Welcome to Inverse Daily, gang! This Tuesday, we’re serving up mutant mosquitoes, trips to the moon, and more, so keep on scrolling for some strange science and innovation.
But before we get into all that — we’ve got a giveaway, y’all. This time it’s something that I’m adding to my birthday gift request list:
Go here to enter, and the champ will be selected next Monday. Good luck!
INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The FDA needs to implement regulations quickly and immediately to exclude harmful chemicals like pulegone.”
— Sairam Jabba, Ph.D., a research associate at Duke University.
Fly Me to the Moon
SpaceX’s first lunar passenger is gearing up for his big trip. Yusaku Maezawa, a 43-year-old Japanese billionaire who founded the online clothing retailer Zozo, is planning to take six to eight artists around the moon as part of a project dubbed “Dear Moon.”
The trip was first announced by Maezawa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk one year ago today, on September 17, 2018. The trip will use the in-development Starship, the forthcoming stainless steel rocket designed for trips to Mars and beyond. The dream? Make it to the moon by 2023.
A year after the announcement, things are getting real. On Friday, Maezawa stepped down as CEO of Zozo, in part to prepare for the big trip. Musk has been working with his team in South Texas on the Starship, completing a hop jump in August. Later this month, he will unveil a full-size prototype of the ship portion at an event.
If all goes to plan, a version of that ship will one day take Maezawa and “Earth’s top artists” up to the moon for a week-long spaceflight, where, according to the “Dear Moon” mission statement, they can be “inspired in a way they have never been before.”
The more you know:
Things have not gone to plan. Between June 2013 and September 2015, scientists regularly released 450,000 genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitos into the Brazilian city of Jacobina. The idea was that these modified mosquitoes would mate with native female mosquitoes and produce weak offspring, unable to pass off any mutant genes. In turn, genetic modification could be used to effectively control mosquito populations and lessen their spread of deadly diseases.
But like Dr. Ian Malcolm says, “life, uh, finds a way.” Instead of producing lame, baby mosquitos not long for this world, the mutant dads bred extra robust offspring that have continued to spread their genetic material beyond the initial breeding ground. Now scientists estimate that somewhere between 10 and 60 percent of the mosquito population in Jacobina now contains a piece of the genetically modified genome. What that means for the future is currently unclear.
The more you know:
A Change of Heart
Your heart — the slightly-larger-than-a-fist muscular pump stuck inside your chest — evolved so that you could be an endurance machine. And according to a new study, if we don’t use our hearts in a way that fulfills their purpose, we can become worse for wear.
In this study, a team of scientists analyzed human hearts belonging to four groups of people: football players, farmers, endurance runners, and healthy yet sedentary people. When they compared the human hearts to chimpanzee hearts, they found that human hearts evolved different features that allow them to increase the amount of blood they can pump and physically be on the thinner side. Meanwhile, chimps typically have very stiff, thick, and round hearts.
Human hearts look like that because that design is incredibly well-suited for active exercise. When people don’t exercise, their hearts end up looking a bit more like the hearts of chimps.
The more you know:
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It’s Getting Hungrier
Black holes are not only the center of galaxies, they’re also the center of everyone’s attention. A recent study on the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole has garnered a lot of interest, claiming that the black hole appears to be getting “hungrier.”
A team of scientists at UCLA detected an unusual brightness near the area of the black hole, indicating that the black hole may have consumed an unprecedented amount of interstellar gas and dust.
The scientists’ observations were unlike any they had ever seen in over 24 years. However, they are unsure whether this was a one-off event, or if it is an early indication of a change of overall behavior for the Milky Way’s black hole. Regardless, it does provide further clues about the evolution of black holes over time and give us more information about the supermassive black hole next door.
The more you know:
Today’s Good Thing
Today, that’s landmark legislation in California that requires “gig economy” businesses like Uber to classify contract workers as employees.
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Thanks for reading, everyone! Check back tomorrow for some more weird news.
In the meantime, I’ll be thinking about that time Inverse told me Luke Skywalker has a wife.