheric carbon ASAP — they might still stand a chance. In the meantime, US Park Service officials are hard at work removing invasive plants near the trees, which are dangerous kindling for wildfires.

Learn more about how to save the Joshua trees here.

The more you know:

Restriction Fiction

Short-term weight loss aside, intermittent fasting — the diet in which one fasts for extended periods of time — is becoming increasingly popular for its long-term benefits. Notably, its anti-aging effect. The evidence supporting those claims in humans is not totally conclusive, but they are compelling. As science fellow Ali Patillo reports, research conducted mostly on rodents suggests the diet can extend lifespan and counteract age-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke.

If scientists can show the same holds true in humans, then intermittent fasting will see many more proponents. But before you think about giving up lunch and dinner today, consider that some of the anti-aging benefits seen in the rodent studies have also been observed with less restrictive diets, like plant-based or Mediterranean approaches.

Discover what effects the diet may have on longevity.

The more you know:

Today’s Good Thing

Because life on this planet is only going to get better if we try to make it better, each day I’ll be presenting One Good Thing humans are doing to create positive change.

Today, that’s a pair of British sisters, aged 7 and 9, who are petitioning McDonald’s and Burger King to stop including plastic toys in their kids’ meals. “It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys — big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all,” they say. Well put.

Meanwhile …

  • Pennywise the Dancing Clown returns to torment the Losers’ Club in It: Chapter Two, 27 years after the first movie.

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Thanks for sending your thoughts on FaceApp.

Tony G takes a less doom-and-gloom approach to it: “I feel with the FaceApp, we are playing with technology more than building it.” More cautiously, Alvadus M. said both FaceApp and Neuralink “need to have the bugs worked out by seeing how they will be used by the powerful.” T., meanwhile, was in for a surprise: “I have been using that for the last 10 years and didn’t know what it was!”

Thoughts on the rising trend of killer heat waves? Let me know at yasmin@inverse.com.

I swung down my hammer out in Joshua Tree,

— Yasmin