Rice University Adds Asphalt To Speed Lithium Metal Battery Charging By 20 Times (nextbigfuture.com) 131

schwit1 writes: The Rice lab of chemist James Tour developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles. A high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter demonstrated the material's promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density. The Tour lab previously used a derivative of asphalt -- specifically, untreated gilsonite, the same type used for the battery -- to capture greenhouse gases from natural gas. This time, the researchers mixed asphalt with conductive graphene nanoribbons and coated the composite with lithium metal through electrochemical deposition. The lab combined the anode with a sulfurized-carbon cathode to make full batteries for testing. The batteries showed a high-power density of 1,322 watts per kilogram and high-energy density of 943 watt-hours per kilogram. Testing revealed another significant benefit: The carbon mitigated the formation of lithium dendrites. These mossy deposits invade a battery's electrolyte. If they extend far enough, they short-circuit the anode and cathode and can cause the battery to fail, catch fire or explode. But the asphalt-derived carbon prevents any dendrite formation.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries," Tour said. "While the capacity between the former and this new battery is similar, approaching the theoretical limit of lithium metal, the new asphalt-derived carbon can take up more lithium metal per unit area, and it is much simpler and cheaper to make. There is no chemical vapor deposition step, no e-beam deposition step and no need to grow nanotubes from graphene, so manufacturing is greatly simplified."
The findings have been published in the journal ACS Nano.

Nobel Prize In Chemistry Shared By 3 For Cryo-Electron Microscopy (www.cbc.ca) 27

Dave Knott writes: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to researchers who developed cryo-electron microscopy, which is described as a way to create detailed images of the molecules that drive life -- a technology that allows scientists to visualize molecular processes they had never previously seen. This is decisive for both the basic understanding of life's chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals. From the Nobel committee's press release: "Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology's potential. Joachim Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy two-dimensional images are analyzed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure. Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope's vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, Dubochet succeeded in vitrifying water -- he cooled water so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum. Following these discoveries, the electron microscope's every nut and bolt have been optimized. The desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013, and researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules."

Expert Says You're Deluding Yourself If You Think You're Productive On Six Hours of Sleep (chicagotribune.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Chicago Tribune: Getting through the workday on little sleep is a point of pride for some. But skimping on shuteye could be shortening your life and making you a less than stellar employee, according to Matthew Walker, founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. "Underslept employees tend to create fewer novel solutions to problems, they're less productive in their work and they take on easier challenges at work," said Walker, author of "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams," out Tuesday. Operating on short sleep -- anything less than seven hours -- impairs a host of brain and bodily functions, said Walker, who is also a professor of neuroscience and psychology. It increases your risk for heart attack, cancer and stroke, compromises your immune system and makes you emotionally irrational, less charismatic and more prone to lying. When asked, "What do you say to people who sacrifice sleep to work?" Walker said: "I often ask the question in return, 'Is the reason you've still got so much to do because you haven't gotten enough sleep and so you're inefficient while you're working?' We know that efficiency and effectiveness are increased when you're getting sufficient sleep and it will take you longer to do the same thing on an under-slept brain, which means you end up having to stay awake longer. So goes the vicious cycle."

Unselfish People Are More Likely to Wind Up With Depression (vice.com) 238

People with depression are more likely to feel bad in response to perceived inequality, according to a study published this week in Nature Human Behaviour. From a report: Simply, in experiments where participants were tasked with playing a game with a strong element of unfairness, those participants with higher levels of brain activity in depression-linked brain regions -- as recorded via fMRI scans -- were more likely to later demonstrate signs of clinical depression. This is a new test of an old idea, one that's been demonstrated in previous research. People with depression commonly demonstrate increased concern for others, or for the perspectives of others. More precisely, prosocial attitudes predict depression, which is in contrast to individualist attitudes. Individualist here basically just means selfish, or relatively selfish. The researchers behind the current study hypothesized that they would be able to observe these tendencies at the level of actual brain activity. Fortunately, there are some tried and true methods of testing prosocial behavior. One of these takes the form of what's known as an ultimatum game. The general idea is that participants are offered rewards that are to be shared among a group. Each offer differs in how much the participant gets in relation to the rest of the group, with prosocial participants more likely refuse larger personal rewards in favor of larger rewards going to everybody else. Individualists take the offer that best benefits them, while prosocial people are more concerned with other people in the group.

Dawn of Solar Age Declared as PV Beats All Other Forms of Power (bloomberg.com) 396

Solar power blossomed faster than for any other fuel for the first time in 2016, the International Energy Agency said in a report suggesting the technology will dominate renewables in the years ahead. From a report: The institution established after the first major oil crisis in 1973 said 165 gigawatts of renewables were completed last year, which was two-thirds of the net expansion in electricity supply. Solar grew by 50 percent, with almost half new plants built in China. "What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV," Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement accompanying the report published on Wednesday in Paris. "We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022." This marks the sixth consecutive year that clean energy has set records for installations. Mass manufacturing and a switch by governments away from fixed payments for renewables forced down the cost of wind and solar technology. The IEA expects about 1,000 gigawatts of renewables will be installed in the next five years, a milestone that coal only accomplished after 80 years. That quantity of electricity surpasses what's consumed in China, India and Germany combined.

The Absurdity of the Nobel Prizes in Science (theatlantic.com) 186

An anonymous reader shares an article: Every year, when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic way of recognizing scientists for their work. Instead of honoring science, they distort its nature, rewrite its history, and overlook many of its important contributors. There are assuredly good things about the prizes. Scientific discoveries should be recognized for the vital part they play in the human enterprise. The Nobel Prize website is an educational treasure trove, full of rich historical details that are largely missing from published papers. And it is churlish to be overly cynical about any event that, year after year, offers science the same kind of whetted anticipation that's usually reserved for Oscar or Emmy nominees. But the fact that the scientific Nobels have drawn controversy since their very inception hints at deep-rooted problems. [...] The wider problem, beyond who should have received the prize and who should not, is that the Nobels reward individuals -- three at most, for each of the scientific prizes, in any given year. And modern science, as Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus write in Stat, is "the teamiest of team sports." Yes, researchers sometimes make solo breakthroughs, but that's increasingly rare. Even within a single research group, a platoon of postdocs, students, and technicians will typically be involved in a discovery that gets hitched to a single investigator's name. And more often than not, many groups collaborate on a single project. The paper in which the LIGO team announced their discovery has an author list that runs to three pages. Another recent paper, which precisely estimated the mass of the elusive Higgs boson, has 5,154 authors.

Skipping Breakfast May Be Linked To Poor Heart Health, Study Says (theguardian.com) 165

A new study says that skipping breakfast could be linked to poorer cardiovascular health. The findings reveal that, compared with those who wolfed down an energy-dense breakfast, those who missed the meal had a greater extent of the early stages of atherosclerosis -- a buildup of fatty material inside the arteries. The Guardian reports: The research is part of a larger study that will follow the participants over a decade or more to see how disease in the arteries progresses. Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the research looked at the health and diets of 4,052 middle-aged bank workers, both men and women, with no previous history of cardiovascular disease. At the start of the study, which is partly funded by the Spanish bank Santander, participants completed a detailed questionnaire into what they had eaten and when over the previous 15 days. Body mass index, cholesterol levels and other measures were collected, together with data including the participants' smoking status, educational attainment and level of physical activity. Imaging techniques were used to track the extent of the early, sub-clinical stages of atherosclerosis in six arteries, including those around the heart, thighs and neck. The results reveal that, compared to those tucking into more than 20% of their daily calories at breakfast, those who consumed next to nothing for breakfast had a greater extent of atherosclerosis.
The Internet

More Than 80 Percent of All Net Neutrality Comments Were Sent By Bots, Researchers Say (vice.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Trump administration and its embattled FCC commissioner are on a mission to roll back the pro-net neutrality rules approved during the Obama years, despite the fact that most Americans support those safeguards. But there is a large number of entities that do not: telecom companies, their lobbyists, and hordes of bots. Of all the more than 22 million comments submitted to the FCC website and through the agency's API found that only 3,863,929 comments were "unique," according to a new analysis by Gravwell, a data analytics company. The rest? A bunch of copy-pasted comments, most of them likely by automated astroturfing bots, almost all of them -- curiously -- against net neutrality. "Using our (admittedly) simple classification, over 95 percent of the organic comments are in favor of Title II regulation," Corey Thuen, the founder of Gravwell, told Motherboard in an email.

Judge Recommends ISP and Search Engine Blocking of Sci-Hub in the US (torrentfreak.com) 196

Sci-Hub, which is regularly referred to as the "Pirate Bay of Science," faces one of the strongest anti-piracy injunctions we have seen in the US to date, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan. Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site. In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site. While the request is rather unprecedented for the US, as it includes search engine and ISP blocking, Magistrate Judge John Anderson has included these measures in his recommendations. Judge Anderson agrees that Sci-Hub is guilty of copyright and trademark infringement. In addition to $4,800,000 in statutory damages, he recommends a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs, domain registrars and other services to block Sci-Hub's domain names. If the U.S. District Court Judge adopts this recommendation, it would mean that Internet providers such as Comcast could be ordered to block users from accessing Sci-Hub.

Breast-Cancer Death Rate Drops Almost 40 Percent, Saving 322,000 Lives, Study Says (washingtonpost.com) 64

Breast cancer death rates declined almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, averting 322,600 deaths, the American Cancer Society reported Tuesday. From a report: Breast cancer death rates increased by 0.4 percent per year from 1975 to 1989, according to the study. After that, mortality rates decreased rapidly, for a 39 percent drop overall through 2015. The report, the latest to document a long-term reduction in breast-cancer mortality, attributed the declines to both improvements in treatments and to early detection by mammography. Deanna Attai, a breast cancer surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles who was not involved in the study, said the advances in treatment included much better chemotherapy regimens -- developed in the 1980s and refined ever since -- that are administered post-surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence. Other improvements have included tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen agent that was approved in the late 1970s; Herceptin, a drug used to treat tumors with a higher-than-normal level of a protein called HER2 and drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

The 2017 Nobel Prize For Physics Goes To Three Scientists Who Proved Einstein Right (fastcompany.com) 124

An anonymous reader shares a report: The three physicists, Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish, won the coveted prize for the detection of gravitational waves -- the ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. Weiss, Thorne, and Barish made the discovery as part of the LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration back in February 2016. It was then that they had recorded gravitational waves coming from the collision of two massive black holes a billion light-years away.

When You Split the Brain, Do You Split the Person? (aeon.co) 124

An anonymous reader shares an article: The brain is perhaps the most complex machine in the Universe. It consists of two cerebral hemispheres, each with many different modules. Fortunately, all these separate parts are not autonomous agents. They are highly interconnected, all working in harmony to create one unique being: you. But what would happen if we destroyed this harmony? What if some modules start operating independently from the rest? Interestingly, this is not just a thought experiment; for some people, it is reality. In so-called 'split-brain' patients, the corpus callosum -- the highway for communication between the left and the right cerebral hemispheres -- is surgically severed to halt otherwise intractable epilepsy. [...] What, then, happens to the person? If the parts are no longer synchronised, does the brain still produce one person? The neuroscientists Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga set out to investigate this issue in the 1960s and '70s, and found astonishing data suggesting that when you split the brain, you split the person as well. Sperry won the Nobel prize in medicine for his split-brain work in 1981. [...] Case closed? Not to me. [...] To try to get to the bottom of things, my team at the University of Amsterdam re-visited this fundamental issue by testing two split-brain patients, evaluating whether they could respond accurately to objects in the left visual field (perceived by the right brain) while also responding verbally or with the right hand (controlled by the left brain). Astonishingly, in these two patients, we found something completely different than Sperry and Gazzaniga before us. Both patients showed full awareness of presence and location of stimuli throughout the entire visual field -- right and left, both.

NASA Images of Puerto Rico Reveal How Maria Wiped Out Power On the Island (jalopnik.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Jalopnik: Hurricane Maria was the most devastating hurricane to make land in Puerto Rico in nearly 100 years and the country is still reeling in its wake. Much of the island still doesn't have running water, reliable communication or electricity. Recently, NASA published a set of date-processed photos that show the island's nighttime lights both before and after the storm. Here, you can see images of the country's capital, San Juan, on a typical night before Maria. It's based on cloud-free and low moonlight conditions. Conversely, the following composite image is of data taken on the nights of Sept. 27 and 28 -- nearly a week after the storm hit -- by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, a scanning radiometer that collects visible and infrared imagery of land, atmosphere, cryosphere and oceans, according to NASA's website.

Nobel Prize For Medicine Awarded For Insights Into Internal Biological Clock 36

Dave Knott quotes a report from The Guardian: The Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to a trio of American scientists for their discoveries on the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms -- in other words, the 24-hour body clock. According to the Nobel committee's citation, the researchers were recognized for their discoveries explaining "how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions." The team identified a gene within fruit flies that controls the creatures' daily rhythm, known as the "period" gene. This gene encodes a protein within the cell during the night which then degrades during the day. When there is a mismatch between this internal "clock" and the external surroundings, it can affect the organism's wellbeing -- for example, in humans, when we experience jet lag. All three winners are from the U.S. Jeffrey C Hall, 72, has retired but spent the majority of his career at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where fellow laureate Michael Rosbash, 73, is still a faculty member. Michael W Young, 68, works at Rockefeller University in New York.

Hall and Rosbash then went on to unpick how the body clock actually works, revealing that the levels of protein encoded by the period gene rise and fall throughout the day in a negative feedback loop. Young, meanwhile, discovered a second gene involved in the system, dubbed "timeless," that was critical to this process. Only when the proteins produced from the period gene combined with those from the timeless gene could they enter the cell's nucleus and halt further activity of the period gene. Young also discovered the gene that controlled the frequency of this cycle.

We're Not Living in a Computer Simulation, New Research Shows (cosmosmagazine.com) 403

A reader shares a report: A team of theoretical physicists from Oxford University in the UK has shown that life and reality cannot be merely simulations generated by a massive extraterrestrial computer. The finding -- an unexpectedly definite one -- arose from the discovery of a novel link between gravitational anomalies and computational complexity. In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi show that constructing a computer simulation of a particular quantum phenomenon that occurs in metals is impossible -- not just practically, but in principle. The pair initially set out to see whether it was possible to use a technique known as quantum Monte Carlo to study the quantum Hall effect -- a phenomenon in physical systems that exhibit strong magnetic fields and very low temperatures, and manifests as an energy current that runs across the temperature gradient. The phenomenon indicates an anomaly in the underlying space-time geometry. [...] They discovered that the complexity of the simulation increased exponentially with the number of particles being simulated. If the complexity grew linearly with the number of particles being simulated, then doubling the number of partices would mean doubling the computing power required. If, however, the complexity grows on an exponential scale -- where the amount of computing power has to double every time a single particle is added -- then the task quickly becomes impossible.

Laser Light Forges Graphene Into the Third Dimension (newatlas.com) 36

Big Hairy Ian quotes New Atlas: The wonder material graphene gets many of its handy quirks from the fact that it exists in two dimensions, as a sheet of carbon only one atom thick. But to actually make use of it in practical applications, it usually needs to be converted into a 3D form. Now, researchers have developed a new and relatively simple way to do just that, using lasers to 'forge' a three-dimensional pyramid out of graphene...

By focusing a laser onto a fine point on a 2D graphene lattice, the graphene at that spot is irradiated and bulges outwards. A variety of three-dimensional shapes can be made by writing patterns with the laser spot, with the height of the shape controlled by adjusting the irradiation dose at each particular point. The team illustrated that technique by deforming a sheet of graphene into a 3D pyramid, standing 60 nm high. That sounds pretty tiny, but it's 200 times taller than the graphene sheet itself.

"The beauty of the technique is that it's fast and easy to use," says one of the researchers. "It doesn't require any additional chemicals or processing."

Should Zambia Allow The Testing of Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes? (nhregister.com) 133

More than 400,000 lives are lost every year to malaria, reports the New York Post. But Thursday Science published two new studies on promisings ways to fight malaria -- with genetic engineering. The first study focused on whether mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to be more resistant to the malaria-causing parasite would become weaker and less able to mate and breed... The study, led by mosquito vector biologist George Dimopoulos, found that one type of genetically modified mosquito not only bred well, but became more attractive to normal mosquitoes... Within one generation, the mosquito population was becoming 90 percent genetically modified... The results suggest the genetically modified mosquitoes would not just thrive but could possibly drive their genetic immunity to the malaria parasite into mosquito populations to which they are introduced.

The second study published Thursday uses genetic modification of bacteria found inside mosquitoes to fight malaria. Researchers genetically modified a type of bacteria, which caused it to secrete a substance inside the mosquitoes' gut that kills off the malaria-causing parasite before it can develop properly... the genetically modified versions of the bacteria automatically spread to offspring in generation after generation, the researchers found. The next step for both approaches -- the genetically modified mosquitoes and bacteria -- is to test if they work outside the lab in conditions simulating nature. Johns Hopkins has built a "mosquito house" research facility in Zambia designed specifically for such experiments... But the researchers must first convince the Zambian government to allow their genetically modified subjects into its borders.


Ancient Papyrus Finally Solves Egypt's 'Great Pyramid' Mystery (newsweek.com) 253

schwit1 was the first Slashdot reader to bring us the news. Newsweek reports: Archaeologists believe they have found the key to unlocking a mystery almost as old as the Great Pyramid itself: Who built the structure and how were they able to transport two-ton blocks of stone to the ancient wonder more than 4,500 years ago...? Experts had long established that the stones from the pyramid's chambers were transported from as far away as Luxor, more than 500 miles to the south of Giza, the location of the Great Pyramid, but had never agreed how they got there. However, the diary of an overseer, uncovered in the seaport of Wadi al-Jafr, appears to answer the age-old question, showing the ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of the Nile to transport the giant blocks of stone.

According to a new British documentary Egypt's Great Pyramid: The New Evidence, which aired on the U.K.'s Channel 4 on Sunday, the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built using an intricate system of waterways which allowed thousands of workers to pull the massive stones, floated on boats, into place with ropes. Along with the papyrus diary of the overseer, known as Merer, the archaeologists uncovered a ceremonial boat and a system of waterworks. The ancient text described how Merer's team dug huge canals to channel the water of the Nile to the pyramid.


Hawaii Approves Telescope On Volcano Sacred To Indigenous People (reuters.com) 251

A new $1.4 billion telescope will be built atop a Hawaiian volcano indigenous people consider sacred. The team of scientists fighting for the telescope won approval from Hawaiian officials on Thursday after selecting the site and applying to build there in 2009. Reuters reports: The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources voted 5-2 to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island, state officials said in a statement. Astronomers consider the summit one of the world's best places to view the cosmos, while Native Hawaiians say the project would disturb holy ground crucial to their connection with ancestors and the heavens. A consortium of scientists initially received construction permits from state officials in 2011. In 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court voided that decision, saying officials did not follow the proper procedures for a "contested case hearing." That forced the state board to re-evaluate the proposal with more input from opponents. The project calls for building one of the world's largest telescopes atop the dormant volcano.

Chip Reprograms Cells To Regenerate Damaged Tissue (scientificamerican.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American about a device that delivers infusions of DNA and other molecules to restore injured limbs in mice, and maybe someday, humans: Cells are typically reprogrammed using mixtures of DNA, RNA and proteins. The most popular method uses viruses as a delivery vehicle -- although they can infect unintended cells, provoke immune responses and even turn cells cancerous. One alternative, called bulk electroporation, exposes cells to an electric field that pokes holes in their membranes to let in genetic material and proteins. Yet this method can stress or kill them. Tissue nanotransfection, described in a study published in August in Nature Nanotechnology, involves a chip containing an array of tiny channels that apply electric fields to individual cells. "You affect only a small area of the cell surface, compared with the conventional method, which upsets the entire cell," says study co-author James Lee, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at The Ohio State University. "Essentially we create a tiny hole and inject DNA right into the cell, so we can control the dosage."

Chandan Sen, a physiologist at Ohio State, and his colleagues developed a genetic cocktail that rapidly converts skin cells into endothelial cells -- the main component of blood vessels. They then used their technique on mice whose legs had been damaged by a severed artery that cut off blood supply. New blood vessels formed, blood flow increased, and after three weeks the legs had completely healed.

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