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Photo: DEA/G.P. Cavallero

Physicists have figured out a way to determine the authenticity of rare whisky without opening the bottle, by using laser lights.

Why it matters: The demand for rare Scotch whisky has been rising in recent years, but so have reports of counterfeits. The new technology could help determine whether your four-figure single malt is actually rotgut — before you buy.

What's happening: In a recent paper, researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (obviously) described a method of using spectroscopy on a whisky bottle, as Jennifer Ouellette reported in Ars Technica.

  • Scientists can shine a laser light into the whisky bottle, which breaks the light into a spectrum of wavelengths that correspond to different chemical compounds.
  • Those chemical compounds can be used to help determine the provenance of the whisky.
  • Because a glass bottle can produce a large spectral signal itself, interfering with the results, the researchers shaped the laser light into a ring, which reduced the noise from the bottle.

Of note: The Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Edinburgh (also obviously) is experimenting with portable spectrometers that workers could use to authenticate rare whiskeys.

Background: A 2018 study found a third of vintage Scottish whiskies tested in a lab were outright fakes or not from the year their labels indicated.

The bottom line: And that's why I drink bourbon.

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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