TIME Innovation

This New Battery Could Charge Your Phone in 60 Seconds

Tops of batteries, close-up
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But researchers will have to figure out how to double the voltage to match the performance of lithium batteries

Stanford University researchers have developed an ultra-fast charging aluminum battery that they’ve hailed as a cheaper, safer alternative to the current batch of lithium batteries that power most mobile devices.

Researchers at Stanford University say they achieved “unprecedented charging times” with the aluminum prototype, which they said had the potential to recharge a smartphone in as little as 60 seconds. The battery used more pliable material that could bend into different shapes and withstand up to 7,500 recharge cycles, a more than seven-fold increase over lithium batteries.

But the researchers cautioned that the technology was still in its infancy, and for all of its advantages the current battery still emitted only half the voltage of a typical lithium battery.

“Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life,” said Stanford chemist Hongjie Dai in a public announcement of his research, which was published in the April 6 issue of Nature. “I see this as a new battery in its early days,” he added. “It’s quite exciting.”

TIME Startups

Here’s the Major Downside of So Many $1-Billion ‘Unicorn’ Startups

Uber
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Billion-dollar startups aren't rare. They're practically a dime a dozen these day—and that's not an entirely good thing

We live in a magical age of unicorns, those pre-IPO tech startups valued at $1 billion or more. And unlike the dot-com bubble, most of these startups are for real. They are companies whose services–like Uber, Spotify or Pinterest–we use every day. You could even say we consumers are the ones that are helping these unicorns to fly.

There is only one problem: Most of us consumers, as individual investors, are being shut out of the party.

These days, you hear a lot of people in the tech-investing world talk about how this is not 1999. The red ink has been washed away by the black at the strongest startups. A confluence of new technologies–the cloud, social networks, smartphones–are creating the mega-brands of the future. As one CEO memorably put it, “It’s the biggest wave of innovation in the history of the world.”

This is more or less true, but another big difference between today’s tech market and the tech market of 1999 is often overlooked: During the dot-com bubble–when most of the IPOs were pipe dreams waiting to crash–individual investors were able to buy their shares freely. Today, by contrast, most of the investments in the hottest tech startups are happening behind the velvet ropes of private financing.

US securities laws set up last century ensured that only accredited investors—currently, people earning at least $200,000 a year or with a net worth of more than $1 million—could buy stocks in private offerings. Those laws were intended to protect smaller investments from the risks of traditional private investments, and they worked for a long time. But recent changes, such as the JOBS Act, allowed private companies to more easily avoid IPOs if they so desired. And most of them have so desired.

The result is that tech companies that would have been open to ownership by everyday people in earlier decades are now open only to the elite. Hedge funds and other institutional investors jockey for access to occasional venture rounds rather than the daily battle of public markets. Corporate insiders have greater control in setting valuations, while executives escape the scrutiny of quarterly disclosures.

And so, unsurprisingly, the tech IPO has become as rare as, well, a unicorn. According to Renaissance Capital, 35% of the companies that went public in 2011 were technology startups. By last year, only 20% of the 273 IPOs were in the tech industry, and most were in the enterprise space rather than the brand names consumers knew. In the first quarter of 2015, only four tech companies went public. And none of them were exactly unicorns.

Three of those four tech IPOs have a history of losses–cloud-storage company Box, online-ad platform MaxPoint Interactive, and domain registrar GoDaddy. Only Inovalon, which runs cloud services for health-care companies, went public with a profit. In the wake of the recession, it was all but impossible for companies to go public with a history of losses but that changed starting last year, when according to Renaissance, 64% of large tech IPOs debuted with net losses, the highest ratio since 2000.

The companies that are choosing to go public aren’t the cream of the crop. Box may have a bright future, but like GoDaddy it went public at the behest of its investors and did so only after months of delays. Box also priced its IPO below its last private round, following late 2014 IPOs like New Relic and Hortonworks that took so-called “haircuts.”

Which brings up another reason for other companies to avoid IPOs–why do it when you can get better valuations in illiquid private markets? True, liquidation preferences and other private perks justify some of that premium, but private valuations are often more art than science.

The pace of tech IPOs are likely to pick up, but few of the candidates in the current pipeline are the highly coveted unicorns. Next week, Chinese e-commerce platform Wowo is expected to raise $45 million. Craft marketplace Etsy is also hoping to raise $250 million in the coming weeks. And mobile software Good Technology aims to list soon as well. All three have steady histories of net losses.

When it comes to the companies with the brightest futures, they are conspicuously absent from the pipeline. Long before the term “unicorn” became popular, CB Insights compiled a list of hot startups expected to go public in 2014. A year later, their list of hot startups expected to go public in 2015 looked suspiciously similar. And now that we’re into the second quarter, there’s little sign that many of them are planning to go public.

Ride-sharing giant Uber, lodging disruptor Airbnb, online-storage pioneer Dropbox, social-ephemeralist Snapchat, social-pin star Pinterest, music-streaming king Spotify, mobile-payments upstart Square–all have been sought after and well funded in private rounds. All have intimate connections to consumers, and would be broke without them. All couldn’t care less, it seems, when it comes to sharing their success with those consumers.

Maybe that’s why they’re called unicorns. Not because billion-dollar startups are rare–they’re practically a dime a dozen these days–but because, for most investors, they might as well be myths frolicking on the far end some of some rainbow.

Read next: Why This Apple Watch Rival Is Very Important

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TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A new program will recruit and train inspiring leaders to be principals at high-poverty schools. No education background required.

By Catherine Candisky in the Columbus Dispatch

2. Even with rising prosperity, seventy percent of deaths in Sri Lanka are from preventable diseases. It’s time for a new kind of care.

By Sandya Salgado at the World Bank

3. To protect ourselves from bioweapons, we may have to reinvent science itself.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

4. In Europe today, Russia is demonstrating its mastery of hybrid warfare. The U.S. and NATO are far behind.

By Nadia Schadlow in War on the Rocks

5. Encryption might not matter to most Americans, but it is a crucial tool for reporting the news.

By Kelly J. O’Brien in Columbia Journalism Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. With sanctions lifted, is Iran on its way to becoming a Shiite counterweight to Saudi Arabia?

By Bobby Ghosh in Quartz

2. The al-Shabab attack on a college in Kenya is part of a dangerous terrorist trend of targeting schools in Africa.

By David A. Graham in the Atlantic

3. Finally, big data we can use: Precision traffic modeling lets cities program stoplights to reduce delays and carbon emissions.

By David L. Chandler in MIT News

4. You are the first line of defense against identity theft, and you’re doing a terrible job.

By Stewart Rogers in Venture Beat

5. Coding the next generation of mobile apps means planning for self-driving cars and much more.

By Peter Wayner in InfoWorld

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 1

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Screenings can identify a suicidal person, but the actions taken after the screening to decrease stigma and deliver help have a better chance of averting disaster.

By Christopher and Jennifer Gandin Le at Reuters

2. Only five percent of Americans who study abroad are black. That deepens other cultural divisions.

By Brandon Tensley in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

3. Game theory holds that cooperation in nature is essential to survival. But new research asks if the game can be rigged.

By Emily Singer in Quanta

4. Most of us believe we can achieve the American Dream if we just work hard. Today’s equality gap shows we’re dead wrong.

By Nicholas Fitz in Scientific American

5. Learning from the past: A thousand year-old Anglo Saxon remedy was just proven effective against hospital superbug MRSA.

By Clare Wilson in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Retail

Amazon Basically Just Unveiled the Future of Shopping and It’s Awesome

No, the Dash Button is not an April Fool

Amazon.com unveiled its latest innovation Tuesday — a tiny device that allows you to order household items at the touch of a button.

The Dash Button is a Wi-Fi enabled plastic controller that connects to a customer’s smartphone through the Amazon app. The buttons can be stuck or hung anywhere around the house — like on your washing machine, say. If you run out of detergent, you just push the button and an order is automatically sent to Amazon for that particular product.

More than a dozen brands — listing about 255 of the kind of bulky products you need to replenish often — are available to order through the Dash Button program.

The device allows users to cancel their order within 30 minutes, and the order will only process once, so you won’t end up with tons of detergent being delivered to your door.

The timing of Amazon’s announcement has got many people wondering if it’s a prank for April Fool’s Day. Others see the timing as a stroke of marketing genius, because while people are trying to decide if it’s a hoax they are also doing precisely what Amazon wants them to do — which is talk about Dash and share the news.

Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the Dash Button is indeed real, although for now the service is only available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Read next: 7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

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TIME Crime

UberX Driver Arrested for Trying to Rob Woman’s Home After Taking Her to Airport

Mobilitäts Apps
Britta Pedersen—Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images An iPhone user is seen using the Uber app as Taxis queue

The incident is the latest to raise safety concerns regarding the hugely popular ride-sharing app

Police in Denver arrested an UberX driver Tuesday on suspicion of attempting to burgle a woman’s house after he dropped her off at the airport.

According to the Denver Post, 51-year-old Gerald Montgomery was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted second-degree burglary, a felony. Montgomery allegedly tried to break in through the backdoor of the woman’s home but fled when her roommate noticed.

“Upon learning about this incident from our valued rider, we immediately deactivated the driver’s access to the platform, pending a full investigation. We remain committed to supporting Denver law enforcement in any way we can,” Uber spokesman Taylor Patterson says in a statement to TIME.

Uber performs a three-step screening process that includes a county, federal and multistate background check. However, according to the Post, Montgomery had no criminal history in Colorado. Uber says they work closely with the police department to facilitate the arrest of individuals accused of crimes.

UberX is a low-cost version of the wildly successful ride-sharing program. Based in San Francisco, the firm has been the subject of numerous legal challenges — including from a Philadelphia woman who accused an UberX driver of rape a little over a week ago.

Montgomery is due to appear in court on Friday.

[Denver Post]

TIME Social Media

This Is What Getting Cancer Looks Like on Social Media

If our virtual footprints are a window into even a little piece of the person we truly are, then this is the virtual story of my cancer

This story was originally published at the The Kernel, the Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine.

No one expects to get cancer. Sure, you might have the “what if” moments, but you never actually think it’s going to happen. Until it does.

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer on Aug. 8, 2012. Two days later, I had surgery to remove the tumor; less than month after that, I started chemo. I had just turned 30 years old.

So much of our lives are shared on the Internet. Mine is no different. Even before I was diagnosed, I shared my work, mundane details about my life, dating—the essentials for a man in his 20s living in New York at the time. So when cancer showed its fugly face, I had to document it.

I’ve written a lot about my cancer, but I’ve never actually showed it. If our virtual footprints are a window into even a little piece of the person we truly are, then this is the virtual story of my cancer.

Pre-diagnosis

I’ve never been one to care about age. Turning 30 was just another birthday. If anything, it marked a change in a decade and reflected the direction I wanted my life to go in, more professional—hopefully personally fulfilling.

The pain started at the end of July, shortly after my birthday. Having just arrived in Los Angeles from New York, I didn’t have a doctor. I went to my friend’s doctor, which led to another doctor, and then another. The entire time I was cracking jokes. I wasn’t taking it seriously, yet deep down I knew something wasn’t right.

I still got it! And by "it," I mean a weight problem.

A photo posted by H. Alan Scott (@halanscott) on

 

Read the rest of the story at The Kernel.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 31

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the sharing economy opening the door for big business to abuse contract workers?

By Jon Evans in TechCrunch

2. With fins off many menus, scientists see a glimmer of hope for sharks.

By Ted Williams in Yale Environment 360

3. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are following the ISIS playbook and crowdfunding their revolt online.

By Vladi Vovchuk in Vocativ

4. It might be possible to create a non-meat burger that helps the environment and improves your health. But will it taste good enough to win over the masses?

By Corby Kummer in MIT Technology Review

5. Medicaid may not be a slam dunk for physical health, but it yields huge returns in quality of life.

By the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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