Archaeologists reveal a key date in the evolution of modern humans
Plus: This planet is an egg.
At this point, we all know where babies come from (I hope), but humanity is a little trickier to pin down. I often enjoy going to the American Museum of Natural History to make eye contact with the hairy, hunched Homo erectus they have in their human origins exhibit, but I can’t help but notice myself reflected in the glass between us.
Today’s stories will appeal to any kind of human — ancient ones, space-bound ones, and you. I’m Ashley Bardhan, newsletter writer at Inverse, and I’m thrilled to have you joining me today. Here’s to the next 30,000 years.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Friday, January 14, 2022. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️
Fossils that “clearly foreshadow” modern humans are 30,000 years older than we thought
Hoping to smooth down the thorny timeline of human history, archeologists revisit fossils they have already studied to reevaluate and find something new. This time, they have. And it’s big.
“The Omo I and Herto fossils, found in East Africa, are the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils yet discovered in the region,” writes Inverse nature reporter Tara Yarlagadda, but a new study shows they are “tens of thousands of years older than we thought.”
Although previous studies dated the Omo I and Herto fossils at 155,000 to 160,000 years old, this new research dates Omo I to around 233,000 years old. Researchers were not able to come up with an age estimate for Herto fossils, but those are likely to be much older than first assumed, too.
This is why we care: Although evolution tells us that the beginning of human history was about 300,000 years ago, the Omo I fossils helps us understand how we evolved and spread through Africa and the world.
See what else you find: Five grisly archeological finds will change how you see ancient humans
Astronomers discover a planet with one of the most unusual shapes ever seen
“Planets are all globes, right?” asks science editor John Wenz. “Wrong. If they are like WASP-103b, then they are far from the perfect orbs we see in our mind’s eyes — rather, a new discovery reveals some planets might look more like a potato.”
Planet WASP-103b is large (one-and-a-half times the size of Jupiter), far (1,500 light-years away from Earth), and because of its close proximity to the huge star it orbits, astronomers note that it looks like a “rugby ball.”
“The planet stretches at its equator, yanked by tidal forces into an oblong shape,” writes Wenz, “something unseen in our Solar System as our planets are all too far away from the Sun for such a dramatic effect.” No potato planets for us.
This is why we care: The unusual shape of WASP-103b is a rare discovery, and although its egginess has some novelty to it, it also helps researchers understand compelling planetary concepts like tidal stress and how planets are made.
Enter a new orbit: Scientists discover rare planet orbiting two suns
The most provocative streamer on Twitch reveals how the algorithm needs to change
Kaitlyn Siragusa, 28, known for livestreaming on Twitch as Amouranth, has built her legacy around a hot tub. Her streams helped usher in the halcyon days of “hot tub streaming”.
Her antics are what make her so controversial, but Twitch’s algorithm is what helped her become so popular; as of writing, Amouranth has 4.9 million followers on Twitch alone, and “was the most-watched woman on the platform in 2021 with more than 38 million hours watched,” writes Inverse contributor Steven Asarch.
In this Inverse-exclusive interview with the world’s most provocative streamer, learn how algorithms fuel content and what Amouranth thinks Twitch should change.
This is why we care: Shock-value aside, streamers like Amouranth are fueling important conversations around how women are treated online, both by people and website algorithms. After you read the interview, tell us — what do you think needs to change about content algorithms?
Understand “the algorithm”: The future of sports is algorithms, not athletes
A surprising connection between Earth’s oceans and Jupiter’s cyclones
Jupiter’s churning cyclones are a point of fascination, and for some, fear, but they’re not so different from a formidable force of nature right here on Earth: the ocean.
New research is connecting fluid dynamics principles used in ocean research to Jupiter’s storming north pole. “When I saw the richness of the turbulence around the Jovian cyclones with all the filaments and smaller eddies, it reminded me of the turbulence you see in the ocean around eddies,” says oceanographer and study leader Lia Siegelman.
The study is exploring amazing and innovative hypotheses about Jupiter’s winds, like that it's fueled by moist convection, much like the convection that powers currents in Earth’s waters.
This is why we care: We are not alone — discoveries like Siegelman’s help connect our planet to the rest of our galaxy, bringing us one smidge closer to understanding its inner workings.
Stay a while: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot extends deeper than we ever thought
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- On this day in history: Retired NASA astronaut, Shannon Lucid, was born on this day in 1943. According to NASA’s website, Lucid holds “the United States single mission space flight endurance record on the Russian Space Station Mir,” where she stayed for 188 days.
- Song of the day: “Lucid Dreams,” by Cherry Glazerr.