There are four kinds of people in this world: People who like white chocolate, people who like milk chocolate, people who like no chocolate at all, and people who like dark chocolate (the best people). You can tell which group I belong to — even my toddler loves dark chocolate (she swiped a dark chocolate square from my hand once, shoved it in her mouth, and now every time she sees chocolate she threatens a meltdown if she can’t have it). But as delicious as it is, is it good for more than the soul? Find out in today’s newsletter.
I’m Claire Cameron and thanks for being here with us. Congratulations, you made it to the middle of the working week. Before we get into the chocolate and all the other goodies in today’s newsletter, thank you for all of your lovely feedback about the new design. We appreciate it, truly.
Launched in March 1972, Venera-8 was part of the Soviet Union’s exploration of Venus — in less than an hour, it revealed critical details of this seemingly inaccessible planet. Allie Hutchison has the story:
Trends in space exploration have veered away from the hot and thick atmosphere of Venus in favor of the colder and thinner atmosphere of Mars. There hasn’t been a lander sent to Venus’ surface since 1985 when the Soviet Union sent Vega 2. We seem to have forgotten that “Venus is Earth’s sister across the board; not twin sister, but they’re sisters,” Gregory Shellnut, distinguished professor of geochemistry at National Taiwan Normal University, says.
Venera-8 was not only the second manmade object to land on Venus, but it was the first fully successful landing on another planet. Its predecessor, Venera-7, which launched two years prior, was the first partially successful landing on another planet. But there was a parachute failure that caused the lander to go into free fall ultimately causing Venera-7 to roll over after it first touched down, severely damaging the lander and preventing it from sharing continuous, high-quality data.
Venera-8 stuck the landing, however, and our view of Venus changed dramatically as a consequence.
A large-scale, randomized clinical trial found that cocoa flavanol supplements reduced some risk of cardiovascular death, but not in the amounts that chocolate delivers — Elana Spivack reports on the unfortunate truth about chocolate and heart health.
As is usually the case, it’s not that chocolate itself is ever healthy, not in the same way that vegetables are. Rather, a compound within cacao could have certain health benefits. That compound is cocoa flavanol, which has been a point of interest for years.
A study published earlier this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined some findings of an ongoing clinical trial tracking 21,442 people in the U.S. who took 500 milligrams of cocoa flavanols in the form of two capsules per day for over five years.
This clinical trial doesn’t even look at chocolate itself as a way to reduce cardiovascular health risks. It looks at the use of supplementary cocoa flavanol capsules that contain 500 milligrams of the compound. While there’s some indication that these supplements may have a benefit, dark chocolate cannot healthfully be that source.
You can’t just eat that amount of cocoa flavanols from chocolate. According to the scientists, to gain health benefits you would have to eat 4,000 calories of milk chocolate and about 600 calories of high-cacao dark chocolate per day. Some people might be thrilled that eating between 600 and 1,000 calories of chocolate will have the effect of a supplement, but at that point, the tolls of excess sugar and fat vastly outweigh the benefits.
There are three species of vampire bats, Elana Spivack reports. Together, they make up the only blood-drinking mammals. It’s estimated that these species evolved about 26 million years ago from other bats, which primarily feed on insects and fruit.
Researchers in Germany at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics sequenced the common vampire bat genome (Desmodus rotundus) and compared it to the genomes of 27 other bat species, looking for genes that may have gotten lost in the evolutionary fray. Their findings, published recently in the journal Science Advances, are necessary to understanding how vampire bats became the cute little furry bloodsuckers we know today.
“This is a major step forward in comparing the evolution of vampires to the other bats,” behavioral ecologist Gerald Carter tells Inverse. Carter is a professor at The Ohio State University and was not involved in the study.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna shows why the minivan is an essential aspect of life for certain consumers. It’s not a revolution, but maybe it doesn’t need to be to appeal to families. Jordan Golson writes:
“If I were a parent, this would be at the very top of my shopping list, far above comparable SUVs and crossovers. And this new Sienna is even better because it has Toyota's terrific hybrid system installed.
The system is derived from more than two decades of hybrid experience with the Prius and delivers around 36 MPG in all drive modes. That’s impressive in any vehicle these days, never mind an enormous minivan that weighs close to 4,800 pounds.”
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- On this day in history: On this day in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most popular painters — but only after his death — was born in the Netherlands. Read this excellent story on the woman who made him so famous posthumously: Jo van Gogh-Bonger.
- Song of the day: “Mars Bars,” by The Undertones.