Inverse Daily: Asteroid the Size of the Great Pyramid of Giza Incoming

An asteroid almost as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza will whizz past Earth – closer than the Moon – on Wednesday.

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What’s good, Inverse Daily fam? While I’m here making room in my shoe rack for whatever comes out of Zion Williamson’s new deal with Jordan Brand, let’s get you caught up on today’s news.

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I think it’s very impressive.”

— Chris Bettinger, Ph.D., professor of materials science and biomedical engineering, on Neuralink’s use of flexible electrodes to insert into the brain.

Havana Ooh Na Na

It seems like just yesterday that news feeds trumpeted headlines about a mystery illness affecting American diplomats in Cuba that manifested as mysterious symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and cognitive issues. That was 2016; since then, scientists have had the opportunity to look at the brains of 40 of those officials to see what actually went down.

Some of the theories to explain the so-called “Havana syndrome” were wild. One suggested the symptoms were caused by a sonic weapon; another said it was mass psychogenic illness. As Peter Hess reports, a new analysis of the patients’ brains shows a clear difference in their brain composition. As a result, the doctors on the case say they’re convinced something happened — but they’re still not sure what.

Find out which of the strange theories this finding rules out.

The more you know:

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Pyramid Passerby

The Great Pyramid of Giza rises roughly 455 feet into the sky, with each side of its square base measuring about 756 feet. Needless to say, it’s pretty big — just about as big as the asteroid that whizzed by Earth just a few minutes. That asteroid, rather uninventively named 2019 OD, flew within 1 LD of the planet around 9:31 am ET this morning.

An LD, if you’re wondering, stands for lunar distance — that’s the distance between us and the moon. It may seem tremendously far (especially to the NASA scientists tasked with landing there by 2024), but that’s what Scott Snowden calls a “close scrape” in cosmological terms. Fortunately, neither the space pyramid nor the other two asteroids approaching Earth today have been flagged by NASA as particularly dangerous; the last one passes around 10:35 am ET, so you might still have a chance to wave hello.

Why so many asteroids today? Find out here.

The more you know:

Air Scare

Just a few weeks ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency got smacked with a lawsuit from two prominent public health groups, the American Public Health Association and the American Lung Association. The EPA, they argued, was failing to uphold its end of the Clean Air Act, a law signed in order to control air pollution on a national level. Now, Emma Betuel tells me, even the EPA’s air pollution standards are being called into question.

As it stands, the EPA’s air quality standard allows for 12μg/m3 of PM2.5 air pollution, and it does appear that America is getting better at meeting that standard year after year. The bad news is that even with the declining levels of PM2.5, an alarming number of deaths can still be chalked up to air pollution annually. The EPA, say the scientists, needs to seriously rethink their standards — and work harder helping counties meet them.

Here’s how much air pollution contributes to “loss of longevity” in the US.

The more you know:

iDrive

Apple’s mysterious car project is perhaps one of Silicon Valley’s worst-kept secrets. In June 2017, CEO Tim Cook essentially confirmed the rumors about “Project Titan,” describing autonomous systems as “the mother of all A.I. projects.” A prototype vehicle was spotted in October 2017, and Apple released its first autonomous car research the following month. Hush-hush, indeed.

As Mike Brown points out, Apple designers sound a lot like the folks at Tesla when discussing product design. That’s why Apple’s latest hire should come as no surprise: The company has just hired Steve MacManus, former vice president of engineering at Tesla and a pro at engineering car interiors and exteriors, for a senior director role. He’s the third Tesla employee hired this year.

Discover what this means for the future of Project Titan.

The more you know:

Early Bloomers

Puberty is a jarring enough experience on its own. The last thing preteens need is for it to start earlier than they — or their parents and peers — expect. But that’s exactly the trend researchers have been noticing. In girls, the age of sexual maturity has progressively declined during the past two centuries, which scientists can chalk up to increasing obesity rates at least to some degree. Whether the same can be said for boys is a matter of debate.

As Sarah Sloat tells me, new research that tracked the onset of puberty for over half a century in over 4,000 Swedish boys is providing some clarity about what’s happening to male pre-teens. Generally, it shows that boys born later in the 50-year period hit puberty sooner than those born earlier, and there’s definitely a case to be made for childhood BMI being a driving factor. It’s not the only one, though: They caution that unknown factors could be at play, too.

Read up on what an “early” age is for puberty.

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 the 16-year-old teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who gave members of the French parliament a harsh lesson on the climate crisis on Tuesday: If carbon dioxide levels aren’t reduced, she says, the Earth will reach an irreversible tipping point by 2030. Can’t argue with that.

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Meanwhile …

  • Perfectionism is becoming more common, but experts have found a way out.
  • Free WiFi became the unlikely lifeline for one Brooklyn neighborhood.
  • New study says emotionally intelligent employees may come with a dark side.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can introduce the X-Men to the MCU - here’s how.

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Thanks for reading, gang!

What do you think really caused “Havana syndrome”? Let me know at yasmin@inverse.com.

Havana ooh na na,

— Yasmin

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