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Ancient humans: Neanderthal cave discovery reveals a surprisingly modern connection

Plus: Pollinator politics take center stage.

Reflection of the Big Dipper (paint on canvas) by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an influential Ame...
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

You made it to the mid-week. Congratulations. I’m Claire Cameron, managing editor of Inverse. Our top story today finds unexpected parallels between the innovative drip paintings synonymous with Jackson Pollock and far more ancient examples of creative expression.

To read the full story — and see the ancient art for yourself — scroll on, and stay for other stories about pollinator politics, warring sibling galaxies far out in space, and more — as well as a fresh, sort-of-sciencey Scottish song to get you hyped for your day.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Wednesday, August 4, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

These galactic siblings are having a bit of a squabble, tugging at each other with their gravitational force.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton

New Hubble image captures three galaxies caught in a gravitational tug of war Astronomers on the Hubble Team captured a three-way tug of war between galactic siblings as their gravitational force pulled on one another. Passant Rabie explains:

The stunning image is an example of what happens when galaxies get too close. It also shows a glimpse of our own galaxy’s eventual fate, predicted for 4.5 billion years from now.

NASA shared the image of the three-way galactic cluster on Friday.

Hubble captured the image as a “bonus snapshot” in between its longer observation times. These bonus shots are more than spectacular; they help the team behind the space telescope to decide on Hubble’s next target for extended observation periods.

Talk about a happy accident.

Read the full story.

Related links:

This is not good news.

Elena Liseykina/Moment/Getty Images

Satellite images reveal a climate crisis nightmare in Siberia — Scientists discovered natural gas deposits deep within the Siberian permafrost increased the release of methane following a heatwave in the summer of 2020. Tara Yarlagadda has more:

According to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considerable amounts of methane are being released from a previously unexplored source.

Arctic methane is typically connected to two sources: organic matter in permafrost and methane clathrate (molecules of methane frozen in ice crystals). This study spotlights a third — one released from fractures and pockets in the permafrost zone that’s become unstable due to warming.

As the climate crisis worsens, understanding this study’s findings “may make the difference between catastrophe and apocalypse,” lead author Nikolaus Froitzheim, a professor at the University of Bonn’s Institute of Geosciences in Germany, tells Inverse.

See the images for yourself.

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Neanderthals had symbolic culture, the evidence suggests.


Look: Modern technology reveals art was central to Neanderthal life Researchers from Europe have analyzed 65,000-year-old Neanderthal cave paintings to learn whether this “art” was a happy accident or a symbolic masterpiece. Sarah Wells has more on this incredible discovery:

João Zilhão, a co-author on the study and research professor of paleoanthropology at the University of Barcelona, tells Inverse the works detailed in the new study were first found in the 1920s.

But it wasn’t until 2018 that Zilhão and his colleagues managed to work out how old the paintings really were. The researchers also recently dated hand stencils and animal sketches found in separate caves in another area of Spain. Fresh findings suggest Neanderthals may have created sculpture and decorative art, too. Earlier this year, researchers discovered intricately carved bones in Germany that are some 51,000 years old.

The new study goes further than just describing the discovery. Ultimately, the team wanted to determine whether the splatter paints were a happy accident or a deliberate, creative act.

Read the full story.

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Saving the bees is essentially saving ourselves.

Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Hidden in the infrastructure bill is a $2 million fight to save a vital creature — The $1 trillion congressional infrastructure bill includes $2 million for “pollinator-friendly” practices. Tara Yarlagadda explains what that means:

The part of this behemoth bill that we care about is under Section 11528. This section of Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill seeks to establish a grant program to fund approved groups who want to develop “pollinator-friendly practices” along roadsides and highways.

The total program amount is $2 million allocated on an annual basis through 2026. States can request up to $150,000 to fund separate pollinator conservation projects.

The total bill has a $1 trillion price tag, so $2 million is a drop in the ocean. But it may be enough for some states to put in place sustainable practices that could save countless bees, butterflies, and other animal pollinators — and keep them around for the future.

Bees are among the world’s most important pollinators, but they’re declining at an alarming rate. A 2020 report noted a nearly 50 percent decrease in the bumblebee population in North America.

It is not an understatement to say if we want to save our food systems and our economy, we need to first protect the pollinators.

Read the full story.

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Happy birthday, Barack Obama!


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