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Why is there no male birth control? A new gel offers men hope

Plus: A big clue for life on Mars.

Young hispanic hand holding birth control pills over isolated pink background.

We live in a world where women carry the burden for preventing unwanted pregnancies. They must take the medicine, even if it comes with unwanted side effects. They must get the abortion, even if it is now illegal in their state.

The reality obscures another truth: Research into hormonal birth control for males has been going on as long as it has for women. Why is it yet to hit the market? And, more importantly, is that ever going to change?

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Friday, July 1, 2022. Subscribe for free and learn something new every day.

Happy Friday, friends. Just a heads up that we’re taking a few days off for the upcoming holiday weekend in the U.S. Inverse Daily will be back in your inbox next Wednesday, July 6. Until then, enjoy!

Yellowknife Bay, located in Gale Crater close to Curiosity’s initial landing site, was once flooded with liquid water.


Curiosity discovers an essential ingredient of life in Martian rocks

NASA has searched for signs of life on Mars for years, but for the first time ever, the agency’s rover Curiosity has taken a crucial measure of an ingredient necessary for life as we know it: Organic carbon.

In a new paper, researchers at NASA reveal Curiosity drilled rocks in a particular region of Mars called Yellowknife Bay and tested mudstone samples. The results, released in the journal PNAS, show Mars’ rocks harbor at least 200 parts per million of organic carbon — more than some low-life areas of Earth, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile.

“Basically, this location would have offered a habitable environment for life, if it ever was present,” says Jennifer Stern, lead author of the study.

Every life form that we know of is built from organic carbon, or carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. The new findings help paint a more detailed picture of the resources that would have been available to form and sustain life long ago on the Red Planet — if it existed.

Go deeper.

Male birth control reduces sperm count from around 20 million to fewer than 1 million.


A safe and effective male birth control may soon hit the market

There’s a lack of reliable reversible contraceptives for men. Right now, they have just two birth control options, both non-hormonal: condoms and vasectomy. One of those has an 85 percent effectiveness rate, and many people choose to forego it. The other one is a permanent surgical procedure. But soon this may change.

A male contraceptive gel called NES/T is in the final year of enrollment for its Phase 2 clinical trial. It’s estimated to be completed in 2023 or 2024, with a Phase 3 trial beginning soon after, pending on FDA approval.

NES/T, which is applied to the skin daily, works by suppressing the creation of certain reproductive hormones. It results in a steep decrease of testosterone levels in the testicles and profound sperm suppression. When taken continuously, the gel is both effective and reversible.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” says Dev Bellman, who enrolled in the NES/T trial after his partner had negative side effects from using a female IUD. “I thought it’d be nice if I could take my fertility into my own hands.”

How NES/T works.

What’s the deal with water powered cars?


Can cars run on water? The science behind a TikTok hoax, explained

A recent TikTok video with millions of views depicts a man pouring bottled water into the green, glowing belly of some contraption in the trunk of his car. The accompanying text reads, “Everyone complaining about gas prices and mine runs on water.”

To be clear: The miracle water-powered car is make-believe. That said, water is an important part of other, more realistic technologies, such as the hydrogen fuel cell cars that are already on the road. In the future, could a car run on water, according to science?

Most claims that water can be used as an automotive fuel rest on the idea of using a chemical process called electrolysis, in which electricity is applied to water to separate the H2O into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is energy-rich and highly flammable. As you burn it to release that energy, hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to create, you guessed it, water.

These steps can be achieved. But the problem is, you lose a lot of energy to waste heat and other inefficiencies during the process. This is the reason why it will never be possible to create perpetual motion machines that make free energy. So while it is theoretically possible to build a water-powered car, such a contraption would waste so much energy as to be utterly impractical.

Get more technical.

Crisis avoided!


This “city killer” asteroid won’t hit Earth after all

Last August, scientists at the Mount Lemmon Skycenter in Arizona first spotted the 50-meter (164-foot) asteroid known as 2021 QM1. After follow-up observations, they calculated that it could come dangerously close to the Earth in the year 2052.

2021 QM1 would not be an extinction-level asteroid, but it could cause a lot of damage. Its approximate size is similar to that of an object that entered the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, which caused injuries and vast property damage — but it also broke up on re-entry, preventing wider devastation.

As of yesterday, though, it appears we’re in the clear. Astronomers removed 2021 QM1 from their threat list as they announced new observations that show the asteroid is no longer on track to hit our planet after all.

But don’t get too comfortable: the European Space Agency is keeping eye on another 1,377 objects of potential concern, and more asteroids are discovered every night.

Find out more.

Introducing: your insides.


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