Science

These old teeth rewrite ancient history

Thanks to new techniques, archaeologists are slowly reconstructing the daily diets of ancient peoples.

Even if Monday was the official start of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and even if you're staring down the barrel of three months of bone-chilling cold and dirty slush, know this warm truth: The increasingly short days are over and the Sun will stay out longer — starting now. The days will get longer, and soon, it'll be June.

But be careful: Thinking too much about the future is an easy way to neglect the present, and all told, winter is actually pretty great.

Winter is a time for outdoor exercise that doesn't cause you to melt.

And inside, winter is a time to achieve your own flow state — baking, making, creating. Winter is also a time to indulge in some much-needed self-care without feeling guilty that you should be outside doing something else.

I'm Inverse executive editor Nick Lucchesi, and in the words of the late author and naturalist Hal Borland:

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn."

Before we get started: This is our final Inverse Daily email this week! We're taking a long break for the holidays and encourage you to do the same.

Look for us to appear back in your inbox Monday, December 28.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for December 22, 2020. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox.

Longevity — One common food type could heighten the risk of death by 26 percent

A century ago, the average American ate mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some meat. Flash forward to 2020 and this diet is dominated instead by industrially processed chicken sandwiches, sugar cereals, and ready-made "Lean Cuisines."

Data shows 57 percent of Americans' average calorie intake comes from ultra-processed foods. These foods lack nutrients, are high in chemical additives, oil, sugar, and salt, and account for 90 percent of U.S. added sugar consumption. Americans aren't alone in their habit: The average European derives up to 36 percent of their daily energy from ultra-processed food.

In a startling new study including over 22,000 people, scientists discovered this trend may be severely heightening the risk of dying prematurely.

Avoid this food →

Explore more longevity hacks:

Rewind — 7 spectacular SpaceX moments in 2020

2020 was a big year for SpaceX. And as the year comes to a close, we're revisiting some of our favorite moments.

With two crewed launches to the International Space Station and multiple, record-breaking rocket flights, Elon Musk's space firm soared to new heights.

Hit rewind on SpaceX's 2020 with this tremendous card story.

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Here's something new:

Holiday drinking — This is your "hangover science" update

The pandemic hasn’t slowed down drinking, except among some college students.

In September, Nielsen’s market data showed that online alcohol sales boomed in the wake of Covid-19. Meanwhile, Drizzly, a home delivery service for alcohol, saw increases in demand by about 350 percent in 2020.

This is all to say: The pandemic may be the immediate end of the in-person holiday party, but it’s not the end of the hangover.

While there's no way to completely skip over a hangover, save for limiting your drinks or not drinking at all, Sally Adams, a professor at the University of Bath, gives Inverse three tips for curbing that next day’s agony.

How to prepare yourself for a (virtual) holiday party hangover →

Or simply don't sleep:

Alien life — How life could thrive on exoplanets from hydrogen alone

How does life form — and then survive and thrive? Astronomers have sought answers to that question for decades, but they have only gathered small pieces of the cosmic puzzle.

As we search for life on different planets, we have had to come to terms with the reality that life on other planets may not look exactly like life here on Earth.

Should it exist, life on Mars, Enceladus, or a far-flung exoplanet may thrive under very different conditions to our own.

A new study suggests that microbial life could possibly survive on hydrogen alone, not needing what many scientists had believed to be a basic requirement for life: sunlight.

The hunt for extraterrestrial life is getting interesting →

Elsewhere in space:

Spicy — Ancient Mediterranean diets were rich in 3 unexpected foods

Consider the humble banana: The ubiquitous fruit arrived in the United States a mere 150 years ago, in the 1870s and '80s. Since then, it has ascended to become Americans' most beloved fresh fruit, and one of the most affordable. At 55 cents a pound on average, bananas grace fruit bowls across the socioeconomic spectrum. Bunches hang at mega grocery stores in the exurbs; they rest on the counter at corner delis in the urban core.

Though America's bananas now come from Central America or the Caribbean, they originally came from half a world away — South Asia. They are labor-intensive to pick and difficult to transport, but with globalization in food production and trade, they started as a delicacy for the privileged and have ended up a staple.

The modern story of the banana in America mirrors a much older tale of how humanity shaped its culture around food.

Thanks to new techniques involving the analysis of the dental pulp preserved in the teeth of 16 ancient Mediterraneans, archaeologists are slowly reconstructing the daily diets of ancient peoples — discovering their tastes and desires may have been far closer to our modern-day eating habits than we previously thought.

Old teeth tell a new story →

More on ancient humans:

Thank you for reading! If you're looking for one more thing, you should watch the best sci-fi superhero movie of the century before it leaves Netflix this week.

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