Do you love calendars? Or are they your nemesis? For me, I’m not really sure how I feel about calendars — but I do need them. I keep a physical calendar, I use my iPhone’s built-in calendar, and just to really drive the stake in, I use the Google calendar on my computer. You can say what you want about my setup, but it’s more efficient than dragging a bunch of rocks into a giant circle.
You might know that circle: Stonehenge. According to new research, Stonehenge might be a daily calendar. Ancient civilizations had deadlines, too, you know. Discover that story and more gripping science stories in today’s Inverse Daily. But before you read on, hit ‘reply’ to this email and let me know — what is the best way to spend a day that’s wide open on your calendar? We’ll feature some of your responses next week.
It’s an ancient monument, it’s an alien burial site — no, it’s Stonehenge, the crop of pi-shaped slabs that a new paper in Antiquity attempts to demystify. In the paper, researchers revisit the existing theory that Stonehenge is a calendar, an inference made based on the fact that “parts of the ruins align perfectly with the summer and winter solstice,” writes Jennifer Walter.
“But there’s more nuance to the calendar’s structure than just marking two big events per year,” Walter continues. The Antiquity study tries to add some of that nuance into the calendar theory, suggesting that Stonehenge tracked each and every day, not just big swaths of the seasons.
To study author and archaeologist Timothy Darvill, that conclusion comes simply.
“He argues that Stonehenge’s structure could have marked a 365-day calendar,” writes Walter, “with its outer circle representing a single month split into three ten-day weeks.”
Click through the card story for Darvill’s diagrams to determine if you think this old secret is settled.
Tick, tock: Do dogs have a sense of time like humans?
The molecule colibactin is a mad scientist in your gut, and fresh research published last week in Nature tries to understand why. “Our bowels are home to countless microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi,” writes Inverse health reporter Katie MacBride. “Researchers also know that bacteria themselves can also be home to viruses. These typically remain dormant unless activated or ‘awakened.’”
Colibactin loves to “awaken.” Scientists knew that colibactin could “gravely damage human cells,” writes MacBride, and found the molecule flourishing in up to 67 percent of colon cancer patients. But they weren’t sure how colibactin was able to inflict so much harm.
So the Nature study offers the beginning of an answer: “colibactin is able to tweak microbial cells in such a way that latent viruses come back to life and, like The Walking Dead, outcompete its non-zombified counterparts,” reports MacBride. Though it’s still fuzzy why colibactin is made at all, or what its purpose is beyond slaying your stomach, even this small trip into colibactin arms researchers with more information to treat colon cancer in the future.
Take cover: Zombie stars solve a cosmic mystery
The first unmanned mission to Jupiter, Pioneer 10, is an odd duck in NASA history. The space probe launched 50 years ago as the first craft to run on all-nuclear electrical power and was also the first to pass Mars, and the first spacecraft to enter into the asteroid belt. It was the farthest man-made object from Earth in space until Voyager I came to snatch its crown on February 17, 1998.
But these firsts are just wrapping paper for perhaps the most peculiar thing about Pioneer 10. The spacecraft carried to Jupiter a “relic” created in just three weeks by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a “gold-covered, aluminum plaque.”
“It features several elements, each intended to aid extraterrestrials to trace the Pioneer 10 back to its origin in the space-time continuum by using the location of pulsars with respect to Earth at the time of the space probe’s conception, writes Allie Hutchison. “It also features a sketch of the humans who built Pioneer 10, and an open palm to indicate peaceful intention.” We’re still waiting for aliens to respond, we think. (NASA Ames)
Take me to your reader: The 5 most famous alien languages in science fiction
“On Monday, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the second part of their sixth assessment report,” writes Inverse nature reporter Tara Yarlagadda. “The comprehensive analysis focused on how the climate crisis is affecting human health and ways we might still be able to adapt.” The good news is that a quick transition to “climate-resilient development,” something the report defines as when “governments, civil society, and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritize risk reduction, equity, and justice,” could help shield us from the worst climate change effects.
“Climate-resilient development brings together diverse communities to create more effective, sustainable, and locally appropriate practices for building adaptive human societies in the age of the climate crisis,” writes Yarlagadda. But we can’t get there without bulldozing a few obstacles to human health and safety, like city density, the noticeable increase in animal-borne diseases, food insecurity, and… well, you get the idea.
With those challenges in mind, “it’s no great surprise that the effects of global warming hit the most marginalized communities the hardest,” writes Yarlagadda. “Lack of financial resources and access to climate decision-makers also makes it more difficult for these communities to adapt to climate change.”
This latest installment in the IPCC’s assessment makes it clear that it’s high time to put people above profit — all our lives depend on it.
About this newsletter: Do you think it can be improved? Have a story idea? Want to share a story about the time you met an astronaut? Send those thoughts and more to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On this day in history: On March 3, 1821, Thomas Jennings secured U.S. patent 3306x for dry cleaning and became the first Black American to hold a patent. Jennings was a tailor and abolitionist leader, and he invented dry cleaning (then referred to as “dry-scouring”) after finding that many of his clients were dissatisfied with available cleaning methods. He used the money he earned from the patent to save his family from enslavement and help fund the abolitionist movement.
- Song of the day: “So Fresh, So Clean,” by Outkast.