We come from the land of the ice and snow
Plus: Where did domestic horses come from?
We are interested in Vikings at Inverse. Not so much for the pillaging and the rest of it, but because of the complex history, genetics, art, language, and culture that we continue to learn about through new scientific research.
In our lead story today, senior science editor Sarah Sloat offers this perspective:
“The Icelandic Sagas are fascinating because they’re not only these Iliad-level works of storytelling, they’re the oldest written descriptions of North America and the best we have for understanding what actually went on during these Viking voyages.
“Now, scientists are able to substantiate elements within these Sagas with new technology, matching when a solar storm changed the composition of trees, which were then cut down and used by Vikings. Every bit of this new study is epic, including what it means for actual epics.”
I’m Claire Cameron, the managing editor at Inverse, filling in for Nick Lucchesi. We have a new story for you today about Vikings and much more.
A technical note before we get started — Thank you to everybody who has written about their trouble with the streak feature (our counter that tracks consecutive opens). We are working on a solution!
Viking discovery changes history and supports ancient lore — Scientists say Vikings were present in the Americas in 1021 A.D. This is the first precise timeline ever scientifically established. This new date also represents the first known point in history when humans circumnavigated the globe:
In 992 A.D., there was a cosmic ray event, a moment where high-energy particles entered the atmosphere and collided with atoms, causing an upsurge in atmospheric carbon. Tree-rings collected worldwide and housed today in archives share a distinct radiocarbon signal linked to the ensuing solar storm.
Meanwhile, Vikings used other cosmic cues — the Sun and stars — to navigate longships to other lands. Once in the Americas, these seafaring warriors harvested the trees of L'Anse aux Meadow in Newfoundland and built a life. Their adventures were chronicled by their descendants — and became legend. One thousand years later, scientists have extracted wooden fragments from the earth and used new technology to detect those ancient cosmic ray signals and reveal the earliest known presence of Europeans in the Americas.
That is some synergy.
Where domestic horses come from — Genetic analysis of hundreds of horse samples leads researchers to believe that the ancestors of the domestic horses come from modern-day Russia:
The histories of humans and horses are deeply intertwined. But researchers still don’t agree when or where the descendants of today’s horses were first domesticated. We know the ancient Botai people of modern-day Kazakhstan had horses 5,000 years ago. But a 2018 study uncovered that those equines’ genetics do not match up with the horses of today.
Now new research reveals modern-day horses’ potential origins: The Western Eurasian steppe — an area that spans through Bulgaria, Romania, western Russia, and Hungary — some 4,200 years ago.
What killed the woolly mammoth — Scientists now propose that a changing climate and vegetation in the Arctic may have caused the extinction of woolly mammoths — not humans:
Thousands of years ago, massive woolly mammoths roamed the Mammoth Steppe — a chilly, but flourishing Arctic ecosystem that was once the largest biome on Earth. These megafauna trampled high grasses and fed on ample vegetation.
Woolly mammoths thrived there for generations — until they disappeared entirely. According to some scientists, the appearance of humans in the Arctic coincided with the extinction of the woolly mammoth — suggesting a potential link.
Now scientists have a new hypothesis — one that lets humans off the hook for at least this animal’s demise. It also suggests a new chronology for woolly mammoth extinction. The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The Nuclear EMC effect — Nuclear physicists have observed something strange in the heart of an atom that defies existing science. They're on a mission to figure out why:
Controlling the splitting of atoms to fuel a nuclear reaction is old hat these days, but what scientists don’t understand completely is something much more fundamental and to do with the internal structure of an atom: the behavior of protons and neutrons.
We’re taught in school that protons and neutrons make up the center of all atoms in the universe. But what your science books didn’t tell you is that scientists have observed some peculiar and physics-defying traits of these subatomic particles that can’t be explained by existing theory.
One of the most puzzling is called the ‘EMC effect.’ Scientists have long tried to solve this enigma, but new evidence presented at a scientific conference this October could lead to the answer.
Metaverse definition: Facebook, Epic, and the battle for our digital future — The term metaverse may be on your mind following Facebook’s surprise rebrand announcement, but defining it is a complex beast.
The word metaverse, as it’s understood today, was coined by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In the book, characters retreat to the avatar-populated metaverse to escape the horrors of the real world. Perhaps the most prevalent example of the concept in pop culture is Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One, which was adapted for film in 2018.
According to its most staunch believers, the metaverse is essentially the next major iteration of the internet. The main difference, however, is that, while the internet we know is largely populated by 2D webpages and platforms, the metaverse is a series of fully 3D interconnected worlds that avatars can participate in. Social spaces from the early 2000s like Second Life and Habbo Hotel were early pioneers in the space, but since then technology has advanced far enough where the idea can be pushed in a multitude of more intricate directions — and that, it seems, is where Facebook wants to take us all.
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- Song of the Day: “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Because Vikings, obv.