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What could make the humble caterpillar go blind with rage? Getting hungry

When food is scarce, the monarch butterfly caterpillar gets ugly.

Metamorphosis of the Swallowtail - Papilio machaon - butterfly. 6 studies of changes. Hand drawn vec...

The staff of The Tech likely didn't realize what they had started on November 20, 1963. The campus newspaper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was just trying to report on the day's news. The hot story on campus was how someone had used a computer to shut down the school's phone system. While they weren't sure who did it, the staff of The Tech had a name for them: hackers. "Telephone hackers active," the headline blared, the first-ever documented time the word hacking was publicly associated with computers.

Of course, now it's more likely to be associated with either cryptocurrency hostage situations or an Angelina Jolie movie from the '90s, which just goes to show how far the English language can stretch.

It's last call for our question of the week, so get your answers in! We want to know how Covid-19 is affecting your holiday plans. We've got a lot of responses and are looking for more. Shoot an email to

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for November 20, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Today on The Abstract — Why music gives you chills (and other secrets of sound)

Whether it’s the healing crash of ocean waves, the emotional power of a sad song, or that sudden, unfamiliar noise that stops you dead in your tracks — sounds can instantly trigger intense reactions in the brain.

The ability to hear connects our brain and emotions in ways that none of our other senses can, and scientists are finally beginning to make some sound sense of it.

In this episode of The Abstract, we explain what the latest science says about the power of sound.

Listen & subscribe:




Under the dome — Elon Musk says a Mars city of "glass domes" comes before people

Elon Musk wants to build a city on Mars — a project that would be a precursor to making the planet more Earth-like.

On Wednesday, the SpaceX CEO explained via Twitter that this city would involve "life in glass domes at first." The planet would "eventually" be "terraformed to support life, like Earth." While the planet-changing process would be "too slow to be relevant in our lifetime [...] we can establish a human base there in our lifetime." If worse comes to worse, Musk explained, "at least a future spacefaring civilization — discovering our ruins — will be impressed humans got that far."

From the Starship to the dome

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Buzz — A new map reveals the secret life of bees

When we think about bees, the image that often comes to mind is the iconic honeybee, bringing you the oh-so-sweet honey you use to flavor your tea or dab on your toast.

But there are more than 20,000 bee species worldwide, and the honey bee is just one of them. For the first time, researchers have created a comprehensive map of these bees' distribution across the globe.

The map reveals where in the world bees are most diverse — and where they may be most at risk of climate change.

"An unprecedented view of bee species richness"

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New challenger — Rivian’s next electric cars could follow a Tesla-like path to success

Rivian is yet to release its first electric car, but the company already has plans for its fourth vehicle and beyond.

In a report published in Reuters on Wednesday, Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said the Michigan-headquartered firm will produce a series of "follow-on products" to its first cars.

Rivian aims to start delivering the R1T truck in June 2021 and the R1S SUV in August 2021. After the initial rollout, the company plans to ship the SUV to Europe and China, starting with Europe in 2022, but their successors "will really drive volume in those markets," according to the report.

Is Rivian the fabled Tesla killer?

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Coming soon ...

Covid-19 has changed the way the world works — and that includes astrophysicists. Get ready for Inverse to take a look inside a virtual reality-enabled workspace built in a refurbished Southern California garage that will allow scientists and curious visitors to understand the universe like never before.

Smart trees — To reduce pollution pockets, Los Angeles is using A.I. from Google

Trees play a critical role as carbon recyclers and oxygen providers. But in dense cities, tree canopy can be scarce. And where trees are most scarce, "heat islands" often form. Heat islands are the product of dense concrete infrastructure. Concrete absorbs and holds onto heat, and these areas can create pockets where the air is poor quality and there is increased pollution.

Big data could hold the key to tackling the problem of heat islands. The city of Los Angeles is using Google's A.I. tools and maps to strategically plant trees.

Does A.I. have a green thumb?

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Food fight — Hangry caterpillars fight, Hunger Games style

We all know what it's like to feel a little hangry. You haven't eaten in hours, your stomach begins grumbling, and you start to get a little on edge. Maybe you snap back at a coworker or unexpectedly raise your voice in a conversation with loved ones.

It may be some consolation to know that humans aren't alone in experiencing this unique blend of hunger and anger.

In a study published Thursday in the journal iScience, scientists reveal that late-stage monarch butterfly caterpillars display aggressive tendencies when faced with limited food supply.

What could drive an innocent caterpillar to violence?

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