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Tobacco use goes back much further into human history than we thought, study shows

Plus: Scientists discover a new link between gut health and prostate cancer.

Tobacco dry leaf and tobacco green leaf on Tobacco dry background

Slashing into your inboxes (or your browser), I’m Nick Lucchesi, filing this dispatch on a Tuesday evening, and wondering if I should be as enthusiastic about the new Scream movie as I was for the original (the first time I ever saw a film twice in theaters!). To be fair, our writers say it “succeeds with flying colors” in its attempt to connect this new one to the franchise that first splattered onto the big screen in 1996.

Keep reading for original, insightful reporting on archaeology (the first use of tobacco was way earlier than we thought), on health (your Covid booster questions, answered), and a story that ponders this: If the biggest movie franchise didn’t exist, what would fill the void? There is some terrific writing in this round-up, too.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

Researchers dig at the Wishbone site, where ancient tobacco use was discovered.

Daron Duke

The earliest known use of tobacco Archaeologists find human tobacco use in the Americas as far back as 12,300 years ago, revealing new insight into the origin story of this controversial drug. Below’s a preview of Tara Yarlagadda’s new story on the discovery:

Twelve thousand years ago, a group of hunter-gatherers huddled around a hearth on a rare patch of dry space within what is today the Great Salt Lake Desert in Utah, seeking rest and refuge.

They carried with them the seeds of a plant that would go on to become one of the most profitable — and deadliest — drugs in human history: tobacco. Read the full story.

Related headlines:

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. doing press for Iron Man in 2008. What if the movie had bombed and the MCU never existed? Industry analysts and academics answer that question for us.

Joel Ryan - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

If the MCU didn't exist What if Iron Man bombed out at the box office in 2008? David Lynch reports on what movies would look like today without the MCU. Here’s a snippet:

What if Iron Man fizzled out in 2008, ending the most lucrative movie franchise in history before it began? What if the acronym M-C-U never became the most ubiquitous three syllables in pop culture? What if more than $8.5 billion of domestic box office dollars had simply gone elsewhere? Read the full story.

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A link between gut bacteria and prostate cancer One of the most widely used treatments for advanced prostate cancer can be thwarted by gut microbiota. Here’s an excerpt from the new story by Kaitlin Sullivan:

In 1981, Barry Marshall had a hunch.

The Australian gastroenterologist believed a spiral-shaped bacteria called H. pylori was responsible for stomach lining inflammation, one of the first signs of stomach cancer. When his initial research on mice garnered a mixed response from his peers, he tried his hypothesis on himself.

Marshall and his mentor Robin Warren eventually won the Nobel Prize for discovering a link between gut bacteria and disease, a topic that’s now explored in every facet of medicine from inflammatory bowel disease to depression.

New research is pushing Marshall’s ideas forward. Read the full story.

Related headlines:

BSR Agency/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Covid-19 booster shot: 10 vital answers Who qualifies for a Covid-19 booster? Will the qualifications change? Experts answer eight pressing questions about Covid-19 booster shots. Here’s a snippet of the story by Katie MacBride:

I can’t decide if I should be mad about not qualifying for a Covid-19 booster shot. I got both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and I feel reasonably confident that, were I to contract a breakthrough infection, it wouldn’t hospitalize or kill me.

But I still don’t want Covid-19. I have less risk of developing Long Covid from a breakthrough infection than someone who’s unvaccinated, but the risk is not zero. I’m also young, healthy-ish, and an obnoxious rule follower when it comes to public health. But I also don’t know how badly I should want a booster or if I need one.

If my internal debate feels familiar to you, know we aren’t alone. Read the full story.

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