China is bringing the Moon back to Earth
Or at least a little piece of it, for scientific research
World War II came to an astonishing end as the world saw the horrifying possibilities of nuclear energy with the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, the United States and the Soviet Union began demonstrating nuclear test after test, convinced they would need the new weapons for a coming war. Former Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces Dwight D. Eisenhower, elected president in 1952, was convinced that "the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death but consecrated to his life," as he said during a speech at the United Nations.
Eisenhower embarked on what he called his "Atoms for Peace" program, with commercial nuclear energy powering cities around the world as its big idea. The Duquesne Light Company out of Pittsburgh suggested an intriguing idea: What if they took a large-scale light water reactor for a proposed military aircraft carrier and used it for peaceful purposes? Eisenhower loved the idea, appearing at the groundbreaking ceremony of what would become the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in 1954.
Three years later, on this date in 1957, Shippingport would be the first commercial central electric-generating station to use nuclear energy, in this case powering the Pittsburgh area. Eisenhower would later reappear at the plant's dedication in 1958.
Shippingport closed in 1982, and nuclear energy has become much more controversial since Eisenhower introduced the concept. But "Atoms for Peace" lives on in the International Atomic Energy Agency, which incorporated the phrase into its motto.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and 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 18, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.
Today on The Abstract — The path to good health in 2021
As we brace ourselves for a chilly, virus-laden winter, staying physically safe from the novel coronavirus remains a top priority.
By combing through a massive data set, researchers have pinpointed the most common superspreader sites to avoid. Meanwhile, new research says some of the most powerful strategies for longevity are free and easy. Soft health drivers like social networks, kindness, and volunteerism can make everyday living better — and add years to your life.
In this episode of The Abstract, we explain how to avoid high-risk hot spots and embrace essential soft health drivers for a stronger, healthier new year.
Red alert — Smoke is bad for you, but it might be worse than you thought
This year, fires raged across the world, reminding us of the sheer devastation climate change can wreak. Fires in California razed a stunning 4 million acres of land, Colorado suffered the three largest recorded fires in state history, and more than 4,000 homes in Oregon burned down. Poor forest maintenance, bad utility infrastructure, increased drought, and man-made climate change mean there is an ever-expanding tinderbox ready to go up at any time.
But as a paper published Thursday in the journal Science notes, the dangers of fires do not stop with the fires themselves. After all, there is no smoke without fire. And where there’s smoke, there are potentially deadly infectious agents lurking in the fumes, presenting a massive and wholly underestimated health risk.
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky →
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Buried treasure — Shipwrecked ivory reveals a 16th century eco crime
It sounds like something straight out of an adventure novel. A piece of buried treasure on a sunken ship leads a group of intrepid researchers to a groundbreaking discovery with modern-day implications.
But this is no fiction. In a study published Thursday in Current Biology, researchers describe a trove of shipwrecked ivory, lost to time hundreds of years ago. From these historic elephant tusks, the researchers reveal not only the origin of these 16th century elephant remains, but also new information about the Elizabethan ivory trade, and how the trade continues to affect the lives of animals today.
One person's treasure is another's academic paper→
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FAQs — Vitamin D: 7 things to know before you take supplements
Known as the “sunshine pill” for its supposed ability to mimic the effects of sunshine on health, vitamin D supplements are a billion-dollar industry.
People take vitamin D supplements for a variety of reasons, both mental and physical. Some take it if they feel sad, perhaps as the result of the winter blues, for example. Others take it because vitamin D supposedly plays a role in bone health.
But before reaching for the pillbox, you need to know these seven facts about vitamin D supplements and how they work.
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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.
Treats — Mummified Ice Age puppy's final snack stuns scientists
Puppies get into everything they shouldn't — from trash cans to your holiday dinner. Ice Age pups are no exception.
In a study published this summer, researchers discovered a clue to these ancient dogs' lives, hidden inside the stomach of a mummified pup: a chunk of woolly rhino.
The discovery of a well-preserved animal sample inside another animal is as gnarly as it is rare. The finding enables scientists to better understand what the predator-prey dynamics between these ancient creatures might've looked like. It also prompts questions entirely new to science, like: How did a puppy take down a rhino?
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Drop-off — Landmark mission brings Moon samples to Earth for the first time in 4 decades
On Wednesday, Earth received a very special delivery.
Chang'e-5, a lunar lander sent by China in November to snag a piece of the Moon and return it to Earth, had succeeded in its historic mission.
The sample return capsule, retrieved from Siziwang Banner in Mongolia, China, contains 2 kilograms of lunar material — the first lunar rock sample to make it to Earth for a study in more than 40 years. Considering how rich the few fragments of the Moon on Earth have proven to science — collected during the 1960s and '70s — the potential to unlock new secrets about our natural satellite and constant celestial companion cannot be understated.
How Chang'e-5 is expanding science →
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- First direct study of far side of the Moon reveals a "different world"
- SpaceX Starship: Elon Musk responds to incredible fan render of lunar landing
And that's it for the Daily! Make sure to check out our recommendation for the best, most underrated sci-fi superhero movie on Netflix.
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