I would love for this month to be one of all treats, no tricks, but now that it’s April Fools’ Day, the latter feels inevitable. Tell me, Inverse Daily readers, have you ever pulled off an April Fools’ Day prank? Or if you’re a bonafide YouTube-clickbait-tragic-thumbnail prankster, what’s the most memorable prank you have ever pulled?
Something that is entirely real and not a prank is the ongoing pandemic and the ugly truth of the BA.2 Covid-19 variant, which is now terrorizing our streets and my nostrils. Get the latest information on it in today’s newsletter, learn about the health consequences of racism, the best light to sleep in, and why some scientists watch snails have sex.
“Say it with me: The pandemic isn’t over,” writes Inverse science reporter Elana Spivack. The Omicron variant BA.2 is proof of that. BA.2 is “not worth worrying about any more than previous Omicron variants, as long as you keep taking precautions such as getting vaccinated, keeping up with boosters, and wearing masks,” writes Spivack.
Of course, OG Omicron is still bopping around the country right now, but its cousin BA.2 is what’s really en vogue. It currently accounts for “up more than half of all reported Covid cases in the U.S. as of March 26,” Spivack writes. We can thank genetics for that — BA.2 has eight new genetic mutations to its spike proteins, which allows it to more easily break into your cells and use them to make more virus.
But vaccines are still doing what they’re supposed to do — as “of now, one does not need an Omicron-specific vaccine, nor a BA.2-specific gene,” writes Spivack. However, the Food and Drug Administration has recently “approved a second booster shot of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people over 50 and those who are immunocompromised,” writes Spivack. As has always been the case, opting “to get boosted as soon as it’s available to you will continue to protect you and those around you against BA.2 and future variants.”
Particle science: Which mask is better for Covid-19?
In this story, Inverse health reporter Nick Keppler briefly transports readers to 1910 Australia, when the country appointed “one public official as the legal guardian of every Indigenous child on the continent.”
“The Protector of Aborigines — a truly Orwellian title — then launched a campaign to systematically remove Indigenous children from their families, under the pretense of ‘civilizing’ them.”
Indigenous children were shuffled into “training homes” where they were often abused — emotionally, physically, and sexually — to make them into “white forms for a future of menial labor.” You may think this horrifying civil injustice ended soon after it started over 100 years ago, but the practice lasted into the early 1970s. The consequences reverberate today — no one bears them quite as painfully as the people who were taken as part of the policy.
“A new study, published this month in Neurology, found that the prevalence of dementia in a group of Indigenous Australians living in urban areas was double that of non-Indigenous Australians,” writes Keppler.
Though neurologists “agree that anyone, with any kind of lifestyle, can develop dementia,” writes Keppler, factors like “low educational attainment, traumatic brain injury, and social isolation” can make a person more at risk. These “implications go far beyond Australia,” Keppler says.
We’re constantly flooded with artificial light — beamed by our phones, TVs, and peeling office ceilings — and, as it turns out, this is bad for us. “An over-reliance on artificial lighting, as is common in today’s times, can tamper with sleep cycles, metabolism, alertness, and mood,” writes Nick Keppler. What to do with our too-bright lives? A team of researchers has some ideas.
Their recommendations are good for your electricity bill.
“To keep your internal clocks tuned, the researchers recommend getting plenty of light on the melanopic action spectrum — preferably natural lighting — during the workday, severely curtailing that kind of lighting three hours before bed, and sleeping in an almost pitch-black room,” writes Keppler.
“Light on the melanopic action spectrum,” or “blue light,” “activates melanopsins, specialized proteins in the eye that communicate with the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the brain’s central clock,” writes Keppler. So keep your clock ticking right, keep things as natural as possible: blue light during the day, warm white lights at night, and then no light at all when you lie down for much-needed rest.
Night light: Can blue-light glasses help you sleep?
The rough periwinkle sea snail, or Littorina saxatilis, is the nerd of the sea world. “It’s been ‘discovered’ so many times that The Guardian once called it ‘the most misidentified creature in the world,’” writes Abe Musselman, and to make things even worse, scientists have recently intruded on the dweeby little snail’s intimacy time. They weren’t impressed with what they saw.
Snails are not so different from college men, and new research published in the Journal of Molluscan Studies indicates that rough periwinkle can ejaculate in “less than a minute.” Hey, this is a judgment-free zone, Littorina saxatilis, don’t worry about it.
But because of “sexual conflict,” the snails may copulate for up to two hours. This conflict, or opposing male and female interests, could generate “new behaviors and even new body parts, after enough time.” So though no scientist particularly enjoys watching snails reproduce, in doing so, they might witness evolution. Or just, you know, weird sex.
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- On this day in history: On April 1, 1980, Boston’s now-defunct news station WNAC-TV announced that Milton, Massachusetts’ Great Blue Hill, was gushing lava. Panic ensued and the channel’s executive producer was sadly fired by the station. Thankfully, hills can’t burp fire.
- Song of the day: “April Come She Will,” by Simon & Garfunkel.