Inverse Daily: You should know about the Sargassum invasion

Two interlocked natural calamities are rocking the Western Hemisphere.

TGIF, Inverse Daily crew! Today, we’re finishing the week strong with some bone chompin’, fungus growin’, spacefarin’ stories, so get on your swimsuit and take a dip into the news below.

This article is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day.

INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It’s hard to think of another issue that touches on so many aspects of our lives.”

— Jennifer Atkinson, Ph.D., senior lecturer at the University of Washington

Dino-bite

The Tyrannosaurus rex has a reputation for a powerful bite, but at the end of the day, just like us, it was only made of flesh and bone. This begs the question: How did this fearsome predator crush other animals’ bones without crushing its own?

Recent research shows that it all came down to muscle stiffness. The skull of a T. rex, unlike those of modern birds and lizards, was not built to flex when it took a big bite. The strain of killing would crack its bones, so the dinosaur’s muscles kept everything nice and stiff to prevent parts from shifting around and breaking.

So there you have it. Bone can break bone without breaking itself — but only if it’s got the muscles to back it up.

Learn more about the power of a T. rex flex over at Inverse.

The more you know:

A stinky link

Two interlocked natural calamities are rocking the Western Hemisphere. One is the persistent fires in the Amazon rainforest. There’s been an 84-percent increase in fires from last year, predominantly driven by deforestation. An increasing number of farmers are bringing slash-and-burn agriculture to the rainforest, with the intention of growing crops like soy. That created dry conditions conducive to wildfires.

And because the soil of the Amazon is nutrient-poor, there’s a heavy reliance on fertilizers. That’s where the other calamity comes in: The fertilizer enters the Amazon River and subsequently pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fertilizer travels in the sea and fertilizes Sargassum — a genus of brown seaweed that’s causing havoc in the tropical Atlantic.

Since 2011, beaches touching the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico have been inundated with mass quantities of Sargassum. Once white-and-sandy beaches have now become covered in heaps that, 48 hours after they come ashore, decompose and emit the smell of rotten eggs. It doesn’t just make sites unseemly; it can kill marine life when it’s in mass quantities, and cause dizziness and skin rashes on humans.

It’s too much of what could be, in different circumstances, a good thing — and its catalyst is thousands of miles away on a different continent.

Find out why rainforest fires and seaweed-covered beaches are connected.

The more you know:

Brain burn

While days at your desk likely feel a world away from competing in the Olympics, a new study shows that the brains of tired office workers and exhausted elite athletes are actually pretty similar.

Generally, exercise makes the brain healthier and improves memory. However, excessive exercise induces a type of fatigue in the brain’s “cognitive control” system — specifically, the lateral prefrontal cortex. This fatigue typically results in athletes who have a harder time making decisions — which can be a problem when that decision is over a potentially harmful training plan. Sometimes, swoleness comes with cost.

In a previous study by the same team of scientists, they found that the brains of people who perform cognitively demanding tasks over the course of the workday show the same type of neural fatigue. It’s too soon to say definitively, but the hypothesis is that this neural fatigue is one thing that leads to workplace burnout. That’s not great news for those working the 9-to-5 but hey, at least they can say they’re like an Olympian.

Read more on what happens to the brain when you go into overdrive.

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.

Fungi farmers

Doctors are engaged in an epic battle with bacteria because just as soon as they develop an antibiotic to fight infections, bacteria adapt to become immune. The World Health Organization estimates that antimicrobial resistance could cost 10 million lives a year by 2050.

But the leaf-cutter ant, which has been fighting antimicrobial resistance for 60 million years, is winning the same fight. The ant farms fungus in its colonies and a symbiotic bacteria helps protect the fungus from infections. It produces a huge range of antibiotic substances, which is how the ants have stayed one step ahead of antimicrobial-resistant infections for all these millions of years.

It’s a perfectly orchestrated relationship that’s evolved over tens of millions of years — and one scientists can study in order to get some much needed answers.

Find out another reason why ants are so cool.

The more you know:

Starship countdown

On Saturday, Elon Musk is expected to unveil the Starship Mk 1, a stainless steel prototype of the vessel that will transport the first humans to Mars. The presentation is expected to show off the new ship while also giving some answers to questions like how Musk will transport humans and how SpaceX will make the giant rocket’s fuel.

Work was well underway at the Boca Chica launch facility in Texas this week, as teams worked around the clock to finish the project. SpaceX has fitted three Raptor engines, the specially designed engines powered by liquid oxygen and methane that will help fuel the first flight for the prototype. Musk suggested a launch could come as early as next month.

What is it all for? The final version is expected to take on a number of ambitious missions. This includes a trip around the moon in 2023, a planet-hopping network powered by propellant depots, and, maybe-just-maybe, a city on Mars by 2050.

Learn more about the future of space exploration.

The more you know:

Today’s good thing

Today, that’s the fact that a group of air pollution experts dismissed by the Trump administration plan on continuing their research — even if the government doesn’t want them to.

Meanwhile …

  • The Incas built Machu Picchu on fault lines. Thanks to new research, now we finally know why.
  • An unlikely pairing of a gas giant exoplanet and a tiny red dwarf star has scientists rethinking everything they know about how planets form.
  • The villain of Captain Marvel 2 may have already leaked.
  • Star Wars IX leak gives an alleged rundown of the movie’s final moments, and it sounds extremely epic.

Inverse Loot

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That’s it for this week, fam! Come back Monday for more news you can use — whether that’s when you’re grasping for a fun fact at a party or planning out your Mars colony.

Speaking of — any questions you’d like Inverse to answer about space? Let me know over at sarah.sloat@inverse.com.

Until then, I’ll be thinking about that time Inverse wondered what would happen if a T. rex got loose in Minneapolis.