For the last decade or so, researchers, space agencies, and other governmental organizations have periodically come together to do a macabre dress rehearsal of our doom. The goal is to prepare the world to handle an event of such magnitude, one that would require coordination across borders unlike any other effort in history.
This year’s exercise faced a different disastrous reality, though. With Covid-19 precautions still in place, it was held, like almost everything these days, via online video chat.
Keep scrolling to read more about how scientists prepared for the worst while facing the worst pandemic in a century.
The “best defense” against an asteroid — At an annual conference, more than 300 scientists ran a simulated asteroid strike on Earth. Adam Mann reports that what they found suggests we may not be prepared for reality:
On April 19, telescopes on Earth detected a huge asteroid out in the depths of space whizzing along at 11,000 miles per hour toward our planet.
Simulated trajectories estimated it could crash down somewhere in the Americas, Europe, or Western Africa in October. Initial observations suggested the object could be bigger than a skyscraper — large enough to obliterate major cities in its path, like New York, London, or Lagos.
You likely didn’t hear about this menacing space rock until now — because it doesn’t exist. In truth, it is part of a fictional scenario fed to a global team of experts who gathered virtually last week for the annual International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference Exercise. During a four-day drill, more than 300 participants from the U.S., Russia, China, South America, Mexico, Japan, and elsewhere acted out a cosmic war game to test humanity’s readiness for the sudden appearance of a celestial threat.
“This was a short-warning exercise,” Lindley Johnson, holder of one of NASA’s cooler job titles — Planetary Defense Officer — tells Inverse.
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How intermittent fasting methods work — Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern, but does the way you fast really matter? Sophie Putka reports on the different techniques and the science behind them:
Supporters of various intermittent fasting techniques swear by their method for everything from weight loss to cardiovascular health (though both of those claims are still being examined by scientists).
But is there really a difference between methods like alternate day fasting, 5:2, and 16:8?
Here are what studies have to say about 5 intermittent fasting methods:
- 5 liquids that technically won’t break a fast
- What fasting does to the brain: Four ways it may help brain health
- Fasting before a diet might transform your microbiome
Ikea-like pasta, food of the future — Researchers have designed a pasta noodle that can be flat-packed, like Ikea furniture, and then spring to life in water -- all while decreasing packaging waste. It’s the latest story from Sarah Wells:
Call it the Ikea of Italian cuisine.
Where the trendy mid-century coffee table or cube shelf for records from an Ikea flatpack is a rite of passage for many 20-somethings, material scientists have unveiled a way to do the same thing for pasta — making your favorite Italian dish suddenly easier to transport and unexpectedly making it environmentally friendly in the process.
It’s something that Carnegie Mellon University’s Morphing Matter Lab director Lining Yao says even apply to shapes like macaroni.
“Based on our geometrical calculation, flatly pack macaroni pasta could save more than 60% of the packaging space,” Yao tells Inverse. “Because more than half of the food packaging space, in this case, is used to pack air.”
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Eight animals already discovered in 2021 — New species are being discovered all the time, and despite that, we likely won't know about most of the animals living on Earth. Here are 8 recent discoveries, as shown in a brilliant gallery from Bryan Lawver:
Earth is a planet teeming with life, and scientists are still working to catalog new species. It may seem hard to believe, but a 2011 study suggests as much 86 percent of land species and 91 percent of marine species are still undiscovered.
Here are eight new species discovered so far in 2021.
- The science used to find this frog could help Covid-19 get lost.
- Look: An alien-like new cephalopod was found deep in the ocean
- 10 images of unlikely animal relationships: See why they work
Air travel can be awful. Over the past decade, planes have gotten more cramped, the food has gotten worse, and airlines learned that they could charge you for everything. Prior to the pandemic, it was working. Airline profits were booming.
The novel coronavirus, however, at least temporarily forced some airlines to make changes their wallets weren’t thrilled about. For example, some airlines started leaving the middle seat empty to space passengers out further from each other. Some adopted a strict back-to-front boarding policy with the idea that it would reduce contact between passengers.
However, new research suggests that boarding back to front increases infection risk — and public health experts tell Inverse boarding changes are just one aspect of air travel that could be made safer.
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- eVTOL: What they are, when they’ll be here, and how they’ll change travel
Discord is about to make chatting on PlayStation consoles a whole lot better.
Sony and Discord announced a new partnership on May 3, 2021 that will bring the popular messaging platform directly to PlayStation consoles by early 2022. Discord boasts over 140 million monthly users and is a well-known platform in gaming circles. This deal makes it clear that the platform will remain independent — for now.
It’s a surprising turn of events, given recent reports that Sony’s chief gaming competitor Microsoft was looking to acquire the platform. Ampere Analysis Research Director Piers Harding-Rolls says remaining autonomous makes the most sense for Discord.
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Let me know what you think of this daily dispatch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on Twitter at @nicklucchesi, where I share some of my favorite stories from Inverse every day.