Readers ask about life on Venus and high-energy cosmic rays

Venusian recollection

Phosphine gas detected in the clouds of Venus could be a sign of life or some strange unknown chemistry, Lisa Grossman reported in “Possible sign of life is found on Venus” (SN: 10/10/20 & 10/24/20, p. 6).

The story brought back memories for reader Bruce Hapke, a professor of planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh.

“In 1975, my colleague Robert M. Nelson and I published the first high-quality, broadband spectrum of the clouds of Venus … which we obtained using the 106-inch telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas,” Hapke wrote. “This spectrum turned out to be identical to that of a form of elemental sulfur, and we suggested that tiny particles of sulfur in the clouds are responsible for their yellowish color. The sulfur comes from volcanic eruptions.”

By then, “Russia had launched several unmanned spacecraft that had successfully landed on the surface of

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Research team pushes back the boundaries of high-energy laser pulses

An INRS research team pushes back the boundaries of high-energy laser pulses
ALLS brings together several Canadian institutions and most major laser research laboratories in the United States, France, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Japan. It draws on the expertise of 72 first-class researchers specializing in physics, laser and optics, chemistry, computer science, biology, medicine, and biochemistry. Credit: Josée Lecompte

Using the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) facility, the research team of Professor François Légaré of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has pushed back the boundaries of high-energy pulse propagation in a nonlinear medium through the observation of high-energy multidimensional solitary states. This breakthrough allows the direct generation of extremely short and intense, laser pulses that are highly-stable in time and space. The results of this work were published in Nature Photonics.


Common laser systems restrict operation to a single transverse mode, which puts an upper limit on laser technology. So far, higher dimensions have been considered

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Improving high-energy lithium-ion batteries with carbon filler

Improving high-energy lithium-ion batteries with carbon filler
Thick electrodes with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) for scalable energy storage systems. Credit: Zhengyu Ju and Guihua Yu

Lithium-ion batteries are the major rechargeable power source for many portable devices as well as electric vehicles, but their use is limited, because they do not provide high power output while simultaneously allowing reversible energy storage. Research reported in Applied Physics Reviews aims to offer a solution by showing how the inclusion of conductive fillers improves battery performance.


The optimum battery design involves thick electrode structures. This enhances the energy density, but the design suffers from poor lithium-ion transport, a key step in the functioning of these electrodes. Various improvement techniques have been tried, including building vertically aligned channels or creating pores of the proper size to facilitate transport of the lithium ions.

Another approach involves the use of fillers made of carbon that conduct electricity. This study considered three types of

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