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How Michael Phelps is pushing through the rough Covid season

“For lack of a better term, I've had to sit in my own shit during some of this."

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The world of movies changed forever today in 1937, with Disney's long-awaited Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs having its world premiere. Walt Disney's first full-length animated film pushed the limits of technical possibility for the era.

Among the chief innovations Disney used for the picture was the multiplane camera. As Disney himself would explain, "the problem was how to take a painting and make it behave like a real piece of scenery under the camera. The trouble was we were photographing a two-dimensional camera." The multiplane camera separated individual elements in a scene, like a background or character, into individual layers that could be adjusted. Splitting images into layers allowed greater dynamism in how the shot looked, just like a live-action close-up or long shot.

Disney did not invent the multiplane camera singlehandedly. A similar device had been developed by German animator Lotte Reiniger years earlier, and a Disney compatriot, Ub Iwerks, built a working prototype three years before Snow White. Iwerks' version was built out of a used camera and salvaged parts of an old sedan. The version used for Snow White was more refined.

As the year ends, we're expanding our question of the week to the rest of December. In one sentence, what's your prediction for 2021? Shoot us an email at We'll be publishing our favorites at the beginning of the new year.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for December 21, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Today on The Abstract Friends or enemies: Why social networks are the key to survival

While forming friendships is a deeply human experience, it may not be as unique to our species as we think. As we age, we tend to have fewer, yet closer, friends — a phenomenon called socioemotional selectivity.

By studying the social behavior of apes, scientists discovered chimps do the same thing. They don't know why these animals show such a similar social behavior to humans, but conclude both species learned that strongly established bonds help ensure survival.

In this episode of The Abstract, we dive into the surprising overlap in the relationships of chimpanzees and humans.

Cosmic alignment — Jupiter and Saturn are scheduled for a once-in-a-millennium rendezvous

For centuries, people have looked at the skies as a way to guide them.

Celestial events have always held a cultural and spiritual significance to those who looked up and saw shooting stars or other cosmic happenings.

In anticipation of today's historic Jupiter and Saturn conjunction, Inverse asked astronomers why this particular alignment has attracted so much global attention, and whether or not it may be another version of the Biblical "Star of Bethlehem."

How can two planets become one?

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Complex sex — This duck's semen holds a surprising clue to animal evolution

Ducks, to put it mildly, can be very annoying. For one thing, they're prone to bouts of aggression, attacking people at random.

Their incessant quacking can get pretty irritating, too. But, beneath that frustrating quacking, it turns out ducks have a mysterious superpower that may help us unlock the secrets of animal evolution: their sperm.

A study published in January found certain properties in mallard ducks' sperm can play an important role in sexual health and fertility. Intriguingly, it may even kill bacteria.


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Fa la la — The psychological reason why celebrating Christmas is essential for your well-being

From birthdays to weddings and graduations, this year has seen many personal celebrations canceled, while communal festivities such as Bonfire Night, Eid, and Diwali either haven’t been celebrated or have been more subdued. So it might feel tempting to downplay Christmas, too, especially with concerns that people mixing more freely could lead to the third wave of Covid-19.

However, it will be more important this year than ever before to engage in the celebrations and rituals of Christmas and New Year. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of the season – while keeping to 2020’s limitations – will be very good for our mental health. After a tough year, this might be exactly what we need.

Although it's been said many times, many ways...

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Coming soon ...

One thing you can expect in the 2020s will be a much-needed breaking of the lunar glass ceiling. NASA, as well as other space organizations, has made it a priority to land the first woman on the surface of the Moon. NASA recently announced nine finalists for the position. But that's the thing about being first — there can only be one. Coming soon on Inverse, a look at the nine women with a chance to make history for all of humanity.

Not Dune, somehow — This ancient worm-like creature is an evolutionary miracle

Consider the worm. The wriggling, slimy creatures that break down dead leaves into plant food. The same worms you may or may not have accidentally stepped on by the side of the road on a rainy day.

Now picture these worms... but with legs.

It is not a nice thought. But a study published earlier this year in Current Biology found we came very, very close to sharing our world with limbed worms. The reason: an ancient worm called Facivermis.

Those worms were really weird. Like, seriously weird

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Just keep swimming — Michael Phelps shares 4 strategies to fight pandemic pessimism

It's December 2020 and Michael Phelps is sitting in his own shit. As he puts it, the pandemic has slowed down reality — disrupting his “go, go, go” pace and clarifying his core values.

“For lack of a better term, I've had to sit in my own shit during some of this and, yeah, it's been painful,” Phelps tells Inverse. "But you know, it's also been probably what I needed to have the opportunity to grow."

The swimming phenomenon and most decorated Olympian in history is no stranger to darkness. Behind the highs of his gold medal wins, Phelps has faced deeply stressful periods and bouts of depression in his athletic and personal life — even moments where he wanted to give it all up.

But four key tactics kept him going and managing his mental health: setting crystal clear goals, looking at the big picture, remembering he's not alone, and asking for help.

To those out there who feel similarly stuck or helpless, Phelps offers this piece of advice: “Don't be afraid to feel vulnerable.”

How Michael Phelps is making it work, and how you can too

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And that's it for the Daily! Check out our recommendations, if you're feeling in the season, for the eight best sci-fi Christmas movies you can stream right now.

Thank you for reading! Follow me on Twitter if you want, where I tweet too much.

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