It’s Tuesday, which means we’ve got a bumper crop of excellent science and innovation stories to share with you that were published over the last few days.
- Another private company has sent humans to space.
- You should think about your cast iron skillet differently for one very metal reason.
- Read a longform interview with journalist Patrick Radden Keefe.
- Have you given much thought as to the future effects of intermittent fasting?
- Dive into scientific analysis on the “benefits” of mushroom powder.
Those stories and more are in this daily dispatch. I’m Nick Lucchesi, an editor at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd. While looking through the archives of Inverse stories, I came across this report by erstwhile Inverser Ali Pattillo. It explains that racism is a dangerous public health problem. I wanted to share it again with you all today.
Here’s a quote from Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., who is a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut. Powell has studied population health disparities and put it this way to Pattillo last summer:
“We have always known that racism is a public health problem because it lives in the structures of our society — in the policies and procedures that we've enacted,” Powell told Pattillo during the interview. “It lives in transactions with physicians and patients and it lives in clinical decision-making.
“It is impossible to imagine that we wouldn't declare racism as a public health problem.”
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Virgin Galactic moves closer to space tourism — Virgin Galactic held the first in a series of suborbital flights, with video footage previewing what it will really be like to be a tourist in space. Mike Brown has the story:
Liftoff! Virgin Galactic has taken perhaps its most important step yet toward making the dream of selling suborbital flights to space tourists a reality.
On May 22 at 10:34 a.m. Eastern, the firm’s VMS Eve aircraft took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying the VSS Unity spaceship. Then, at 11:26 a.m. Eastern time, the aircraft released the spaceship, which fired its engines for around 60 seconds.
The ship reached a speed of Mach 3 after its release. It ultimately reached an altitude of 55.45 miles above ground level before coming back to Earth. It then landed at the same spaceport — the first-ever human spaceflight to take off from New Mexico.
- Virgin Galactic shares soar like a rocket (CNN)
- Branson will test out Virgin Galactic ship (Bloomberg)
- “Welcome inside the cockpit of #Unity21. Hear spaceflight highlights from our pilots CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay. #VirginGalactic” (@virgingalactic Twitter)
The secret to a long life isn’t sipped from the fountain of youth or hidden in a mushroom deep in the forest. It’s not even a code to be “hacked” by anxious billionaires in Silicon Valley. Longevity might hinge — at least partially — on a decidedly less fantastical thing: iron.
Before you go buy iron supplements or tuck into a steak, know this: Your genes may have more influence than anything you put into your body when it comes to how iron relates to longevity. But somewhat counterintuitively, the science does seem to lean toward too much iron being a bigger problem for age-related issues than too little.
“Of course, when you eat a lot of red meat, your iron can also be higher. But the question is if that is directly related,” Joris Deelen tells Inverse. Deelen is a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Germany. “We cannot say that if you have a high iron intake that that is also directly related to your mortality,” he says.
Related science stories:
- How fasting changes your gut microbiome
- The reality of what intermittent fasting does to sleep
- 5 liquids that technically won’t break a fast
Patrick Radden Keefe interview — In a new book, Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe traces the history of the first family of OxyContin. He tells Inverse’s Katie MacBride how he exposed the sins of the Sackler family:
In Keefe’s new book, he tells the story of how the Sacklers came to be so rich, so influential, and, ultimately, so reviled. He does so through scores of unearthed documents and emails made public through the court system, and from interviews with those who lived inside the so-called “Empire of Pain.”
Through the book, out now, it becomes clear that today’s opioid epidemic has its roots in decisions made in the 1950s — some 70 years before Keefe started his investigations into the family.
As Keefe tells Inverse: “One of the biggest choices I made in writing the book was to devote almost a third of the book to the life of the guy who dies before OxyContin.”
- The family that built an empire of pain (New Yorker, 2017)
- Book review: Empire of Pain (New York Times)
- AG Healey sues multinational marketing firm for role in fueling the opioid crisis (Mass.gov)
Intermittent fasting and future generations — Emerging findings suggest it may be best to tread lightly with drastic diet regimens — especially when it comes to prolonged fasting. Sophie Putka has the story:
When ordering that keto meal-prep service, embarking on a day-long fast, or blending up a smoothie to sustain you throughout the day, you are likely thinking about the potential health benefits. You are probably not thinking about your potential unborn grandchildren — but maybe you should be.
It’s possible that playing around with our diet today could influence generations for years to come. Emerging findings suggest it may be best to tread lightly with drastic diet regimens — especially when it comes to prolonged fasting or extreme calorie restriction.
More genetics articles:
- A genetic tool could bring a pill that turns night owls into early risers
- Scientists are on a path to sequencing 1 million human genomes
- Why giving pigs a dash of human DNA could lead to medical breakthroughs
Attention microdosing and natural remedy enthusiasts: Psilocybin mushrooms aren’t the only ’shroom in the game. There’s a new(ish) wellness product in town: mushroom powder supplements. Yet the world of remedial fungi, like other holistic cures and supplements, can be a hazy one. Legitimate assertions are mixed in with vague health claims and terms like “superfood,” “adaptogen,” and “nootropic.”
Are mushroom supplements just too magical to be true? Inverse dug into the science of mycology and microbiology to fact check some of the wild wellness claims these functional mushroom powders serve up. The answers we found are... complicated.
More fungi facts:
- Mushrooms could solve a huge problem in outer space
- Mushroom supplements: Four Sigmatic and 4 more options, explained
- How an expert psilocybin tester chooses award-winning mushrooms
It is perhaps the greatest agony: Watching food you paid good money for — or worse, painstakingly cooked — tumble to the floor. Children may be traumatized by their ice cream slipping off the cone to the curb, but food lovers carry this fear with them right into adulthood. There is one known salve: the 5-second rule.
This so-called rule is hard-baked into society. Essentially, it encourages you to tempt your fate and pluck favorite fallen morsels back from beyond the point of no return — all predicated on the notion that bacteria and pathogens lurking on our kitchen floors, city streets, and the backs of cars can’t possibly have infiltrated our food in less than five seconds.
- Food scientists debunk a wasteful myth about expiration dates
- Biologists debunk an 80-year-old myth about carrots
- Food scientists debunk a dangerous myth about moldy food
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- Before we go, happy birthday (🎂) to these folks: Ian McKellen (82), Paul Weller (63), Octavia Spencer (51), Cillian Murphy (45), Mike Myers (58). (Source: AP.)