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Scientists upend a popular theory of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Plus: If the James Webb Space Telescope can thrive, so can you.

09 December 2021, Berlin: The helper holds a hedgehog up to the camera. At the hedgehog sanctuary in...
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I can’t lie to you — I’m a huge hypochondriac. Stomach ache? My appendix must have burst. Mild headache? Tragic, but it seems like I have a case of brain amoeba. Once, I cried because I had some mice running around my attic. But I wasn’t upset that they were there. I was upset because I thought they might result in a rare case of Hantavirus, a deadly, rodent-borne disease. There have only been five cases of Hantavirus in New York since 1993, but what if I was the sixth?!

I have not yet suffered from a niche zoonotic illness, but a recent Nature study hits on how nature influences human health. The study reveals hedgehogs are the original source of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus aka the superbug MRSA. I’m Ashley Bardhan, the newsletter writer at Inverse. Let’s cower in fear of the noble hedgehog together.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Friday, January 7, 2022. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

Aw. So cute and disease-ridden.

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Modern medicine didn’t cause antibiotic resistance

“Humans are excellent at many things,” writes Tara Yarlagadda, “including creating our own most prominent problems.” You’ve heard the advice from doctors and paranoid mothers: Do not overdo antibiotics. But your mom might (might) change her advice after reading a new, and somewhat controversial, study in Nature.

MRSA, the “antibiotic-resistant bacteria, has taken the world by storm,” continues Yarlagadda, “[it has] caused countless deaths, stumped medical professionals, and so the conventional wisdom goes, it is our fault. Except perhaps it isn’t.

In the Nature study, the researchers suggest that MRSA predates human use of antibiotics by quite some time, Yarlagadda reports —  “the three oldest lineages of hedgehog mecC-MRSA emerged in the 1800s — before the widespread clinical introduction of penicillin G in the 1940s.”

“The discovery is also a stark reminder that zoonotic transmission of diseases between wildlife and humans is far more common than we realize,” writes Yarlagadda.

Do not touch that hog.

Cats are okay: A drug for a deadly cat disease is being tested against COVID-19

See you later, Webb.

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The James Webb Telescope just passed its most crucial test since its launch

Speaking of unexpected developments, the James Webb telescope is thriving from where it now floats above Earth.

“NASA announced Wednesday morning that the observatory had successfully swung the secondary mirror — previously folded up for launch — into place,” writes Inverse’s Jon Kelvey. This is fantastic news; the secondary mirror is crucial to the James Webb mission. Without it, the telescope would be completely unable to produce an image, which is kind of the whole point of the mission.

“No secondary mirror, no telescope,” as Kelvey writes.

Other exciting developments for the telescope include triumphantly pulling out its sunshield, a kite-shaped, silver barrier to solar heat. Now the critical second mirror has deployed, things are looking up for space enthusiasts and scientists who waited decades for the world’s most ambitious space telescope.

“Whatever else may happen,” writes Kelvey, “the James Webb Space Telescope is now definitely a thing.”

Hope for the best.

Prepare for the worst: The James Webb Telescope’s troubles are just getting started

So close, you can almost taste it.


This is what a solar streamer looks like up close

You’re familiar with a total solar eclipse, right? That thing that Bonnie Tyler invented?

Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from our view on Earth, aside from its stunning, streaking, halo of light. This ring is called the Sun’s corona, and it forms the Sun’s outer atmosphere. The corona stretches out into streamers, and if you’ve ever witnessed an eclipse, the smears of light are gorgeous — even from 91 million miles away.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe entered the Sun’s atmosphere in 2021, and now, we mere mortals can see the Sun’s streamers from 85 million miles closer than we ever have before.

This would be impossible without the mission, which produced “the first-ever detailed view of solar streamers,” writes Jennifer Walter. Looking at the Sun so close is an incredible achievement for humanity, so you’ll have to take a look at the equally incredible images yourself. Icarus, who?

Get your sunglasses on.

Keep looking: Parker Solar Probe snaps hellscape photo from inside the Sun’s corona

Hey, kid. Wanna watch Snow Dogs?

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Just a little exercise per day could cut your chances of a deadly brain condition

When it comes to exercise, tiny changes to your daily routine can have a huge effect. At least, that’s according to a mountain of scientific evidence.

A new study adds to the pile: Researchers analyzed its 62,286 participants, all age 65 or older, over a period of 42 months and divided them into four groups based on their activity level. Six percent of participants developed dementia or began taking anti-dementia medication over that period of time, and researchers discovered a possible link between them.

It turned out that the more active participants were, the less likely they were to receive a dementia diagnosis. And it didn’t take a lot of physical exertion, either, to see that seemingly protective effect.

“Insufficiently active participants were still 10 percent less likely to get a dementia diagnosis than the inactive group,” writes Inverse Mind and Body writer Nick Keppler.

“Active participants had 20 percent less risk, and highly active people had 28 percent less risk.”

Keppler also notes the study wasn’t flawless; 42 months is a small window into someone’s life and habits. But if reading it may inspire you to start doing 20 minutes of morning stretches, it won’t hurt.

Better get jogging.

Or call up a friend: Scientists discover one kind of friend is best for brain health

I thought it would be bigger in person.

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Price, release date, and rivals for the Tesla Semi truck

You could soon see a Tesla unloading groceries outside your local Stop and Shop.

The Tesla Semi, Tesla’s first non-consumer vehicle that was first announced in 2017, might finally be here. Although the truck, which is intended to replace traditional tractor-trailers, was officially pushed to 2023, purchaser and PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta recently claimed that the truck would begin receiving trucks “this Q4.”

But Tesla isn’t alone in wanting to produce next-generation commercial vehicles. “In November 2021, Chinese firm Geely unveiled the Homtruck,” reports Mike Brown. “The truck comes from Geely’s commercial unit vehicle, Farizon Auto, and is set to hit roads in 2024. It’s designed for autonomy, similar to all Tesla’s vehicles. Geely hopes to introduce partial autonomy features by 2026 before reaching full autonomy by 2030.”

Tesla might have some catching up to do.

Hit the road.

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One small step.

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  • On this day in history: In 1968, NASA launched its final Surveyor lunar lander, Surveyor 7, from the Kennedy Space Center. Unlike the other Surveyor landers, NASA used Surveyor 7 for research, and not to scope out an Apollo landing site.
  • Song of the day: An Ending (Ascent),” by Brian Eno.
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