How technology is transforming sports in 2021
Plus: A new reader mailbag question!
In the world of soccer, the 2020 European Championships — a tournament held every four years between the best soccer-playing countries in Europe — are in full swing after being delayed a year by Covid-19.
While there’s real humanity on the field (the first few matches saw own goals, long-range goals, and a player’s shocking on-field collapse), the future of sports is becoming increasingly data-driven, analytical, and artificially intelligent. And yes, there’s virtual reality in the mix, too.
Our lead story today is about the digital transformation of sports, which offers the best illustration of how artificial intelligence isn’t merely altering games but adding value to them (disagreements over VAR aside). It’s by Sarah Wells. Keep scrolling to read more.
I’m Nick Lucchesi, an editor at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily, your daily dispatch of essential stories that mix science and culture. Also in this email, a new reader question!
Mailbag — This week, I’d love to hear your stories about national parks. This month the administration of President Joe Biden announced it would restore protections to the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to keep its trees shielded from loggers and road construction (the protections were stripped away during the administration of Biden's predecessor). With that news in mind, and with vacation season upon us, what is your favorite national park and why? It can be in the United States or elsewhere. Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’re reading this in your inbox, just reply to this email.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for June 15, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.
The future of sports is algorithms — From fitness wearables to VR training, professional sport is becoming an incredibly technical profession. But are humans at risk of being edged out by intelligent robots? That’s the question reported on by Sarah Wells:
There is joy and heartbreak in the RoboCup (coming to a screen near you on June 22), where robots of various sizes and skills compete against each other to take home trophies (and honor). And while the footballing escapades of these tiny bots may look pretty innocuous, they represent a wave of innovation and technology that is coming from sports as a whole.
It is in fact already here in many ways, Matt Winkler, director of American University’s Masters in Sports Analytics and Management, tells Inverse, which may be changing the very heart of sports itself.
- Autonomous robot soccer players beat their human creators in RoboCup match in China (2016)
- RoboCup 2017 shows how personal robots could replace your Amazon Echo (2017)
- 2017 RoboCup soccer video shows robots also resort to diving (2017)
Why only some people want to know the future — In a new study published in the journal Neuron, scientists examine what happens in the brain during a decision over whether or not to learn bad news, reports Sarah Sloat:
Do you want to know what comes next? Some do. In New York City, arguably the medium capital of the world, Wall Street traders meet with psychics in an attempt to peer into the future; there’s enough psychics in town to fill best-of lists. And during Covid-19, the demand for online psychics increased across the country — remote readings seen as a way to have some control over destiny.
It’s hard to say whether or not this phenomenon is uniquely American or specific to this particularly unstable time. The data isn’t there. We do know from a 2017 study that out of 2,000 adults living in Spain and Germany, 85 to 90 percent of people said they would not want to know about upcoming negative events. That may be the difference. Wanting to know the future is one thing; wanting to know what bad stuff is going to happen to you is another.
More on mental health:
- Going back to the office could be bad for your mental health — here's why
- Your mom's most annoying advice is actually the mental health hack you need
- Why are pets so good for mental health? Science explains
An underrated carb — A new study finds that almost all of us are falling short on dietary fiber. It's not just for digestion; it can prevent heart disease and help manage weight, reports Sophie Putka:
One plant-based substance used to haunt our television screens, popping up in commercials for everything from cheerful sounding powder supplements to dessert-like energy bars. Many of these ads danced coyly around a point of this nutrient — which doubles as a type of carbohydrate.
If you eat fiber, you’re more likely to have regular bowel movements.
But despite the bygone marketing, Americans are not still getting nearly enough dietary fiber. A study presented last week at the virtual Nutrition 2021 Live conference confirmed this, assessing the fiber intake of those with diabetes and those without. That’s an issue because fiber does more than help us use the restroom. The carb reduces the risk of disease.
More food science:
- Science debunks a racist myth about Chinese food
- Ancient Judeans’ table scraps offer a fresh twist on Jewish cuisine
- Doctor debunks the stomach-churning myth about an “indestructible” food
Electric big rigs and buses will save lives — Buses and tractor-trailer trucks have an outsized impact on vehicle emissions. Electrifying a single one can have a huge effect on air pollution, reports Jordan Golson:
It makes sense that big trucks would pollute more than little cars. A larger engine hauling more weight equals more pollution.
But how much pollution and how many people does that pollution affect? And, ultimately, where should elected officials focus their environmental efforts? That’s what a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Harvard School of Public Health wanted to find out.
The results of their study were published June 8 in Environmental Research Letters.
- The one amazing thing hiding under the hood of the electric big rig
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- Before we go, happy birthday (🎂) to Courtney Cox (56), Ice Cube (51), Mohamed Salah (28), and Neil Patrick Harris (47).