Retro video game cartridge and joysticks on pink bright background. Top view

Inverse Daily

In 1976, one technical innovation changed video games forever — and sparked a crisis

Plus: Monkeypox is spreading fast — should you be worried?

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We all have one. Maybe it sits at the back of your cupboard, your hallway, your basement, or your garage. Maybe it is clearly labeled, or maybe it is actually ruined by water damage. It is a box — specifically, a box full of items once cherished and now, not so much forgotten as... lingering. I have several of these boxes, but one, in particular, has been taking up space since my partner and I moved in together. It is full of loose, often unlabelled, video game cartridges. We don’t even own a video game player.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Monday, May 23, 2022. Subscribe for free and learn something new every day.

Turns out, there is a generation of actual gamers who are more traumatized by the video game cartridge than I am irritated by the heap of them taking up precious space in a small New York apartment. Read about that hidden history and more in today’s Inverse Daily. Happy week!

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s coral.Andrea Izzotti / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images

How do dolphins maintain their glowing skin?

Living in the reefs of the Red Sea, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins love to rub against certain corals — which may help them fight off infections. Their habits are a lesson in why you might incorporate exfoliation into your daily toilette.

For Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, rubbing against corals might be akin to showering. Rubbing behaviors in dolphins have only been documented a handful of times and are not well understood.

But researchers writing this week in the journal iScience report that a routine coral scrub appears to be a way that these dolphins keep their skin healthy. For the study, researchers dove into the depths of the Northern Red Sea and collected samples of the bottlenose dolphins’ favorite corals.

It turns out they’re quite picky — the dolphins only rub against certain gorgonian corals (shown above), leather corals, and Ircinia sponges.

Go deeper.

Seriously, if anyone would like a box of game cartridges...steinphoto/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

46 years ago, one video-game innovation traumatized a generation of gamers

Cartridges are tough little imps by design. A history of technological progress and sour grapes. A format meant to bring players to vast new worlds but also survive being sat on.

Jerry Lawson is considered one of the fathers of video game cartridges. Born in 1940, he idolized George Washington Carver. Lawson’s grandfather was a physicist, but being brilliant didn’t get you very far when you were Black and living in a pre-civil rights America. Instead, he was a postman.

Lawson’s own father was a dockworker who chewed through science magazines in his spare time. Jerry’s parents were determined to fuel his interests in technology, placing him in better schools and filling his childhood with gizmos and radio kits. He sought the potential denied to his family.

Lawson joined Fairchild Semiconductor in 1970, taking him to San Francisco where Silicon Valley was sizzling. Before Fairchild had publicly begun to assemble a gaming venture, Lawson was squirreling away parts at home, making an arcade cabinet from scratch in his garage. Called Demolition Derby, he play-tested the game at a Campbell, California, pizza parlor in 1973.

His work ultimately transformed home gaming forever.

Thankfully, monkeypox is not usually serious.Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images

What you need to know about the monkeypox virus

Recently, officials have been watching an uptick in cases of the monkeypox virus around the globe. On Wednesday, public health officials in Massachusetts announced there was a confirmed case in the state, making it the first confirmed case of the virus in the United States this year. On Thursday evening, health officials in New York City announced they were investigating a possible case of monkeypox, though it has yet to be confirmed.

As the name suggests, monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox, though typically it is much less transmissible and far less severe than smallpox.

William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical School, tells Inverse the virus is typically found in small mammals in areas with tropical climates.

“Occasionally, it does get into primates, that’s why the name monkeypox,” he says. “And of course, it can also get into people. It can be spread from person to person but not easily, you need very close and usually fairly sustained interpersonal contact, touching, kissing, and such.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Science fiction or fact?David Wall/Moment/Getty Images

70-year-old astronomy photos may be clues to alien visitors — study

The plates, taken prior to the launch of Sputnik in the 1950s, show satellite-like objects near Earth. A new study delves into the potential reasons.

“We found one image where nine stars were out there, and they vanished. And they are not there half an hour earlier, and they are not there six days later,” says Beatriz Villarroel, a postdoctoral researcher at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. “And you wonder, ‘Is this real?’”

There isn’t any readily available astronomical explanation for what these vanishing points of light, which the researchers call transients, might be. The dots might be defects in the photographic emulsions or image artifacts from when astronomers first scanned the plates. But in a series of recent papers, Villarroel and a small team of astronomers have been more seriously probing the possibility that the flashes might be something more exciting — extraterrestrial objects.

Go deeper.

Yo ho ho.GraphicaArtis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

About this newsletter: Do you think it can be improved? Have a story idea? Want to share a story about the time you met an astronaut? Send those thoughts and more to newsletter@inverse.com.

  • On this day in history: On May 23, 1701, my compatriot and legendary buccaneer Captain William Kidd, was executed for piracy. Kidd was born in Greenock, which is in Renfrewshire in Scotland and very near to where I am from, too. Curiously, Kidd also ended up in New York City, trying to seek his fortune. After his death in 1701, some of his buried loot was found off Long Island.
  • Song of the day: Video Games,” by Lana Del Rey

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