As Omicron emerges in the US, here’s what we can learn from last time
Plus: Ancient teeth tell an evolutionary tale
What do we know about the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19? The first case in the United States was identified on Tuesday. Scientists have theories about what the variant could do. Still, we have to wait — it will be two to three weeks before we know much more about how transmissive it is or how it may elude antibodies already in your system from a vaccine or previous infection.
Today, President Joe Biden will outline a plan to prepare for what this variant of concern may do. One scientific theory proposes it will take six to eight weeks for the variant to spread across the country. The good news is there are plenty of tests now (thanks to more funding in September) and plenty of vaccines available. We’ve been here before can learn from the Delta variant of this past summer.
About that first Omicron case — It was found in a traveler in California who had returned from South Africa last month, five days before the U.S. State Department issued a travel ban from that country. The person had two doses of the Moderna vaccine but was not yet eligible for a booster shot because it had not been six months. This person has not been hospitalized, officials report.
I’m Nick Lucchesi, an editor here at Inverse. Let’s get into that story and more in this edition of Inverse Daily.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Thursday, December 2, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️
Five vital facts about omicron
[By Katie MacBride]
The United States has joined the list of countries with confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The first U.S. incidence was discovered Wednesday in California, just a week after South African scientists sounded the alarm.
Aside from genetic sequence data and the confirmed cases globally, very few scientists can definitively say about omicron — but we do have some clues.
How white paint unlocked an era of trade
[By Sarah Wells]
Brushing the starched, white collars of The Syndics into being, Rembrandt couldn’t have imagined that nearly 400 years later, this same pigment would be used to unravel political conflicts.
Hidden within this alabaster pigment favored by Dutch masters are lead isotopes that scientists can trace through chemical analysis to the original locations of their ore. Using this technique, a team of scientists studied 77 paintings covered in lead-spiked pigment. Their goal? To travel back in time to understand how the global trade of ore impacted the creation of art.
Ancient teeth tell an evolutionary tale
[By Jennifer Walter]
When it comes to mammals, males tend to be more aggressive than females. Our primate cousins are especially known for their brutal fights over territory or mates. One of their most dangerous weapons? Teeth. Chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, and other apes all have massive canines.
Before and after: A Mars rover panorama
[By John Wenz]
NASA’s Curiosity rover loves taking a Mars selfie — a grand tradition of robotic naval-gazing passed on to the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance. Yet somehow, Curiosity manages what Instagram influencers can only dream: Every selfie seems better than the last, and the latest one from the near-decade-old rover takes it up a notch — by going wide, and then some.
The panorama-style before-and-after selfie, released by NASA this week, shows the rover in the middle of an arena-like space, flanked by a rock formation called Greenheugh Pediment to the left and a hill called Rafael Navarro Mountain at the back.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Notable birthdays: Britney Spears (40; pictured above), Nelly Furtado (43), Charlie Puth (30), Stone Phillips (67), Lucy Liu (53). (Source: AP.)
- Song of the day: “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears