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A skeptic's guide to feeling gratitude in 2020

Gratitude can be challenging to feel even in the best of years. In 2020, it's even harder.

It took Albert Einstein 10 years to develop his field equations, and even he had a lot of help from math professors. But on this day 105 years ago, he finally published a set of physics equations that would become known as the Einstein field equations, which very broadly relate the shape of spacetime and the matter within it.

Here's NASA research scientist Barb Mattson's tangible explanation:

"Imagine stretching a piece of fabric between a couple of people, and then plunking down a softball in the middle. The ball will make a dent in the cloth. Then if you roll a small ball across the fabric, it will seem to be attracted to the softball, though it’s really just following the dent in the cloth. It’s not a complete picture of how gravity and general relativity work, but it’s a good way to start to wrap your head around Einstein’s theory."

There is a wealth of content online — the internet can still be really very good if you stay away from Facebook — that explains the various introductions, fundamentals, and history of Einstein's groundbreaking exploration of our universe. Keep reading for a few links...

On this day, spacetime.Shutterstock

Sure, nobody is going to force you to watch all two hours of “Einstein field equations - for beginners!” on YouTube this holiday week, but you could do a lot worse than soaking your brain in the words of one Bob Eagle, the British science communicator and physicist.

Once you've familiarized yourself, you might want to move onto the paper itself. Trust this Princeton.edu link for a translated version of the research, first published back in 1915 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences.

The buzz of learning something new (or using the fundamentals as a diving board for your imagination) is rich here. Binge on a little physics in addition to the turkey this week. Let us know how you get on, too.

Question of the week: What's your favorite tech-related holiday memory?

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for November 25, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Today on The Abstract — How psychedelic science is changing life and death

Welcome to a special encore presentation of The Abstract, from Inverse.

As psychedelic research continues to make its way into mainstream medicine, recent studies demonstrate how magic mushrooms and LSD could transform the way we treat cancer patients’ crushing mental health symptoms, as well as people’s chronic pain.

In this episode — how a psychedelic renaissance is fueling a healthcare revolution.

Listen & subscribe:

Good News - The Oxford vaccine reveals a “provocative” finding other trials are missing

November has been a huge month for vaccine news, and promising vaccine results continue to roll in. On Monday, the University of Oxford and the drugmaker AstraZeneca released exciting interim results from a Phase 3 trial of another coronavirus vaccine candidate, indicating two different levels of efficacy depending on the dosage.

The vaccine was 62 percent effective in preventing disease participants given two standard doses of the vaccine, one month apart. Meanwhile, the vaccine was 90 percent effective in participants who received a half dose and then a full dose one month later. The results were based on 131 Covid-19 cases.

The 90 percent figure, achieved with the half dose followed by a full dose, would put the Oxford vaccine in league with Moderna’s vaccine candidate (94.5 percent effective) and Pfizer’s vaccine (95 percent effective).

But unlike the other leading vaccine candidates, the Oxford vaccine may prove to be advantageous in three unique ways.

Here's what makes the Oxford vaccine different →

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Virgin Hyperloop — First passenger says "zippy" ride felt like "science fiction"

For Sara Luchian, riding the hyperloop cemented her place in history.

The director of passenger experience at Virgin Hyperloop was one of the first people to ever publicly ride the high-speed pod transit system on November 8.

Luchian's ride was a landmark moment for the hyperloop, an idea first outlined by Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper. His vision involved sending pods through vacuum-sealed tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. A trip from Los Angeles and San Francisco would take around 35 minutes, all without generating carbon dioxide.

In an exclusive interview, she describes to Inverse what it was like →

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Helvetica justice — Better fonts could break a criminal justice trap

Pandemic or not, millions of people find themselves entering the criminal justice system each year for common offenses like improper vehicle registrations or possession of marijuana. On paper, these light offenses mean appearing in court and paying a fine. But if they miss their court date, as happens regularly, the situation suddenly escalates into an arrest warrant, which can snowball into someone going to jail or prison over what was once a very small offense.

A behavioral design nonprofit called ideas42, working with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, has found that two simple changes can help break this frustrating and costly cycle. Changing fonts and sending text messages can drastically improve how many people appear in court.

"The magnitude of the effects here is still pretty startling." →

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Coming soon ...

For the past few weeks we've been testing and playing Sony's latest PlayStation 5 console. Keep your eyes glued to Inverse for our full review, coming later this week.

Trippy - Old drugs found in California cave rewrite Native history

Drugs and art are an age-old combination, but the archaeological record is often just not good enough to tell us how deep the connection between drug use and human creativity truly runs.

Researchers had evidence that early native Californians used certain wild flora to enter trance states, but exactly how and why these early Californians got high has been subject to fierce debate in the archeological community for decades.

Now, a team of scientists may have found an answer in an unusual place: shoved into the ceiling of a cave painting.

See this discovery for yourself →

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Tough year - A skeptic's guide to feeling gratitude in 2020

The week before Thanksgiving, the United States recorded its 12 millionth coronavirus case. The CDC has, in turn, advised people not to travel for Thanksgiving. A holiday usually spent surrounded by others is going to be spent in small groups, or even alone.

Gratitude can be challenging to feel even in the best of years. In 2020, during a season when we’re supposed to count our blessings, it's even harder.

But this year could also be the time when we have the most to gain from gratitude.

How to reap the benefits of gratitude without sugar-coating 2020 →

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