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Featuring the latest in daily science news, Verge Science is all you need to keep track of what’s going on in health, the environment, and your whole world. Through our articles, we keep a close eye on the overlap between science and technology news — so you’re more informed.

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IBM’s Jerry Chow on the future of quantum computing

What’s a qubit? Are quantum computers useful yet? And how wrong was Ant-Man, anyway?

Climate groups say Biden AI order doesn’t address AI’s climate impact

Seventeen groups sent a letter to the Biden administration urging for more action against AI’s impact on climate disinformation.

Space lasers!

If we want to go to Mars, we need a better way to reliably relay messages through space. The solution could be optical communication, or lasers.

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Fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber delegations from nearly every country at the United Nations climate summit.

“There has been an explosion of fossil fuel lobbyists heading to UN talks, with nearly four times more than were granted access last year,” according to a new analysis by a coalition of environmental groups called Kick Big Polluters Out. Lobbyists for coal, oil, and gas got more passes to the conference than the total number of delegates from 10 of the countries most vulnerable to climate change (which includes Somalia, Chad, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Sudan), the Guardian reports.

Gotta catch Pikachu protesting at the United Nations climate summit.

Demonstrators in inflatable Pikachu costumes showed up at international climate talks in Dubai this weekend to call on Japan to end financing for fossil fuel projects. The photos and video are giving me life this Monday morning.

Two people wearing inflatable Pikachu costumes face each other. One holds a sign that says “#Sayonara FossilFuels”.


Image via Climate Nexus
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At least 118 countries promised to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade.

That includes the US, EU, Brazil, and others that made the pledge during United Nations climate talks taking place in Dubai. Renewables like solar and wind energy are already more affordable than fossil fuels. The bigger question at the international climate talks, though, is whether countries can commit to phasing out coal, oil, and gas to reach goals set in the Paris climate accord.

How many phone charges does an AI-generated image take?

The answer, according to a pre-print study, is about one. Researchers at AI company Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon University found that general-purpose AI models like GPT-4 are “orders of magnitude” more power-hungry than purpose-made models powering products like Google Translate.

The study, though not yet peer-reviewed, puts into context the environmental cost of generative AI, particularly of inefficient models (one image from the least efficient image-creating model can use as much CO2 as an average gas car driving about 4 miles, for instance).

A chart showing the cost of different generative AI tasks — image generation sits at the high end, generating significantly more CO2 than text classification models.
A comparison of the power consumption required for different generative AI tasks.
Image: Hugging Face / Carnegie Mellon University

Building for tomorrow

This series is all about infrastructure: the invisible layer of wires and guts and light that makes everything run. It’s not in the best shape, but what would it take to make it better?

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Does the US really plan to phase out coal power plants?

During a United Nations climate conference, the US joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. It includes more than 50 other countries that have committed to switch from “unabated coal power generation” to clean energy. But let’s keep it real. The word “unabated” changes everything. It means that power plants can continue to burn coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, as long as they install unproven technologies designed to capture carbon dioxide emissions but not other air pollutants. Such technologies are expected to make electricity more expensive, and have already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding in failed carbon capture projects. The US recently carved out a similar loop hole for carbon capture in its federal pollution standards for power plants.

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The Biden administration promises big cuts to methane gas emissions.

The New York Times reported that at the United Nations climate summit, Vice President Kamala Harris said a new final rule put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency will heavily curb energy companies’ methane emissions.

The EPA said in a press release that this rule will mean “a nearly 80 percent reduction” of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

As the Times notes, 50 oil and gas companies pledged similar reductions, though environmental groups are skeptical. In an open letter, 320 organizations signed an open letter criticizing the “voluntary efforts” as a “distraction from the task at hand.”

The Verge
The Biden administration launched a new international strategy for nuclear fusion.

The US Fusion Energy International Partnership Strategy “will support the timely development, demonstration, and deployment of commercial fusion energy,” the White House announced during a United Nations climate conference going down in Dubai. For decades, scientists have chased breakthroughs in nuclear fusion, seen as the “Holy Grail” of nearly limitless clean energy. Most experts don’t think commercial nuclear fusion power plants can come online in time to meet global climate goals, even under optimistic scenarios. Nevertheless, the Biden administration and Microsoft are supporting startups trying to make fusion a reality.

Countries are ramping up nuclear energy ambitions.

The plan is to triple nuclear energy capacity globally by 2050. The US joined a coalition of more than 20 countries that set that goal during the United Nations climate conference taking place in Dubai. Never mind the risks across the uranium supply chain or that the US still doesn’t doesn’t know what to do with its nuclear waste, the Biden administration is betting on next-generation nuclear power plants as a source of carbon-free energy.

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23andMe says it’s notifying users about a data breach, but we don’t have all the details yet.

In a Friday SEC filing providing an update on its investigation of a recent security incident (that it will not call a breach, based on justifications that remain unclear), 23andMe says a bad actor was able to access 0.1 percent of the company’s accounts through credential stuffing. According to TechCrunch’s estimates, that 0.1 percent figure translates to around 14,000 accounts.

However, those accounts were used to access a “significant number of files containing profile information about other users’ ancestry” that users share when opting in to its DNA Relatives feature. How many is “significant”? 23andMe didn’t say.



The Verge
100 more cities and local governments call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

They join some 12,500 mayors and city governments including Paris, Kolkota, London, Los Angeles, Lima, and Sydney that have endorsed the creation of such a treaty. This latest push comes during a United Nations climate conference in Dubai where delegates are debating a possible deal to phase out fossil fuels.

The slow end to Popular Science magazine.

Jacob Ward, an NBC correspondent who worked at Popular Science for seven years and spent some time as editor-in-chief, shared some thoughts about the end of the 151-year-old magazine in a video on YouTube:

The magazine — like all magazines — was handed from owner to owner to owner over time and there was all things began to get lost... I got to the editor in chief position, and I just saw how this very beautiful, very historical, a real treasure of American popular intellectual publishing was kind of disposable in the minds of people who make money for living.

Mass-migrating corals to save them from a killer heat wave.

The Verge science reporter Justine Calma visited the conservationists who are part of a project moving thousands of the reef-building animals out of the sea to climate-controlled labs on land. High temperatures drive off the photosynthetic algae corals rely on for nutrients, causing coral bleaching that can be deadly.

In this video, you’ll also see a gene bank growing a new generation of baby corals, and the 3D photomosaic maps used to track their replanting efforts in the open ocean.

Watch Europe’s next-gen Ariane 6 rocket test-fire today.

The European Space Agency’s test-fire of Ariane 6’s Vulcain 2.1 engine will start at 3:30PM ET, and will run for the full 470 seconds of the first stage of a real launch.

As Space notes, the Ariane 6 replaces the Ariane 5, which had a 27-year stint before going to pasture. Its first launch is planned for 2024 following years of delays.

The ESA livestream starts at 3PM ET.

A cookbook helped me understand Dragon Age’s origins

Food, fine dwarven food straight from Orzammar!

NASA gets closer to laser-based deep space communication.

The Psyche spacecraft that’s heading to study a metal asteroid has successfully test-fired a communications laser back at the Earth from nearly 10 million miles away — a first for NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system.

NASA said in its announcement that the DSOC test is “one of many critical DSOC milestones” that will make higher throughput communication possible ahead of an eventual manned Mars mission.

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The US is making a $2 billion investment in environmental justice

The Environmental Protection Agency announced what it says is the “single largest investment in environmental justice going directly to communities in history.” The money is supposed to benefit “disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution” through projects that deploy clean energy, cut down pollution, and help communities adapt to climate change. Applications for funding, which comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, will be open over the next year.

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More free covid tests are here.

The US government is once again offering a round of four at-home covid tests you can get for free. You can place an order directly from the USPS website, which will start shipping the week of November 27th.

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Extreme heat turns Rio into ‘Hell de Janeiro’

The feels-like temperature in Rio de Janeiro reached a blistering 138.7 degrees Fahrenheit (59.3 degrees Celsius) over the weekend. Taylor Swift postponed her Saturday show after 1,000 fans fainted from the heat and one person died at her concert on Friday. The brutal conditions have also sparked wildfires and raised the risk of power outages.

SpaceX’s Starship exploded.

From the SpaceX livestream, the team there said about 15 minutes into the 8AM ET launch that Starship’s signal had disappeared, and it appears the craft’s flight termination system ended its journey soon after the planned engine shutdown.

The ship made it much farther along than the previous attempt earlier this year.

SpaceX Starship has launched.

SpaceX’s rocket launched just after 8AM CT. The rocket is currently heading towards space. The booster exploded seconds after the stage separation, but Starship itself continued.