Fish findings

Inverse Daily: Scientists finally solve a decades-long underwater mystery

And it comes from a bizarre mashup of Cold War history and marine science.

A whale shark underwater
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On March 30, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that the federal government was processing the state’s request for ventilators. On April 2, the director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health sent a disappointing update to the state’s hospital employees: “At this time, DPH does not have any ventilators despite requests to the federal government, and we urge all hospitals to utilize and optimize ventilators at their facilities immediately,” reads the letter, which a Massachusetts doctor shared with Inverse.

The problem isn’t unique to Massachusetts. Across the United States, hospitals are staring down a dwindling supply of ventilators and essential protective equipment — and many remain without the amount of federal support requested to meet the state’s projected needs. On April 2, the National Nurses Union sent a letter to President Donald Trump demanding that he utilize the Defense Production Act to “ramp up protection and distribution of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.”

Meanwhile, on the evening of April 2, Jared Kushner took issue with states relying on the federal stockpile. "The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states’ stockpile that they then use,” said Kushner. (Interestingly, the official description of the federal stockpile was changed after those comments.)

It begs the question: If not to support states during a health emergency, what exactly is the federal stockpile for?

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for April 6, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Coronavirus resources from Inverse staffers

How 3-D printers are helping to fight the coronavirus (The New Yorker)

Tips from someone with nearly 50 years of social distancing experience (NPR)

New Balance is making hypebeast-grade masks for the fight against COVID-19 (Input)

The best way to worry about money right now (The Cut)

Decoding human emotions with A.I.

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Neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers all fixate on one question: What are emotions?

We feel emotions every day, but understanding where they originate in our brains is a perplexing question for scientists. To get closer to a biological definition of emotions, a team of neuroscientists designed a computer vision algorithm to help them analyze and interpret different emotions in mice. Using sensory stimuli, the researchers were able to elicit different emotions from the mice such as disgust, fear, and pleasure. Using their A.I., the researchers found that each emotion was associated with a unique facial expression and that these emotions could be found in certain parts of the mice's brains. This discovery leads researchers one step closer to understanding the biological origin of emotions in humans as well.

Click here for a fresh look into the science of emotions.

In the mood for more feelings news? We’ve got you covered:

“Which Character” personality test: What to know about the viral quiz


A new personality quiz is taking the internet by storm – but it takes a slightly more scientific approach than the traditional “which Friends character are you” quiz. The system uses crowdsourced input on what makes up the characters from Game of Thrones, The X-Files, and others, using that to determine how close you are on a sliding scale. Will you be like J.K. Rowling and match with Dumbledore?

Read up on this quiz. We know you’re stuck at home anyway.

OK, wait, do personality tests even work? Read on:

A massive, honey-combed shaped mirror is soon to launch into orbit


NASA's James Webb Telescope is undergoing final preparations before it is launched into orbit, potentially in 2021. In a new video released by NASA, the telescope can be seen spreading its massive, honeycomb-shaped mirror in all its 21-feet-wide, 4-inch-thick glory. The telescope is designed to peer back in time across the universe, observing distant galaxies that are over 13 billion light-years away. And its massive mirror is key to those observations in order to catch as much light as possible.

The telescope is set to be the predecessor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which is on its 30th year. However, with the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, NASA has temporarily halted final operations before launch.

Here’s the story on this massive, light-catching mirror that might just catch some important insights into distant galaxies.

Read more on the James Webb Telescope below:

Cold War nuclear bomb testing solves an enduring underwater mystery

Wayne Osborn

Whale sharks, an endangered species that live in tropical waters, are the world's largest fish. Since whale sharks don’t have the bones that help scientists assess the ages of other fish, getting an accurate estimate has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have an answer — and it comes from a bizarre mashup of Cold War history and marine science.

The fallout from Cold War nuclear bomb tests helped researchers nail down the age of whale sharks for the first time. Testing these bombs has left a specific high signature of a form of carbon, an isotope called carbon-14. The isotope is used by archeologists to date their dig findings. By tracing the carbon-14 levels in the sharks' growth rings, researchers could pinpoint how often they form, and thus, the age of the animal.

The findings solve an enduring underwater mystery, settling a debate among researchers about how often these growth rings are deposited.

Click here for the story on this long-sought answer.

Also read:

Scientists are “cautiously optimistic” about coronavirus blood treatments


Scientists are racing for a treatment for the coronavirus. A vaccine could be as much as a year away, and ongoing drug trials haven't produced conclusive results so far. An interim measure they're considering can be found in the blood of survivors who may hold the key to making us all healthier.

This treatment is called convalescent plasma therapy. Essentially, a recovered Covid-19 patient gives blood, which is full of antibodies that combat the disease. The scientists spin that blood in a centrifuge and extract the plasma, which has the antibodies within. Then the donor gets the red and white blood cells back and the patient gets the antibodies.

There’s anecdotal evidence that such a method works, based on studies from China. But there are major projects researching this treatment in the US, and it's already being used to treat critically ill patients. Scientists are "cautiously optimistic," and meanwhile, donors are eager to help.

Two potential donors and Covid-19 survivors tell Inverse about how this project gave them an outlet for their altruism.

Here are the donors’ stories and the science that underpins them.

In other coronavirus news:

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for April 6, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

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