Ultra-white paint could reduce the need for air conditioning

White houses are often boring, but they might just save the planet. As USA Todayreports, Purdue University researchers have developed an ultra-white paint (it just earned a Guinness World Record) that reflects 98.1 percent of solar radiation while outputting infrared heat. As this leaves the surface cooler than the environment (regular paint warms the surface), it could effectively replace air conditioning in some cases — it produces a cooling power of 10kW for a 1,000sq. ft. roof, or more than a typical house AC unit.

There are existing paints made to reflect heat, but they reflect no more than 90 percent of sunlight and don’t cool surfaces. The team didn’t have much breathing room, either — an even whiter paint might have compromised it.

The trick was to use a high ratio of barium sulfate, a compound you often see in cosmetics and photo paper, in varying particle sizes. The wider range of sizes helps scatter more of the light spectrum and thus reflect more sunlight.

It’s not clear how close this extremely white paint is to your local store, but the researchers are fully bent on commercializing their work. They’ve teamed with a company to mass-produce and sell the paint, and have already filed patents. If it lives up to the billing, though, it could play an important role in fighting climate change. It could reduce or eliminate the need for air conditioning in some homes, particularly in warm regions with ample sunlight. That could reduce emissions and power consumption, and might save you some money on hot summer days.

NASA’s chief scientist will retire in 2022

NASA is about to close an important chapter in its history. Chief Scientist Jim Green, who has worked at the agency for over 40 years, now plans to retire in early 2022. He started by developing NASA’s equivalent to the internet (the Space Physics Analysis Network) shortly after he arrived in 1980, but he’s best known for overseeing some of NASA’s biggest space exploration projects in the past 15 years — you’re likely very aware of his work.

Green directed NASA’s Planetary Science Division during the Curiosity landing in 2012, and played a key role in both promoting and explaining the Mars rover to the public. He further took leading roles during the Juno probe’s investigation of Jupiter, Messenger’s tour of Mercury, Dawn’s visit to Ceres and New Horizons’ historic flyby of Pluto. The scientist also greenlit plans for the Perseverance rover currently roaming Mars.

It’s not yet clear who will succeed Green, although he will assist with the search for his replacement. However, it’s safe to say he’ll have a healthy legacy. He both nurtured missions and made them more accessible to the public — he helped explain why Curiosity, New Horizons and other vehicles were exciting. If you’re pursuing a career in space science, Green’s work might well have served as an inspiration.

US probe into Binance reportedly expands to investigate insider trading

Binance is apparently facing more pressure from regulators over possible abuses at its cryptocurrency exchange. Bloombergsources said US officials have expanded their probe of Binance to include possible insider trading and market manipulation. The company hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, but Commodity Futures Trading Commission investigators have reportedly inquired with potential witnesses about issues like the location of Binance servers (and thus whether the US can pursue any cases).

The commission had previously launched an investigation into the sales of derivatives tied to cryptocurrencies. It’s reportedly looking for internal Binance data that might show sales of those derivatives to American customers, breaking regulations that forbid those sales without registrations. The Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department are also probing possible money laundering on the exchange.

There are no guarantees of action. The CFTC and Justice Department have supposedly been investigating Binance for months, and any decisions might take a while longer.

Not surprisingly, Binance said it was above-board. A spokesperson told Bloomberg the exchange had a “zero-tolerance” approach to insider trades as well as ethical codes and security guidelines to prevent those actions. The company added that it fires offenders at a bare minimum. The CFTC has declined to comment.

The heightened scrutiny of Binance, if accurate, would come as part of a larger US crackdown on cryptocurrencies. Officials are concerned the lack of consumer protections (including regulation) might hurt customers who sign up for services expecting the same safeguards they have with conventional money. In this case, the focus is on accountability — insider trading could wreck valuable investments and erode trust in Binance and other crypto exchanges.

NTSB head says Tesla must address ‘basic safety issues’ with semi-autonomous features

Tesla isn’t about to get a sympathetic ear from US regulators as it rolls out more semi-autonomous technology. New National Transportation Safety Board head Jennifer Homendy told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that Tesla needs to tackle “basic safety issues” before it expands features like Autopilot and Full Self Driving to more parts of the road. She also wasn’t thrilled with Tesla beta-testing upgrades on public streets.

Like other critics, the NTSB leader took issue with Tesla’s naming schemes for its driver assists. The Full Self Driving label is “misleading and irresponsible,” Homendy said, leading some to “misuse and abuse” it. Despite its name, the current FSD package only enables limited autonomy in some situations, and requires drivers to be ready to take the wheel at any moment. Tesla ultimately hopes for true autonomy to enable robotaxis and other hands-off uses, but hasn’t yet demonstrated such a system.

Tesla and its chief Elon Musk have long argued that Autopilot (and by extension FSD) is overall safer than full manual control despite concerns over crashes where the technology was involved. The automaker has used FSD betas as a way to improve semi-autonomous features through real-world use, not just the ideal conditions of a closed circuit.

Homendy’s remarks won’t necessarily lead to policies meant to limit or ban Tesla’s technology. However, it does set the tone for the NTSB’s approach to Tesla during the Biden administration. The agency might not be receptive to Tesla’s autonomous driving strategy, particularly if there’s an increase in collisions.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 might include a 120Hz screen and Thunderbolt ports

Microsoft’s September 22nd event might include one of the largest Surface Pro updates in years. According to The Verge, Twitter user Shadow_Leak has shared what looks like a store listing for the Surface Pro 8 tablet. The Windows 11 machine will reportedly resemble a souped-up, Intel-powered counterpart to the Surface Pro X with a 13-inch, narrow-bezel 120Hz display. It may also be more useful to creatives with dual Thunderbolt ports — you’d finally have the headroom for an external GPU, among other very high-speed peripherals.

The leaked Surface Pro 8 would also make the expected leap to an 11th-generation Core processor. Like the Surface Laptop 4, though, you could replace the SSD if the included storage breaks or proves too limiting.

The upcoming event could be one of Microsoft’s most packed presentations to date, with a Surface Duo 2 also on deck alongside possible Surface Book, Surface Go and Surface Pro X upgrades. If the leak is accurate, however, the Surface Pro 8 might be the star attraction. The Pro has been one of Microsoft’s most enduring Surface devices, but also one of its most conservative with relatively few changes — the 2019 revision still had a USB-A port. The 8 could revitalize the Pro series, not to mention help it compete with a newer wave of detachables and two-in-one laptops.

Cadillac’s inaugural Lyriq EV sold out of reservations in 10 minutes (updated)

Cadillac didn’t have any problems finding buyers for its Lyriq EV once reservations opened. As Electreklearned, GM’s luxury badge sold out of reservations for the Lyriq’s Debut Edition in 10 minutes. The brand didn’t say how many people paid the $100 fee, but it’s clear there was at least some pent-up demand for the upscale electric crossover. More Debut Edition models will be available through dealers in summer 2022.

Deposits don’t always translate to final sales when the fee is refundable. Some people may reserve a car only to back out when it comes time to make the final purchase. For context, though, VW took eight hours to sell a “few thousand” units of the ID.4 First Edition. The overall number might be small, but 19 minutes is extremely quick.

The sellout wasn’t completely unexpected. While the Lyriq is still an expensive EV with a nearly $60,000 starting price, it promises a healthy 300-plus miles of range, 190kW fast charging and a sprawling 33-inch infotainment display. There’s also a clear pattern of strong demand for EVs from familiar names. Ford, for instance, is boosting F-150 Lightning production after demand far outstripped early manufacturing targets. There’s clearly an audience for EV like these, even if they’re still far from dominating their combustion engine counterparts.

Update 9/19 3PM ET: In a statement, GM Vice President Rory Harvey said reservations sold out sooner than the 19 minutes we originally noted — it only took “just over” 10 minutes. We’ve updated the article accordingly. Harvey didn’t provide reservation numbers, but it’s safe to presume Cadillac and GM at large are happy with the “extraordinary” response to the Lyriq so far.

Watch SpaceX’s all-civilian spaceflight return to Earth starting at 6PM ET

SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 spaceflight is coming to an end, and the company wants to be sure you see those last moments. The firm is livestreaming its Crew Dragon capsule’s return to Earth starting at 6PM Eastern, with an expected splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida at 7:06PM. You can watch the stream below.

The mission saw Shift4 chief Jared Isaacman and three other civilian crew members (Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski) conduct scientific research around the effects of spaceflight on the human body. It also served as a fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which relies primarily on donations to advance cancer-fighting medicine.

This is the shortest occupied Crew Dragon flight to date. The earlier Demo-2, Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions were all planned to dock with the International Space Station and last between nine weeks to six months — Inspiration4’s three days is a blip in comparison. Not that SpaceX is complaining. This not only demonstrates the viability of sending civilian-only crews to space, but could serve as a sales pitch to clients who might only want a brief amount of time in orbit.

Telegram blocks Russian opposition leader’s chat bots during vote

The Russian government still has a strong influence on Telegram despite lifting a ban last year. RadioFreeEuropereports Telegram has temporarily blocked all of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Telegram chat bots during voting in the country’s parliamentary election this weekend. Company founder Pavel Durov said Telegram would obey an election law barring campaigning during elections, calling the law “legitimate.”

The move comes despite the nature of the bots and Durov’s past statements. One of the bots, Smart Voting, was only meant to identify candidates that could unseat the dominant United Russia party, not just Navalny’s Russia of the Future party. Durov also decried Apple and Google removing the Smart Voting mobile app from their respective app stores, calling it a “dangerous precedent” that tolerated censorship.

Russia under Vladimir Putin has routinely cracked down on any political dissent, including actions against Navalny himself (such as an attempted assassination linked to Russian agents) and a long-running effort to quash the broader Smart Voting effort. Officials both threatened Apple and Google with fines and have gone so far as to try and throttle internet infrastructure providing access to Smart Voting.

Whatever the motivations, the decision underscores the fine line tech firms tend to walk in Russia. While they might object to the Putin regime’s tight grips on politics and speech, they also can’t afford to antagonize the government if they want to have any kind of presence in the country. Telegram may object to Russia’s policies, but it risks depriving residents of a relatively safe avenue for free expression if it defies Russian laws.

Harley-Davidson will sell its retro-inspired e-bike by the end of 2021

Don’t worry if you were disappointed that Harley-Davidson’s first e-bikes didn’t include that eye-catching vintage model. As Electreknotes, Harley’s Serial 1 brand now plans to sell a highly similar retro bike, the MOSH/TRIBUTE, in “late Q4” (read: December). Pre-order it for $5,999 and you’ll get the MOSH/CTY’s underpinnings with looks that would seem right at home in the 1950s, including fat white Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, a honey-hued leather saddle and similar grips.

The functionality remains the same as the more contemporary-looking model, including the Gates carbon belt drive, built-in lighting and TRP hydraulic disc brakes. The removable 529Wh battery is estimated to deliver up to 105 miles of range, although that can shrink to 35 miles depending on your ride mode, biking style and road choices.

You’ll have to act quickly if you want one. Serial 1 is making just 650 MOSH/TRIBUTE units split evenly between the US and Europe. The Harley brand has promised more special edition e-bikes “in the future,” though, so you needn’t give up hope if you’re too late.

Tesla kills referral programs for cars and solar panels

If you were hoping to score a few thousand Supercharging miles from Tesla referrals, we’re afraid you may already be too late. In a notice on its website spotted by Electrek, Tesla said that “vehicle products and solar panels are no longer eligible for Referral awards” as of September 18th. The company’s only active program at the moment is for the Solar Roof, which awards referrers with monetary rewards of up to $500 and free Powerwalls. 

Tesla’s referral program has changed tremendously over the years. The automaker used to promise new Roadsters for top referrers and up to six months of free Supercharging. That eventually became too expensive to be sustainable, so the company decided to axe the program. Tesla introduced a new one with more reasonable rewards shortly after that, though, promising at least 1,000 miles of free Supercharging.

When it relaunched the program with updated terms, the company said that it “heard from… customers that the Referral Program was one of their favorite reasons to tell their friends about Tesla.” It’s unclear if it would come back again this time for the same reason, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it does. Take note, however, that Tesla has yet to fulfill some of its bigger promises to referrers. As Electrek notes, it hasn’t delivered the Roadsters its top referrers earned yet, and people have been complaining on online forums about not receiving free Powerwalls and other rewards from years ago.