Can Batteries Power The World?

Though good for the planet, easy to park, and increasingly affordable, electric cars, at least those that rely on no supplementary fuel, can have one fatal flaw: they boast all the horsepower of a push lawnmower.

Enter a professor from MIT with an understanding of electrodes.

The battery technology behind electric cars' plodding pace inspired Professor Gerbrand Ceder to tinker with lithium ion technology. His research team made some adjustment to the original model, reprocessing the lithium ion material inside a basic battery to speed up electrode transfer. The result was a substantially reduced recharge time, down to mere seconds from several minutes. The impact of a 10-second charge time for digital devices like mobile phones could be enormous.

Robert Bryce, author of Gusher of Lies, had some thoughts on batteries when he visited Big Think. He explained that their use could eventually apply to electricity providers. In conventional power plants, technology can only respond to usage demands in real time, i.e., as homeowners turn on their air-conditioners, more power is generated. At surge periods when demand spikes, this can put immense strain on the grid and result in brown or blackouts. But, according to Bryce, "if you had a battery that could feed power back into the grid, you could level out that demand curve and that would allow huge energy savings."

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Cornell engineers create artificial material with 3 key traits of life

An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

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  • A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
  • But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.