Happy Friday, Inverse Daily fam. While I’m here plastering my home with the official photos of Helena Bonham-Carter (Princess Margaret) and Olivia Colman (the QUEEN!) from Season 3 of The Crown, let’s get you ready for the weekend.
INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What did surprise us though was the sheer number in some of the samples.”
— Marine ecologist Melanie Bergmann, Ph.D., who found a heck of a lot of microplastics in the Arctic snow, far from the waters where they’re usually found.
Building the Future
Loyal Inverse Daily readers know all about the great strides we’ve made in clean energy — solar is now cheaper than coal in many places, and wind turbines are quietly powering huge regions — but just because our energy is green doesn’t mean the things that use it can’t get greener. One big area for improvement, Mike Brown tells me, is our buildings. Tall, shiny skyscrapers, the kind that define a city’s downtown core, have plenty of room for improvement.
Think about the way some buildings still have all of their lights on in the dead of night, or how even your own office may blast the AC when nobody’s there. These impressive towers are energy sinkholes because their systems for heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilating tend to be inefficient, say researchers in a new report. They recommend upgrading a building’s walls and windows to maintain the temperature without resorting to a energy-hungry thermostat, switching heat pumps to an electricity-powered system, and installing smart tech so that power isn’t used needlessly.
Check out their full recommendations here (and please turn off the AC when you leave work this weekend!).
The more you know:
Diamond in the Rough
These days, you can get a Ph.D. in a bunch of unusual fields, from manga to thanatology (the study of death). But the doctoral program that Suzette Timmerman went through takes the cake. Timmerman, who talked to Emma Betuel about her stunning new research this week, did her Ph.D. in diamonds.
She’s the discoverer of a “super deep” birthplace of the precious gems deep beneath our feet, some 140-500 miles below. Rather than eyeing them to start an engagement ring business (mining them would make it even more prohibitively expensive), she’s using them to sneak a glimpse of the infant Earth. These diamonds, which were pulled from remote mines in western Brazil, contain higher-than-usual amounts of a rare, valuable isotope called helium-3 — sometimes called “the primordial isotope” — which is thought to have been created at the beginning of our planet.
The more you know:
China’s reputation as both the world’s more populous country and the world’s largest polluter is no secret. But the nation has swiftly made impressive strides to address its soiled environmental record. Its publicly stated goal is to get 20 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2030, and it looks like that goal is within reach. For a long time, high solar prices made fossil fuels the more convenient choice, but new research now shows that China has reached a turning point.
As Mike Brown tells me, home-generated solar power in China is now cheaper than electricity generated from the national grid. In 22 percent of cases, the price of solar even undercut the government-set benchmarks for subsidized coal. Now if only researchers could figure out how its solar panels can capture the sunlight blocked out by all of the existing air pollution…
The more you know:
Beat the “Sunday Scaries” with soothing science and relatable advice to get your mind & body ready for the week ahead.
Balancing the Scales
Diet culture hasn’t been great for our relationship with our weight. While there’s plenty of research showing that maintaining a healthy weight generally decreases the risk of many diseases, there are a ton of variables influencing what a healthy weight even is: the size of your frame, your muscle mass, whether you’re pregnant or not, and so on. The body mass index, which is your weight divided by your height, is used to address at least the most obvious snag, but even this has its issues.
Muscle cells weigh much more than fat cells, so becoming fit can often lead to a higher weight and a higher body mass. This paradox is obviously frustrating for people who are trying to attain a lean, muscular physique, because when you’ve been conditioned to think of weight as a metric for fitness, gaining it while working out feels like taking a step backward. But as science fellow Ali Pattillo tells me, there’s a movement in the fitness community to stop thinking about weight altogether.
The more you know:
Today’s Good Thing
Today, that’s the team of Australian scientists farming a fluffy pink seaweed called Asparagopsis taxiformis, which significantly reduces the methane in cow burps and farts when fed to cattle. If it can be scaled up — and if the cows like chowing down on it — it might be a game-changer for climate-friendly beef farming.
- Scientists debunk a common theory about being left-handed.
- Musk Reads: Tesla biohacker beats Neuralink, a small patch of solar could meet humanity’s energy needs, and a $25,000 Tesla looks more likely.
- Actually, reusable coffee cups aren’t doing any good for the planet.
- Leading health studies are wrong about how much salt we should consume.
- Can runtimes predict the quality of Star Wars movies?
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Thanks for reading, gang, and have a great weekend.
Think we should attempt to mine those superdeep diamonds? Let me know your thoughts at email@example.com.