Inverse Daily: The next 20 years of male birth control looks wild

Male contraception has been limited to the same two options for the last 100 years. Neither is ideal.

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We were amazed to see that users typing with two thumbs achieved 38 words per minute on average.”

— Anna Feit, a researcher at ETH Zürch

Toxic fumes

Vaping-related illnesses have sickened 805 patients and claimed 12 lives according to the latest data from the CDC. These cases have basic initial respiratory symptoms, including but not limited to shortness of breath and chest pain, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The progression of these cases can be incredibly severe, and doctors still don’t really know what the illness is.

One idea was that the illness was a type of exogenous lipoid pneumonia, which is when you inhale a fatty substance (like an oil) and then the lungs are clogged with fat particles as a result. That has seemed plausible because some scans have shown lipid buildup in patients’ lungs and because vitamin E acetate was detected in several Dank Vapes and Chronic Carts products linked to illness in New York.

However, a new report from the Mayo Clinic suggests that there could be a different smoking gun behind the illnesses: toxic fumes from other types of vape additives, like flavorings.

While the study doesn’t identify the exact additives that could be implicated, the scientists reason that toxic fumes from one or more inhaled chemicals could be the culprit because they found that patients didn’t always show traditional lipoid pneumonia-style buildup in the lungs, but they did have severe lung inflammation. As ever, more research is needed to explain what the dangers of vaping could be — but it is obvious that, in some cases, there is danger.

Read more about the latest vape research.

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Stop the swimmers

Male birth control has been limited to the same two options for the last 100 years: condoms and vasectomy. Neither options are ideal but still make up 30 percent of all contraceptive use. Jill Long, M.D., tells me that if a new male contraceptive method was available, then men would have “a greater ability to participate in family planning — both to have greater agency in deciding when they want to reproduce and to increase contraceptive options when the female partner is not able to use existing methods.”

Accordingly, scientists are racing to create new forms of male birth control that are safe, reversible, relatively cheap, and at least 99 percent effective. In this new feature, I break down what options are on the horizon, how they would work, and the inherent challenge of creating a “male pill.” (Did you know that men create 1,500 sperm a second?) It’ll be at least two decades before a new male contraceptive method will be on the market — but when that time comes, men will be closer to having true contraceptive choice.

Peep the future of male birth control.

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Satellite security

A new NASA breakthrough could help make satellites work better than ever. A team has created a virtual component for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, enabling it to estimate missing readings. The data helps measure extreme ultraviolet radiation, which can wreak havoc with existing satellites, causing them to malfunction. The machine learning-powered system has a minimal error rate, but its creators stress it is best for enhancing components instead of outright replacing them.

The research could help both existing satellites and new mega-constellations like the SpaceX Starlink. Alexandre Szenicer, a Ph.D. student in computational geophysics at the University of Oxford and one of the paper’s authors, tells Mike Brown that “having a good understanding of the EUV driving is important in order to react and mitigate [the] effects of adverse space weather.”

Starlink, a constellation that could one day number in the tens of thousands, aims to deliver internet access at fast speeds. That’s more likely to happen if new tech like NASA’s succeeds.

See the latest NASA news at Inverse.

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Your brain on recession

Incomes are trending upward for millennial households, but income instability has been increasing since the 1980s. The constant fluctuation of income can take a toll on the way the brain ages, both impacting thinking skills and physical markers of aging in the brain.

In a sample of 3,287 people, a team of scientists found that people who experienced two or more massive drops in income (about 25 percent of income) performed poorly on tests that measured executive function. That’s linked to higher-level thinking skills that are related to controlling behavior or planning in advance. These drops were the equivalent of about one year of aging in the brain. They also had lower levels of brain connectivity and white matter volume in the brain, suggesting that physical changes accompanied this decline in executive function.

Taken together, these results show that income volatility could have a severe impact on the brain. While this study doesn’t show causality, it still suggests that our brains are susceptible to forces that we may not even recognize, like an unstable bank account.

Find out more about the effects of unpredictable finances.

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Just relax

Relaxing, I hear, is a good thing. Actions like a quiet walk in a forest or taking the time to simply be nice to yourself are linked to improved mental health. But the thing is, some of us have a hard time relaxing — and according to a new study, that sometimes manifests as “relaxation-induced anxiety” (RIA).

Researchers explain in the Journal of Affective Disorders that, because anxious people are more sensitive to big swings in negative emotions, some actively resist relaxation and continue worrying in an effort to avoid a large jump in anxiety if something bad happens later. The idea is that, by maintaining some level of worry, subsequent jumps in anxiety might not feel so jarring. In this study, people who experienced RIA actually felt an uptick in worry, muscle tensions, and anxious thoughts when they were asked to participate in relaxation exercises.

This doesn’t mean anxious people won’t ever get to feel chill. Experts say that to overcome RIA, it’s important to stick it out and ride the anxiety wave until one reaches relaxation. It may also be helpful to have mental health professionals guide individuals through relaxation techniques in a safe, comfortable environment.

Find out what happens when people are afraid to lose control.

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Today’s good thing

Today, that’s the fact that researchers have counted more than 1,000 dolphins in the Potomac River, a place that, 50 years ago, was so polluted, President Lyndon B. Johnson called it a “national disgrace.”

Meanwhile …

  • Joker is just bad Martin Scorsese cosplay.
  • Black Widow set photos may reveal a shocking Post-Endgame time jump.

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Thanks for reading, everyone! Any thoughts on the future of male birth control — Is it needed? What should it look like? Let me know over at sarah.sloat@inverse.com.

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking about that time Inverse realized human election anxiety stresses out dogs.