News·4 min read

Daily Skimm: Department of Energy, SBF, and the Golden Globes

Looking over the laser bay where 192 laser beams are directed to a target chamber. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory dedicates the National Ignition facility in Livermore, Calif. on Friday May 29, 2009.
December 13, 2022

That Real Big Energy

The Story

Forget the Department of Energy. It’s the Dept of Big Nuclear Fusion Energy today.

What is this about?

Nuclear fusion. Today, the head of DOE is expected to announce a “major scientific breakthrough.” Let’s take it back: Nuclear power plants work by splitting atoms like uranium and releasing massive amounts of energy. But for decades, scientists have been trying to get energy from the flipside: merging atoms together. The sun and stars do it all the time and release a ton of energy, no problem. But it’s been harder for humans to make it happen…until now.

What’s the latest?

This week, it was revealed that a federal lab in California has managed to reach ignition: doing nuclear fusion…and releasing an amount of net energy in the process. It apparently did this by shooting almost 200 lasers at a capsule containing hydrogen atoms until they formed helium…and gave off more of the energy (reportedly 1.2 times) than it took to set this all up. Big win.

For who exactly?

Climate scientists. There are a few problems with nuclear power plants…like radioactive waste and the fear of a nuclear disaster. Now, this update brings the world one (potentially big) step closer to a scalable energy-harnessing process that doesn’t release greenhouse gasses. But there are two problems: timing and cost. Actually getting from this announcement to a point where we can harness cheap, fusion energy could take decades…and hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s not going to cut it for the UN’s goals of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius…which we are failing at.


This week marks a potentially big milestone in getting to a world with a clean energy option. We’re not there yet…but if the DOE pulls through, nuclear fusion is more than just a fantasy.

And Also...This

Who’s been arrested…

Sam Bankman-Fried. Yesterday, the disgraced FTX founder was arrested in the Bahamas after US prosecutors filed criminal charges against him. The move comes after SBF went on an apology tour to address FTX’s collapse last month. SBF has said, he "screwed up." But has not been able to answer questions on the problematic links between FTX and its sister firm, Alameda (which SBF also founded). NY prosecutors are reportedly investigating Bankman-Fried for fraud. Now, the US will be requesting SBF's extradition (which could take weeks). But all this comes as SBF was scheduled to testify in front of a House financial committee today over what the FTX happened. The committee said it would continue the hearing with or without him.

What’s one reason to be concerned about the tripledemic...

POTS. Yesterday, researchers published a study confirming a link between COVID-19 and postural tachycardia syndrome — a debilitating heart condition that mostly affects women between the ages of 15-50. The condition often leads to a rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, fainting, and lightheadedness. Now, a new study — made up of more than 280,000 people — found that those who’d gotten COVID were more than five times as likely to develop POTS than if they had gotten vaccinated. But that wasn’t all: they found that getting mRNA vaccines also raised the risk of POTS over the general population. It’s not clear why this is happening. In the case of the vaccine, researchers think the body’s immune response could play a role. But given the much higher prevalence of POTS in the COVID-infected group, authors said vaccination is still “the best way” to reduce the risk of POTS.

Who’s over student debt…

BLM. Yesterday, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation announced its new student loan relief fund plans. Nearly 90% of Black students have to take out a loan in order to attend college. And with President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan in the Supreme Court’s hands now, BLM is stepping in. The foundation opened up the application and will announce recipients in January — awarding up to $4,500 to help people pay down their debt. The relief is meant for those with bachelor's degrees or those who’ve dropped out with student debt. Foundation members say the goal is to remove the burden from borrowers instead of “sit around and wait” for the gov to provide relief. But this move has apparently revived criticism over how the org spends the millions it received in donations. Earlier this year, a tax filing showed it had nearly $42 million in assets.

Where you can still have “Let's Get It On” on replay…

Bali. Yesterday, Bali’s governor said its law banning sex outside of marriage won’t affect tourists…or their well-spent dollars. It comes after many feared the conservative law would rub visitors the wrong way. Tourists, rejoice (responsibly).

Who’s shipping off…

Jin. Today, the BTS star will be starting his mandatory military service in South Korea. As the oldest member of the boy band, he’s the first to join. Other members will be joining soon, and the group isn’t expected to reunite ’til 2025 after they complete their service.

While Taylor Swift shook it off and picked up a camera

The Golden Globes dropped some noms.

Who’s giving us “The Crown” spoilers…

Harry and Meghan.

What we’re all worried about now...

Dog flu.

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