Inverse Daily: Microplastics Are Polluting More Than Just Our Water

New research shows how surprising quantities of microplastics are reaching the Arctic.

What’s going on, Inverse Daily fam? While I stand here in awe at the size of this lad, let’s get you caught up on today’s news.

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“To be useful in the body, it has to kill germs, but not kill the body.”

Quackwatch operator and retired psychologist Dr. Stephen Barrett, on people drinking a “Miracle Mineral Solution” that is actually bleach.

Lab-Grown Treats

Last week, I asked you what plant-based foods you’d like to see on the market next (I still can’t get over the guy who said plant-based chicken cacciatore). Now it’s time to think about the possibilities of lab-grown meats. As Mike Brown tells me, advances in the technology used to make lab-grown meat mean we can now start thinking about how to grow foods that aren’t just beef-like patties.

Because lab-grown meat starts with stem cells that are grown inside a bioreactor, in theory scientists can make any meat as long as they’ve got the right cells to begin with. While it started with Mark Post’s lab-grown burger in 2013, the industry is now poised to expand into a few key areas: kangaroo, seafood, bacon, steak, and foie gras are just a few in addition to “ice cream,” which isn’t exactly meat but genetically-modified yeast microbes that produce the whey and casein proteins found in dairy. Experts expect food to hit plates by 2021.

Here’s how they decided on the next generation of lab-grown meat.

The more you know:

Snow Patrol

There’s plastic everywhere you look, from the phone you’re reading on to the coffee cup you’re sipping from. But there’s also a lot of plastic where you don’t look. Over many years, plastics have broken down into tiny particles called microplastics, which have flowed into our waterways and into everything that draws from them. Microplastics have been found in disconcerting levels in seafood, on islands, and even in human poop.

But as we are learning, microplastics aren’t only confined to the seas. As Peter Hess reports, some of the very smallest microplastics are showing up in significant quantities in the Arctic snow, miles from where they’re usually found. New research is showing that microplastics can be carried long distances through the atmosphere and deposited via snowfall, which means they’re now not only a form of water pollution but now also a type of air pollution.

Find out how microplastics manage to travel so far.

The more you know:

Everything Hits at Once

There’s an old stereotype that women are better than men at multitasking. It most likely stemmed from traditional gender roles: Women raised kids, tended to the household, prepped food, and maintained community relationships, often all at once. Men hunted. Anecdotally, it seems to make sense (as I write this, I am also scrolling through Twitter and answering Slacks and seem to be doing fine), but scientists have struggled to find concrete evidence proving or disproving the old adage.

The newest study added to the literature shows that men and women were equally bad at multitasking, at least when it comes to completing some bizarre number and letter identification tasks. It splits multitasking into two types, concurrent (doing tasks at the same time) and sequential (rapidly switching between tasks), which is supposed to be a better way of testing the stereotype because women seem only to be better at the latter. Then again, there are a multitude of ways to measure multitasking ability: One study has even shown that pigeons are better at it than humans.

Here’s why the old stereotype may turn out to be completely false.

The more you know:

Need2Know

Looking for all the news in half the time? Our friends at Cheddar’s Need2Know podcast give you all the news that matters with a little biting wit. The best part? You’ll be done in 10 minutes or less.

Take a listen.

Smart Snacking

Anyone who’s ever pulled an all-nighter is aware of the miserable consequences, like feeling drunk from exhaustion and having interrupted sleeping patterns. For people who pull constant all-nighters because they work the night shift, the consequences extend to the stomach: People who work the night shift tend to have gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, and stomach pains.

Those symptoms are the result of a confused circadian rhythm, which is accustomed to dealing with meals in the daytime, not by night. To deal with the issues, some night shift workers try eating a full meal during their waking hours or skipping meals altogether, but the optimal way to eat, reports Sarah Sloat, is to snack very lightly. Night shift workers who just had an apple during their shift were less hungry, thought less about food, and reported fewer feelings of uncomfortable fullness and sleepiness than people who had full meals.

Learn why timing meals right is so important.

The more you know:

Today’s Good Thing

Today, that’s the Seabin, a garbage bin that floats on the open ocean and skims off plastic, styrofoam, and petroleum-based oils, pumping clean water back into the sea. Each of the bins, now being deployed off the west coast of British Columbia, can collect about one and a half tons of waste annually.

Meanwhile …

  • Sunscreen’s growing effect on seawater is terrible news for tourism.
  • Psychologists say there’s a good reason to embrace stress and anxiety.
  • Learn why you shouldn’t kill that spider in your home, according to an entomologist.
  • Ahead of Rise of Skywalker, a new Star Wars book drops a big Anakin revelation.

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Thanks for reading, gang!

Dave S. made me laugh when he send this response to my question about seeding the Earth with life: “Seems to me we started seeding the moon in 1968 when the poop bags were deposited on the moon.” He’s not wrong.

Thoughts on whether women are actually better at multitasking? Let me know at yasmin@inverse.com.

You’re a multitasker, you’re doing things faster,

— Yasmin