Ancient humans: Neanderthal cave discovery reveals a surprisingly modern connection
Plus: Pollinator politics take center stage.
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. ✉️
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.
- SpaceX Starship: Astonishing photos show Mars-bound ship ahead of key test
- 238-year-old technology could give the best view of space ever
- Look: 7 space volcanoes that shaped the Solar System as we know it
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.
- A vital aspect of human evolution may be due to climate change
- 5 ways space science is bettering life on Earth
- Picky predators are letting “zombie urchins” drive climate change chaos
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.
- Dragon Man and more: Understand the ancient world through 9 images
- Ancient human discovery upends the history of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens
- Who were the Denisovans? The ancient human is still an enigma
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 these next:
- One human decision may be devastating bees
- A rare, cloaked creature just came out of its 100-year hiding
- Ancient wings reveal what insects could do before dinosaurs existed
About the 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 email@example.com.
- Science Song of the Day: “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” by Garbage.
- Follow me on Twitter at @ClaireHCameron, if for no other reason than to get Inverse headlines in your timeline and a few other Inverse-y things.
- Before we go: Happy birthday to Barack Obama (60), UK's Duchess of Sussex Meghan (40), Billy Bob Thornton (66), Dylan and Cole Sprouse (29), Bobby Shmurda (27) (Source: @AP_Planner)
A technical note — To ensure your email open is counted toward our streak program, confirm that all the images have loaded and your ad blocker is turned off.