The Download: China’s non-coup, and building better batteries

The Download: China’s non-coup, and building better batteries
If you follow news about China on Twitter, you may have heard a wild rumor that President Xi Jinping was being held under house arrest and there was about to become a major power grab.

First, let’s be clear: this report should not be taken seriously. It has not been verified by credible sources. It’s a wishful thinking story at best and intentional disinformation at its worst.

It’s fascinating to see how a ridiculous rumor could get so far. It made it to Twitter’s deeply flawed trends list this weekend thanks to influencer translations and amplifying accounts based in India. Read more .

–Zeyi Yan

This story is from China Report. It’s MIT Technology Review’s new newsletter that gives you the inside scoop on China. Sign up and receive it in your inbox each Tuesday.

How robots and AI are helping develop better batteries

The news: At the start of this year, Carnegie Mellon researchers used a robotic system to run dozens of experiments designed to generate electrolytes to charge lithium-ion batteries faster, addressing one of the major obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

How they did it: A system of automated pumps and valves mixed various solvents and salts together. Then, the system measured how the solution performed against critical battery benchmarks. These results were then fed into Dragonfly, a machine-learning program that proposes different combinations of chemicals that might work better.

Why it matters: Better electrolytes are essential for improving the battery’s performance, safety, cost, and quality. For electric cars and trucks to be more attractive, faster-charging batteries are crucial. Read the complete story .

–James Temple

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The US and Europe are running out of weapons to send to Ukraine
Scaling up production is no mean feat, and supplies are running short. (CNBC)
The Biden administration says supply conversations are “ongoing.” (WP $)
The EU is threatening Russia with sanctions over its referendums. (BBC)
Putin’s grip on power is loosening. (New Statesman $)

2 Podcasters are racking up fake listens through mobile games
In many cases, the podcasts only play for a few seconds. (Bloomberg $)

3 China’s dating apps are flourishing
But not all their users are after romance. (NYT $)
Meta has taken down a China-based influence network ahead of the US midterms. (WP $)
China’s yuan has hit an all-time-low against the US dollar. (BBC)

4 US libraries are being targeted by right wing groups
They’re being forced to cancel LQBTQ events over safety concerns, amid rows over book bans. (Motherboard)
How conservative Facebook groups are changing what books children read in school. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Amazon’s robots are getting faster
While the company maintains they’ll work in tandem with humans, robotics experts aren’t so sure. (Vox)
Voice assistants like Alexa could hinder child development. (The Guardian)

6 What Neanderthals’ artifacts can tell us about how they thought
From tar glue to early spears. (New Scientist $)

7 How a secretive Dutchman revolutionized the microscope
Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek’s lens design opened a new world into microorganisms. (Wired $)

8 Why Japan is so committed to outdated technology
Its new digital minister wants to shake up the country’s bureaucracy. (Rest of World)
Protestors have demonstrated against Shinzo Abe’s state funeral. (FT $)

9 Video games are breathing new life into cards
And capturing new generations of fans in the process. (FT $)
“Magic: The Gathering” is officially the world’s most complex game. (MIT Technology Review)

10 It’s not clear who smart thermostats are really helping
It should be the customer. It is often not. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“If you are live ten hours a day, you’re a zombie after that”

–Livestreaming superstar Ludwig Ahgren tells the Washington Post why livestreamers are starting to plan their content, instead of just going with the flow.

The big story

The hunt for hidden signs of consciousness in unreachable patients

August 2021

At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable about the low-rise hospital on the west side of Milan. Two floors higher, in an isolated wing at the Don Carlo Gnocchi IRCCS Centro S. Maria Nascente hospital, a man with severe brain injury is connected to a technology suite that can tell them if it’s conscious.

A neuroscientist and a patient’s neuroologist watch on a laptop complex blue squiggles representing brainwaves fill the screen in close-to-real time. The scientists see the faintest signs of a liminal consciousness, perhaps dreamlike.

This breakthrough is the most precise consciousness meter ever made in medicine. It has wide-reaching medical implications. Read the full story.

Read More