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The voices of women in tech are still being erased

In the middle of the night on May 24, TikTok changed its voice. The ubiquitous woman’s voice that could read your video’s text out loud in a slightly stilted, robotic cadence was suddenly replaced by one with an almost smirky, upbeat tone. Many users started calling the new one the “Uncanny Valley Girl” to express their displeasure. Lil Nas X even made a TikTok about it. But what...


SATURDAY 31. JULY 2021


Boeing’s second Starliner mission to the ISS is a make-or-break moment

December 20, 2019, was supposed to be a landmark moment for the US space program and the US space industry, Boeing in particular. Boeing has been a partner of NASA since the agency’s inception in 1958—the company or those it acquired built the capsules that took Apollo astronauts to the moon and later built the space shuttle, and it helps operate the International Space Station. On that...

Covid clusters among the vaccinated are killing our back-to-normal dreams

They were gold miners in French Guiana, revelers in Cape Cod, and Indian health-care workers. Even though they inhabit worlds apart, they ended up having two things in common. All were vaccinated against covid-19. And they all became part of infection clusters. In recent weeks, cases like these are proving that covid-19 transmission chains and superspreading events can occur even in groups...


FRIDAY 30. JULY 2021


An endlessly changing playground teaches AIs how to multitask

DeepMind has developed a vast candy-colored virtual playground that teaches AIs general skills by endlessly changing the tasks it sets them. Instead of developing just the skills needed to solve a particular task, the AIs learn to experiment and explore, picking up skills they then use to succeed in tasks they’ve never seen before. It is a small step toward general intelligence. What is...

Hundreds of AI tools have been built to catch covid. None of them helped.

When covid-19 struck Europe in March 2020, hospitals were plunged into a health crisis that was still badly understood. “Doctors really didn’t have a clue how to manage these patients,” says Laure Wynants, an epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who studies predictive tools. But there was data coming out of China, which had a four-month head start in the race to...


THURSDAY 29. JULY 2021


The best vaccine incentive might be paid time off

Free doughnuts. Tickets to see the Los Angeles Lakers. Video visits with loved ones for people in prison. The chance to win a million-dollar lottery.  States, cities, and private companies are dangling anything they can think of to convince Americans to get a covid-19 vaccine. The idea is to nudge people who are open to a vaccine but just need an extra push—but so far, there’s little...


WEDNESDAY 28. JULY 2021


Israel begins investigation into NSO Group spyware abuse

Israeli government officials visited the offices of the hacking company NSO Group on Wednesday to investigate allegations that the firm’s spyware has been used to target activists, politicians, business executives, and journalists, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement today. An investigation published last week by 17 global media organizations claims that phone numbers…

Astronomers have spotted x-rays from behind a supermassive black hole

When gas falls into a black hole, it releases an enormous amount of energy and spews electromagnetic radiation in all directions, making these objects some of the brightest in the known universe. But scientists have only ever been able to see light and other radiation from a supermassive black hole when it’s shining directly toward our telescopes—anything from behind it has always been...

What you need to know about the CDC’s new mask guidelines

On Tuesday, July 27, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor spaces in communities where covid cases are spiking. Along with the new policy, the CDC recommends that children in grades K–12 attend school in person while continuing to wear masks inside.  Why is the CDC making this switch?  ...