In today's lead story, a NASA astronaut talks to Inverse about what it will take to become the first woman on the Moon. But first, our look into tech history is about never getting lost again. Today, in 2005, Google Maps officially launched.
Google was far from the only website offering online directions at the time. The market was fairly crowded, with MapQuest, Yahoo Maps, Microsoft's MapBlast, and Rand McNally all trying to show you the quickest way to work. But Google's design quickly won over critics.
A review of the competition just seven months after its launch said that the application had “street renderings that look like the work of a skilled draftsman, rather than an engineer” and made “its maps into something that feels uniquely internet.” And that stands true today. After all, when was the last time you used MapQuest?
Our question of the week: With Valentine's Day around the corner, the nerdier side of Inverse is coming out. What's your favorite fictional couple? Love, as Tom King recently mentioned in his Inverse interview, is a powerful driver in stories. Leia and Han, Korra and Asami, Wanda and Vision. Love is a battlefield, and we want to hear which fictional couple has you picking up arms.
Respond in our Google form, and we'll post our favorite answers next week! Check below for last week's answers.
More than meets the eye — PS5 and Xbox “scalpers” aren't who you think, data analyst reveals
You want them. They know you want them. The market for cutting-edge game machines, like the PlayStation 5 and new Xbox, is one where the sellers currently have all the power. But who's doing the selling?
If you’ve fruitlessly tried to track down a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X over the last few months, you’ve likely wondered if the whole system is rigged. The prevailing wisdom holds that scammers are using bots to hoard video game consoles and make a predatory buck off of innocent nerds.
Turns out, professional scalpers aren’t as big a factor as you might expect, according to an intriguing new analysis of the secondary market for the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles. A surprising proportion of vendors — roughly 40 percent — sell just one or two consoles on platforms like eBay, StockX, and OfferUp, making them more likely to be an enterprising nana who got lucky on a drop rather than a professional scam artist.
Inverse has a fascinating new interview with Mike Driscoll, a grad student in computer science with a focus on machine learning at Georgia Tech. Driscoll used a data scraper to gain insight on the resale markets for high-spec computer components before turning his attention to the PS5 and Xbox. Here's what he's learned about getting your hands on a new console.
What they're saying: “I had expected the scalper market to be worse than it is.” —Michael Driscoll, data scraper, to Inverse.
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You've either seen Southland Tales or you haven't. Richard Kelly's 2006 movie isn't one that a person just forgets. Booed at Cannes, loved by a cult fanbase, Southland Tales is a movie like no other. Trying the movie that stars both Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Seann William Scott is extremely hard with no context.
Luckily, Inverse got Kelly himself to discuss the movie's unforgettable scene: Justin Timberlake lip-syncing The Killers’ 2004 ode to Iraq War veterans, “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Kelly talks about that unforgettable dance number, hiring a Dungeons & Dragons consultant for a most elaborate story metaphor, and much more. This critical and commercial disaster isn’t just beloved by its director years later, but perhaps more prescient, more ominous, and just maybe, a lot better than we realized.
What they're saying: “In a weird way, this ‘bonkers pop’ quality of the film does feel like it anticipated Trump.” —Richard Kelly, director of Southland Tales, to Inverse.
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Little drop of poison — “Poisonous” sperm may offer clues to a common medical problem
The father of genetics, a monk named Gregor Mendel, presumed all sperm have an equal opportunity in the race for fertilization. In a marathon sprint to the egg, so his theory goes, all sperm have the same chance to reach their target before any other sperm.
But Mendel underestimated his subject — not all sperm are equal. In the United States, male fertility problems account for a third of conception issues, but despite the prevalence, many of these issues are unexplained. In a new study in mice, researchers show how sperm that carry a specific gene variation not only swim faster but also “poison” their peers.
What they're saying: “Our data highlight the fact that sperm cells are ruthless competitors” —Bernhard Herrmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and of the Institute of Medical Genetics at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
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Coming soon ...
If you're enjoying Inverse Daily, and we truly hope you are, you should check out our sibling newsletter Musk Reads. Helmed by our innovation writer Mike Brown, the newsletter doesn't just keep close tabs on the latest moves by Elon Musk's various companies. It also looks at the industries Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink are shaping, and how the competition is reacting. Here's Mike describing what's coming up in the newsletter's paid version, Musk Reads+:
“Axiom Space is planning to send its first crew to space as a natural precursor to building an entire space station. The firm made headlines last month when it announced the four private citizens that will travel to the International Space Station on a SpaceX Crew Dragon as part of the mission ‘AX-1.’ In an Inverse interview, Axiom Space’s director of in-space manufacturing and research, Christian Maender, explains how these missions lead to the space station, how the project could support all-new industries in space, and how it’s ultimately developing the pit stop before the highway to the Solar System.”
We probably don't have to tell the average Inverse reader that there is a climate crisis going on right now. And now that Joe Biden is starting to settle into the presidency, the push to put an official emergency status on the climate crisis is back on. But unlike a specific disaster, which has a clear beginning, middle, and end, climate change is inherently abstract.
It's not a fast-paced pandemic sweeping the country, killing thousands per day. Climate change is a slow-rolling disaster on a global scale. No one country is going to get the Earth out of this — but as a global superpower with the ability to change other countries' course of action, what America does — or doesn't — do to address climate change matters beyond the United States' own shores.
Inverse talked with a former FEMA official who knows how the levers of government work from the inside. We picked his brain on what declaring an official emergency status on the climate could actually mean, beyond the symbolism. As it turns out, President Biden has options.
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In late 2020, Nicole Mann received a call that would alter the course of her life — and may even alter the course of human history. On the line was NASA veteran astronaut Reid Wiseman. He had called to let Mann know she had been chosen to be part of the Artemis mission. Put bluntly: Mann could be going to the Moon.
In an interview with Inverse conducted in late January, she recalled how, despite all her training to prepare her for this great endeavor, she was still dumbstruck.
If everything in NASA's upcoming Artemis missions goes according to plan, a woman will finally set foot on the Earth's only natural satellite. But the question is: who? Our interview discusses the magnitude of the decision and the determination of the women who want to say it was them.
What they're saying: “It’s just this really overwhelming sense of emotion in the best of ways that I can describe.” —Nicole Mann, a candidate to be the first woman on the Moon, to Inverse.
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- Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope: How NASA will build on Hubble's legacy
- NASA is sending “Lucy” to a mysterious celestial location
And now a selection of answers from last week's question: Would you live in a city on Mars? We got over 200 responses to this; thank you for the overwhelming response!
“Hell yes! Even if it was a one-way, going to be 60 next year, but I would do it even if I was 40. We are trashing this planet and we don't have the will or intelligence to stop, so we need to start searching outward.” — Mike Skidmore
“No. The rest of the universe doesn't deserve to know the human race and its propensity for destruction — along with all the scourges manifested by their habits.” — R.T. Faatoafe
“No. Why spend so much money and effort on an attempt to make a hostile planet even remotely suitable for human habitation when it could be used so much better to save an already perfect planet? It's insane.” — Barbara Buys
“If it were mostly underground. The dirt would insulate while protecting from space debris. An above-ground roofed enclosure could be easily sealed in event of a breach. Yes. I would consider it an honor.” — John Patrick Reynolds
“Absolutely yes! Although I suppose I’m considered a ‘senior citizen,’ I do have a wealth of practical knowledge that would be of use in a new city on Mars. From radio equipment to experimental cooking to animal husbandry and gardening. Also herbs — their growing and medicinal use. I think a series of steps would be the way to do it.
Starting with the (large) spacecraft while we build shelter underground so that we have a beginning point. Then, while we are flourishing underground, we could start terraforming, which would be the big goal. I think it would be amazing to wake up each day to your job — whatever that might be — to colonize a new planet. To start anew. To be given a chance to perhaps do it right this time. I would definitely spend what time I have left imparting my knowledge to a younger person and experiencing this.” — Carole Hill Cheatham
“Not unless my pension and social security could be sent to Mars. I assume I would need funds to support my lifestyle. Don't want to start all over at my age.” — Margaret Denn
“Not as a pioneer. I think that the first anywhere requires a skillset that put their mark on the enterprise, be prepared to take command, and control to ensure that the beachhead is established and is secure. They are the ones who prove it can be done. They are extremely adaptable and can change the rules quickly to meet unexpected situations I would not fit into that environment.
I would happily go in the next wave that maps out a process for the kinds of behaviors that we agree that we all need to abide by and how we respond when that doesn't happen or valid alternatives are shown to work. These are the people skilled in establishing systems and testing them in a relatively stable environment. Two different skillsets and I venture to suggest different personas.” — Charles CM Bannister
And if you're looking for more, make sure to check out our recommendation for the most important sci-fi movie on Hulu before it leaves this week.
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