Funeral rights

Inverse Daily: We’ve found the oldest burial in Africa

Plus: What if we find aliens, but it's too late for them?

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In a remote cave found in the tropical Kenyan hinterland is the burial site of an ancient child. This child is known affectionately by scientists as Mtoto — the “baby” or “kid” in Swahili. Mtoto died a little more than 78,00 years ago.

“It has been very exciting to find the root of a behavior we consider so human-like — our relationship with the dead,” lead author María Martinón Torres, the director of the National Research Center on Human Evolution, tells reporter Tara Yarlagadda of Inverse.

This new chapter in a very old story is our lead story today. I’m Nick Lucchesi, editor-in-chief at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for May 6, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

We’ve found the oldest burial in AfricaA new study identifies the earliest human burial in Africa, shedding light on the customs of early Homo sapiens, reports Tara Yarlagadda:

According to new research, archaeological clues suggest the child was loved by those who buried it. Excavations that began in 2010 revealed Mtoto was wrapped in a perishable cloth before placed in a grave within the cave, known today as Panga ya Saidi.

This sort of practice might seem commonplace today when the burial business has become a $16 billion industry in the United States. But this is the earliest known human burial in Africa. It’s part of the first chapter of a long story — the story of how we respect the dead.

Read the full story.

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What if we find aliens, but it's too late for them? A recent study models the evolution of an alien civilization consuming fossil fuels and suggests they would be gone by the time we detect them, reports Passant Rabie:

In a recent paper that is currently still under review, scientists designed a climate model for an alien civilization to find out if planets with intelligent life also go through rapid changes caused by civilizations like humans on Earth — an era we refer to here as the “Anthropocene,” a geologic era where human activity is the dominant shaper of our world.

Through their model, they found that as a society gets more advanced, world-changing problems compound. And as we seek to find alien life through technosignatures, or phenomena that could only come from advanced technology, it also could mean that whatever life we’re finding is on the verge of dying out.

Read the full story.

Whether you want to tear up the track or the trail, there's something on the list to satisfy everybody.

Eight electric vehicles (almost) ready to tear up the pavement EVs with attitude, speed, fury, and squealing tires. Whether you want to tear up the track or the trail, there's something on the list to satisfy everybody. Jordan Golson has the story:

If we’re honest, the first crop of electrified vehicles was built more for commuters than gearheads. The hybrid Toyota Prius and all-electric Nissan Leaf were technically groundbreaking a decade or two ago, but they didn’t really get the heart racing.

They were fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly, and as exciting as QVC at 3 a.m. — basically the exact opposite of a rip-roaring V8 that wakes the neighbors with a glorious explosion of fuel and noise.

Read the full story.

This recent measurement of Venus’ ionosphere helps scientists understand this elusive planet.

There’s something fascinating just above Venus NASA's Parker Solar Probe just flew through Venus' ionosphere for the first time in decades, which could help us figure out why it's so different from Earth, reports Passant Rabie:

On July 11, 2020, a small spacecraft flew by the scorching hot planet Venus while traveling through space on its way to the Sun.

Down on Earth, Glyn Collinson, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and self-proclaimed “Venus nerd,” was waiting anxiously on the data being beamed down from that brief encounter between Venus and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe.

“I was basically sitting by my computer waiting for the Parker Probe to release their data and sort of spamming the refresh button,” Collinson tells Inverse.

Read the full story.

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A pill that turns night owls into early risers In a new study, scientists predict a pill could turn night owls into early birds, reports Sophie Putka:

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Applied Physics Reviews, researchers from Pennsylvania and Beijing present a statistical model for identifying the key drivers of our circadian rhythms: clock genes. Critically, this approach allows scientists to pinpoint the complex networks associated with clock genes, which determine how plants, animals, and humans interact biologically with time.

“Based on these networks, we can identify the road map of how the genes interact with other genes to determine the circadian rhythm,” Rongling Wu, the senior author of the study, tells Inverse. Wu is the Director of the Center for Statistical Genetics in the departments of public health sciences and statistics at Pennsylvania State University.

Read the full story.

Let me know what you think of this daily dispatch by emailing You can follow me on Twitter at @nicklucchesi, where I share some of my favorite stories from Inverse every day.

Today’s birthdays: George Clooney (60), Willie Mays (90), Bob Seger (76), Gabourey Sidibe (38), Meek Mill (34). Source: AP.

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