Inverse Daily

Divine encounters, explained

Two factors can predict whether a person is likely to report vivid experiences with gods or spirits.

More people should know the name Bessie Coleman. Born today in 1892 in the small town of Atlanta, Texas, Coleman was working as a manicurist in Chicago in the 1910s when she first learned about the fighter pilots of World War One, and the idea of flying for a living struck deeply inside her.

Despite taking on a second job to help pay for aviation school, Coleman had two strikes against her: she was a woman and she was Black. Flight schools admitted neither at the time. She found a sponsor in Robert Abbott, the publisher of a Black Chicago newspaper, the Defender. With the help of Abbott and Black banker Jesse Binga, Coleman was able to raise enough money to travel to Paris (after learning to speak French) and get her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1921.

With no commercial flight at the time, there were only a few ways a civilian aviator could make money at the time. These included mail carrying, illegal smuggling, and performing dangerous tricks at airshows across the country, a phenomena known as barnstorming.

Coleman chose the third, called herself Queen Bess, and staged the first flight by an American woman in 1922. Flying at any air show that would take her, save for those with segregated audiences, Coleman raised money to fund a school targeted at Black aviators. But the danger of the era eventually caught up with her. She died in 1926 in a plane crash while preparing for a show.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for January 26, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

New skull of a lost species reveals a bizarre, ancient animal

Dinosaurs have long terrified us, but recent dino studies have revealed this extinct beast had plenty of more harmless quirks, too. These strange features range from flamboyant feathers to a so-called "dino butthole."

New research published in the journal PeerJ adds to our understanding of dino history by focusing on another unique feature: a short crest on top of the skull of the rare Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus.

The study highlights the first such discovery of a Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus skull in 97 years.

What they're saying: "Parasaurolophus breathed through eight feet of pipe before oxygen ever reached its head." — Terry Gates, a paleontologist from North Carolina State University.

Meet your new dinosaur friend →

Now check this out:

Why LSD changes social behavior

Embraced then vilified, the drug lysergic acid diethylamide is on a path toward redemption. While LSD remains a legally restricted psychoactive substance, modern scientists are pursuing its therapeutic potential — continuing a conversation that began in the 1950s.

LSD’s prosocial effects underlie its potential as a tool for combating conditions ranging from anxiety to alcoholism. Happiness, trust, and enhanced emotional empathy are all symptoms of the psychedelic.

Scientists haven't been able to identify the exact neurobiological mechanisms underlying these feel-good experiences, though. And that has stalled efforts to create treatments that use LSD.

A new study might have the answer. The research identifies three features of the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that related to social behavior) that are responsible for LSD’s influence: The mTORC1 protein complex and the receptors 5-HT2A and AMPA.

What they're saying: “There are mental diseases affecting social behavior, such as autism spectrum disorders and social phobia, which have no treatments yet.” — Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, head of the Neurobiological Psychiatry Unit at McGill University, to Inverse.

Learn more about this new research →

More on LSD:

X-ray analysis reveals one grizzly truth about Medieval life

The fall you took off the monkey bars in fourth grade may feel like a lifetime ago, but to scientists who study skeletal remains, these pivotal — and sore — moments can be important clues as to how we lived hundreds of years after our deaths.

Skeletal trauma is evidence of accumulated breaks and fractures over a lifetime. These clues are especially important when it comes to decoding the lives of those who lived centuries before, including the denizens of the Middle Ages.

In a new study, archeologists used X-ray analysis of 314 skeletal remains uncovered in Cambridge, UK between the 10th and 14th century to peer back into the past. Specifically, the researchers were interested in documenting the toll social class differences could take on the body. What they found was telling, to say the least.

What they're saying: "Life was toughest at the bottom — but life was tough all over." — Dr. Jenna Dittmar, University of Cambridge.

Medieval life was brutal →

More ancient history:

Coming soon ...

There are crises facing President Joe Biden in every direction, and his actions on climate change will be followed closely. Crucially, can the new president find a way to reboot an economy on the verge of collapse for many while reducing methane and carbon emissions?

Coming soon on Inverse, a look at how President Biden might handle the climate crisis in the midst of everything else.

Tom King: The writer who taught Batman how to love

Since his rise in the mid-2010s as a must-read comic book writer with an unlikely background in the CIA, 42-year-old Tom King has used superheroes — both ones you know (Batman) and ones you don’t (Mister Miracle) — to explore themes often avoided in the genre: love and marriage.

Love is in the Gotham City air again in King’s newest 12-issue DC series, Batman/Catwoman. A sequel to his Batman series, the story again dives into the romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, who are now definitely married. This time, the story zig-zags across three timelines that span Batman and Catwoman’s entire relationship.

In an interview with Inverse, King unpacks his obsession with superheroes and their love lives, and how Batman/Catwoman isn’t like all the rest.

What they're saying: "There’s something inside you that roots for people to fall in love." —Tom King to Inverse.

Don't miss our interview with this comic book legend →

More with Tom King:

Science sheds light on divine encounters

It's notoriously challenging to apply science to spirituality — to quantify the mysterious or explain the supernatural. Why do some people report being possessed by demons or recall being visited by angels? Why do others have no interest in matters of the divine?

According to interviews and surveys of over 2,000 people across the United States, Ghana, Thailand, China, and Vanuatu, two pivotal factors shape people's perceived experience with a spiritual presence: porosity and absorption.

Porosity refers to the degree to which people view their internal mind and the outside world as permeable, while absorption references how much individuals tend to "lose themselves" in sensory experiences.

These factors can predict whether a person is likely to report vivid experiences with gods or spirits.

What they're saying: "Our pattern of paying attention really does affect what comes to feel real." —Tanya Luhrmann, study co-author, to Inverse.

Explore the science of divine encounters →

Expand your mind:

That's all for today. Looking for one more thing? Be sure to check out every HBO Max movie premiering in 2021.

Thank you for reading! Follow me on Twitter if you want, where I tweet too much.

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