Today in 1903, two bicycle shop owners changed the course of human history. Having been raised with a love of engineering by their mother, Susan, Wilbur and Orville Wright had spent the 1890s cashing in on America's humming bicycle craze. The two built and repaired bicycles, and in 1896 they read an article comparing cycling with a type of transportation that was still considered a hypothetical manned flight.
The brothers paid close attention to glider experiments in Europe, relying on their experiences with bicycles to develop simple concepts of maneuverability. Rather than an elaborate system of pulleys, as most designs were attempting, the two realized the craft itself could twist. After several failures in 1900 and 1902, the two tried a refined design, one where the bottom surfaces of the wings were covered with fabric for a more aerodynamic design. Moving beyond gliders, the two developed their own propulsion system that could hit 12 mph.
Although the two had a promising start on December 14 with a 3 and a half second flight, it was on December 17 that Orville truly made history, launching off at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for a flight that lasted 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. They kept at it, with Wilbur flying 852 feet later that day, staying in the air for a full 59 seconds.
There's no way to undersell the Wright Brothers, whose names have become icons. At the time, there was little press or celebration of their victory over gravity. A few years later, realizing it'd be in their best interest to get their names out there, they began taking Europe by storm and a new age of aviation began. Innovation is great, but showmanship can be just as important.
As the year ends, we're expanding our question of the week to the rest of December. In one sentence, what's your prediction for 2021? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be publishing our favorites at the beginning of the new year.
Good boys — Study reveals the best way to train your dog
But like raising kids, pet owners can struggle to work out how best to train their dogs, which can act like small children in many ways.
For many, it comes down to a fundamental question: Do you reward your dog when it displays good behavior in an attempt to reinforce what is "good," or do you punish it when it does something wrong to teach it a lesson?
A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE may have the answer: The best way to train your dog appears to be with positive reinforcement for one crucial reason.
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Smartphones have played a starring role in the Covid-19 pandemic. From receiving rapid test results to checking public health guidelines, to tracking daily infection rates in your area — smartphones are quickly becoming indispensable medical devices.
In the future, these devices may be able to do even more to protect our health. In a new study published Wednesday, a team of researchers demonstrate how to use a smartphone camera to accurately identify various life-threatening virus strains in less than an hour using a vision-based deep learning algorithm.
This cheap and accessible diagnostic tool could be used now to help communities where viral spread is high but healthcare funding is low to track the course of a pandemic. In the future, it could also help people across the world detect future pandemics as they start and enable at-home testing.
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Ziggy Stardust — Space spiders build webs in an unusual way
Earth-bound spiders spin their webs with the center of the web offset towards the upper edge. These spiders are always facing down. Scientists wanted to know: Would spiders build their webs differently in zero-gravity?
We can’t grow spiders in the vacuum of space, but luckily we do have an entire laboratory orbiting above our heads. That’s the International Space Station, orbiting Earth about 250 miles up at about 5 miles per second. Back in 2011, a team of scientists sent two spiders up to the ISS in a special habitat — complete with a webcam — and observed two similar spiders on Earth to see how the webs differed in space vs. on the ground.
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Coming soon ...
One thing you can expect in the 2020s will be a much-needed breaking of the lunar glass ceiling. NASA, as well as other space organizations, has made it a priority to land the first woman on the surface of the Moon. NASA recently announced nine finalists for the position. But that's the thing about being first — there can only be one. Coming soon on Inverse, a look at the nine women with a chance to make history for all of humanity.
Long, strange trip — A plastic bottle went over 1,700 miles in a river, amazing scientists
Plastic goes on a long, winding road after we humans trash it. Considering the United States generated 35.7 million tons of plastic waste in 2018, it’s worth understanding what exactly happens to bags, snack wrappers, and plastic bottles once people are done with them. In an effort to do just that, a new study examined how plastic bottles can travel through rivers, and the result was astonishing.
Dropped into the Ganges River in India, a plastic bottle tagged with a tracking device traveled 1,767 miles (2,845 kilometers) downriver. To put that into context, that's roughly the distance between New York City and Denver, Colorado.
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*Werner Herzog voice* — Werner Herzog is right about this terrifying apocalypse scenario
Monday morning, people up and down the United States' East Coast woke from their dreams to enter a living nightmare: Google was down.
The loss was short-lived, but nonetheless, work was halted, Google Nests left homes in darkness and undefended, and worst of all, Googling "Is Google down?" was an impossibility. Every time this happens — whether it is Google, Amazon Web Services, Twitter, or another online gathering place — our dependence on the internet becomes uncomfortably clear.
Luckily, Google returned after a few short hours. But what would we do if the internet was truly gone? For German director Werner Herzog, this is one of the top apocalyptic scenarios that keep him up at night. He is not wrong.
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- SpaceX Mars City: Werner Herzog issues a stark warning to Elon Musk
- How Werner Herzog and Nic Cage made the trippiest movie of the 21st century
And that's it for the Daily! If you're looking for more, make sure to check out our recommendation for a great '90s thriller that's leaving Hulu.
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