Your Wednesday Briefing: A Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

The major fusion breakthrough happened at the National Ignition Facility, in California.Credit…Jason Laurea/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

A nuclear fusion breakthrough

Scientists studying nuclear fusion in California announced a major breakthrough yesterday. For the first time, a fusion reaction in a lab produced more energy than it took to start the reaction.

This month, 192 giant lasers blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond. The beams vaporized it.

In less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles, the product of fusion, which carried about three megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain.

Controlled fusion could offer an energy source that does not produce greenhouse gases or radioactive waste. But experts say a viable laser fusion power plant is likely to require gains of 30 to 100, a goal that could take decades to reach.

What is fusion? It’s the thermonuclear reaction that powers the sun and other stars — the fusing of hydrogen atoms into helium.

How does it work? Helium has slightly less mass than hydrogen atoms do. That difference is converted into a burst of energy.

Argentina scored two goals before halftime. Credit…Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Argentina defeats Croatia

Argentina beat Croatia, 3-0, minutes before we sent out this newsletter. The team advances to the World Cup final on Sunday.

Lionel Messi, Argentina’s star player, now has one final chance to win a World Cup. He’s 35, and this is likely to be his last global tournament. In his home country, The Athletic reports, Messi is “all the superheroes in one.”

Understand the Situation in China

Beijing’s restrictive “zero Covid” policy pummeled China’s economy and set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to the Communist leadership.

  • A Messy Pivot: The Communist Party cast aside many Covid rules after the protests, while playing down the threat of the virus. The move could prove dangerous.
  • Importance of Vaccines: As the government drops its restrictions, it not only needs to convince people that the virus is nothing to fear, but also that inoculations are essential.
  • A Test for Hospitals: To conserve resources for the severely ill, the government is urging residents not to seek help unless necessary. The strategy has left many confused and anxious.

In the stadium, Argentina’s fans started singing before the game was finished. The South American powerhouse was up by two goals at halftime and never gave a determined Croatia team a chance to recover. At 69 minutes, it scored its third and final goal.

Celebration: Argentine fans watched in the former home of Diego Maradona, a legendary player. “This place is sacred,” a security guard said.

What’s next: France and Morocco face each other today. Decades of history will collide.

Migrants: The World Cup will soon be over, but the labor economy continues. “Working in a foreign country is not a choice,” said one worker who, despite having developed severe asthma while working in Qatar, is considering returning. “We are compelled to do it.”

Climate: Qatar’s World Cup stadiums may be the future of sports in a warming world.

Many residents say Beijing should have done more to anticipate the outbreak.Credit…Yuxuan Zhang/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

‘No one dares to come out’

Less than a week after China lifted its “zero Covid-19” restrictions, Beijing looks like a city in lockdown. This time, though, it’s self-imposed by residents.

A wave of Covid is sweeping across China’s capital. Cold and flu medicines are scarce. Rapid antigen tests are now one of the hottest commodities in the city. Restaurants have closed as staff members test positive. The streets are empty: Even delivery workers are staying home.

“No one dares to come out now,” Yue Jiajun, a restaurant owner in Beijing, said. He initially celebrated when customers were allowed to dine indoors last week. But now, “even takeaway, I have no customers,” he said.

Context: The severity of Beijing’s outbreak is hard to discern — China dismantled its mass testing system. Weibo, the social media service, is full of personal testimonies of infection, and a local official said that visits to fever clinics had increased 16-fold in a week.


Asia Pacific

Tensions are still simmering two years after the deadly confrontation.Credit…Money Sharma/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Indian and Chinese soldiers again clashed at a disputed border, more than two years after a deadly confrontation.

  • The Australian police said the killings of two officers in a Queensland shootout was a “ruthless” execution.

  • New Zealand will bar people born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, from buying tobacco, Reuters reports.

  • Abigail Kawananakoa, the “last princess” of Hawaii, died at 96, the BBC reports.


Sam Bankman-Fried is still in the Bahamas.Credit…Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, has been arrested. Here are live updates.

  • Bankman-Fried faces criminal and civil charges and is accused of lying to investors from the start of the company.

  • U.S. inflation slowed more sharply than expected last month.

Around the World

  • Iran’s public executions are galvanizing new demonstrations.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration could destabilize Israel’s military, an institution seen by Jewish Israelis as an emblem of nonpartisan unity.

  • Unrest is growing in Peru after an abrupt transfer of presidential power.

The War in Ukraine

  • Ukraine is increasing its attacks in and around Melitopol, a Russian-occupied city known as the “gateway to Crimea.”

  • World leaders pledged about 1 billion euros in more immediate aid for Ukraine.

  • The E.U. also skirted Hungary to approve $19 billion in loans to Ukraine.

  • “I started to see spies everywhere.” Wariness about Russian interference is growing in Europe.


  • The Arctic is becoming wetter and stormier, scientists said in their annual assessment of the region.

  • Europe is planning to introduce new laws to wean itself off fossil fuels.

  • The E.U. is close to adopting a carbon tax law on imports, which would impose a tariff on goods from countries that are not working hard to curb their emissions.

A Morning Read

Fans and reporters gathered outside the military training center in South Korea.Credit…Heo Ran/Reuters

From the ARMY to the armed forces: Jin, the eldest member of BTS, has enlisted in South Korea’s military. “Cuter than expected,” he wrote in a post on social media, showing off his freshly shaved hair.

Lives lived: Ashley Bickerton was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 2021. An artist and devoted surfer, he lived in Bali and worked until the end. Bickerton died last month at 63.


Credit…Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The U.S. courts Africa

As the White House hosts more than 40 African leaders this week, it is making an effort to close the diplomatic distance of the Trump years as the world vies for the continent’s attention and resources.

Before the summit began yesterday, the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said it would not be a “compare and contrast” with powers like China, but for observers it will be hard to ignore the jockeying. Russia, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries have courted African leaders, yielding a Nairobi highway, an airport in Guinea-Bissau and more.

African leaders are looking for concrete results, but also greater influence in geopolitics. “Certainly, we’ll need a little money,” Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, said. “But first, there must be the will to work with Africans,.”

The White House has pledged $55 million to Africa, and an official said President Biden would support a permanent spot in the Group of 20 major economies for the African Union.

“When the continent is purely seen as a theater to counter the advances of Russia and China, it becomes clear for many of us in the continent that we are not the focus,” Gustavo de Carvalho, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said. —Lynsey Chutel

In other news from Africa:

  • South Africa will not hold impeachment hearings for President Cyril Ramaphosa.

  • Deaths are soaring in drought-ravaged Somalia. But the global hunger monitor said the country was not yet in a famine, an official declaration that would unleash aid.


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Brett Regot.

Honey pistachio nougat is not easy to make. But the colorful candy carries a major reward.

What to Read

Here are the year’s best true crime books.

What to Watch

Check out the Golden Globe nominees.


Tips to avoid “task paralysis.”

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Point of a fable (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Dean Baquet, The Times’s former executive editor, appeared on Dua Lipa’s podcast.

“The Daily” is on a plot to overthrow the German government.

You can always reach us at [email protected].

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