Inverse Daily

Red Dead Redemption 2 is turning gamers into naturalists: study

Plus: Fact-checking the Minnesota goldfish mystery.

Giphy/Rockstar Games

Between sessions of absorbing everything I can about the just-finished Loki series on Disney+, allow me to get you caught up on the best stories of the day from Inverse.

Our lead story is about how one of my favorite video games of the past decade, Red Dead Redemption 2, is making players more aware of their natural surroundings when outside. Spotting a tobacco plant in the wild in the world of RDR2, it turns out, is pretty similar to spotting one IRL. Keep scrolling down to read more about that story and more in this Friday edition.

I’m Nick Lucchesi, editor-in-chief at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily. The Inverse mission is to share big ideas about science and innovation in an entertaining style and look at entertainment and culture with deeply curious methods.

Roller skates, Crocs, or toe shoes? Here’s how the votes have split so far. See what choice got what votes in a special edition soon!

Mailbag — What’s in your apocalypse bag? You know, the backpack you carry when the world ends. These are your essentials for the post-apocalyptic world that you can fit in a standard backpack. The piechart you see above shows just one way the votes have been split between roller skates, Crocs, and toe shoes. Footwear is important in the apocalypse. Take the anonymous survey here. We’ve had more than 2,400 respondents so far! There are only a few more days to vote, so get in your end-times advice now!

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for July 16, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Unable or unwilling to care for their pets any longer, goldfish owners in Minnesota have been releasing their fish into lakes and ponds in the state. The Burnsville, Minnesota, city employees discovered this after residents reported a potential goldfish invasion.


Fact-checking the Minnesota goldfish mysteryThe viral photo raises questions about a longstanding goldfish myth. Inverse’s Tara Yarlagadda speaks with experts about the fishy science surrounding goldfish growth and size:

The city of Burnsville has an urgent message for Minnesotans: Stop dumping your goldfish into the state’s waterways.

In a now-viral tweet posted on July 9, the city shared photos of goldfish: a resplendent orange, like a bag of nectarines, and the size of a football.

“Please don’t release your pet goldfish into ponds and lakes!” the tweet pleads. “They grow bigger than you think ...”

But how did these once tiny goldfish get so chunky and so large? The answer to that question lies in a complicated piece of advice passed down to fish owners and a misunderstanding about pet goldfish: They should be able to grow to such a size.

Read the full story.

Go deeper:

In the game Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur learns to identify and pick tobacco.

Digital naturalists Red Dead Redemption 2 players can better identify animal species and behaviors than non-players, suggesting games can be viewed as conservation tools. That’s the confirmation from a new study reported on by Tara Yarlagadda:

With its rugged Western scenes that play host to bounty hunting, train robberies, and gunfights, Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t exactly a video game that screams naturalist.

But according to new research, the widely praised game has had precisely this counterintuitive effect, subtly turning gamers into informed botanists.

The study underscores the unique influence that emerges when meticulous design and immersive gameplay mechanics collide. Interviewed participants were able to identify the wildlife they encountered in-game and gained a better understanding of their ecological importance. These findings were published on July 8 in the journal People and Nature.

Read the full story.

Related stories:

Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 test flight carried founder Richard Branson, three employees, and two pilots to the edge of space — 53 miles above sea level. It was the first fully crewed flight for the Unity spaceplane.

Virgin Galactic

Understand the world through eight images Virgin Galactic's Unity 22 flight took Richard Branson and five others to the edge of space this week as the Inspiration4 civilian crew hit a training milestone. The popular weekly gallery by Bryan Lawver is below.

The week of July 8–14 saw SpaceX and Virgin Galactic hitting big milestones for commercial space travel. Scientists also solved a 40-year-old mystery on Jupiter and saw Mars from a new angle. Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in eight amazing images.

See the full gallery.

Related galleries:


Blue Origin vs. SpaceX: How Jeff Bezos fell behind A longstanding rivalry continues in the space industry — and it could determine humanity’s future. Mike Brown has the latest via a new interview with a Bezos biographer.

Jeff Bezos is about to fly into space on Blue Origin’s first crewed mission — a big milestone, but one that also highlights the gap with rival Elon Musk.

Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. Two years later, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk founded SpaceX. In those two decades, the gap between the two has widened. SpaceX has launched 130 missions, most of which went to orbit, while Blue Origin has launched 15 test missions to suborbital space.

Brad Stone, author of Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire, tells Inverse he thinks Bezos’ plan “has taken longer than he thought.”

Read the interview with Stone.

Go deeper:

Look up! The annual Perseid meteor shower becomes visible today.

Martin Gstoehl / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
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  • Before we go: Wizkid (31), Will Ferrell (54), Corey Feldman (50), Safiya Nygaard (29), and Barry Sanders (53) were all born on this day. (Source: AP.) Also today: The annual Perseid meteor shower becomes visible. The photo above offers a taste.

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