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Is this article about Oil and Gas Industry?
Researchers have successfully turned an abandoned oil and gas well into a geothermal energy storage system, "a win-win situation."

Battery Cage


have successfully turned an abandoned oil and gas well into a geothermal energy storage system, repurposing a once-polluting resource extraction site into what they say amounts to a green energy battery.

As detailed in a new study published in the journal Renewable Energy, the researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign were able to make use of the deep subsurface structure, despite the fact that it doesn't actually produce geothermal energy.

That's because they found it was the perfect place to build an artificial geothermal reservoir, which stores energy in the form of heat in the surrounding rocks.

"Many of the same properties that make a subsurface rock formation ideal for oil and gas extraction also make it ideal for geothermal storage," said lead researcher Tugce Baser, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Illinois, in a statement. "And because our test site is a former gas well, it already has most of the needed infrastructure in place."


The long-term vision is to store excess heat from nearby industry underground and release it as electric power when demand is high.

"The underground reservoir essentially acts as a large underground battery while repurposing abandoned oil and gas wells," Baser said. "It is a win-win situation."

The Illinois Basin, a large geological feature that stretches underneath almost the entire state, contains spongelike rock and minerals with excellent thermal conductivity. Insulating layers ensure that all the heat doesn't get dissipated immediately.

Heat Injection

In a test, Baser and his team injected water preheated to 122 degrees Fahrenheit into a layer of porous sandstone 3,000 feet under the surface using the abandoned oil well.

The results were surprising.

"Our field results, combined with further numerical modeling, find that the process can sustain a thermal storage efficiency of 82 percent," Baser said.

According to the new study, it would even be an economically viable and even profitable system, producing electricity at a competitive $0.138 per kilowatt-hour.

"Our findings show that the Illinois Basin can be an effective means to store excess heat energy from industrial sources and eventually more sustainable sources like wind and solar," Baser concluded.

READ MORE: Geothermal 'battery' repurposes abandoned oil and gas well in Illinois, researchers report [University of Illinois]

More on geothermal energy: The Biden Administration Wants to Cut Geothermal Energy Costs

The post Researchers Successfully Turn Abandoned Oil Well Into Giant Geothermal Battery appeared first on Futurism.



As multiple video recordings of the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis were released to the public on Friday night, the nation prepared for the reaction. Peaceful protests can easily turn into violent ones, especially in a country that is rightly outraged about the ongoing police brutality against Black men. It has become a familiar call and response: Police misconduct leads to more harm in or for the communities that were targeted by the misconduct in the first place.

But as Friday night unfolded, the protests remained peaceful; news reports showed Americans in various cities righteously and nonviolently demanding justice. We have witnessed many peaceful protests in response to police violence before, but there was one noticeable difference this time around: Rollout of the video footage seemed highly choreographed.

By the time protesters were chanting in the streets, the five officers who had beaten Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, had already been charged with second-degree murder. By the time the video footage of the attack was released, the anger and dismay had already been predicted; law-enforcement and political leaders had issued statements preparing the public for some of the worst police violence this nation has seen. The Memphis police chief likened Nichols's beating to that of Rodney King in 1991. These officials were right: The footage was brutal, at times unbearable, with Nichols appearing not to resist the officers as they repeatedly struck him. All of this reveals the sad fact that, because of the sheer number of times Americans have now confronted videos of police officers killing Black citizens, public officials have gotten better at managing the shock.

[David A. Graham: Inhumanity in Memphis]

This observation is not meant to minimize the police violence on display in the Memphis videos and so many before, but to acknowledge how important it is to mitigate the harm that such violence can cause even beyond the misconduct itself. As we have seen too many times, when videos reveal police violence or verdicts fail to bring officers to justice, the result is often more violence, including clashes between civilians and police. The Rodney King verdict in 1992, in which four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted for a beating that aired on television, led to the L.A. riots. During those days of unrest, 63 people died from violence related to what had started out as peaceful protests. The deaths of Michael Brown, George Floyd, and others also sparked violence in the streets—each side with its own narrative of who had initiated it—in addition to large, peaceful demonstrations. Our nation has been through this so many times before.

The release of the Nichols footage suggests that a combination of factors can help prevent police-civilian clashes, though it might be too soon to say. First, there was the quick firing of the five police officers involved, even before criminal charges were filed, and before the videos were made public. This rarely happens, but it is the correct response when the facts are impossible to defend. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also made a commitment to examine the city's SCORPION squad, its supposedly elite street-crime unit to which the police officers involved in Nichols's beating were assigned. On Friday, just before the release of the footage, Strickland went further and said the unit would be "inactive" for the foreseeable future.

Then there were the very direct and ominous warnings of what the public could expect to see in the videos, which were available in the first place only because of the increased use of body and street-pole cameras in response to previous incidents of police brutality. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis cautioned that the footage showed something "heinous" and "inhumane." We were told to prepare for scenes at least as terrible as King's beating. Americans have already been trained to expect horror in such videos, but officials made explicit that the footage would provoke outrage. Though the footage itself was still far worse than any description, people were braced for it.

[David A. Graham: The murders in Memphis aren't stopping]

As for the timing of the release—on a Friday night—it was, at first, surprising. Were officials hoping people wouldn't be watching the news and would miss the footage, or was it a careless choice, given that a weekend night is a time when people are less likely to be distracted by the obligations of daily life, and is, therefore, riper for a strong backlash? It turned out that, because Memphis officials waited until Friday night, every police department in America had sufficient warning to prepare for protest; they were effectively put on notice to focus their tactics on de-escalation in anticipation of reaction to the video. By waiting a week between when the police officers were fired and when the footage was released, officials also created time for religious and other leaders to support and counsel their communities. So far, we have not seen a major show of force in U.S. cities, from either civilians or police.

Anticipating unrest after police misconduct, and trying to minimize its likelihood, is no solution for the misconduct itself. Nor should the lack of violence in the streets be conflated with a lack of urgency for reform. But we have seen, possibly, how public officials and community leaders can at least prepare for the righteous anger and frustration that is sure to follow, and then anticipate how to support communities as they express that reaction in nonviolent ways. Like mass shootings, police brutality is, tragically, common enough in the United States that we are getting better at addressing its consequences. The challenge is to not become numb to it.

Business Geniuses at Amazon Hard at Work on Hot New Idea: NFTs
Is this article about Ecommerce?
Jeff Bezos' Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a web3 initiative this spring, where customers can play "crypto games" to win NFTs.

Employee of the Month

Jeff Bezos'


is planning on launching a crypto gaming and NFT-focused web3 initiative, sources familiar with the matter told web3 outlet Blockworks.

No, you didn't go back in time to January 2021. It's 2023, the crypto market did in fact tank, and the NFT bubble has all but burst as well.

And yet, despite the collapsed price floors, lawsuits, and widely renewed skepticism of the expensive JPEGs, Amazon has decided that it's finally time to dive headfirst into the marketplace.

"We knew it was possible," said a source, according to Blockworks. "But now it seems like it's really happening."

Got Games?

Blockworks' sources claim that the e-retailer has left no stone unturned in courting an array of major industry power players, with a strong focus on web3 gaming startups and "related NFT applications."

"One example in the works, per one source," reads the report, is "getting Amazon customers to play crypto games and claim free


in the process."

Oh, good. Games. Amazon has also allegedly reached out to several "digital asset exchanges," because things are going really well over there.


We have questions. Again, given the state of the broader cryptosphere as well as the NFT niche specifically, this is a very weird move on Amazon's behalf.

It's hard to blame them for wanting to expand on Prime Gaming, indeed the natural next progression to their Blob-like desire to expand on their very expensive digital media empire, but an attempt to subject customers to "crypto games" for NFT prizes — which reads a lot like encouraging users to gamble with unstable, unregulated assets in an effort to win similarly unstable, unregulated assetsfeels like an unnecessary risk for a company that already faces a fair share of public and political scrutiny.

That said, Amazon CEO Andrew Jassy has voiced interest in blockchain initiatives in the past.

And in any case, while blockchain might be a turn for Amazon and its founder, we're not really sure what we expected. It's classic Bezos: always last to the party, and only ever with bizarre, half-baked, bordering-on-legality ideas to show for it. At the very least, he's reliable.

READ MORE: Amazon NFT Initiative Coming Soon: Exclusive [Blockworks]

More on Amazon choices: Amazon Kills off Feature That Let Customers Give Sales Proceeds to Charity

The post Business Geniuses at Amazon Hard at Work on Hot New Idea: NFTs appeared first on Futurism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36173-0

Pathology diagnostics still rely on tissue morphology assessment by trained experts. Here, the authors perform deep-learning-based segmentation followed by large-scale feature extraction of histological images, i.e., next-generation morphometry, to enable outcome-relevant and disease-specific pathomics analysis of non-tumor kidney pathology.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36114-x

How the histone variant H2A.Z controls cell fate remains unclear. Here, the authors reveal that the H2A.Z interacting partner
plays a key role in regulating transcription during early head and heart development.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36068-0

It is generally thought that complement activation in human
membranous nephropathy
(MN) occurs predominantly via the lectin or alternative pathway. Here, the authors show that the classical pathway is the dominant form of complement activation in MN and a pathogenic driver of the disease.

How Saliva Changes The Flavor Of Food
Is this article about Food Industry?
At first glance, saliva seems like pretty boring stuff, merely a convenient way to moisten our food. But the reality is quite different, as scientists are beginning to understand. The fluid interacts with everything that enters the mouth, and even though it is 99 percent water, it has a profound influence on the flavors — and our enjoyment — of what we eat and drink. "It is a liquid, but it's not just a liquid," says oral biologist Guy Carpenter of King's College London. Scientists have long understood some of saliva's functions: It protects the teeth, makes speech easier and establishes a welcoming environment for foods to enter the mouth. But researchers are now finding that saliva is also a mediator and a translator, influencing how food moves through the mouth and how it sparks our senses. Emerging evidence suggests that interactions between saliva and food may even help to shape which foods we like to eat. The substance is not very salty, which allows people to taste the saltiness of a potato chip. It's not very acidic, which is why a spritz of lemon can be so stimulating. The fluid's water and salivary proteins lubricate each mouthful of food, and its enzymes such as amylase and lipase kickstart the process of digestion. This wetting also dissolves the chemical components of taste, or tastants, into saliva so they can travel to and interact with the taste buds. Through saliva, says Jianshe Chen, a food scientist at Zhejiang Gongshang University in Hangzhou, China, "we detect chemical information of food: the flavor, the taste." Chen coined the term "food oral processing" in 2009 to describe the multidisciplinary field that draws on food science, the physics of food materials, the body's physiological and psychological responses to food, and more, a subject he wrote about in the 2022 Annual Review of Food Science and Technology. When people eat, he explains, they don't actually savor the food itself, but a mixture of the food plus saliva. For example, an eater can perceive a sweet- or sour- tasting molecule in a bite of food only if that molecule can reach the taste buds — and for that to happen, it must pass through the layer of saliva that coats the tongue. That's not a given, says Carpenter, who points to how flat soda tastes sweeter than fizzy soda. Researchers had assumed this was because bursting bubbles of carbon dioxide in fresh soda provided an acidic hit that essentially distracted the brain from the sweetness. But when Carpenter and his colleagues studied the process in the lab in a sort of artificial mouth, they found that saliva prevented the soda's bubbles from flowing between tongue and palate. Carpenter thinks these backed-up bubbles could physically block the sugars from reaching the taste receptors on the tongue. With flat soda, no bubbles build up to block the sweet taste. Saliva can also affect the aromas — which are responsible for the vast majority of our perception of flavor — that arise from food in the mouth. As we chew, some flavor molecules in the food dissolve in the saliva, but those that don't can waft up into the nasal cavity to be sensed by the myriad receptors there. As a result, people with different salivary flow rates, or different saliva composition — especially of proteins called mucins — may have very different flavor experiences from the same food or beverage. For example, Spanish researchers measured the flow of saliva in 10 volunteers who evaluated wine to which fruity-flavored esters had been added. Volunteers who produced more saliva tended to score the flavors as more intense, possibly because they swallowed more often and thus forced more aromas into their nasal passages, the scientists found. So wine enthusiasts proud of their ability to detect nuances of aroma may have their spit to thank, at least in part. Saliva also plays a star role in our perceptions of texture. Take astringency, that dry feeling that happens in the mouth when you drink red wine or eat unripe fruit. The wine doesn't actually make your mouth drier. Instead, molecules called tannins in the wine can cause proteins to precipitate out of the saliva so that it no longer lubricates as effectively. Saliva also helps us to perceive the difference between high-fat and low-fat foods. Even if two yogurts look the same and pour the same, a low-fat version feels drier in the mouth, says Anwesha Sarkar, a food scientist at the UK's University of Leeds. "What you're trying to understand is not the property of the food, but how the food is interacting with the surface," Sarkar says. Milk fat can combine with saliva to create a layer of droplets on the surface of the mouth that can mask astringency and add a feeling of richness to the yogurt, she says. Sarkar's research uses a mechanical tongue, bathed in artificial saliva, as a way to simulate what happens as food moves through the mouth and how that influences the sensory experience of eating. A smoothie with lower fat, Sarkar says, might look creamy at first glance but will lack that textural luxuriousness fat provides upon mixing with saliva. Fully understanding these interactions between saliva, food and the mouth — and how the information transfers to the brain — could lead to the design of healthier foods, says Sarkar. She envisions developing a "gradient food" that might include enough sugar on the outside of the food to dissolve in saliva to give a sense of sweetness but it would be at a lower concentration and calorie level in the whole food. She says a similar conceptual approach could help reduce fat in foods. But understanding these interactions well enough to develop such foods won't be easy, because saliva and perception vary throughout the day and between individuals. Generally, saliva flows slowly in the morning and fastest in the early afternoon. And the components of any individual's saliva — the amounts of certain proteins, for example — will vary throughout the day, and in the presence or absence of stimuli such as tantalizing aromas. Oral biochemist Elsa Lamy of the University of Évora in Portugal investigated this by blindfolding volunteers, letting them smell a piece of bread for about four minutes, while monitoring their saliva for changes. Two types of protein, starch-digesting amylases and others called cystatins that have been linked to taste sensitivity and perception, increased after exposure to the bread, she found. Lamy's group has done similar experiments with vanilla and lemons, and in all cases found changes in the levels of saliva proteins, though the specific changes depended on the food presented. Her team is now working to understand what function this may serve. The makeup of saliva varies from person to person — and that depends partly on an individual's past food choices, says Ann-Marie Torregrossa, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University at Buffalo. When Torregrossa fed rats diets containing bitter-tasting additives, she observed noticeable increases in multiple categories of saliva proteins. As those changes happened, rats became more likely to accept the bitterness in their food. "The way we think about this is, if you eat broccoli all the time, broccoli doesn't taste bad to you," says Torregrossa. In another experiment, Torregrossa used catheters to transfer saliva collected from rats that were accustomed to eating bitter diets into the mouths of rats that were not. The naive animals became more tolerant of bitter food, despite their lack of exposure. But control animals that weren't supplied with the pumped-in, bitterness-tolerant saliva proteins still rejected the bitter food. Torregrossa says she and her team have yet to figure out exactly which proteins are responsible for this tolerance. They have a couple of likely candidates, including proline-rich proteins and protease inhibitors, but there could be others. They need to know which proteins are involved before they can assess how responses to bitter flavors are being tweaked in the mouth and the brain. Of course, rats aren't people — but researchers have found hints that saliva is doing similar things to taste perception in people, though the picture is more complicated. "There are a lot of other things in human diets and experiences that are influencing our day-to-day experience, particularly with foods and flavors, that rodents just do not have to deal with," says Lissa Davis, a sensory and nutrition scientist at Purdue University who studies taste and behavior. But if these patterns can be decoded and understood, the potential is great, says Lamy. If you could somehow provide kids with an additive that encourages changes to their saliva and therefore makes their experience with a bitter vegetable more palatable, it could encourage healthier eating. If their first experience with a new food isn't accompanied by a high level of bitterness, she says, "probably they will associate a good experience with that vegetable." More broadly, building a better understanding of how saliva influences taste — and how diet, in turn, influences the composition of saliva — could open up a host of new ways to nudge dietary preferences toward healthy foods that are often reviled. "How," says Torregrossa, "can we turn the haters into people who love these foods? That's what I'm obsessed with." 10.1146/knowable-011823-1 Chris Gorski is a science reporter based in Washington, DC, who delights in illuminating the secrets of everyday processes — from routine endeavors like eating to the physiological and mental factors that contribute to sports success. This article originally appeared in Knowable Magazine, an independent journalistic endeavor from Annual Reviews.

James Webb Spots Asteroid With Its Own Saturn-Like Rings
First spotted in 2013, astronomers have come back for another, extremely rarely look at the centaur called Chariklo that they now think harbors ice water.

Iced Out

In 2013, astronomers made a first-of-its-kind discovery: Chariklo, a distinct type of object known as a Centaur that's somewhere between an asteroid and a comet, had its own Saturn-like rings — two of them, in fact. And now, over ten years later, some of those same astronomers have endeavored for a second look using the mighty James Webb Space Telescope, and found unmistakable signs of water ice.

"Spectra from ground-based telescopes had hinted at this ice, but the exquisite quality of the Webb spectrum revealed the clear signature of crystalline ice for the first time," said Noemí Pinilla-Alonso, a planetary scientist who led the observations, in a NASA statement.

Lucky Star

Chariklo remains the smallest object known to have its own rings, and the only one that isn't a full-blown planet. It's not tiny though, only 51 times smaller than Earth according to NASA, and the largest Centaur on record. But like other Centaurs, it's betwixt the orbits of Saturn and Neptune — in other words, it's really far from the Sun, and shrouded in darkness.

Getting a good look — even with the keen-eyed Webb — is exceptionally difficult, and requires a literal lucky star.

Because it's so dark in those reaches of the solar system, starlight is needed to illuminate the Centaur. However, that requires Chariklo to fall across the path of a star that also happens to be in view of the Webb at the same time. The chance crossing of paths — and the technique of using it for observation — is called an occultation.

According to NASA, it's the "first stellar occultation attempted" with the Webb, and by using its near-infrared camera (NIRCam), the astronomers spotted dips in the curve of the object's brightness that corresponded with Chariklo's two rings, "demonstrating a new way of using Webb to explore solar system objects," the team wrote.


The astronomers soon came back for a second look using sunlight reflected in the rings, this time without the help of an occultation. Their analysis of the light spectrum showed absorption bands of water, and they believe the data collected will soon reveal even more details on the elusive Centaur, such as whether the water was present in the rings or the main body — and why it has rings in the first place.

"As we delve deeper into the data, we will explore whether we cleanly resolve the two rings," said Pablo Santos-Sanz, an astronomer from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia.

"From the shapes of rings' occultation light curves, we also will explore the rings' thickness, the sizes and colors of the ring particles, and more," he added. "We hope [to] gain insight into why this small body even has rings at all, and perhaps detect new fainter rings."

More on asteroids: Scientists Warn Giant Asteroid Is Actually Swarm, Nearly Impossible to Destroy

The post James Webb Spots Asteroid With Its Own Saturn-Like Rings appeared first on Futurism.

Is this article about Sustainable Alternative Fuels?

Scientific Reports, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-28274-z

Impact of hydrogen gas inhalation during therapeutic
on cerebral hemodynamics and oxygenation in the asphyxiated piglet

This Week's Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through January 28)


AI Has Designed Bacteria-Killing Proteins From Scratch—and They Work
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
"The AI, called ProGen, works in a similar way to AIs that can generate text. ProGen learned how to generate new proteins by learning the grammar of how amino acids combine to form 280 million existing proteins. Instead of the researchers choosing a topic for the AI to write about, they could specify a group of similar proteins for it to focus on. In this case, they chose a group of proteins with antimicrobial activity."


BuzzFeed to Use ChatGPT Creator OpenAI to Help Create Quizzes and Other Content
Alexandra Bruell | The Wall Street Journal
"BuzzFeed Inc. said it would rely on ChatGPT creator OpenAI to enhance its quizzes and personalize some content for its audiences, becoming the latest digital publisher to embrace artificial intelligence. In a memo to staff sent Thursday morning, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said he intends for AI to play a larger role in the company's editorial and business operations this year."


Metal Robot Can Melt Its Way Out of Tight Spaces to Escape
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
"A miniature, shape-shifting robot can liquefy itself and reform, allowing it to complete tasks in hard-to-access places and even escape cages. It could eventually be used as a hands-free soldering machine or a tool for extracting swallowed toxic items."


Don't Be Sucked in by AI's Head-Spinning Hype Cycles
Devin Coldewey | TechCrunch
"[AI] certainly can outplay any human at chess or go, and it can predict the structure of protein chains; it can answer any question confidently (if not correctly) and it can do a remarkably good imitation of any artist, living or dead. But it is difficult to tease out which of these things is important, and to whom, and which will be remembered as briefly diverting parlor tricks in 5 or 10 years, like so many innovations we have been told are going to change the world."


NASA Announces Successful Test of New Propulsion Technology for Treks to Deep Space
Kevin Hurler | Gizmodo
"The rotating detonation rocket engine, or RDRE, generates thrust with detonation, in which a supersonic exothermic front accelerates to produce thrust, much the same way a shockwave travels through the atmosphere after something like TNT explodes. NASA says that this design uses less fuel and provides more thrust than current propulsion systems and that the RDRE could be used to power human landers, as well as crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and deep space."


The Best Use for AI Eye Contact Tech Is Making Movie Stars Look Straight at the Camera
James Vincent | The Verge
"This tech comes with a bunch of interesting questions, of course. Like: is constant unbroken eye contact good or a bit creepy? Are these tools useful for people who don't naturally like eye contact? …But forget that high-brow trash for now, because here's the stupidest and best use case of this technology yet: editing movie scenes so actors make eye contact with the camera."


Researchers Look a Dinosaur in Its Remarkably Preserved Face
Jeanne Timmons | Ars Technica
"Borealopelta markmitchelli found its way back into the sunlight in 2017, millions of years after it had died. This armored dinosaur is so magnificently preserved that we can see what it looked like in life. Almost the entire animal—the skin, the armor that coats its skin, the spikes along its side, most of its body and feet, even its face—survived fossilization. It is, according to Dr. Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a one-in-a-billion find."


Google, Not OpenAI, Has the Most to Gain From Generative AI
Mark Sullivan | Fast Company
"After spending billions on artificial intelligence R&D and acquisitions, Google finds itself ceding the AI limelight to OpenAI, an upstart that has captured the popular imagination with the public beta of its startlingly conversant chatbot, ChatGPT. Now Google reportedly fears the ChatGPT AI could reinvent search, its cornerstone business. But Google, which declared itself an 'AI-first' company in 2017, may yet regain its place in the sun. Its AI investments, which date back to the 2000s, may pay off, and could even power the company's next quarter century of growth (Google turns 25 this year). Here's why."


CRISPR Wants to Feed the World
Jennifer Doudna | Wired
"A great deal of the attention surrounding CRISPR has focused on the medical applications, and for good reason: The results are promising, and the personal stories are uplifting, offering hope to many who have suffered from long-neglected genetic diseases. In 2023, as CRISPR moves into agriculture and climate, we will have the opportunity to radically improve human health in a holistic way that can better safeguard our society and enable millions of people around the world to flourish."


A Watermark for Chatbots Can Expose Text Written by an AI
Melissa Heikkilä | MIT Technology Review
"Hidden patterns purposely buried in AI-generated texts could help identify them as such, allowing us to tell whether the words we're reading are written by a human or not. These 'watermarks' are invisible to the human eye but let computers detect that the text probably comes from an AI system. If embedded in large language models, they could help prevent some of the problems that these models have already caused."


Earth's Inner Core: A Shifting, Spinning Mystery's Latest Twist
Dennis Overbye | The New York Times
"Imagine Earth's inner core—the dense center of our planet—as a heavy, metal ballerina. This iron-rich dancer is capable of pirouetting at ever-changing speeds. That core may be on the cusp of a big shift. Seismologists reported Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience that after brief but peculiar pauses, the inner core changes how it spins—relative to the motion of Earth's surface—perhaps once every few decades. And, right now, one such reversal may be underway."

Image Credit: Robert Linder / Unsplash


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36254-0

Bacteria undergo nutrient fluctuations during repeated feast and famine cycles and need to metabolically adapt to these changes. Using quantitative proteomics, Zhu & Dai show that the stringent response of (p)ppGpp is crucial for the timely adaption of bacterial growth to both amino acid and carbon downshift.

According to a scathing new report, Twitter's new Head of Trust and Safety has been breaking Twitter's rules on the whims of Elon Musk and his many feuds.

According to a scathing new report from Bloomberg, Trust and Safety over at Elon Musk-owned


is, well, pretty untrustworthy.

Internal company messages reviewed by Bloomberg reportedly show that in the wake of longtime Twitter Trust and Safety head Yoel Roth's resignation, Musk's new position appointee, Ellen Irwin, has spent her first few months on the job — which she arguably shouldn't really have in the first place — bending and breaking established safety guidelines as needed to help her boss pettily punish his enemies.

Not exactly trust-instilling, nor indicative of a particularly bright future ahead for the app.

"Nearly all the people who know how to build safety systems at Twitter have left the company," Laura Edelson, a computer scientist at New York University who studies online political communication, told Bloomberg, "and those who are still there appear to be unwilling or unable to tell their boss that the things he is asking them to do are dangerous or violate Twitter's legal commitments."

According to the internal docs, Irwin had a hand in two high-profile — and widely decried as unjustified — user bans, the first being that of Jack Sweeney, the teen behind @ElonJet.

Upon taking over the platform, Musk used the flight-tracking account as proof of his commitment to free speech absolutism. As such, a lot of eyebrows were raised when, just weeks later, both @ElonJet and Sweeney's personal account were missing from the platform. And that action, per the Bloomberg report, was done manually, accompanied by a note reading: "Suspension: direct request from Elon Musk." (Bloomberg also notes that before he was kicked offline, Sweeney himself had posted a screenshot "showing Irwin had sent a Slack message directing employees to restrict visibility" to @ElonJet.)

Bloomberg also pointed to the company's sudden ban of several prominent Musk-critical journalists, a move that was met with a fair share of public scrutiny. They too were silenced manually, an order that was executed by "direction of Ella," according to a different screenshot.

The Bloomberg report was expansive, alleging as well that Musk and Irwin have disbanded a Twitter committee dubbed the Global Escalations Team, a group that formerly had the power to overrule execs "based on existing policy" — basically, a measure built to encourage corporate checks and balances. (Irwin told Bloomberg that allegation is "not accurate at all.")

Meanwhile, Twitter's domestic and international teams, including content moderation and safety teams that work on topics as sensitive as child sexual exploitation, are still in shambles.

Look, managing trust and safety for any social media platform, Twitter or otherwise, is a very difficult thing to do, perhaps now more than ever. These sites sit rather perilously at the core of both broader societal functioning, at the same time mediating our interpersonal and even interior lives. Considering the real weight that social media has on our personal and public worlds — not to mention the reality that a lawless internet is always bound to be a hell gutter of leashless bad actors — strict security guidelines are necessary, while simultaneously difficult to define and enforce due to varied international free speech laws.

In other words, when it comes to social media trust and safety, nearly everything is gray area. Decisions are complex, and can't and shouldn't be made on whims — let alone on whims that serve only to settle a new and chaotic owner's personal feuds. It's not only ridiculous, but potentially quite damaging, to the site as well as its users.

"Twitter's policies and practices in the trust and safety space were built around defending the rights of users around the world, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized communities," an unnamed former Twitter exec told Bloomberg. "Since the acquisition, the company's only actions have been to silence critics of Elon, to expose journalists and others to harm, and to violate basic ethical standards and privacy laws."

READ MORE: Twitter's Trust and Safety Head Ditches Protocol for Musk Whims [Bloomberg]

The post Leaked Messages Seem to Show Elon Musk Using Twitter to Punish His Enemies appeared first on Futurism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36023-z

In this work, the authors show that metamorphism in the post-translationally modified TDP-43 prion-like domain encodes determinants that command mechanisms with major relevance in disease and stress the relevance of post-translationally modified chains as the targets for disease intervention.

The Luxury Dilemma

Behind vine-covered walls on a modest hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard sits the decidedly immodest Chateau Marmont. The hotel was inspired by a French Gothic castle and, at 93, it is easily the oldest thing in Los Angeles that's still considered sexy.

As a born-and-raised New Yorker without a driver's license, I found the hotel the perfect place to park myself for a day of meetings in the era before Ubers and WeWorks and Soho Houses. I used to go there in the 2000s, back when I was a wedding planner. It was like a celebrity safari; stars would walk by, within arm's reach. You could "do Los Angeles" without ever needing to move. I never could have afforded a room there, but I knew by reputation that at night it offered entertainment of a different sort: luxury and licentiousness and debauchery, unbounded by any rules.

In more recent years, I've returned to Los Angeles in a different career—as a screenwriter traveling on someone else's dime. Naturally, I didn't want to just take meetings at the Chateau; I wanted to stay there, to be a fly on the wall where the wild things were. Only I couldn't.

I was told, in early 2021, that the hotel was not taking any new bookings. During the pandemic, a dispute between the owner and the staff had exploded, spectacularly. The hotel was now operating with a skeleton crew; employees were on strike, trying to organize a union. Even some celebrities were boycotting it.

The debauchery the Chateau was known for came at a cost. After a massive round of pandemic-related layoffs, employees started talking, publicly, about what they'd experienced on the job, and the stories were gross. Allegations included maids being forced to handle used drug syringes, staff members being cajoled by poolside guests to lotion them up, sexts and slurs and relentless sexual propositions from colleagues or guests. (A spokesperson for the company told me that "the Chateau vigorously objects" to these allegations.)

The Chateau Marmont opened in 1929 and from its earliest days was known as a discreet playground for the rich and famous. "If you must get into trouble, do so at the Marmont," the studio mogul Harry Cohn is rumored to have told his biggest stars. Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller made love there; Lindsay Lohan lived there; John Belushi died there.

In 1990, André Balazs purchased the property and began restoring it with his ex-wife. The son of academic Hungarian immigrants, Balazs made his fortune in biotech before turning his attention to nightlife and hospitality and opening a series of hotels and private clubs. "All good hotels tend to lead people to do things they wouldn't necessarily do at home" is one of his widely quoted bon mots. The Chateau is known for catering to regulars, many of whom arrive precisely to do the kind of partying they wouldn't do at home.

Andre Balazs posing at a public telephone in 1996
(Rose Hartman / Getty)

In many ways, the hotel operated like a very-high-end mom-and-pop enterprise, long functioning without corporate vultures lurking for earnings reports, in-house legal teams wringing their hands over the risk of litigation, or a fully functional HR department. Its last full-time HR director left in 2017 and was never officially replaced.

For years, the workers' grievances racked up. In a major exposé, The Hollywood Reporter described complaints from housekeeping of short staffing and sordid parties to clean up after. Front-of-house workers said they'd experienced unwanted sexual advances from guests and colleagues alike. Ethnic slurs were reportedly hurled with regularity at Latino kitchen staff by management. Black and Latino employees said they had been back-burnered for the best shifts and promotions—allegations corroborated by their white colleagues. (In a statement to me, the spokesperson rejected all of these allegations and called them "unsupported.")

Then, in March 2020, at the dawn of the pandemic, Balazs laid off all but nine of the hotels' 259 employees—without severance or decent health benefits. Many had been in his service for years. Though I didn't get to speak with Balazs directly, in a statement he said he saw the decision to cut down to a "'caretaker' staff" as necessary "because of the world-wide Covid 19 situation and my perspective of its likely duration." The laid-off workers saw it differently. The move amplified murmurs about unionization, murmurs that grew louder that summer after Balazs announced to The Wall Street Journal a plan to convert the hotel into a private club, one served by staff with a "different skill set" from the old hotel workers'. Business publications interpreted this as a COVID-related pivot, but employees—and many others—speculated that it was an attempt to undermine the union effort. (The spokesperson told me that the private club was never "more than a concept.")

A movie and a TV show were being filmed at the Chateau: Being the Ricardos and The Offer. Under pressure from Unite Here 11, the 32,000-member hospitality workers' union that was representing Chateau employees, both moved production elsewhere. The celebrities were divided (despite the fact that most of them—Hollywood being a union town—belong to unions). Some, such as Amanda Seyfried and Issa Rae, boycotted the hotel. Others seemed oblivious or chose not to care; Jay-Z threw an Oscars after-party there last year, which celebrity scabs including Questlove and Rosario Dawson crossed a picket line to attend. ("I didn't cross a picket line," Dawson, under fire, later tweeted—apparently wanting people to know that she'd arrived so late to the party that most of the protesters had gone home.)

Reading about the employees' grievances, I felt outraged on their behalf. But I was skeptical that unionization could transform their workplace. The Chateau is not a Holiday Inn; it's a luxury boutique hotel. The Chateau doesn't just offer rooms for guests to sleep in; it offers, as Balazs has put it, "experiences"—experiences that might, I suspected, be fundamentally at odds with a better environment for workers. Guests have been drawn to the Chateau over the decades less by the thread count in the bedding and the expansive wine list than by the seductions of a place that turned a blind eye to social transgressions.

In that Hollywood Reporter exposé, one regular anonymously described the Chateau as "this weird beast that kind of slipped by and shouldn't exist as it is, but it does. But if you were to say, 'It needs better HR and proper compliances and codes and egalitarianism at the door,' it loses its touch." When briefed on the staff's troubles, a business associate of the hotel told the paper, "I'm reconsidering the Chateau through a totally different lens now. All of the talk of it being a 'playground,' of it exalting 'privacy.' It really was just a system that protected white men in power."

In that light, the question for me became: Can debauchery and decency co-exist? Can luxury accommodate fair labor practices and still feel luxurious?

From personal experience, I had my doubts.

Owning a luxury service business of any kind can be ethically and emotionally challenging. It strains what you believe is acceptable behavior to tolerate at work, and what needs to be tolerated in order to turn a profit. I'll never forget the first time I questioned the direction that my professional life had taken. I was underneath a princess-waist Vera Wang gown, helping my client hoist up the skirt so that she could pee, when I found myself at eye level with the words Meet Mrs. Cohen, written in cursive blue-Swarovski crystal across her underpants. I swallowed the moment, knowing that this service was the "above and beyond" that my clientele expected.

I had a harder time justifying this kind of dirty work when I had to ask other people to do it. Over the years, our staff members were told to, among other things, smoke cigarettes and exhale into brides' faces (so the brides would not have to smoke themselves and ruin their lipstick), walk dogs, hold babies, dance with fathers/brothers/groomsmen, take shots, cover up infidelities, cover up relapses, buy alcohol, buy drugs, set off fireworks, and put out literal fires. There was verbal abuse, unwanted sexual advances, and wild, drunken accusations. (There were also some very nice people; you cling to the memories of the very nice people.)

Depending on my own exhaustion level, I heard staff members' complaints with either horror or indifference. This was, after all, part of the job of being in "luxury hospitality." My partner and I tried, as best as possible, to insulate our employees by adding behavioral clauses to our contracts: Thou shalt not curse at staff; thou shall not grope staff; thou shalt not force staff to smoke on your behalf.

But mainly, we did what people used to do in the good old days: We threw money at the problem. We would attempt to, within the bounds of profitability, make it worth our staff's while to tolerate the abuse they endured while we kept saying yes to our clients' whims. Because that's what the luxury service business is all about.

But over the years, the rich got richer, and their behavior seemed to get worse. I began to wonder if hearing yes was no longer enough. Was knowing that the people who served you had to say yes an essential part of the fun?

André Balazs is very particular about his glassware—in particular, about whether the shatterproof glasses used near his pool feel as luxurious as real glass. I know this not because I've ever met or even spoken to Balazs, but because I have planned several lavish weddings for select clients to whom he would rent his former private estate in upstate New York. Through many people—his house managers, his personal chef, corporate executives from André Balazs Properties—Balazs made his preferences, opinions, and, in fairness, concerns for our clients' happiness and satisfaction known. No detail was too small.

So when I heard, in December, that the hotel had struck a deal with the union, I knew that Balazs must have micromanaged every detail. But I was surprised when I read that the resulting contract was fairer and more generous than anyone in the luxury-hotel business could have imagined.

Among the workers' victories were a 25 percent wage increase for nontipped workers; a raise to $25 an hour for housekeeping within one year; health coverage for employees who work more than 60 hours a month; free legal services for employees with immigration, tenant, or consumer issues; and job-protection measures for immigrant employees with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status. Union representatives called the package "unprecedented." And the spokesperson told me that many of the laid-off workers have since returned to the hotel.

After years of acrimony, how had such a seemingly unbridgeable gap been closed?

Balazs has never had a choir boy's reputation. The bachelor made headlines for years with his steady rotation of celebrity love interests. A 2020 Tatler article described his life as "deliciously naughty," noting his dedication to delivering "excess" to his guests and his reputation for "outrageous flirting." Perhaps too outrageous. The actor Amanda Anka accused him of groping her in 2014, after the opening of Horrible Bosses 2. After the incident, Anka's husband, Jason Bateman, spat in Balazs's face.

But Balazs was apparently shaken by his employees' charges, especially of racial discrimination. He felt that they were fundamentally at odds with who he was.

"André's lived a life committed to social justice from his college years and throughout his adult life," Neil Getnick, a lawyer specializing in whistleblower representation and one of Balazs's oldest friends, told me. Getnick serves as the business-integrity counsel for Balazs's properties. He also represented Balazs at the bargaining table.

Getnick and Balazs met at Cornell in the late '70s when Getnick, a law student, and Balazs, an undergraduate working at a student newspaper, together lobbied the university to divest from apartheid-era South Africa. The '90s, Getnick told me, found him and Balazs collaborating again, this time with the Reverend Jesse Jackson to free the Kenyan political prisoner Koigi wa Wamwere—another Cornell classmate. Later, the two friends established a scholarship in Kenya with, Getnick said, the support of Congressman John Lewis. For a while Balazs was an investor in a New York nightclub called M.K.—"so called," he said in an interview, "because we obtained the license on Martin Luther King Day."

One day about a year ago, protesters outside the Chateau were joined by pastors and choir singers from nearby churches. Balazs, Getnick told me, found that "too much to bear," and he went down to the picket line.

Pastor William D. Smart Jr., the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, spotted Balazs, and approached him. He later told me about the conversation: "We said, 'Everyone wants to talk to you and try to resolve these issues.'" Smart recalled Balazs responding, "Well, you don't know me, but I'm not the guy that they're painting me out to be."

A meeting was arranged. Getnick, Balazs, and union representatives convened for the first time, with Pastor Smart serving as mediator. But negotiations stalled; there was no follow-up. Early on Pentecost Sunday, Smart sat down to write his sermon, and was moved to call Balazs.

He told me that he asked Balazs, "Where have you been? What's going on? We started something; you're not finishing it." And Balazs replied, "Well, there's no excuse," and bingo: "He made the commitment on that Sunday call that he would meet; he would start the process." Six months later, they had a deal.

This, Getnick said, "was not at all typical of how these negotiations would typically proceed." Which, of course, is how you would expect something to go down at Chateau Marmont.

I would like to think that the agreement will serve as a model for other luxury businesses—and certainly the hotel industry is watching—but I'm skeptical. Yes, the dogged commitment of workers and organizers is what brought injustices at Chateau Marmont to light. But this happy ending ultimately depended on the whims of one very wealthy man. One who—luckily—happened to be a Boomer with a soft spot for clergymen, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Congress. Yesterday, Jeff Bezos wanted to be a media mogul; today, a sports impresario. This whole thing could have easily gone a different way.

I also couldn't help wondering how much the contract will change workers' experience on the job. They're better-compensated; they have retirement benefits and other protections. But the agreement does little to shield them from entitled or inebriated guests. It did what I used to do: It threw money at the problem.

This morning at the Chateau there will still be vomit to clean up from last night's rager. Tonight, or the next, there will still be ass grabs by Hollywood honchos. I'm not sure whether a great place for the wealthy can ever be a great place for those who serve them. In a business where the key word is yes, unions can police employers, but the whole point of a luxury experience is that no one polices the guests.

Why Americans Love Coffee So Much

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Coffee is one of the great loves of my life, and I'm not alone. The majority of my fellow Americans love coffee too, so much so that they refuse most alternatives—including yerba mate, an energizing option that happens to be South America's most consumed beverage. "True, yerba mate is bitter and tastes like freshly cut grass," Lauren Silverman wrote this week. "But coffee tastes like burnt rubber the first time you try it, and Americans can't get enough."

Americans' obsession with coffee is partly due to the way we live. As Silverman notes, sitting down for an hour or two and sharing a beverage—the traditional way to consume yerba mate—is not something Americans are used to.

Coffee, on the other hand, is the perfect drink for America's on-the-go, work-obsessed culture. In 2020, Michael Pollan wrote that coffee "freed us from the circadian rhythms of our body, helping to stem the natural tides of exhaustion so that we might work longer and later hours. Coffee, he writes, "has helped create exactly the kind of world that coffee needs to thrive: a world driven by consumer capitalism, ringed by global trade, and dominated by a species that can now barely get out of bed without its help."

It's a bit disturbing to think of a beloved morning ritual this way. But, of course, we'll keep on drinking it. Once you get used to that burnt-rubber taste (I prefer to call it "mud-like"), there's no going back.

On Coffee

Illustration of a bald eagle clutching a canned yerba mate drink in its talons
Getty; The Atlantic

The Coffee Alternative Americans Just Can't Get Behind

By Lauren Silverman

The yerba mate in U.S. grocery stores is nothing like the real brew.

A young woman with dyed hair and tattoos sips a cup of coffee.
Richard Drury / Getty

The Rise of Coffee Shaming

By Amanda Mull

Personal-finance gurus really hate coffee.

8 coffee mugs in a pill pack
Rodrigo Corral

Capitalism's Favorite Drug

By Michael Pollan

The dark history of how coffee took over the world

Still Curious?

Other Diversions


The relationship that coffee and capitalism have shared for centuries might be coming to an end, Pollan noted in his essay: "Coffea arabica is a picky plant, willing to grow only in the narrowest range of conditions," and climate change will make those conditions much harder to come by.

— Isabel

Technology Makes Us More Human
Is this article about Education?

ChatGPT, a new AI system that sounds so human in conversations that it could host its own podcast, is a test of temperament. Reading between its instantly generated, flawlessly grammatical lines, people see wildly different visions of the future.

For some, ChatGPT promises to revolutionize the way we search for information, draft articles, write software code, and create business plans. When they use ChatGPT, they see Star Trek: a future in which opportunities for personal fulfillment are as large as the universe itself.

Others see only massive job displacement and a profound loss of agency, as we hand off creative processes that were once the domain of humans to machines. When they use ChatGPT, they see Black Mirror: a future in which technological innovation primarily exists to annoy, humiliate, terrify, and, most of all, dehumanize humanity.

[Annie Lowrey: How ChatGPT will destabilize white-collar work]

I'm firmly in the Star Trek camp, because although I fully acknowledge that the tech industry is imperfect, and always in need of thoughtful, responsive leadership, I still believe that improvement through technology is how humanity most effectively makes progress.

That's why I switched from a planned career in academia to one in Silicon Valley in the first place. In the early 1990s, I saw how software, globally distributed on the internet, was creating new opportunities to empower people at scale, and that's ultimately what led me to co-found LinkedIn. I wanted to use technology to help individuals improve their economic opportunities over the course of their entire career, and thus have more chances to pursue meaning in their lives.

Techno-humanism is typically conflated with transhumanism, referring to the idea that we are on a path to incorporating so much technology into our lives that eventually we will evolve into an entirely new species of post-humans or superhumans.

I interpret techno-humanism in a slightly different way. What defines humanity is not just our unusual level of intelligence, but also how we capitalize on that intelligence by developing technologies that amplify and complement our mental, physical, and social capacities. If we merely lived up to our scientific classification—Homo sapiens—and just sat around thinking all day, we'd be much different creatures than we actually are. A more accurate name for us is Homo techne: humans as toolmakers and tool users. The story of humanity is the story of technology.

Technology is the thing that makes us us. Through the tools we create, we become neither less human nor superhuman, nor post-human. We become more human.

This doesn't mean that all technological innovations automatically produce good outcomes—far from it. New technologies can create new problems or exacerbate old ones, such as when AI systems end up reproducing biases (against racial minorities, for instance) that exist in their training data. We in the tech industry should be vigilant in our efforts to mitigate and correct such problems.

[Read: How the racism baked into technology hurts teens]

Nor would I ever suggest that technologies are neutral, equally capable of being used for good or bad. The values, assumptions, and aspirations we build into the technologies we create shape how they can be used, and thus what kinds of outcomes they can produce. That's why techno-humanism should strive for outcomes that broadly benefit humanity.

At the same time, a techno-humanist perspective also orients to the future, dynamism, and change. This means it inevitably clashes with desires for security, predictability, and the familiar. In moments of accelerating innovation—like the one we're living through right now, as robotics, virtual reality, synthetic biology, and especially AI all evolve quickly—the urge to entrench the status quo against the uncertain terrain of new realities accelerates too.

Just so, New York City's public-school system has already blocked students and teachers from accessing ChatGPT in its classrooms. Multiple online art communities have banned users from uploading images they created using AI image-generators such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion.

I get it. Learning to write an essay from scratch is a time-honored way to develop critical thinking, organizational skills, and a facility for personal expression. Creating vivid and beautiful imagery one painstaking brushstroke at a time is perhaps the epitome of human creativity.

But what if teachers used ChatGPT to instantly personalize lesson plans for each student in their class—wouldn't that be humanizing in a way that the industrialized approaches of traditional classroom teaching are not? Aren't tools that allow millions of people to visually express their ideas and communicate with one another in new ways a step forward for humanity?

If it's detrimental to society to simply claim that "technology is neutral" and avoid any responsibility for negative outcomes—and I believe it is—so is rejecting a technology just because it has a capacity to produce negative outcomes along with positive ones.

Is there a future where the massive proliferation of robots ushers in a new era of human flourishing, not human marginalization? Where AI-driven research helps us safely harness the power of nuclear fusion in time to help avert the worst consequences of climate change? It's only natural to peer into the dark unknown and ask what could possibly go wrong. It's equally necessary—and more essentially human—to do so and envision what could possibly go right.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36101-2

Antigen display on outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) can be difficult to control and highly variable. Here, the authors describe a universal approach called AvidVax for linking biotinylated antigens to the exterior of OMVs and enabling rapid vaccine assembly.


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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 289. There are more than 38,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?

Here's what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):

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Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36222-8

There have been increasing reports of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) Shigella sonnei infections in recent years. In this laboratory surveillance study from France, the authors document the rise of XDR isolates from 2005 to 2021 and perform whole genome sequencing to investigate their genomic diversity and evolutionary history.

Is this article about Neuroscience?

Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36153-4

Sexual dimorphism results in widely diverse animal forms, but sexual determination is generally attributed to a single gene in animal models. Here they find that the glu gene regulates sexual dimorphism of honeybee eyes, demonstrating diversification of genetic programs for dimorphism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36158-z

The enzyme ATE1 catalyzes eukaryotic post-translation arginylation, a key protein modification necessary for cellular homeostasis. Here, the authors show that ATE1s are previously unrealized iron-sulfur proteins that use this oxygen-sensitive inorganic cofactor to control cellular arginylation


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36042-w

is a post synaptic adhesion protein, that promotes AMPA receptor mediated synaptic transmission. Here the authors show that LRRTM1 and the adhesion molecule
1 act together to organize synapses in the prefrontal cortex with relevance for cognitive function in mice.

Is this article about Neuroscience?

Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36076-0

Achieving both low energy consumption and radiation-hardness is highly challenging in memory devices. Here, the authors demonstrate a sub-10 fJ/bit, radiation-hard nanoelectromechanical non-volatile memory through structural and material approaches.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36133-8

Injectable biomimetic hydrogels hold significant promise for tissue engineering applications. Here, the authors present a hybrid myoglobin:peptide hydrogel to overcome a critical oxygen shortage following neural stem cell transplantation, thus increasing cell survival and integration.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36028-8

High-affinity antibodies are often identified through directed evolution but deep leaning methods hold great promise. Here the authors report RESP, a pipeline for efficient identification of high affinity antibodies, and apply this to the PD-L1 antibody Atezolizumab.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36081-3

ATG9 is the only transmembrane protein of the core autophagy machinery known to be present at presynapses. Here, the authors show that both synaptophysin and
vesicles assemble into condensates with synapsin but remain segregated from each other.


Nature Communications, Published online: 28 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36162-3

Here, using Citrobacter rodentium colonization of mice as a model, the authors characterize the impact of pathogen dose on the number of bacteria that initiate
in the mouse gut, providing a framework for quantifying the host bottlenecks that eliminate pathogens to protect from infection.

Inhumanity in Memphis

Even before the city of Memphis released video Friday evening of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, it seemed the footage would be horrifying. Defense attorneys compared it to the Rodney King beating in 1991, a comparison that now rings true, but the Memphis police chief and the head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation similarly said they were appalled by what they'd seen. Cops often remind critics that their job necessarily entails violence, so when seasoned law-enforcement officers react this way, it's telling.

They were right to be appalled. Though the public might have started to become accustomed to de facto snuff films of people dying at the hands of police, this video is shocking, showing officers wantonly beating a 29-year-old Black man. If they did not intend to kill him, they showed little hesitation in beating him nearly to death and little remorse after they'd finished. Five officers have been fired, and all five have been charged with second-degree murder. All of them were part of a vaunted "hot spot" policing unit called SCORPION, established only in 2021.

One of the more remarkable things about the video is that it exists. Footage like this is both essential to bearing witness to violence and practically unbearable to watch. Memphis released four clips, three of them from body cams but the fourth from a permanently installed surveillance camera, apparently part of a citywide network called SkyCop. Though it hasn't proved especially effective as a crime-fighting tactic, the system is ubiquitous, unmissable, and roughly as dystopian as it sounds: Nearly anywhere you go in Memphis, you can see the blue lights of the system twinkling above you. That means the officers who beat Nichols surely knew they were on camera.

[David A. Graham: Memphis's policing strategy was bound to result in tragedy]

The most chilling thing about a video of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 was the nonchalance of Officer Derek Chauvin as he slowly suffocated Floyd with a knee on his neck. The Nichols footage is something else entirely: It shows officers eagerly and savagely beating a man who appears to be defenseless, inert, and as compliant as possible. They strike him with a baton and appear to kick him in the head when he's down as he calls for his mother. It's only when they finish that they show the kind of indifference Chauvin did, milling around, panting and wheezing from the exertion, and talking over what happened. Even after the fire department arrives, Nichols receives little medical attention. For long stretches, it's as if a human being isn't even there.

Speaking to the Daily Memphian today, Mayor Jim Strickland—a Democrat who has run as a tough-on-crime backer of police yet has seen crime rise on his watch—said an outside review was needed to determine whether the problem was a lack of training or something in the culture of the Memphis Police Department. If the fact that officers acted this way in plain view, apparently unworried about repercussions, doesn't answer Strickland's question, it's hard to know what an outside review might do for him.

What the videos don't do is explain how the encounter between Nichols and the police began. MPD said in a January 8 statement that Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, but just as with the initial official statement about Floyd's murder, the description of the incident bears little resemblance to the footage. Officers are heard alleging that Nichols was driving into oncoming traffic before they stopped him. None of that is in the footage released today.

[David A. Graham: The murders in Memphis aren't stopping]

The first video only begins as an officer pulls up behind Nichols's car and he and other officers demand, with weapons drawn, that Nichols get out of the car. "Damn, I didn't do anything," Nichols says as they drag him from the car and pepper-spray him. But in the scrum, the officers also spray themselves, and Nichols somehow breaks free and runs away on foot. After giving chase, two officers mill around, pouring water in their eyes and catching their breath. The radio barks that an officer has found Nichols some distance away. "I hope they stomp his ass," one cop says.

He got his wish. The next three videos, two from body cams and one from SkyCop, don't capture the moment when officers catch up with Nichols, but the surveillance camera shows several officers beating him on a suburban corner. He doesn't appear to be resisting them, or even physically able to do so; he looks like a rag doll. They shout for him to do this and that, but Nichols, being yanked in every direction by the officers, could hardly have complied if he wanted to. They stomp and kick him as he repeatedly calls for his mother.

[David A. Graham: Chauvin's conviction is the exception that proves the rule]

"I'm gonna baton the fuck outta you," one officer says. Another replies, "Hit him!," and they hold up Nichols to take the blow. They eventually stop, leaving him on the ground. His slurred moans are audible in one clip. The officers, meanwhile, sound almost exhilarated. They seem particularly furious that Nichols had (in their view) made them pepper-spray themselves, and they speculate that he is "high as a mother" or "high as a kite." They also talk about how strong he must be. "I was hitting him with straight haymakers, dawg," one officer says. He or another adds, "I was rocking him!"

After leaving Nichols on the ground for a bit, they drag him over to lean against a police car. Four excruciating minutes later, the fire department arrives to tend to Nichols, but it's hard to see what, if anything, the firefighters do for him. (Two of them have been suspended for their actions that night.) The police officers mostly ignore him. If anyone is concerned for his well-being, the videos don't capture it. Roughly 25 minutes pass between the beating and the arrival of an ambulance to take Nichols away. Three days later, he would die in a hospital. And a little more than two weeks later, the five officers would be charged with murder.

Yes, You Have to Be Smart to Play Jeopardy

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A recent Jeopardy contestant lit into the show, claiming that it isn't really all that good a measure of a player's intelligence. He's got a point—but not the one he thinks he's making.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

Passing the Test

A series of viral Facebook posts by a recent Jeopardy contestant named Yogesh Raut have caused something of a minor kerfuffle among watchers of the show. Raut, to put it mildly, is unimpressed by the intellectual level of America's premier game show. He won three games, but after the episodes began to air, he went online to argue that the show's status as "the Olympics of quizzing" is undeserved.

This all puts me in a bit of a pickle. I am a former Jeopardy champion (I made it to the 1994 Tournament of Champions and the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions) who no longer likes the show very much. I wrote a year ago that Jeopardy has made some serious mistakes—chief among them ending the rule that winners step down after five victories—and should probably wrap up its legendary run. But Raut is wrong about what it takes to play Jeopardy.

So though I think the show should be retired, let me suggest to you three ways in which Jeopardy really is a test of your brainpower.

1. You need to be well-read, not well-educated.

The one place where I think I can agree with Raut and other critics of the game is that you do not need a lot of formal education or deep knowledge of any particular area to succeed at Jeopardy. After all, one of the greatest players of all time was a New York City cop. I have three graduate degrees, including a doctorate, and I got smoked by a librarian in my first tournament. (Some players theorize, in fact, that knowing too much about a subject can paralyze you; I have seen doctors and lawyers fumble questions in their area of expertise.)

You don't need a Ph.D., but to do well at the game, you should be a voracious reader, which is how most people gain (and, more importantly, retain) facts and knowledge. My mom and I would watch the old daytime 1960s version on school snow days or when I was home sick, and she was a pretty sharp player—with a ninth-grade education. But my mom and dad were both readers; our house was full of books and magazines and newspapers.

Indeed, in my experience, people who approach Jeopardy as a test of formal smarts can really stink at playing the game. At my 1993 tryout in a big hotel in Burlington, Vermont, about 160 people walked in, as I recall, and about 15 of us walked out. The people who showed up with almanacs and atlases and fact books, the serious people whose eyes glared and nostrils flared at anyone who talked to them while they did some last-minute boning up … well, they all got turfed instantly. The rest of us had a grand old time, got our I passed the Jeopardy test! buttons, and went home to wait for a call from Los Angeles.

Now, I will grant you that getting things right does not mean you know a lot about the subject; it only means you successfully associated a clue with a fact. In one of my games, I was behind, and so I went for some high-money clues in "The Violin." I was a young professor in security studies, so this did not seem like a natural choice. My then-wife was in the audience, and she turned to a friend in panic: "What's he doing?! He doesn't know anything about violins! Did he think it said Violence?"

And yet, I'd learned in my high-school stage band what pizzicato meant, a lucky break that helped me rack up some cash. That's how you play the game.

2. You need to understand clues and riddles.

Jeopardy isn't only about knowing stuff. You need to have a particular kind of intelligence to play the game, an agile mind that can not only recall factoids but also parse the game's sneaky way of asking you for information.

One of Jeopardy's favorite tricks is to firehose the player with a lot of extraneous and irrelevant detail while putting the answer right in front of you. I am making this up as an example, but a typical snare would be something like this: "A giant ruby was given to the Black Prince by Pedro the Cruel in 1367 and sits near a river of stinky and cold water known for its unusually shallow depth of 20 meters in this British capital."

If you're a nerd who overthinks everything and wants to show off your smarts, you're standing there trying to unravel who the hell Pedro the Cruel was and which river is shallow and …

If you're a Jeopardy player, your brain filtered out everything except "this British capital," and you buzzed in and said "What is London?" while Brainiac over there was still trying to figure out who was in charge of what in the 14th century. You might not think that's a form of intelligence, but when two other people are slamming away at their clickers and you've got a fraction of a second to recognize the real answer, your mental hard drive better be solid-state and super fast.

3. You need to combine intelligence with presence of mind—and never panic.

Raut is upset that the producers choose people who are telegenic. Having watched the show for many years, I think that's nonsense; there are plenty of contestants who are not, shall we say, camera-friendly. What the producers do guard against, I learned, are people who freeze in front of a camera. (In Jeopardy lore, this is called "going Bambi," like a deer caught in the headlights.)

Good Jeopardy players never let anything get inside their head, and the best of them pay almost no attention to the other players or even to the host: They read the question and decide whether to buzz in. I disliked super-champ James Holzhauer for many reasons, but his background as a Vegas odds guy meant he played the game with ice-cold ease, and that matters—a lot.

Full disclosure: My first Jeopardy run ended when I made all of these mistakes at once. At the end of the first game of the 1994 Tournament of Champions, the clue was "The last king of the Hellenes, he was the second to bear this name."

Piece of cake. I'm part Greek, spent summers with my grandmother in Greece. Had a lot of drachmas in my pocket with the former king's name on it: Constantine II.

And then panic and doubt crept in as the Final Jeopardy theme began its death-clock countdown. King of the Hellenes? Did they mean the ancient Greek empire? The Athenian alliance at Delos, the one defeated by … no, wait, I think that was a democracy, but … it's Alexander, maybe? Were there two?

We all went for the Alexander bait, and we all lost. But my opponent made a smaller and smarter bet than I did, and that was that.

Look, I think Jeopardy has become too professionalized and too soulless. It's lost the charm that made it an American institution, and frankly, I don't much care for Ken Jennings or Mayim Bialik as hosts. (The show should have closed out its run when Alex Trebek died.) But make no mistake: People who win at Jeopardy are, in fact, as smart as they look.


Today's News

  1. Memphis officials released video footage showing the encounter with police that led to the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man.
  2. After beating Tommy Paul in the Australian Open semifinals, the tennis player Novak Djokovic is on track to win a 22nd Grand Slam title, which would equal Rafael Nadal's record.
  3. A judge released footage of the moment Paul Pelosi, the husband of Representative Nancy Pelosi, was attacked in his home.


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Evening Read

A penguin made of an asteroid
Matt Chase / The Atlantic; Getty

Asteroid Measurements Make No Sense

By Marina Koren

A couple of newly discovered asteroids whizzed past our planet earlier this month, tracing their own loop around the sun. These two aren't any more special than the thousands of other asteroids in the ever-growing catalog of near-Earth objects. But a recent news article in The Jerusalem Post described them in a rather eye-catching, even startling, way: Each rock, the story said, is "around the size of 22 emperor penguins stacked nose to toes."

Now, if someone asked me to describe the size of an asteroid (or anything, for that matter), penguins wouldn't be the first unit that comes to mind. But the penguin asteroid is only the latest example of a common strategy in science communication: evoking images of familiar, earthly objects to convey the scope of mysterious, celestial ones. Usually, small asteroids are said to be the size of buses, skyscrapers, football fields, tennis courts, cars—mundane, inanimate things. Lately, though, the convention seems to be veering toward the weird.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

Rikers Island
New York City's Riker's Island (Nina Berman / Redux)

Read. These books to read when you're pregnant go beyond the standard guidebook to offer generous insight and reassurance.

A new oral history paints a vivid picture of life on Rikers Island, America's most notorious jail.

And check out some cozy mystery series to keep you warm.

Watch. Poker Face, on Peacock, features Natasha Lyonne as a fun-to-watch crime-solving waitress.

If you're in the mood for a movie, work through some of the Oscar-nominated front-runners.

And there's always our foolproof list of 13 feel-good TV shows to watch this winter.

Listen. Spend time with the music of David Crosby, who died this month—and who was never a typical hippie, despite being one of the movement's founders.

Play our daily crossword.


Speaking of game shows, one of the television joys of my early teenage years was to come home from school and catch the old Match Game, in which ordinary Americans and show-business folks tried to finish each other's sentences without being too dirty for the network censors. I stumbled across it on my Roku recently, and now I am mesmerized all over again by the great Gene Rayburn and his rotating cast of wiseacres.

Match Game was, for its time, a bit blue: Many of the clues were meant to sound naughty and designed to lead contestants to say "boobs" or "tinkle" or something. Today, it's a joy to watch because it's so quaint. (This is the show, after all, where it was ostensibly scandalous that people were skating the edge of outing Charles Nelson Reilly as gay, including wink-wink jokes from Reilly himself.) The celebrities—some of whom were big 1970s stars—are clearly having a ball; there were rumors of some boozing during the dinner breaks, and it shows. Watching Match Game in 1973 was like listening in on an adult cocktail party; today, it's like a visit to your favorite bar full of characters, a kind of real-life Cheers masquerading as a game show. If nothing else, tune in for a look back at the Good Old Days, when people dressed like their home appliances in a riot of autumn rust, harvest gold, and avocado green.

— Tom

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

Death By a Thousand Personality Quizzes

One might assume that when your boss finally comes to tell you that the robots are here to do your job, he won't also point out with enthusiasm that they're going to do it 10 times better than you did. Alas, this was not the case at BuzzFeed.

Yesterday, at a virtual all-hands meeting, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti had some news to discuss about the automated future of media. The brand, known for massively viral stories aggregated from social media and being the most notable progenitor of what some might call clickbait, would begin publishing content generated by artificial-intelligence programs. In other words: Robots would help make BuzzFeed posts.

"When you see this work in action it is pretty amazing," Peretti had promised employees in a memo earlier in the day. During the meeting, which I viewed a recording of, he was careful to say that AI would not be harnessed to generate "low-quality content for the purposes of cost-saving." (BuzzFeed cut its workforce by about 12 percent weeks before Christmas.) Instead, Peretti said, AI could be used to create "endless possibilities" for personality quizzes, a popular format that he called "a driving force on the internet." You've surely come across one or two before: "Sorry, Millennials, but There's No Way You Will Be Able to Pass This Super-Easy Quiz," for instance, or "If You Were a Cat, What Color Would Your Fur Be?"

These quizzes and their results have historically been dreamed up by human brains and typed with human fingers. Now BuzzFeed staffers would write a prompt and a handful of questions for a user to fill out, like a form in a proctologist's waiting room, and then the machine, reportedly constructed by OpenAI, the creator of the widely discussed chatbot ChatGPT, would spit out uniquely tailored text. Peretti wrote a bold promise about these quizzes on a presentation slide: "Integrating AI will make them 10x better & be the biggest change to the format in a decade." The personality-quiz revolution is upon us.

[Read: ChatGPT is dumber than you think]

Peretti offered the staff examples of these bigger, better personality quizzes: Answer 7 Simple Questions and AI Will Write a Song About Your Ideal Soulmate. Have an AI Create a Secret Society for Your BFFs in 5 Easy Questions. Create a Mythical Creature to Ride. This Quiz Will Write a


About You in Less Than 30 Seconds. The rom-com, Peretti noted, would be"a great thing for an entertainment sponsor … maybe before Valentine's Day." He demonstrated how the quiz could play out: The user—in this example, a hypothetical person named Jess—would fill out responses to questions like "Tell us an endearing flaw you have" (Jess's answer: "I am never on time, ever"), and the AI would spit out a story that incorporated those details. Here's part of the 250-word result. Like a lot of AI-generated text, it may remind you of reading someone else's completed Mad Libs:

Cher gets out of bed and calls everyone they know to gather outside while she serenades Jess with her melodic voice singing "Let Me Love You." When the song ends everyone claps, showering them with adoration, making this moment one for the books—or one to erase.

Things take an unexpected turn when Ron Tortellini shows up—a wealthy man who previously was betrothed to Cher. As it turns out, Ron is a broke, flailing actor trying to using [sic] Cher to further his career. With this twist, our two heroines must battle these obstacles to be together against all odds—and have a fighting chance.

There are many fair questions one might ask reading this. "Why?" is one of them. "Ron Tortellini?" is another. But the most important is this: Who is the content for? The answer is no one in particular. The quiz's result is machine-generated writing designed to run through other machines—content that will be parsed and distributed by tech platforms. AI may yet prove to be a wonderful assistive tool for humans doing interesting creative work, but right now it's looking like robo-media's future will be flooding our information ecosystem with even more junk.

Peretti did not respond to a request for comment, but there's no mistaking his interest here. Quizzes are a major traffic-driver for BuzzFeed, bringing in 1.1 billion views in 2022 alone, according to his presentation. They can be sold as sponsored content, meaning an advertiser can pay for an AI-generated quiz about its brand. And they spread on social media, where algorithmic feeds put them in front of other people, who click onto the website to take the quiz themselves, and perhaps find other quizzes to take and share. Personality quizzes are a perfect fit for AI, because although they seem to say something about the individual posting them, they actually say nothing at all: "Make an Ice Cream Cone and We'll Reveal Which Emoji You Are" was written by a person, but might as well have been written by a program.

Much the same could be said about content from CNET, which has recently started to publish articles written at least in part by an AI program, no doubt to earn easy placement in search engines. (Why else write the headline "What Are NSF Fees and Why Do Banks Charge Them?" but to anticipate something a human being might punch into Google? Indeed, CNET's AI-"assisted" article is one of the top results for such a query.) The goal, according to the site's editor in chief, Connie Guglielmo, is "to see if the tech can help our busy staff of reporters and editors with their job to cover topics from a 360-degree perspective." Reporting from Futurism has revealed that these articles have contained factual errors and apparent plagiarism. Guglielmo has responded to the ensuing controversy by saying, in part, that "AI engines, like humans, make mistakes."

Such is the immediate path for robot journalism, if we can call it that: Bots will write content that is optimized to circulate through tech platforms, a new spin on an old race-to-the-bottom dynamic that has always been present in digital media. BuzzFeed and CNET aren't innovating, really: They're using AI to reinforce an unfortunate status quo, where stories are produced to hit quotas and serve ads against—that is, they are produced because they might be clicked on. Many times, machines will even be the ones doing that clicking! The bleak future of media is human-owned websites profiting from automated banner ads placed on bot-written content, crawled by search-engine bots, and occasionally served to bot visitors.

[Read: How ChatGPT will destabilize white-collar work]

This is not the apocalypse, but it's not wonderful, either. To state what was once obvious, journalism and entertainment alike are supposed to be for people. Viral stories—be they 6,000-word investigative features or a quiz about what state you actually belong in—work because they have mass appeal, not because they are hypertargeted to serve an individual reader. BuzzFeed was once brilliant enough to livestream video of people wrapping rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded. At the risk of over-nostalagizing a moment that was in fact engineered for a machine itself—Facebook had just started to pay publishers to use its live-video tool—this was at least content for everyone, rather than no one in particular. Bots can be valuable tools in the work of journalism. For years, the Los Angeles Times has experimented with a computer program that helps quickly disseminate information about earthquakes, for example. (Though not without error, I might add.) But new technology is not in and of itself valuable; it's all in how you use it.

Much has been made of the potential for generative AI to upend education as we've known it, and destabilize white-collar work. These are real, valid concerns. But the rise of robo-journalism has introduced another: What will the internet look like when it is populated to a greater extent by soulless material devoid of any real purpose or appeal? The AI-generated rom-com is a pile of nonsense; CNET's finance content can't be trusted. And this is just the start.

In 2021, my colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote about the dead-internet theory, a conspiracy rooted in 4chan's paranormal message board that posits that the internet is now mostly synthetic. The premise is that most of the content seen on the internet "was actually created using AI" and fueled by a shadowy group that hopes to "control our thoughts and get us to purchase stuff." It seemed absurd then. But a little more real today.


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