Vector diagram illustrating Earth seasons. Autumnal and vernal equinoxes, winter and summer solstice...

Inverse Daily

How's your year going so far? Why June 21 is a good day to take stock.

Plus: Scientists at LIGO are one step closer to solving general relativity’s biggest problem.

Shutterstock

Normally, I use this space to introduce the lead story for Inverse Daily, but today I’d like to remind you that if you’re reading this in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re right in the middle of the three-day summer solstice.

Yesterday, Sunday, June 20, 2021, was the longest day of the year. I hope you got outside to enjoy it. It was also the official start of summer.

The solstice occurs in the Northern Hemisphere when the north pole is at its maximum tilt toward the Sun. The further north you are, the later in the day the Sun goes down.

If you’re reading this in Glasgow, Scotland, the Sun sets at 10:06 p.m. tonight. If you’re reading this in Reykjavík, Iceland, the Sun sets for the day after midnight and rises again a little before 3 a.m. There’s a good 21 hours of daylight. 👀

Wherever you are today, I hope you are making the most of these long daylight hours. If you're looking for a good day to take stock of your year so far, you could do worse than June 21, which is 172 days through the year. Thanks for letting me geek out on time there, also. (Be sure to revisit this movie if you’re looking for some seasonally appropriate and totally jarring viewing.)

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

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for June 21, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Mailbag — Stanford University Professor Lee Ross, who died in May, set forth a foundational pillar in modern psychology with his idea of the fundamental attribution error. Ross correctly observed that sometimes random, external circumstances are often incorrectly credited with making someone appear more knowledgeable than they really are. It works the other way, too. The person being questioned can sometimes appear less intelligent merely because they are being asked — and don’t know the answer to whatever question had just been dreamed up. The idea is detailed in his 1977 paper, “The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings,” and reported on in his obituary. These unfair situations arise during job interviews, dissertation defenses, and even during poorly curated rounds of trivia.

This week’s question is kind of a toughie, but I think the answers could be helpful to anybody reading. What’s a situation where you were compelled to empathize with someone else when you had an unfair advantage?

We’ll see how it goes. If my question is a dud, we’ll do, like, a question on what’s in your go-bag for the apocalypse.

This is a time-exposure representation of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) way back in 1999.Joe McNally/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Scientists at LIGO are one step closer to solving general relativity’s biggest problem A team of international scientists have quantum cooled the largest mass yet in the LIGO observatory, and it could help them solve general relativity, reports Sarah Wells:

Just shy of a century after Einstein penned his infamous paper on general relativity, scientists finally confirmed a cornerstone of his predictions in 2015: gravitational waves. Little curvatures of gravity woven into spacetime were real, and we can “feel” them.

Scientists are using LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) that is fine-tuned to hunt for small disturbances in the fabric of spacetime caused by cosmic collisions, black holes, or neutron star mergers.

But this is only just the beginning of what LIGO can do, a team of international researchers reports in a new study published Thursday in the journal Science. Using new techniques to quantum cool LIGO’s mirrors, the team says that LIGO may soon also help them understand the quantum states of human-sized objects instead of just subatomic particles.

Read the full story.

More on the mysteries of space:

The controversial theory of panspermia suggests life may have traveled from one planet to another, like from Mars to Earth. Shutterstock

Traveling from one planet to another A new study tests the feasibility of life being transferred from one planet to another by way of asteroids, reports Passant Rabie:

The hunt for extraterrestrial life has kicked into high gear with NASA’s Perseverance rover roaming the Martian surface searching for ancient microbial life.

After scouring the Red Planet, should scientists find evidence of past life on Mars, then there’s a chance you may be related to that long-dead, bacterial Martian. Think of 23andMe, but on a universal level.

The controversial theory of panspermia suggests life may have traveled from one planet to another, like from Mars to Earth.

Recently, a team of scientists created a model to test the feasibility of life-carrying microbes piggybacking on space rocks between planets and across the cosmos. Their work suggests that pairs of neighboring, inhabited planets such as Earth and Mars could be the result of interstellar panspermia depending on the velocity at which the life-bearing material was ejected into space.

Read the full story.

Go deeper:

Astronauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming attend a see-off ceremony for Chinese astronauts of the Shenzhou-12 manned space mission at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17 in Jiuquan, the Gansu Province of China. China launches the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, carried on the Long March 2F rocket, to the Chinese Tiangong space station. VCG/Visual China Group/Getty Images

Watch: China sends its first crewed mission to Tiangong space station The crew of Shenzhou-12 successfully docked at Tiangong last week and will stay on board for three months, reports Jenn Walter:

After the launch of Tiangong space station’s core module in April, China took on its next challenge: sending astronauts to live there. The first crewed mission, Shenzhou-12, successfully docked at Tiangong last week. Onboard are three astronauts who will stay at the station for three months. It’s the longest stay in space for any Chinese national.

Read the full story and see more photos here.

Go deeper:

China’s Zhurong Mars rover used a remote camera to snap a selfie with its landing platform near its landing site. Zhurong made history in May as the first rover not made by the U.S. to successfully operate on Mars.

Zhurong Mars selfie and more: Understand the world through 10 images China's Zhurong Mars rover sent its first selfie back to Earth while NASA took a spacewalk outside the ISS this week. Here are the week's top science stories from Bryan Lawver:

The Zhurong Mars rover sent home vacation pictures while NASA astronauts made renovations on the ISS and health news was in the spotlight back on Earth, all during the week of June 10–16. Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 10 amazing images.

Read the full story and see the full gallery.

Related galleries you might’ve missed:

Edward Snowden, former intelligence officer who served the CIA, NSA, and DIA for nearly a decade as a subject matter expert on technology and cybersecurity, speaks from Russia to the audience for an interview by James Ball during the annual Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon in 2019. Snowden marks a birthday today. SOPA Images/LightRocket/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 Lana Del Ray, Chris Pratt, Edward Snowden, and Prince William.