Inverse Daily: An Anti-Burnout Pill May Now Be Possible

New research suggests an anti-burnout pill is possible, but some scientists question whether it is ethical.

What it do, Inverse Daily fam? While I’m here rolling my eyes about the ongoing debate on whether Friends or Seinfeld is the better sitcom (Frasier, obviously!), let’s get you caught up on today’s news.

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“That’s one of the most commonly discussed pesticides.”

— Myron Ronay, the CEO of cannabis testers BelCosta Labs, on a dangerous chemical often found in black market vapes.

Muddy Waters

On your next trip to the ocean this summer, take a deep whiff of the sea. You won’t only be smelling seaweed, fish, and the gulls squawking overhead. Part of the distinctive scent of the ocean is the odor of dimethyl sulfide, a gas released by marine microorganisms as they break down a chemical released by algae on the ocean surface. As Emma Betuel tells me, the gas is more than just the seaside’s signature perfume. It also has the potential to moonlight as — get this — an anti-greenhouse gas.

Greenhouse gases like the notorious carbon dioxide and methane trap radiation from the sun inside the planet, causing global warming. An anti-greenhouse gas, in contrast, reflects radiation back into space, preventing additional heating down here on Earth. Dimethyl sulfide can be classified as the latter because it helps the formation of clouds that do exactly that, scattering harmful UV back toward where it came. And as scientists are finding, it’s not just produced by the seaside; the gas is also found in marsh mud, where huge populations of bacteria burp it out.

Find out why it’ll be hard to use this gas to mitigate climate change.

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Giving Up on Giving Up

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization recognized “burnout” as a real “occupational phenomenon” that’s caused by long exposures to intense stress. The consequences may sound familiar: feelings of exhaustion, negativity, cynicism, and low productivity, all stemming from the feeling of relentless frustration. Now imagine there were an anti-burnout pill that could prevent us from giving up. Would you take it?

As Maggie Green tells me, an anti-burnout pill is possible, but using it would be ethically dubious. New research has pinpointed a group of “frustration” cells in the mouse brain that switch on when the animal gives up on a task that never seems to pay off. Now that we know that mechanism exists, theoretically there’s a way to shut it off with pharmaceuticals. But experts warn that a pill that keeps people motivated all the time may not be such a good idea.

Learn how the “giving up” cells are linked to burnout.

The more you know:

Breathe In

Speaking of things that unexpectedly have anti-global warming effects, here’s something out of left field: Glacier meltwater is unexpectedly absorbing a ton of carbon dioxide from the air. As Peter Hess tells me, scientists examining the waters of Lake Hazen, sometimes referred to as the northernmost lake in Canada, have found that it contains a lot of minerals that seem to have a carbon dioxide-capturing effect. These minerals are flooding into the lake because it’s downstream of melting glaciers above the Arctic Circle that are feeling the heat of the climate crisis.

While it may be tempting to classify this as good news, experts warn not to get too excited. First of all, this is only happening because there’s too much carbon dioxide in the first place, and second, the effect will only last as long as there are glaciers to melt — which won’t be very long. In the Arctic, glaciers are about to hit their “peak water” mark by the end of the century.

Discover how minerals in meltwater are able to absorb this dangerous greenhouse gas.

The more you know:

Musk Reads

Elon Musk is pushing the boundaries of where we can go and what we can do. Don’t miss a beat by signing up for Musk Reads, our newsletter about all things SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company.

Sign up here.

Clean, Green Scheme

In March, Elon Musk declared 2019 the “year of the solar roof,” but lining America’s rooftops with Tesla’s solar panels is, for now, too expensive to scale up. Musk, realizing that his long-term plan to encourage everyone to ditch fossil fuels and rely fully on sustainable energy isn’t feasible if only the wealthy can participate, has a new plan to bring his vision to everyone else. He took to Twitter to announce his new solar rental scheme, which will offer solar panels to homes for as low as $50 a month.

This scheme could be a huge money-saver, but only if you live in a state that’s sunny and has expensive electricity. (It’s like “having a money printer on your roof if you live [in] a state with high electricity costs,” Musk tweeted.) As Mike Brown reports, renting can save up to $155 for Californians, but it may actually cost New Jerseyans in the middle term. But in the very long run, of course, your wallet — and the planet — will likely be better off.

Find out if renting solar will actually work for you.

The more you know:

Nut Messing Around

There’s lots of controversy around sunscreen these days, perhaps understandably so. Many of the chemicals we normally put into sunscreen to protect us from the sun are being criticized for their effect on marine ecosystems, and preliminary research from the FDA suggests that they can end up in the human bloodstream if used in high amounts. Don’t get it twisted: Health experts and the CDC maintain that sunscreen is still our best form of protection from harmful, cancer-causing UV rays.

But it probably doesn’t hurt that researchers are looking for effective alternatives. Recently, researchers found that some pretty effective UV-blocking chemicals can be synthesized from the shells of cashew nuts, which make up a huge amount of organic waste from the cashew farming industry. If these chemicals turn out to be safe for human use, they won’t just offer a nice alternative to existing sunscreens (some of which are derived from petroleum) but also a way to put carbon-emitting organic trash to good use. Just don’t try to DIY it.

Here’s how “cashew nut shell liquid” can help deflect the sun’s rays.

The more you know:

Can’t Hear You

This week, we’re sending one lucky reader a new set of Apple AirPods. All you have to do is invite your friends to read Inverse Daily.

How it works:

  • Use your personal referral code to enter our raffle.
  • Each time you refer a friend to Inverse Daily, you get a ticket entered. 1 referral = 1 ticket.

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We’ll accept entries for the rest of the week and announce the winner in our Friday newsletter. Good luck!

Today’s Good Thing

Today, that’s the UK’s water companies, which have pledged to plant 11 million new trees by 2030 in an effort to help the country go carbon neutral. It’s a nice follow-up to Ethiopia’s incredible feat of planting 350 million trees in a single day last month. America, we’re looking at you!

Meanwhile …

  • Elon Musk has teased a new SpaceX mission to catch up with Starman.
  • Google Stadia at Gamescom 2019 was a huge letdown — except for one detail.
  • Mindhunter Season 2 finally uncovers the sinister true story of the BTK killer.
  • Marvel Phase 4 leak reveals WandaVision may release sooner than expected.

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Thanks for reading, gang!

Thoughts on whether scientists should make an anti-burnout pill? Let me know at yasmin@inverse.com.

Look at my finger, that is a glacier, hits like a laser,

— Yasmin