Dr. Dre, who donated $70 million to USC, says his daughter got in 'on her own'

Dr. Dre wrote that his daughter Truly was accepted to the University of Southern California “all on her own” on Saturday. Given the college admissions scandal that’s still making headlines, this was a strange brag — the school literally has a building named after him.

“My daughter got accepted into USC all on her own. No jail time!!!” Dre wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post. Presumably, it was deleted because people quickly pointed out a $70 million donation he made to the school with executive Jimmy Iovine in 2013, which funded the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. (Dr. Dre’s legal name is Andre Young.)

Of course, making donations to a school is not illegal — and it’s definitely not paying $500,000 to make your kid a fake crew recruit. (Why commit crimes when there’s a technically legal way to get what you want, Lori Loughlin?) But as we continue to talk about parents leveraging their wealth and influence in a way that ultimately helps their kids get admitted, it’s worth keeping in mind.

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'Cannonball' pulsar points to the supernova that formed it

Astronomers have clocked a spinning star at 2.5 million MPH and grabbed an image that leaves no doubt where it came from. Using NASA’s Fermi Telescope and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), a team of scientists imaged pulsar J0002, originally discovered by citizen science project Einstein@Home. What makes it look so cool is the clear evidence it came from a recent supernova. “Thanks to its narrow dart-like tail and a fortuitous viewing angle, we can trace this pulsar straight back to its birthplace,” said NRAO scientist Frank Schinzel.

Pulsars are superdense neutron stars that form out of massive supernovae. They can only be found when their electromagnetic beams points directly to Earth like a nuclear-powered lighthouse. Pulsars have been found to rotate as fast as 1.6 milliseconds, or 38,500 rpm. They pick up the angular momentum of the massive stars that formed them, but are a fraction of the size. That translates into rotational speed, in much the same way figure skaters spin faster when they pull in their arms.

J0002, located about 6,500 light years away in Cassiopeia, isn’t quite that fast. However, it does spin at a healthy 8.7 times a second, each time producing a gamma ray burst seen from Earth. Astronomers at Einstein@Home spotted it in 2017 while sifting through gamma ray data using computer cycles borrowed from volunteers. The photo above is a composite of older images from the DRAO observatory and new observations from the VLA. The latter shows the orange pulsar tail and and curved rim of the supernova remnant.

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Scientists aren’t sure why J0002 is moving faster than 99 percent of measured pulsars. One theory is that the collapsing star that formed it had regions of dense matter that pulled the newly formed neutron star like a “gravitational tugboat.” Shortly after it formed, the supernova shell outran the pulsar, but interstellar gas eventually slowed the relatively sparse debris. Meanwhile, the pulsar acted like a cannonball, piercing the remnants and escaping them about 5,000 years after the explosion.

Pulsar J0002 will eventually escape our galaxy, too. Suffice to say, you wouldn’t want to be in the way — such objects are very small (12 miles across on average), but can weigh twice as much as our sun. And at 2.5 million MPH, it could travel from the Earth to the Moon in just six minutes. At a certain point, it could cool to the point that it can no longer be detected — luckily, thanks to the built-in arrow, we’ll always know exactly where it’s going.

Steve should have known that civil engineering was not for him when he spent most of his time at university monkeying with his 8086 clone PC. Although he graduated, a lifelong obsession of wanting the Solitaire win animation to go faster had begun. Always seeking a gadget fix, he dabbles in photography, video, 3D animation and is a licensed private pilot. He followed l’amour de sa vie from Vancouver, BC, to France and now lives in Paris.


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Meet the Texas startup that wants to decarbonize the chemical industry

Solugen, a startup that has set itself up with no less lofty a goal than the decarbonization of a massive chunk of the petrochemical industry, may be the first legitimate multi-million dollar company to start out in a meth lab.

When company co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt began hunting for a lab to test their process for enzymatically manufacturing hydrogen peroxide they only had a small $10,000 grant from MIT — which was supposed to pay their salaries and cover rent and lab equipment. 

Chakrabarti, who now jokingly calls himself “the Heisenberg of hydrogen peroxide” says that the lab spaces they looked at initially were all too pricey, so through a friend of a friend of a friend, he and Hunt wound up leasing lab space in a facility by the Houston airport for $150 per month.

It was there among the burners and round-bottomed flasks that Hunt and Chakrabarti refined their manufacturing process — using fermentation based on Solugen’s proprietary enzyme made from genetically modified yeast cells to produce hydrogen peroxide. 

“In 2016 I went to visit Solugen’s headquarters in Houston, They were subleasing a small part of a bigger lab and it was one of the sketchiest labs I’d seen, but the Solugen founders liked it because the rent was low” recalls Solugen seed investor, Seth Bannon, a founding partner with the investment firm Fifty Years. “Sean and Gaurab were incredibly impressive. They had their prototype reactor up and running and were already selling 100% of its capacity, so we invested.”

Creating a process that can make thousands of tons of chemicals — without relying on petroleum — would be a hugely important step in the fight against global climate change. And Solugen says it has done exactly that — while getting the chemical industry to subsidize its development.

The chemicals industry is responsible for 10% of global energy consumption and 30% of industrial energy demand, while also contributing 20% of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions, according to the website Global Efficiency Intelligence.

As the world begins to confront the effects of global climate change, curbing emissions from industry will be critically important to ensuring that the world is not irrevocably and catastrophically changed by human activity.

As columnist Ramez Naam wrote in TechCrunch:

Our hardest climate problems – the ones that are both large and lack obvious solutions – are agriculture (and deforestation – its major side effect) and industry. Together these are 45% of global carbon emissions. And solutions are scarce.

Agriculture and land use account for 24% of all human emissions. That’s nearly as much as electricity, and twice as much all the world’s passenger cars combined.

Industry – steel, cement, and manufacturing – account for 21% of human emissions – one and a half times as much as all the world’s cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes combined.

Greenhouse gas emissions are only one of the dangers associated with the petrochemical industry’s approach to production. The processes by which chemicals are made are also incredibly volatile, and the work is dangerous for both employees and the communities in which these plants operate.

Last week, a chemical plant explosion has led to one of the worst fires in the city’s history. Firefighters in the city spent six days trying to contain a chemical fire that has burned 11 storage tanks managed by Intercontinental Terminals Company.

“They’re moving chemicals exposed to the environment, and those chemicals are not designed to be transported in that way,” Francisco Sanchez, the county’s deputy emergency emergency management coordinator told The Houston Chronicle

Man in protective workwear with Caution cordon tape (Courtesy Getty Images)

By contrast, Solugen’s process is only a little more dangerous than brewing beer.

In the years since Bannon came to visit the company in its first lab, Solugen has built a working production plant capable of making enough hydrogen peroxide to bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the company.

In addition to its current mobile manufacturing facility, a skid mounted 1,000 square foot mini plant, Solugen is using $13.5 million in new financing from investors to build a new, 2,500 modular facility which will produce 5,000 tons of hydrogen peroxide per year. 

That new money came from the investment fund Founders Fund (co-founded by the controversial libertarian investor, Peter Thiel), Fifty Years, and Y Combinator.

Solugen’s secret sauce is its ability to create oxidase enzymes cheaply that can be combined with simple sugars to make oxidation chemicals — which account for roughly half of the $4.3 trillion dollar global chemical industry.

The companies bioreactors have been specifically designed for the chemicals it makes, but the real innovation is looking at enzymes as a tool for oxidation chemistries.

Companies are now able to engineer these enzymes thanks to advances on computational biology and the newfound ability of biochemists to engineer DNA, Chakrabarti says.

Solugen uses CRISPR gene editing technologies to modify yeast cells. It has identified a certain transcription factor which acts like an accelerant to producing the enzyme that Solugen’s process requires. Messenger ribonucleic acid overwhelms most of the typical processes if a celll to force the cell to dedicate most of its function toward enzyme production. The company then uses a contract research organization to cheaply make the enzyme at scale.

Companies also have driven down the cost of manufacturing these specialty enzymes. “The revolution is the commoditization of biomanufacturing specifically enzyme production,” he says. “Instead of our enzymes costing $1,000 per kg… It’s $1 to $10 per kg.”

Once Solugen proves that the new facility can work, the only issue is scaling, according to Chakrabarti. “We use enzyme technologies to create chemical mini-mills [and] each mini-mill can do 5,000 tons of products,” says Chakrabarti.

A typical chemical [lant has a production capacity of 50,000 tons, but the Solugen process is orders of magnitude more inexpensive, says Chakrabarti. That allows the company to build out a network of smaller plants profitably. “These are huge industries where we can make cheaper products,”he says.

And for every ton of product that Solugen makes and sells, it’s the equivalent of removing six tons of carbon from the atmosphere, Chakrabarti says.

Oil and gas companies have already signed contracts and are ordering the company’s products to the tune of several million in sales.

“It’s a nice way of funding us and funding the oil and gas industry’s demise,” says Chakrabarti of the company’s sales to its initial customers, “They give us money and allow us to go after other chemistries that would have been petroleum based… Our ultimate goal is to wipe them out.”

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Watch viral gymnast Katelyn Ohashi's amazing new floor routine

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, who went viral back in January for her electrifying floor routine, is back for more.

Ohashi debuted a new floor routine Saturday at the PAC-12 women’s gymnastics championship in West Valley City, Utah. The routine features music from only female artists, including Tina Turner and Janet Jackson — both of whom were featured in her original viral routine — and Beyoncé. (Though music from Michael Jackson appeared in her previous routine, Ohashi chose not to include any here in the wake of Leaving Neverland.)

Unsurprisingly, Ohashi is as joyous and as awe-inspiring to watch as ever. She scored a perfect 10, and UCLA came out on top.

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Netflix's 'Delhi Crime' is a tenacious, disquieting true crime drama

Shefali Shah plays police office Vartika Chaturvedi in Netflix's Indian-origin crime drama 'Delhi Crime'.
Shefali Shah plays police office Vartika Chaturvedi in Netflix’s Indian-origin crime drama ‘Delhi Crime’.
Image: Netflix

True crime dramas are frequently engaging but don’t necessarily make for the easiest viewing experience. Shock, grief, and anger usually get involved as you watch the story unravel. 

All of these feelings are escalated in Netflix’s Delhi Crime. The seven-episode first season (which is mostly in English, with subtitled scenes in Hindi) is based on a real-life incident that took place in 2012 in India’s capital of New Delhi – the horrific gang-rape of a physiotherapy intern on a moving city bus.

With Delhi Crime, it’s the shock at the heinousness of the crime that comes first. The starting point of the series is the discovery of the naked, injured bodies of Deepika and Akash (names changed for the show). Akash, who has sustained bruises but is stable, tells the officers they were robbed and beaten in a bus by several men, including the driver. They proceeded to sexually and violently assault Deepika, who is now hanging on for her life.

Though I already knew most of the gory details, hearing them again hit me right in the gut. Until now, I had only read about it in the news. Now, a battered face on my screen was painfully explaining them to me all over again. 

Thankfully, Delhi Crime is not exploitative its depiction of this violence. The show does not get visually graphic about the details; we just hear about them through various characters. 

Instead, the series primarily focuses the next six days, during which a small team of police officers went on a nationwide manhunt and eventually nabbed all six culprits. The fictionalized narrative is woven together by Canadian-Indian filmmaker Richie Mehta, based on case files, interviews, and permissions he obtained. 

The show’s protagonist is Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah), a somber deputy commissioner who is naturally shaken by this brutality. She gathers a trusted crew to immediately begin working the case, including her right-hand man Bhupendra (Rajesh Taigal) and promising new trainee Neeti (a subdued, terrific Rasika Dugal). 

Shah maneuvers the complexities of her character like a pro. Vartika is a disciplined, dutiful officer who has to maintain her composure while interrogating men who committed truly violent acts. She’s teetering on the edge of breaking down, as grief and anger begin to set in, but she rarely lets go of her willpower, even in the face of personal, professional, and political obstacles. 

Her inner turmoil keeps the momentum going and keeps you invested, despite the slightly too-long 50-minute run time of each episode.

Delhi Crime tackles the investigation in a pretty straightforward manner. There are no sudden twists or eureka moments. The show has a gritty vibe throughout and is never propped up with the glamor we’ve come to expect with most Indian-origin entertainment.

The starkly middle-class portrayal of Indian police officers differs from the crime shows we usually get in the U.S. Delhi Crime nods at this in its penultimate episode when some overworked, tired local cops talk about how they lack unions, weekends off, and maybe even the correct training to carry out their tasks as efficiently as, say, the NYPD. 

The show is structured through the lens of the cops – the mounting pressure on them and their internal struggles to quell their own rage. It’s a narrative not often seen coming out of India, because of the public assumption of heavy police corruption. Delhi Crime steers away from this issue by letting a headstrong woman like Vartika be in charge and giving her crew some meaningful stories of their own.

Delhi Crime is not here to give you a happy ending. You can’t expect one anyway, and they know it too.

The series is not without its faults. This is a case that got international attention and led to several large-scale protests in New Delhi and throughout the country. Young people showed up in droves at national monuments and demanded justice, and police officers were deployed to charge at them with water cannons and sticks. The show hints at the magnitude of these consequences, but doesn’t dwell on them too much. 

I wish it had. It would have given the global audience a stronger understanding of why this particular case mattered so much, and of how public outrage forced the politicians and the police to move faster than they normally would.

There is also way too much focus on Vartika’s teenage daughter Chandni and her feelings about this case. I understand the potential of this angle — that of a young, privileged girl in dilemma as she witnesses all this trauma around her — but Delhi Crime doesn’t deliver here. Her arc mostly lends itself to the angsty teen stereotype, and adds little to the trajectory of the season. 

In the end, Delhi Crime is a moody, well-acted serialized crime drama that sets out to explore a known story in more detail. It’s not here to provide answers of why violence against women is so frequent in India. It’s not here to give you a happy ending. You can’t expect one anyway, and they know it too.

After the cops arrest the men responsible, they step out for ice cream. Neeti is remorseful. How can anyone celebrate something so dark? Vartika reminds her — and us — that this is just one case, one abhorrent crime. There have been many before and more will probably, certainly follow. 

This heartbreaking real-life crime became a catalyst for social change in India, to a certain degree. Now it’s getting a larger international platform. Delhi Crime won’t be an easy watch at times but it’s definitely a worthwhile one, especially for fans of the genre. It adds compelling and varied viewpoints to an already heavily reported stories. And as the closing credits relay, in its own way, Delhi Crime honors the legacy of the victim. 

Delhi Crime Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix; a second season featuring the same central characters but a different story has already been ordered. 

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