Today's newsletter is a bit different from what you're probably expecting.
After what feels like approximately 34 months of 2020, looking back on this year has been particularly difficult.
At Inverse, we decided to celebrate a strange year in TV and film by shining a light on the sometimes weird, often wonderful characters that left us thinking about them long after we stopped watching.
Over the course of this year, we tallied up our favorites every few weeks, settling on 32 scene-stealers who captured our imaginations. Then we polled more than 2,000 Inverse readers, asking them to rank their favorites.
Sounds interesting, right? You can check out the full results at the bottom of this email.
"What is human consciousness?" is a question that plagues both neuroscientists and philosophers alike, and now a team of Finnish scientists has uncovered a new clue that begins to answer this elusive question.
In a paper published Monday in the journal JNeurosci, researchers analyzed the brain activity of 37 participants as they first slipped under anesthesia and then later into sleep. Looking at distinct brain wave patterns during these trials, researchers identified identical activity in a shared brain network.
Because this brain activity was observed independently of anesthetic presence or concentration, the researchers report that this identified brain network must play a critical role in creating human consciousness.
Locating the nexus of human consciousness in the brain is one of neuroscientists' greatest challenges and one that could impact not only how science is done but how we as humans understand ourselves.
More like this:
Every day, microplastics are quietly infiltrating every facet of human life, including our own bodies.
It's a vicious cycle that can begin and end at home. First household products and litter are thrown away, and eventually they break down into teeny tiny bits of plastic, and those teeny bits make end up in the ocean, and then in the bodies of the sea creatures that eventually wind up back at home on our dinner table.
More on plastic:
Coming soon ...
Keep your eyes on your inbox! Later this week we're revisiting some of our favorite stories of 2020, with a few special edition Inverse Daily newsletters.
Pandemic Plan - Scientists are fighting superbugs with economics
Across the world, doctors are waging an invisible war against a monster of our own creation: antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.
These so-called "superbugs" have mutated to resist antimicrobial treatment, including antibiotics like penicillin.
Much like the current Covid-19 pandemic, the terrible havoc such a superbug outbreak could wreak is likely to be far worse in low-income countries, where the tools for surveillance and treatment of these infections is limited.
But some researchers are betting on a new way to combat the next global pandemic: Using economic data to predict the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in regions such as the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Pacific Islands.
The team reports this solution could affect over 2 billion people, and may help scientists better target these areas for increased antimicrobial resistance surveillance and solutions.
More like this:
Before & After - How nature changed during the pandemic
As global carbon emissions dropped and people retreated inside, nature came out to play during the pandemic.
From out-of-place bobcats to mountain lions, here are our 10 favorite images showing how nature changed — and healed — in 2020.
And consider going outside:
Scene Stealers - The best new TV and movie characters of 2020
Star Wars was always about the Skywalkers, but in 2020, The Mandalorian confirmed something we probably already knew: the most interesting characters are usually the ones in the background.
In a year where many of us felt more isolated than ever, stories from Umbrella Academy to Star Trek: Discovery reminded fans that the only thing better than being the hero of your own story is having someone to go with you. The Sam to your Frodo. The Alma Wheatley to your Beth Harmon.
At Inverse, we put our heads together and came up with a list of the best scene-stealing characters in streaming this year; the sort of characters who deserve their own series.
We also asked you, the Inverse community, to vote on your favorites. Love charts? Check out the data for yourself.
We even teamed up with artist Chris Barker to bring together our favorite scene stealers with this Sgt. Pepper's-inspired work.
We ended up with:
- 32 official selections (why 32? why not?)
- 10 write-in candidates who were too good to ignore
- 5 additional iconic objects included in the art
The full list offers a unique look back at a turbulent year, not through the eyes of the Luke Skywalkers of the world, but through the sidekicks, parents, and weird-looking aliens who have just as great a story to tell if given the chance.
Read some more:
- Explore our full Scene Stealers hub page
- Sarah Chalke on the future of 'Rick and Morty's "Space Beth"
The Fine Print -
Reminder: As the year comes to a close, we've expanded our question of the week to the rest of December.
In one sentence, what's your prediction for 2021? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll publish our favorites at the beginning of the new year.
Looking for one more thing? Check out Netflix's underrated new horror series.
Thanks for reading!