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Software that monitors students during tests perpetuates inequality and violates their privacy

The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for the test proctoring industry. About half a dozen companies in the US claim their software can accurately detect and prevent cheating in online tests. Examity, HonorLock, Proctorio, ProctorU, Respondus and others have rapidly grown since colleges and universities switched to remote classes. While there’s no official tally, it’s reasonable to say...

How falling solar costs have renewed clean hydrogen hopes

The world is increasingly banking on green hydrogen fuel to fill some of the critical missing pieces in the clean-energy puzzle. US presidential candidate Joe Biden’s climate plan calls for a research program to produce a clean form of the gas that’s cheap enough to fuel power plants within a decade. Likewise, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union have all...


THURSDAY 6. AUGUST 2020


The pandemic has changed how criminals hide their cash—and AI tools are trying to sniff it out

When economies across the world shut down earlier this year, it wasn’t only business owners and consumers who had to adapt. Criminals suddenly had a problem on their hands. How to move their money? Profits from organized crime are typically passed through legitimate businesses, often exchanging hands several times and crossing borders, until there is no clear trail back to its source—a...


WEDNESDAY 5. AUGUST 2020


How to cast a wider net for tracking space junk

Space junk isn’t going away anytime soon—and neither are the problems it causes. We’re poised to see more satellite launches with every passing year, which means more pieces of rocketry and spacecraft getting loose and zipping around at over 22,000 mph. At those speeds, even an object just a few centimeters long could instantly destroy a satellite, and send even more debris...

SpaceX flew a prototype of its Starship vehicle for the first time

SpaceX successfully flew a prototype of its next-generation Starship vehicle for the first time ever on Tuesday, a major step forward in the company’s quest to eventually send people to Mars. What happened: Around 8:00pm Eastern Time, from its testing site at Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX flew the prototype about 500 feet into the air (the company has not yet stated what the exact altitude of the...

The UK is dropping an immigration algorithm that critics say is racist

The news: The UK Home Office has said it will stop using an algorithm to process visa applications that critics claim is racially biased. Opponents to it argue that the algorithm’s use of nationality to decide which applications get fast-tracked has led to a system in which “people from rich white countries get “Speedy Boarding”; poorer people of color get pushed to the back of the...

The hack that could make face recognition think someone else is you

Researchers have demonstrated that they can fool a modern face recognition system into seeing someone who isn’t there. A team from the cybersecurity firm McAfee set up the attack against a facial recognition system similar to those currently used at airports for passport verification. By using machine learning, they created an image that looked like one person to the human eye, but was...

Novavax has announced encouraging early results for its experimental coronavirus vaccine

The news: Maryland biotechnology company Novavax has announced encouraging results from a preliminary study of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The trial enrolled 131 healthy volunteers in Australia, gave them either a placebo or one of four escalating doses of its vaccine, and found that everyone who received the vaccine produced a high level of antibodies against covid-19. Novavax signed a...

AI is learning when it should and shouldn’t defer to a human

The context: Studies show that when people and AI systems work together, they can outperform either one acting alone. Medical diagnostic systems are often checked over by human doctors, and content moderation systems filter what they can before requiring human assistance. But algorithms are rarely designed to optimize for this AI-to-human handover. If they were, the AI system would only defer to...


MONDAY 3. AUGUST 2020


Climate change-fueled heatwaves could kill millions

Blistering heatwaves are breaking temperature records around the globe this year, from Iraq to the American Southwest. And it’s only going to get worse, as climate change accelerates. By the end of this century, extreme heat spells could kill roughly as many people as all infectious diseases combined, including HIV, malaria and yellow fever, according to a new study. The findings:...

Eli Lilly is testing a way to prevent covid-19 that’s not a vaccine

Nurses and patients in some US assisted living facilities will receive an antibody drug to prevent covid-19 infection, according to drug company Eli Lilly. The drug: Early in the coronavirus pandemic, companies searched the blood of covid-19 survivors for potent antibodies against the novel virus. Eli Lilly’s drug is one of these Y shaped proteins—it’s a natural antibody manufactured at...

The quest for quantum-proof encryption just made a leap forward

Many of the things you do online every day are protected by encryption so that no one else can spy on it. Your online banking and messages to your friends are likely encrypted, for example—as are government secrets. But that protection is under threat from the development of quantum computers, which threaten to render modern encryption methods useless.  Quantum machines work in a...


FRIDAY 31. JULY 2020


The field of natural language processing is chasing the wrong goal

At a typical annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), the program is a parade of titles like “A Structured Variational Autoencoder for Contextual Morphological Inflection.” The same technical flavor permeates the papers, the research talks, and many hallway chats. At this year’s conference in July, though, something felt different—and it wasn’t just the...