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Gut check

New research adds to growing evidence that gut health is pivotal for mental and physical health.

How's your Dry January going? It's OK if the answer to that question is, "How do you think it's going?" The world's news has not made it very easy to stop drinking alcohol this past week, but fear not — a "mostly Dry January" is still an admirable thing to achieve.

The benefits of abstaining from booze are many, from the short-term (better sleep and more money) to the long-term (Dry January participants are likely to drink less all year long).

Expand your mind and fill your heart with belief that you can actually do this by reading up on Dry January science in Inverse.

I am Nick Lucchesi, executive editor at Inverse, filling in for David Grossman today. Let's dive in.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for January 12, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

New images reveal a neon-green zombie star under new light

In May 2019, astronomers spotted what appears to be a bright green blob out in the cosmos. The result of two dead stars colliding into one another, the exact nature of this stellar being has confused and intrigued scientists — until now.

Astronomers were recently able to image the remnant of the stellar merger in X-ray light, revealing new information about its product: a never-before-seen kind of star.

The image reveals a central star surrounded by a bright neon green nebula that encompasses the remains of a rare stellar merger between two white dwarf stars. The image, which calls to mind the 1997 movie Flubber, is a first-of-its-kind achievement for scientists.

This stellar being has never been observed with X-ray light, and it provides scientists with new insight into how dead stars can still evolve despite their morbid nature.

Check out this zombie star →

And please stop:

Why bad sleep can make you vulnerable to future stress

A bad night's sleep comes with a host of consequences, some of which aren't obvious right away. This is especially true when stressful situations — like a year defined by a pandemic — hit.

In a mouse study published Tuesday in Frontiers in Neuroscience, scientists found fragmented sleep patterns – a pattern of sleep marked by more awakenings and shorter bouts of non-rapid eye movement sleep – could predict how mice responded to future stress.

Mice with regular sleep patterns were resilient to bullying, while those with fragmented sleep patterns weren't equipped to deal with the abuse.

Dipesh Chaudhury is the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of biology at New York University Abu Dhabi. He tells Inverse that this study deepens our understanding of how stress and sleep are related.

Typically, we assume that stress leads to poor sleep. But things could also work the other way around, with poor sleep dampening resilience to stress at the same time.

“Our findings also indicate that those mice that exhibit abnormal sleep prior to stress are more sensitive to future stress exposure. In other words, sleep abnormalities can also be a cause of stress-related disorders,” Chaudhury says.

New research suggests fragmented sleep patterns contain a critical message →

More on sleep:

Look at this giant Tesla Solar Roof

A real estate developer in Florida has unveiled what he claims is the state's largest Tesla Solar Roof install — and it's earned the praise of Elon Musk.

ChoZen Retreat, the video claims, is the first center of its kind to receive a Tesla Solar Roof. It's also the first home in Indian River County, Florida, to receive the roof. It is the 26th home in the state of Florida.

"One of the best Tesla Solar Roof installations," Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on his Twitter page.

It's an impressive display for Tesla's roof product, unveiled as part of a "house of the future" in October 2016.

At the event, Musk explained how the tiles could pair with a Tesla Model 3 electric car and Powerwall battery to offer complete zero-emissions energy usage for a household.

This roof is an absolute unit →

More videos:

Coming soon ...

2020 is in the history books. Of course, we remember the year as being defined by the pandemic. But how long will our memories last?

Coming soon on Inverse, a look at how Covid-19 could change our cultural consciousness.

Video: Scientists discover new mode of "snake locomotion"

"Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"

Indiana Jones' fear of snakes — a contrast to his general fearlessness otherwise — has become a modern-day Achilles' heel, and the clips of Dr. Jones flinching away at the asps in the Raiders of the Lost Ark has been turned into countless memes.

But if Jones had encountered the brown tree snake, he'd have a darn good reason to be petrified.

In new research published in the journal Current Biology, scientists reveal how the brown tree snake uses a seemingly distinct form of movement, known as "lasso locomotion," to climb larger cylindrical surfaces — like trees — and ensnare prey which would otherwise be out of reach.

This is (probably) fine →

Oh please no:

Gut microbiome imbalances influence the likelihood of "long-Covid"

When the immune system battles Covid-19, it can sometimes spin wildly out of control and cause an outsized response called a cytokine storm.

These storms can overburden the body, cause organ failure and tissue damage, jeopardize brain function, and even lead to death.

In a recent study, researchers suggest that people's gut microbiome may mediate their immune response to the disease, ramping up or tamping down inflammation during the illness that contributes to cytokine storms.

Imbalances in the gut microbiome may also shape the severity of Covid-19 and determine who bounces back from the disease relatively quickly or who becomes a long-hauler.

The new research, which was published Monday in the journal Gut, adds to growing evidence that gut health is pivotal for mental and physical health.

Gut check →

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That's all for today. Thank you for reading!

Looking for one more thing? Watch this underrated cult movie before it leaves Netflix later this week.

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