Inverse Daily

We still have a dream

On MLK Day, a time to reflect on where science has been and where it is heading.

We here at Inverse have the day off today, but the Daily marches on. While I normally have an interesting historical science or technology story for you, some days history presents itself to you. While Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, Americans celebrate his birthday on the third Monday of each January, no matter the year. His voice has weighed heavily in the hearts of many Americans (mine included) during the tumult of 2020, and will surely be looked to as 2021 continues onward.

The one thing that we at Inverse would like to add to the many celebrations of King's life this year is a reminder that he was not a one-dimensional hero. His work on civil rights not only changed history, but also expanded our modern idea of "civil rights" in the first place. King directly tackled a wide variety of issues facing the world in his lifetime, from the growing realization of deep environmental inequalities to the space race. Our newsletter today starts and ends with two looks at how King's work has directly impacted the world of tech and science. I hope you'll check them out.

Our question of the week is all about codes. With encrypted apps like Signal on the rise, we were wondering, do you have any favorite code systems? I'm a bit of a cipher nerd, from Atbash to Vigenére. Have you ever written a coded letter or used some form of misdirection to transmit a message? Your secrets are safe with us at newsletter@inverse.com (and all our readers, of course).

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for January 18, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Intersection — 7 overlooked ways MLK influenced environmental justice

Environmental justice is a grassroots movement focused on the disproportionate effect environmental issues, like pollution, have on marginalized people, including communities of color.

From legislation to demanding justice for developing countries, here are seven ways King directly changed the way we look at the environment.

King's environmental legacy

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Gut instinct — Why the key to good health is what you feed your gut

Beneath the surface of the skin lies a vast internal ecosystem. About 100 trillion microorganisms — a mixture of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa— call the gut home.

In the largest and most detailed study of its kind to date, researchers explore how this gut microbiome is linked to diet and disease. The team discovered specific microbes associated with diet are associated with biomarkers of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The study suggests adjusting your diet to support your gut microbiome may be pivotal for a long and healthy life.‌‌

Give your gut a hand

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Shoprite — The 17 behavior biases that secretly control how you shop

Covid-19 has radically changed the nature of shopping. In what analysts called a “holiday shopping season like none other,” brick-and-mortar stores took a brutal blow in late 2020, but the shopping season itself became longer than ever. Some things do not change, however.

In a paper published in November 2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers show that, amidst all the upheaval, there are certain biases guiding shoppers' purchasing decisions regardless of how or where they shop — 17 biases, to be exact.

Co-authors Victor Stango and Jonathan Zinman write that “no one exhibits all 17." Yet "almost everyone" tends to display an average of 10 behavioral biases when they make purchasing decisions. Understanding how these impulses secretly guide your choices could help you decide whether that lingering item in your shopping cart is actually worth the money.

You better shop around

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Coming soon ...

From Mister Miracle to Green Lantern, Tom King has brought a singular vision to comics, one unafraid to deal with complex issues but one also showing moments of true warmth and intimacy between characters. King has also brought that vision to, well, The Vision, his Eisner-winning take on Marvel's android superhero who desperately wants to be human. And now that WandaVision is out, King's influence on the character is more apparent than ever. Coming soon on Inverse, an interview with comic author Tom King.

Classic — WandaVision is finally doing the one thing Marvel was always too scared to do

How do you describe a Marvel movie? It's got action, superheroes, maybe a handful of jokes, and a whole lot of heart. But each Marvel movie seems to be a Marvel genre story using the language of another genre to tell it. Just as Captain America: Winter Soldier was a spy thriller, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a teen adventure, and Avengers: Endgame had major heist movie vibes, they were first and foremost Marvel movies telling superhero stories.

Enter WandaVision.

WandaVision's first two episodes weren't the "Marvel" genre of every other property in the franchise. Yes, these characters were from the great Avengers universe and, yes, they have superpowers, but these superpowers aren't the main focus of the story. Instead of using tools of a specific genre to tell a Marvel story, WandaVision uses Marvel tools to tell a sitcom story.

You've seen Marvel. WandaVision is different

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A dream unfulfilled — MLK Jr.'s speeches highlight the need for diversity in astronomy

"Since I started preaching this sermon, about seven minutes ago, our earth and you have hurtled through space more than eight thousand miles," Martin Luther King Jr. told the crowd during one of his sermons, as quoted in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume VI: Advocate of the Social Gospel.

As a leader of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, King often referred to the vastness of the universe and man's advancement in space technology to reflect on the need for equality among the human species.

While remembering the renowned activist's legacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and how he urged others to explore the "heavens," there is also a realization of the dire lack of diversity in the field of space science and the need to include more voices in this quest to understand our place in the universe.

Where the new space race is falling short

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And now, some responses from last week's question of the week, which asked about low-tech games:

"It is without a doubt backgammon! Do not have on my devices because I would never get any work done!" — Kathleen Murray

"The game MIND is fascinating. Three or more players is best and the more the better. You deal cards with number 1 through 100 and the object of the game is to discard each card in the correct ascending order. You must "read" the other players' minds and strategize who has the next card. The game starts with 1 card dealt (easy) and goes all the way to seven or eight cards (quite hard)." — Jean-Francois Borny

"As the mother of four, one of which is severely disabled, I started playing chess with my children as soon as they could sit still that long! And checkers, for those who can’t sit still." — Jennifer Faucett

"Chess, backgammon, Eucher, and cribbage. Now I'm set." — Greg Wells

"We play Balderdash. We are a creative and knowledgeable (thanks to you guys!) [Ed note: thanks Jim!] family and some of the answers the younger generation come up with are hilarious and imaginative. Such liars we are when we are pushed for an answer to a question we don't know! Now Meme is so fun that we sometimes can't finish reading the card without the cry/laugh going on. We play only after the elders have gone to bed or out in the garage due to the mature content. Our Grandfather taught us Cribbage when we were growing up. A game he learned on the Navy ship he was deployed on during his tour in the Pacific theater during WWII. Long live Cribbage!" — Jim McAuliffe

"Chess, Uno, and Monopoly. (Occasionally it gets too heated!)" — Cecile Bowser

"My go-to has been Marvel Champions by Fantasy Flight Games, a cooperative or solo card game with quick adventures based in the marvel universe, a lot of re-playability with different heroes (in the core or expansion), possible customization (but not required), and the added bonus of being cooperative (no "I win, you lose" stress to deal with s.o.'s ), and of course the option to engage in solo play if no one else feels like shuffling supervillains away.

The Grizzled: Armistice edition by CMON is a simple but beautiful and engaging co-op game set in the trenches of WWI, and makes the players work together to stay alive in the great war waiting for the armistice to come. It's very easy to understand with very little reading required (making it great for non-native speakers), and frankly, it's downright emotional in its portrayal of camaraderie amidst the trench warfare, it sits from 1-5 players, and it even comes with an amazingly engaging and progressively difficult campaign mode that gives the game a lot of thematic flair whislt remaining highly re-playable in its original format if desired.

Pandemic and stay at home orders have been rough, but This War of Mine: The Boardgame by Awaken Realms will certainly put things into perspective for many daring players. This boardgame interpretation of the fantastic video game holds its own as a unique board game experience that can be shared by up to 6 players but can also be played solo, even allowing additional players to come in and out of the game if they desire to do so. A lavish board and figures make this the heftiest of the games I recommend, but its treatment of the theme and phenomenal old-school-style-but-groundbreaking mechanics make it, for me, one of the best games to engage with during lockdown.

These three are the honorable mentions from my table, but if necessary, I could do this all day." —Rodrigo Guerrero

So could we Rodrigo. Thank you! And thank you to everyone who wrote in.

That's it for the Daily. If you're looking for more, check out our recommendation for the best alien invasion movie on Netflix.

Thank you for reading! Follow me on Twitter if you want, where I tweet too much.

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