Inverse Daily

A snail carrying the world's smallest computer: look

Plus: Scientists have determined that cleaner-burning sustainable aviation fuel reduces CO2 emissions and contrail cloudiness.

The Society Islands in the South Pacific saw great devastation to one of their smallest inhabitants some 50 years ago: the snails. 🐌

Now, thanks to a very small computer and some innovative engineering at the University of Michigan, scientists know more about why one species of snail managed to survive — while more than 50 others perished.

The source of this devastation was an alien predatory snail, as you might’ve guessed. But why did the white-shelled Partula hyalina survive when the others did not?

It turns out that the white Partula hyalina could tolerate more sunlight than the predatory species, so it was able to persist in sunlit forest edge habitats.

The story of how — and precisely why a computer smaller than a penny literally placed on a snail — is in this Friday edition of Inverse Daily. Keep scrolling to read more about our lead story from Jenn Walter.

I’m Nick Lucchesi, an editor at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily, your daily dispatch of essential stories that mix science and culture.

Mailbag — Keep sending your stories about national parks. This month, the administration of President Joe Biden announced it would restore protections to the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to keep its trees shielded from loggers and road construction. (The protections were stripped away during the administration of Biden's predecessor.) With that news in mind, and with vacation season upon us, what is your favorite national park and why? It can be in the United States or elsewhere. Send your answer to newsletter@inverse.com, or if you’re reading this in your inbox, just reply to this email.

Here are three recent (lightly edited) emails:

This park is absolutely amazing — “While Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Park is known for its place in our nation's history (location of the first major battle of the Civil War), not many people know how beautiful it is. The nature in this park is absolutely amazing, the flora that includes thousands of wildflower species, including the threatened Missouri bladderpod, growing along the trails. The fauna includes herds of whitetail deer, flocks of wild turkeys, migrating warblers, and hawks throughout the park. You may even see a biologist collecting water samples, monitoring invertebrates and fish. It truly is nature at its best along with a healthy dose of history and life in the 1860s.” — Ria

Such a wonder — “My favorite National Park is Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah. The hoodoo rock formations are such a wonder. It is mind-boggling to think that they were formed naturally. Wow!” — Del

So cool and clean — “My favorite is Voyageurs National Park. Nestled way up north on the border between Minnesota and Canada, it is my happy place. There are tons of small islands that are great for camping and picnicking. I've enjoyed long hikes, canoe trips, and camping trips under the shade of pine trees. The air is so cool and clean compared to the humidity and pollution of the lower Midwest. I've seen so much wildlife up close, feeding chipmunks out of my hand regularly. The one thing I love the most besides the beautiful scenery is that it is quiet and far less visited than many other parks.” — Kaitlin

Thanks and keep them coming. We’ll publish the final round of answers on Monday and pose a new question.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for June 18, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

It’s a computer on a snail.Inhee Lee

Look: A computer smaller than a penny solved an ecological mystery One of the world's smallest computers helped discover why an endangered snail species has evaded predators for so long. Jenn Walter has the literally wonderful card story: See the full gallery.

More on the future of computing:

Shutterstock

Second Covid-19 vaccine timing and three other critical questions, answered Missed the window for your second shot? Forgot your card? George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology, answers four of the most common vaccine questions for reporter Katie MacBride:

  1. What to do if you only got one Moderna or Pfizer Covid-19 shot.
  2. What to do if you missed your window for the second dose.
  3. What to do if you forget your vaccination card.
  4. Can you mix and match Covid-19 vaccines?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Go deeper:

The hybrid-powered Ford Maverick.Ford

2022 Ford Maverick: This is the smallest pickup on the market The Maverick is the newest, smallest truck in the Ford lineup, aimed at city-dwellers who still want to be able to make a Home Depot run or haul a ton of gear on a camping trip. Jordan Golson has put together a guide. Here’s a preview:

Pickup trucks have gotten huge in the past decade or two.

For folks who grew up with the ‘90s-era Chevrolet S-10 and Ford Ranger, trucks are huge now. The F-150 has grown so large, it’s infeasible to park in tight garages or city parking spots. Even the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado are a little too big for many potential truck buyers.

That’s why Ford is coming out with the Maverick, a truck that starts under $20,000 and comes standard with a hybrid engine and 40 MPG.

See all the details here.

More on the future of transportation:

Leaving on a jet plane isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing to do. But while airplanes are huge CO2 emitters, there’s also a lot of work going on behind the scenes to change that.Matthew Horwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Will planes ever be sustainable? New study probes the science of eco-fuels Scientists have determined that cleaner-burning sustainable aviation fuel not only reduces CO2 emissions but also reduces contrail cloudiness, reports Jordan Golson:

Leaving on a jet plane isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing to do. But while airplanes are huge CO2 emitters, there’s also a lot of work going on behind the scenes to change that.

The most promising is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). While airline fuel made from renewable sources is still in its infancy, everyone from European aircraft maker Airbus to Shell are working to make it a reality. But, as Delta Air Lines points out, all the SAF produced in 2020 would only be enough to power Delta’s fleet for a single day — and that’s only one airline.

But two new studies published this week show how beneficial SAF could be. The results could help green the dirty, dirty airline industry.

Read the full story here.

More on the science of flying:

Paul McCartney on stage at the Cavern Club in Liverpool during the early days of The Beatles. The singer marks a birthday today.Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • 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 newsletter@inverse.com.
  • Follow me on Twitter at @nicklucchesi, 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 Paul McCartney (79), Trippie Redd (22), Blake Shelton (45), Isabella Rossellini (69), Takeoff (27) (Source: AP.)

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