Inverse Daily: Living forever

Surprising new research from Harvard Medical School suggests the secret to living longer may lie in a neural activity that speeds up and slows down as we age.

Welcome to Inverse Daily for Thursday, October 17, 2019, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake that struck California’s central coast, killed 67 people, and happened on live TV during the World Series pre-game show.

Today, we’ve got stories on living longer and sleeping shorter. Let’s get into it. If you’ve got a suggestion for how to make this newsletter better, drop me a line at nick@inverse.com. And follow me on Twitter where I retweet the best of Inverse every day.

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

“I think the conversation has to move from A.I. displacing jobs to A.I. automating tasks, and that leaves you, as the employee, with more free time to pursue more strategic tasks or drive more value to the organization.”

— Jeanne Meister, a founding partner at Future Workplace. Here’s how Americans feel about working with A.I.

Will you bee my friend?

You may have heard that the bees are dying at an alarming rate, but what about all the other bugs? Sure, dropping populations of bees are a huge problem, since bees are responsible for pollinating a significant portion of the crops we eat, but scientists now think that diverse populations of insects may be even more important than the number of bees.

New research shows that diverse populations of insects will be crucial to the health of plant crops in the future, even more important than the number of bees that are around, especially when it comes to preventing crop diseases and minimizing pests.

Of course, bees are still important. But scientists remind us not to forget about all the other important insects, like ladybugs, who eat aphids that eat crops.

Let’s bee friends →

More beehavior stories:

You and I are gonna live forever

Surprising new research from Harvard Medical School suggests the secret to living longer may lie in a neural activity that speeds up and slows down as we age. Over-excitation, or too much activity in the brain, leads to shorter life spans, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

Suppressing neural over-excitation actually extends life. Researchers have identified the key protein, called REST, which lowers hyperactivity in the brain and triggers longevity-related signaling pathways. REST was the secret sauce keeping older adults’ brain activity lower, and helping them gain a few extra years late in life.

The study, based on data from humans brains, mice, and worms, is the first showing that the nervous system influences longevity.

“The brain has a lot to do with life span,” Bruce Yankner, senior study author and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging, tells Inverse. “Lifespan and brain function are both potentially plastic and modifiable.”

The study has limited bearing on human behavior but does bring us one step closer to slowing aging.

Slow down, live longer? →

More neuro news:

Disappearing frogs

For decades, a fungal infection has been killing amphibians all over the world. Scientists estimate that has seriously hurt 500 species of amphibians, while 90 have likely gone extinct. Now it turns out it might live in places where scientists never thought it could.

The chytrid fungus usually affects frogs in colder places and at higher altitudes, but a new study shows that a large number of infected frogs are in the hot, low Amazon rainforest in Peru. None of the frogs were sick, though, which made the mystery even stranger.

For now, the scientists suspect that the rainforest could be an unidentified “disease reservoir” for the rest of Peru, and maybe the world.

The future of frogs →

More frog blogs:

Input

Hey, we’re making something new and it’s going to be awesome. You should be the first to know.

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Are you a “short sleeper”?

It’s well-established that sleep is necessary for people’s brains and bodies to do their job, and those who don’t get enough sleep are at risk of adverse health outcomes, like heart disease and mood disorders. What scientists don’t really understand is why “natural short sleepers” — people who only get about four to six hours of shut-eye a night by choice — feel rested and healthy, while the rest of us feel lousy if we get anything less than seven.

To get to the bottom of this, scientists have been examining the genes of these short sleepers, in a search to discover what makes them so special. So far, the answer that’s emerged is that they have a handful of mutated genes. As of now, three mutated genes have been linked to needing less sleep — and researchers expect there could be more.

Interestingly, in a new study, mice were bred to have the mutated NPSR1 gene, and, when they were tested against their unmutated peers, they performed just as well on memory tests. This suggests that NPSR1 could play some role in memory consolidation — and brings us closer to understanding exactly how sleep mediates our ability to remember, well, memories.

There’s a lot more work to be done, but we’re on our way to a true understanding of how all these factors work together while we slumber — and eventually, that could lead to treatments for a better night’s sleep.

More on the science of sleep →

More sleep science:

Testy situation

As scientists, athletes, and governing bodies try to grapple with what exactly testosterone means in the world of female athletics, the fate of several athletes hangs in the balance. Testosterone has become the hormone that, in some cases, literally defines the category of women’s sports. That means that every new study, including one released this Monday, can seriously impact how people of all gender identities compete in the future.

This new paper, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, delivers a rigorously designed study supporting the idea that additional testosterone is advantageous to women. In a sample of 48 athletic women (not elite athletes), testosterone supplementation did increase lean muscle mass and allowed them to run for 21.17 seconds longer during a high-intensity running exercise compared to a placebo group.

Get the facts →

More on the testing of testosterone:

This is cool

Over at Input, Ryan Houlihan reports that a new Game Boy clone coming from Analogue, a video game hardware maker. If you grew up thumbing a Game Boy, or just love cool retro-looking tech, you have to see the photos.

Meanwhile …

  • Starlink, SpaceX’s internet connectivity satellite constellation, is going to be huge. Like, really huge.
  • NASA has unveiled two new spacesuits for the upcoming Artemis mission, scheduled to lift off for the moon in 2024.
  • 5 things you need to know about Watchmen on HBO before the series premieres this weekend.
  • Review: Zombieland: Double Tap proves the zombie genre still has some life in it.

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That’s it for this edition of Inverse Daily!

If you’re looking for a weird movie to see this weekend, you could do worse than this one.