At the center of the Milky Way, there is a gigantic monster. Like a spider sitting in the midst of its web, this behemoth devours all that strays too close. This gargantuan creature is Sagitarrius A*, a supermassive black hole. And after years of theorizing about its existence and what it might look like, we finally managed to take a picture of it.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Friday, May 13, 2022. Subscribe for free and learn something new every day.
This stunning image is a milestone for space science and understanding our cosmic neighborhood. But, back to more Earthly matters — TGIF! In today’s edition of Inverse Daily: A fresh black hole image, the brief and wonderful history of poop in videogames, and the discovery of some mysterious 19th Century scientific specimens.
While we have long suspected that supermassive black holes lurked at the center of galaxies, previous observations relied on indirect evidence. That all changed in 2019 when the Event Horizon Telescope captured an image of the startlingly huge black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. It took eight telescopes several nights to gather that image in 2017, and a couple of years of processing on some of the most powerful computers on Earth to assemble it.
But there was a much closer black hole they also worked on: Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the behemoth that commands the Milky Way. This image is the first direct evidence of our central supermassive black hole, sweeping aside any doubt that the object is anything but a black hole by directly imaging its event horizon, the point of no return in a black hole, as well as the “ring of fire” around it.
Put simply: “This is the first image of the supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy!”
Get the details.
Summer 2022 will be another scorcher — and many states will be prone to extreme temperatures starting in May. In the US, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 31,877,388 people will be at risk for extremely hot days in the month of May alone.
What is an “extremely hot day” you might ask?
In the CDC’s words, this is when the “daily maximum temperature is above the 95th percentile value of the historical temperature distribution.”
In other words, extreme heat varies from place to place, depending on historical averages.
Humidity can also make a difference, as it’s harder to withstand high temperatures coupled with high humidity.
Find out if you live in one of the 3 US states at greatest risk.
150 years ago, these mammal specimens ignited a fierce evolutionary debate. A British museum just re-discovered them. Samples of preserved echidna and platypuses collected by 19th-century Scottish naturalist William Hay Caldwell were found, uncatalogued, in museum storage.
No animal caused an academic kerfuffle among 19th-century European scientists quite like the platypus. British colonists living in New South Wales, Australia, sent specimens of the creature back to their homeland.
It looked like a hodgepodge of conflicting features to European naturalists; Its duck-like beak, beaver-like tail, webbed feet, and fur puzzled them. Some even thought it was fake.
But seeing is believing!
It’s your Friday special, courtesy of the Inverse gaming team! Gaming’s history with poop is a lot more complicated and philosophical than you might think.
The industry started with the blocky pixels of the Magnavox Odyssey console but grew into one of the most daring artistic mediums out there. There are philosophical games like Planescape: Tormentgames that try to be philosophical like Kingdom Heartsand games that skip all that for some classic toilet humor.
As the industry’s storytelling and technical ambitions grow, the humblest details grow with it. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all. Though initially used as a source of kid-friendly humor in platformers, poop has become an unlikely barometer for the complex themes and mechanics of modern interactive entertainment.
WRiter D’Angelo Epps recounts: “The first time I saw anything close to poop in a game was Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Dayreleased in 1997 and 2001. They got the potty started with good old-fashioned toilet humor. Banjo prominently features a pretty innocent egg-pooping attack, so nothing too crazy. Conker takes things up a notch and uses a murderous bull and multiple cows’ prune-induced diarrhea to traverse a sewer called the “Poo Cabin.””
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- On this day in history: On May 13, 1861, the Great Comet C/1861 J1 was discovered by Australian John Tebbutt. The comet was visible in the night sky for about three months according to historical accounts. In fact, some accounts say it was so pronounced it cast a shadow.
- Song of the day: “