As smart as we may be, planet Earth continues to surprise and delight. We can’t answer some of the more philosophical questions the world throws our way — why are we here? what is the self? why does nature keep attacking us? The latest example of the last of these conundrums: Bird flu.
It’s a viral world and we’re just living in it. Learn the particulars of the latest U.S. bird flu outbreak in today’s newsletter, then read other incredible science stories to get you revved up for your day. And please vote for Inverse Daily in the People’s Choice newsletter category at this year’s Webby Awards by clicking this link. Win or lose, we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.
No one was clamoring for a fresh disease outbreak in the U.S., but here we are. Inverse science reporter Elana Spivack assures us that humans don’t need to worry too much about this particular viral strain, however. Human infection is rare.
“This strain of avian flu is known as H5N1,” writes Spivack. The “CDC does not consider this outbreak to be a high risk to humans. It is primarily a risk to animals.” So far, more than 24.8 million birds have been put down to stop this strain’s spread — currently, it is evident in 24 states.
Birds are this flu’s primary host target, but if a human did contract the virus, the condition can be fatal and often comes with serious complications, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. If you are in close contact with poultry — and thus a little more at risk of contracting the virus — there are precautions you can take. Protect yourself by “wearing disposable boots and clothes, regularly sanitizing equipment after use, and preventing direct contact of hands or face with the bird,” writes Spivack.
We finally have a complete sequence of a human genome.
“If you thought this already happened, you’re 92 percent right,” writes Inverse health reporter Katie MacBride.
“In 2003, The Human Genome Project announced they’d sequenced the vast majority of the genome — about 92 percent. But there were some undecipherable gaps in the genome, amounting to about 8 percent of the total biological blueprint.”
Though the Human Genome Project began trying to unravel our genetic schemata in the 1990s, researchers were unable to sequence a complete human genome until now — thanks in large part to improved technology.
After researchers unscrambled the 8 percent they had leftover, they learned that the sequences, historically dismissed as “inconsequential,” may actually play a role in cell division, protein synthesis, and gifting humans our big ol’ brains. “Inconsequential,” indeed.
“The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a new report every few years,” writes Tara Yarlagadda. “And each time the world takes a deep breath — the news isn’t easy to digest.”
There’s a small strip of silver living around this year’s report: One useful climate solution is something you might already do every day.
“Out of the 60 behavioral and lifestyle changes that the report authors analyzed, the most impactful action was ‘switching to walking and cycling and using electrified transport,’” writes Yarlagadda. Where possible, walking and cycling take precedence over a Tesla ride, as these slower forms of transport reduce emissions and improve human health to boot.
But without structural changes that prioritize pedestrians in cities and suburbs, most people might find walking or cycling long distances difficult or even dangerous. The report lays out specific infrastructure changes, and notes that a “combination of denser housing and transit-oriented development — including a shift toward walking and cycling — could reduce urban energy use by 23 to 26 percent by 2050,” writes Yarlagadda.
“According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five American adults struggle with mental health problems each year,” writes Jessica Lucas. “Despite this, facing mental health issues can often feel isolating, especially if you don’t know where to turn to seek help.”
The internet probably wouldn’t top your list of places to turn to in a crisis, and the internet isn’t at all a replacement for therapy or medical care. But if you’re looking for some quick tips to self-manage a rough patch, Lucas suggests you turn to subreddits like r/traumatoolbox, r/socialanxiety, or r/anger to find community and other resources.
“Sometimes, all a person needs when they’re struggling is a way to talk about their problems,” writes Lucas.
Jared Leto, actor, frontman of 30 Seconds to Mars, and vampire face of the new superhero movie Morbius, has all the annoying quirks of a stereotypical Method actor.
“Morbius director Daniel Espinosa [revealed] that Leto frequently held up production of Morbius so he could use crutches to walk to the bathroom,” writes Inverse entertainment writer Dais Johnston.
“But is the Method really to blame?” they ask. Expert Isaac Butler doesn’t think so. “It’s not necessary to do all that to play the Joker or a vampire in a superhero movie,” Butler told Johnston.
And the proof is not in this pudding — “Leto has now worked on two separate superhero movies,” both of which were considered trollish by critics,” writes Johnston. “If reviews are any indication, his acting style may not be conducive to this genre.”
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- On this day in history: NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched on April 7, 2001. According to a NASA fact sheet, Mars Odyssey was intended to “find out what the planet is made of, detect water and shallow buried ice.” The orbiter is still kicking after 20 years, and it still dutifully helps NASA report Mars weather.
- Song of the day: “The Weather” by Pond.