Inverse Daily

Maybe this city really is making you depressed

Plus: The weird future of Bitcoin in El Salvador.

In early September 2020, Los Angeles was blanketed each day with smoke and ash from nearby wildfires...
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One of the earliest songs explicitly about mental health that I remember affecting me is “Depression” by Black Flag. It’s a punk song, seeping with desperate isolation, written by a musical group based in notoriously smoggy Los Angeles. In the early ‘80s, when Black Flag was in its heyday, the air quality in LA was much, much worse than today.

So it’s with a gloomy familiarity that I share another piece of research that links poor mental health with air pollution in big cities. The bad news aside, we’ve come a long way in improving the air quality of our big cities (see that air quality link above for the numbers). Also, the AQI data is easier than ever to find and act upon. But we’ve still a long road ahead.

Our lead story today links mental health and air pollution in another powerful way. Keep reading for more on that story. I’m Nick Lucchesi and this is Inverse Daily. Masks on, let’s dive in.

A technical note — We know our consecutive open counter is broken, and we’re trying to fix it. 🚧🚧🚧

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Tuesday, November 9, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

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Scientists reveal a complex link between air pollution and depression

[By Nick Keppler]

You may be breathing dirty air right now. Nine out of ten people in the world live in areas with high levels of air pollutants, according to the World Health Organization.

This is a problem for physical and mental health. In addition to its well-established relationships to cancer and respiratory and heart diseases, a growing trove of scientific evidence links air pollution with depression and other mental health disorders.

A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences adds to our understanding of this relationship, revealing one mechanism by which air pollution may trigger depression.

Researchers at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and Peking University in Beijing studied the genetic makeup of 352 healthy residents of Beijing for markers that show a predisposition to depression. High exposure to air pollution, in turn, was correlated to poor performance on mental exercises used to measure depression-related cognitive difficulties.

Read the full story.


This is a screenshot of Musk’s news-making Twitter poll, as seen on Monday, November 8, 2021.


Elon Musk: The surprising history behind his decision to sell shares

[By Mike Brown]

Elon Musk’s online poll has finished, and he looks set for a hefty tax bill.

Over the weekend, the world’s richest person held a Twitter poll that asked whether he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla stock, a percentage that Reuters calculates could be worth nearly $21 billion. The move would see Musk pay taxes on the amount gained from the sale. The poll results were emphatic: of the 3.5 million votes, 57.9 percent supported the move.

A Tesla decision back in 2012, however, may suggest Musk was always going to sell.

Read the full story.


A customer buys groceries at a store where Bitcoin currency is accepted as a payment method on October 22, 2021 in Berlin, Usultan Department, El Salvador. After declaring Bitcoin legal tender along with US Dollar, Salvadoran government mines cryptocurrency with 300 computers in plant powered by Tecapa Volcano.

Alex Peña/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Bitcoin in El Salvador: Protests, Chivo App, and everything else

[By Jack Delahunty]

Cast aside everything you thought you knew about cash and currency, and consider a world where Bitcoin is legal tender. Imagine stopping at your local coffee shop or pharmacy and paying for everything with Bitcoin simply by scanning a QR code with your phone.

In the Central American country of El Salvador, that's the goal. But the results so far have been mixed at best.

The Bitcoin Law, proposed by the country's divisive President Nayib Bukele, was passed by the Legislature in June and went into effect on September 7, 2021, making the country of 6.5 million people the first to give the cryptocurrency legal tender status. This puts Bitcoin on equal footing alongside the U.S. dollar, which became El Salvador's official currency 20 years ago.

Read the full story.


Soledad Esain / FOAP/foap/Getty Images

Can you get high from poppy seeds? A toxicologist explains

[By Sarah Wells]

The mandatory drug test for new jobs is controversial for a number of reasons, including the fact that it can be hijacked by your breakfast.

Let’s say you ate a far-from-offensive lemon poppyseed muffin before the test. You pop the final bite of the muffin into your mouth and as you’re chewing begin to remember stories of poppy seeds triggering a false positive on drug tests. Swallowing hard, you shrug it off as just more digital misinformation.

Then your test comes back positive.

A sprinkling of poppy seeds in a muffin or over a bagel may sound utterly innocent, but the consumption of these seeds is still regularly flagged by urine tests as opium. While most false positives triggered by poppy seeds can be easily overturned, the National Institute of Drug Abuse suggests skipping a poppy seed snack altogether before a drug test, just to be safe.

Why can these seeds trigger a false positive? And is it possible that another culinary rumor is true — that eating poppy seeds can actually get you high?

Read the full story.


Actor Lou Ferrigno marks a birthday today. One of his best roles saw him playing the Incredible Hulk.

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  • About the newsletter: Do you think it can be improved? Have a story idea? Want to share a story about the time you met an astronaut? Send those thoughts and more to
  • Notable birthdays: Lou Ferrigno (70; pictured above as the Incredible Hulk), Nick Lachey (48), Vanessa Lachey (41), Sisqo (43), Chris Jericho (51). (Source: AP.)
  • Song of the Day: Depression” by Black Flag (Keith Morris version)
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