The ruby-throated hummingbird. From "The Birds of America", 1827-1838. Private Collection. Artist Au...

Inverse Daily

Unable to fly high, this jewel-colored creature may be in peril — study

Plus: Space gas stations are on the horizon.

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Do you remember the first time you saw a creature and thought, ‘I may never see this kind of creature again?’ I remember seeing Scottish wildcats at a wildlife center when I was a kid and being told they might go extinct and thinking that surely they would be saved. They are so cute and fluffy and fierce, after all. But alas, cute and sassy doesn’t cut it in this world — even if you are a relatively common creature.

Just ask hummingbirds.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Thursday, June 2, 2022. Subscribe for free and learn something new every day.

Hummingbirds are, like many birds, in danger of extinction as a result of the climate crisis and extreme weather. They could be a coming casualty of the changes our species’ activities drive across our planet. Read that story and more essential science explainers in today’s newsletter. We’re glad you’re here with us.

It takes a lot of fuel to get a rocket into space.Shutterstock

Play it cool: This company is building a cryogenic gas station in space

Eta Space is trying to solve one of the biggest problems with space travel: Any rocket capable of escaping Earth’s atmosphere needs to burn most of its fuel within the first few minutes of launch, severely limiting what it can do or where it can go once in space.

Eta is building what is effectively a gas station in Low Earth Orbit, so that instead of falling back to Earth or just taking up space as the tank runs empty, rockets and satellites may be able to live longer and travel farther.

“It allows the payload customer to buy a smaller rocket to send it up and then refuel. So instead of spending $150 million on a rocket, you might spend $20 million on a smaller one,” Bill Notardonato, the CEO and founder of Eta Space, tells Inverse.

He believes Eta’s gas station concept, which it calls “CryoDock,” could enable more players to send missions to places humans are yet to reach — including Mars — by making the entire endeavor easier and cheaper. Eventually, Eta wants to set up a station at strategic junctures in space, like the Moon.

“Eventually the goal is to provide propellants from the surface of the Moon, you’ll get hydrogen and oxygen from the water there. But before that, we would refuel in Low Earth Orbit,” Notardonato explains.

Here’s how it works.

It’s no easy path.Shutterstock

NASA’s CAPSTONE mission will go on a gnarly orbit around the Moon

A microwave oven-sized satellite will fly in a peculiar orbit around the Moon this summer as part of NASA’s effort to make their Lunar Gateway project a reality.

NASA is no stranger to lofting things that circle Earth’s natural satellite, but here’s the rub: There is one particular type of ellipse, called a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), that can help astronauts descend to the Moon’s surface and ascend back to an orbiting Lunar Gateway while helping keep fuel costs down significantly.

The 55-pound CAPSTONE spacecraft, designed to study this peculiar path, will launch no earlier than June 6 from New Zealand aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. CAPSTONE, or Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, will demonstrate how an outer-space outpost could ride the NRHO orbit, hopefully helping Artemis astronauts one day remain connected to Earth as they explore the final frontier.

The play between the gravitational fields exerted by our planet and the Moon converges to create the tightrope-esque qualities of NRHO.

Track the journey.

Jewel.Mitch Diamond/Photodisc/Getty Images

Can hummingbirds survive climate change?

Anna’s hummingbirds, a common hummingbird species on the west coast of the U.S., come out to play in the lowlands of California before migrating to higher altitudes during the summertime. These tiny red-and-green creatures span the entire West Coast from Baja California all the way up to British Columbia.

But as Earth warms and global temperatures continue to rise, it’s possible these fast-whizzing birds will have a harder time escaping to higher elevations, new research reveals. The findings were published Thursday in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Scientists have observed animals and plants adapting to global warming by migrating toward the poles and higher elevations, seeking cooler temperatures as their native habitats grow too hot. Austin Spence, the lead author of the study and a conservation biologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, likens this adaptation to using an air conditioner in hotter weather.

“Think of an AC. If I’m too hot, I can turn it down. If an animal or plant is too hot, they can’t turn the AC down,” Spence tells Inverse. But they can relocate to areas that have the kind of weather they are accustomed to, he says.

But species don’t always move in the direction we would expect as a result of the climate crisis. Factors other than temperature shifts — such as oxygen availability and air pressure — could impact whether animals are physiologically able to move to higher elevations. Hummingbirds may be among them.

Continue reading.

The best dinosaur show of the decade is based on ancient clues and fossils

Since Jurassic Park fascinated us with the first image of a gentle brachiosaurus roaming on a grassy plain, audiences have been waiting decades for another cinematic spectacle revealing new insights into dinosaurs and the prehistoric world.

Now, the wait is finally over with the debut of Apple TV+’s visually stunning new series, Prehistoric Planet. Narrated by none other than natural historian Sir David Attenborough, Prehistoric Planet is a five-episode limited series that began airing on Friday, May 27.

While Jurassic Park imagines what would happen if we brought dinosaurs to our modern world, Prehistoric Planet does something arguably even more daring: it uses real science and computer animation to recreate the very world in which dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex lived, feasted, and played alongside other majestic creatures in environments ranging from harsh icy worlds to coastal tropical climates.

But just how did the show’s creators use science to accurately recreate the daily life of animals we’ve never seen in real life? Inverse sat down with series showrunner, Tim Walker, and chief scientific consultant and palaeozoologist, Darren Naish, to explain the unbelievable science behind the breathtaking series.

Read the interview.

Man, myth, legend.picture alliance/picture alliance/Getty Images

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  • On this day in history: On June 2, 2008, Bo Diddley went to the great rock-n-roll hall in the sky. Diddley did not get the recognition he deserved in his time for his pioneering style, songwriting genius, and electric (literally and figuratively) stage presence and persona. Today, he is still overlooked among the pantheon of rock greats, and more is the pity.
  • Song of the day: Bo Diddley,” by Bo Diddley.