The voices of women in tech are still being erased
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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.
SATURDAY 31. JULY 2021
Boeing’s second Starliner mission to the ISS is a make-or-break moment
Covid clusters among the vaccinated are killing our back-to-normal dreams
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...
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
Hundreds of AI tools have been built to catch covid. None of them helped.
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.
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
She risked everything to expose Facebook. Now she’s telling her story.
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...
The world first learned of Sophie Zhang in September 2020, when BuzzFeed News obtained and published highlights from an abridged version of her nearly 8,000-word exit memo from Facebook. Before she was fired for poor performance, Zhang was officially employed as a low-level data scientist at the company. But she had become consumed by a…
WEDNESDAY 28. JULY 2021
Israel begins investigation into NSO Group spyware abuse
Astronomers have spotted x-rays from behind a supermassive black hole
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…
What you need to know about the CDC’s new mask guidelines
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...
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? ...
TUESDAY 27. JULY 2021
The pandemic slashed the West Coast’s emissions. Wildfires already reversed it.
Wildfires raging across the US West Coast have filled the air with enough carbon dioxide to wipe out more than half of the region’s pandemic-driven emissions reductions last year. And that was just in July.
The numbers illustrate a troubling feedback loop. Climate change creates hotter, drier conditions that fuel increasingly frequent and devastating fires—which, in turn, release greenhouse...
MONDAY 26. JULY 2021
Meet the people who warn the world about new covid variants
“We never created a supervirus.” Ralph Baric explains gain-of-function research.
In March, when covid cases began spiking around India, Bani Jolly went hunting for answers in the virus’s genetic code. Researchers in the UK had just set the scientific world ablaze with news that a covid variant called B.1.1.7—soon to be referred to as alpha—was to blame for skyrocketing case counts there. Jolly, a third-year…
In May, the longtime coronavirus researcher Ralph Baric found himself at the center of the swirling debate over gain-of-function research, in which scientists engineer new properties into existing viruses. And during a congressional hearing, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky implied that the National Institutes of Health had been funding such research at both the Wuhan…
FRIDAY 23. JULY 2021
We just got our best-ever look at the inside of Mars
Is the UK’s pingdemic good or bad? Yes.
NASA’s InSight robotic lander has just given us our first look deep inside a planet other than Earth.
More than two years after its launch, seismic data that InSight collected has given researchers hints into how Mars was formed, how it has evolved over 4.6 billion years, and how it differs from Earth. A set of three new...
Oscar Maung-Haley, 24, was working a part-time job in a bar in Manchester, England, when his phone pinged. It was the UK’s NHS Test and Trace app letting him know he’d potentially been exposed to covid-19 and needed to self-isolate. The news immediately caused problems. “It was a mad dash around the venue to show my manager and say I had to go,” he says.
The alert he got was one of...