• The Race To Crack Battery Recycling—Before It’s Too Late

    Every day, millions of lithium-ion batteries roll off the line at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. These cells, produced on site by Panasonic, are destined to be bundled together by the thousands in the battery packs of new Teslas. But not all the batteries are cut out for a life on the road. Panasonic ships truckloads of cells that don’t pass their qualification tests to a facility in Carson City, about a half hour’s drive south. This is the home of Redwood Materials, a small company founded in 2017 with an ambition to become the anti-Gigafactory, a place where batteries are cooked down into raw materials that will serve as the grist for new cells.

    Redwood is part of a wave of new startups racing to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist yet: How to recycle the mountains of batteries from electric vehicles that are past their prime. Over

  • Endangered Vancouver Island Marmots Are Making a Comeback

    This story originally appeared on Canada’s National Observer and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    Vancouver Island marmots may just be the antidote required for the dystopian times we are living in.

    If you must be trapped inside during this current winter of discontent, alone at a desk, scrolling through hours of video—best it be watching one of the most endearing animals on the planet.

    Researchers looking to conserve Canada’s most endangered mammal take advantage of the creature’s seven-month hibernation season to mine footage and field data for more insights that will help the animals survive, said Adam Taylor, executive director of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation.

    The process does not get old over time, Taylor said. After years of study, he still gets a kick out of watching the highly social, fuzzy, chocolate brown critters laze on rocks, munch the alpine vegetation, or alternately tussle or

  • What’s a Semi-Log Plot and How Can You Use It for Covid Data?

    Just to be clear, 106 means 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10. But what if I want to do the inverse of 10 raised to some power? It’s much easier to write big numbers by raising them to some power—this is exactly what we do with numbers in scientific notation. Finding the power of 10 that a number is raised to is exactly what a logarithm does. If I take the log of 1,000,000, it gives the result of 6. Oh, here is an important note. If we are talking about 10 raised to some power, that means we are using a log base of 10. The two most common bases are 10 (because we write numbers in base-10) or e, the natural number where e is approximately 2.718 (it’s irrational). Here is a more detailed explanation of e.

    Illustration: Rhett Allain


  • This Squishy 3D-Printed Human Heart Feels Like the Real Thing

    In the intro to the HBO sci-fi series Westworld, a 3D printer churns out humanoid robots, delicately assembling the incredible complexities of the human form so that those robots can go on to—spoiler alert—do naughty things. It takes a lot of biomechanical coordination, after all, to murder a whole lot of flesh-and-blood people.

    Speaking of: Researchers just made a scientific leap toward making 3D-printed flesh and blood a reality. Writing recently in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, a team described how they repurposed a low-cost 3D printer into one capable of turning an MRI scan of a human heart into a deformable full-size analog you can actually hold in your hand. Squeeze it, and it’ll give like the real thing. Slice it open, and you’ll find chambers. The idea isn’t to one day realize the homicidal humanoids of Westworld, but to give surgeons a better way

  • Does the AstraZeneca Vaccine Also Stop Covid Transmission?

    Again: unpublished data, no details, no peer review, science-by-press-release. That ain’t good. But big, as political writers sometimes say, if true. People infected with the virus but without symptoms—asymptomatic spreaders—seem to be a reason the disease is pandemic-y. Nobody’s sure how big a reason, though.

    Lots of other respiratory viruses overlap symptoms and transmission—sometimes the symptoms themselves, like coughing, are the way the virus gets from an infected person to others. The time between infection and symptoms, called the incubation period, doesn’t last long. “We know with flu, the incubation period is relatively short, and people may shed virus for a day or so,” says Arnold Monto, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who chairs the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which helps make decisions on approving new vaccines. “We can infect a ferret with flu and they get sick, but if they’re not coughing or

  • Meet the Microbes Living on Da Vinci’s Iconic Sketches

    “Of course, we found many bacteria related with the skin microbiome,” says Piñar. “So when you are touching it, you are leaving your own microbiome there.” You might be thinking: So does that mean we now know what was crawling on da Vinci’s hands when he drew these masterpieces? Sadly, no, as the drawings have been handled by many, many other people in the five centuries since the master sketched them out. And to be clear, this genetic sequencing didn’t tell the researchers whether all these bacteria were dead or alive—just that they were present in some form.

    Photograph: Pinar, et al./Frontiers in Microbiology

    Among human skin microbes, the researchers found high levels of the bacteria genus Moraxella, particularly Moraxella osloensis, which is responsible for the stink of dirty laundry. In addition, they detected the infamous bacteria Salmonella and E. coli., both of which bring turmoil