National / International News

Why your cell phone battery life still stinks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:43

The reviews for the Apple Watch have been mixed so far. One of the big complaints: battery life.

And it's not just an Apple problem. The batteries that power most of our devices, from smart phones to laptops, are lithium ion batteries. Compared with Alkaline batteries that pop into TV remotes and flashlights, lithium ion batteries are fairly bulky, charge slowly, and drain relatively fast as they struggle to keep up with all the computing power that tech firms have stuffed into our devices. 

Lots of people are working to improve batteries, including Astro Teller, who recently spoke with Marketplace Tech's Ben Johnson. Teller is the guy who heads up Google X, where his title is the Google-esque "Captain of Moonshots."

Johnson asked Teller about one thing that would make a dramatic difference, among the array of R&D projects underway at Google X. No big surprise given our subject matter: batteries topped the list. But in true Moonshot Captain fashion, his goal is more than incremental improvement. 

"A ten-times increase in the weight-oriented density of batteries would enable so many other moonshots, if we can find a great idea. We just haven't found one yet," Teller said. 

So, why haven't scientists and tech leaders found one yet? Unlike computing power, which doubles every 18 months or so, following Moore's Law, batteries are slower to change. 

The short answer there, Johnson says, is chemistry. There is no equivalent to Moore's Law in the world of battery chemistry. In fact, improving the battery is even less methodical than you'd think, according to Matthew Norden at MNL Partners, which also explores leaps in technological change. 

"That's more dark art. It's not quite a witch around a cauldron, but it's close," Norden says. 

Even so, the wizards at Stanford have a study out with some promising findings. Researchers made an aluminum smartphone battery that charges in — no joke — one minute. But Johnson warns it doesn't last too long. 

The key characteristics to improve the device battery are safety, speed, and cost. 

"That's the holy grail," Johnson says. "Once we get a battery that has all of those things, then we will truly be in the future."

For now, we're stuck with two out of three. 

Evans trails Doherty in qualifying

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:39
Reanne Evans trails Ken Doherty 5-4 in qualifying as she bids to be the first woman to reach the World Championship proper.

Fallen symbols: Five other removed statues

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:35
A monument to a British colonialist has been removed in South Africa after protests. The BBC takes a look at other statues that have suffered a similar fate.

Ebosse was murdered, says father

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:29
Albert Ebosse, the player who died after a match in Algeria last year, was murdered, according to his father.

I was a Spurs success - Sherwood

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:18
Tim Sherwood says his time at Spurs was a success as he prepares for his first return to the club since his sacking.

China's Neighbors See Mischief In What's Happening At Disputed Reef

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:17

Satellite imagery of a coral atoll in the South China Sea show the reef is growing. A U.S. military official likens Beijing's land reclamation to building a "great wall of sand."

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China defends land reclamation

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:12
China defends its construction of artificial islands in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying it is needed to safeguard its sovereignty.

Health is top issue, says Crabb

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:10
The state of the NHS is the "number one" election issue for voters, Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb says, claiming Labour Welsh ministers had "stripped hundreds of millions of pounds" out of the service.

Palestinians 'agree Yarmouk action'

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 09:06
Some Palestinian factions in Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp agree to Syrian government action to combat IS militants, Palestinian officials say.

Man is killed in motorway crash

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:57
A man in his 40s is killed after a crash involving a van and a truck on a motorway in the Republic of Ireland.

Akram Khan attacks UK dance training

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:57
Leading choreographers including Akram Khan say UK contemporary dance training is "an obstacle", leaving dancers less equipped than students trained internationally.

Ballon d'Or damaging game - Mourinho

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:54
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho says football concentrates too much on individuals and prizes like the Fifa Ballon d'Or.

Chinese TV Star Apologizes For Remarks Critical Of Mao

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:51

Bi Fujian, one of the country's most popular television presenters, recently ran afoul of his employer, state-run CCTV, for a parody song he performed at a private banquet.

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Pinstickers' guide to the Grand National

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:50
Runners, riders, trainers and form - all the key details for Saturday's big race.

Kriss killer jailed for appeal lies

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:34
One of the men jailed for life for murdering Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald is given another jail term for lying in a bid to free an accomplice.

Murphy to receive Twain humour prize

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:20
Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy is to receive this year's Mark Twain Prize for American humour.

Carolina officer investigated before

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:19
A South Carolina police officer charged with murder after shooting an unarmed black man in the back had a prior complaint of excessive force.

VIDEO: Inside Kenya killing dormitories

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:09
The BBC's Karen Allen gains exclusive access to the dormitories at Garissa University College, where almost 150 people were killed by al-Shabab militants a week ago.

'Mystique-like' malware killed off

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 08:05
Polymorphic malware that changes its identity up to 19 times a day to avoid detection while taking control of users' computers has been deactivated.

Officer In S.C. Shooting Previously Accused Of Using Excessive Force

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:55

An inquiry exonerated Michael Slager of claims he used excessive force against an unarmed man he thought was a suspect. Slager was charged with murder this week for killing an unarmed man.

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