Astronomers discovered a precursor to life in a strange hiding spot
Plus: Big arms, long life.
Babies are weird. They make little chubby fists and don’t know where their mouths are. Ridiculous. Looking at my own baby photos occasionally hits me on the head with a few existential questions (“is this really me?”), but it helps to remember that the whole universe is filled with the strange potential of young life.
A new study recognizes this in a large organic molecule, which could create life in a surprising place. Read more about it in today’s Inverse Daily, then move on to our fascinating assortment of nature, health, and sustainability stories. While you read and undertake the very small task of contemplating our existence, don’t forget to ‘reply’ with your answer to this week’s reader question — what is your favorite lunar legend? We’ll feature some of your responses about Roman deities, full moon wishes, and werewolves in a newsletter next week.
Researchers recently discovered an unprecedentedly large molecule around the young star IRS 48. It was the largest molecule ever found in a protoplanetary disc, which is “clouds of gas particles and swirls of dust that form in unison with the birth of a star,” writes Inverse space reporter Passant Rabie. “The gas and dust collide with one another as they orbit around the star, eventually growing into a larger body — a planet.”
From the start, IRS 38’s protoplanetary disc seemed a bit unusual. “Previous observations showed that the dust particles are gathered in a crescent shape while the gas and smaller dust grains form a ring-shaped disc,” writes Rabie. The astronomers used Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to make further observations, which confirmed the disc’s uniqueness — it contained the organic molecule dimethyl ether, which is nine-atoms-large and helps create prebiotic molecules like sugars.
Although this life-building molecule might seem out of place on a star 400 light years away from Earth, the scientists believe that “complex organic molecules such as dimethyl ether form in star-forming clouds, before the stars themselves are born,” writes Rabie. Life has to start somewhere.
Building blocks: This unexpected force may be responsible for life on Earth
The weather is getting warmer, and people are stepping out of hibernation (a.k.a. a home office with the curtains drawn). After you’re done stretching your legs, you might want to pick up some weights. According to a meta-analysis published this week in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, even less than an hour of strength training per week could save your life.
The analysis determined that between 30 and 60 minutes of muscle training every week correlates to the risk of heart disease being reduced by 17 percent, the risk of cancer being reduced by 14 percent, and the risk of diabetes being reduced by 17 percent. Though those numbers are intriguing, writer Nick Keppler says it’s “important to note, however, that once the researchers started to drill down into specific conditions, they had very few studies to base their conclusions on.”
“Further, the researchers found no association between strength training and the risk of site-specific cancers, like colon, kidney, bladder, and pancreatic.” Their meta-analysis also relied on limited self-reported information provided by U.S. study participants, meaning that the quality of data could be low or region specific. Still, “there is a consensus that working the muscles increases bone density, helps manage one’s weight, and reduces symptoms of some chronic conditions, all of which become increasingly important to take into account as you age,” writes Keppler.
What strong arms you have: Why lifting is about more than strength
The velvet worm is… kind of gross. It’s slow, spotted, and moves by flexing its nubby legs, which look more like a pencil’s pink eraser than appendages. But the worm’s stubby body doesn’t keep it from being one of science’s most intriguing creatures, or a formidable predator out in the wild.
You see, the “slime of the velvet worm is unique,” writes ecologist Anna Funk. “Unrelated to the sticky silk of spiders and insects, its molecular structure is such that as water evaporates from it, it hardens and gets steadily stickier,” like a crime-fighting Spiderman, but a worm with deviant sexual behaviors.
Oh yeah, some velvet worms give live birth, “placenta and all,” writes Funk, and some species have males with their “sperm-containing organ” located on their head. Others have males that deposit “a sperm packet anywhere onto the skin of the female,” Funk continues. “It dissolves the skin underneath and the sperm get inside, finding their way to the eggs in the body.” So, the velvet worm is kind of gross. But its singularity makes it a fantastic way to study evolution.
You got slimed: This bacteria eats carbon dioxide and spits out clean chemicals
“The Polestar O2 is an electric rocketship that’s ready to be recycled when its time is done,” writes Inverse car reviewer Jordan Golson. “Oh, and it comes with a drone that launches from the trunk to record your adventures.”
That’s futuristic and great news for the burgeoning content creators among us, but the Polestar O2 is also making strides in sustainable transportation. Specifically, “Polestar believes in ‘circularity’ or the ability to reuse base materials like aluminum again and again,” writes Golson. “There are three different alloys of aluminum used in the O2, and all the body and frame components are designed to be easily recycled.”
Click through Golson’s card story review to see the beautiful recycled car in motion.
The name’s vehicle. Electric vehicle: Elon Musk is ‘probably right’ about bold EV claim
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- On this day in history: The planets aligned on March 10, 1982, in a 95 degree arc from the Sun, to be exact. Though this event, called a syzygy, occurs every 179 years, many believed that this specific syzygy marked the end of the world. I’m glad they were wrong — Kate Bush’s seminal album Hounds of Love wasn’t released until 1985.
Song of the day: “The Big Sky,” by Kate Bush.