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NASA’s Perseverance rover has produced pure oxygen on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully generated breathable oxygen on Mars. The demonstration, carried out by the rover’s MOXIE instrument on April 20, could lay the groundwork for helping future astronauts establish a sustainable colony on the planet. What’s MOXIE and how does it work: Short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, it’s a gold, toaster-sized...

The US has pledged to halve its carbon emissions by 2030

The news: The US will pledge at a summit of 40 global leaders today to halve its carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. This far exceeds an Obama-era pledge in 2014 to get emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The hope is that the commitment will help encourage India, China, and other major emitters to sign up to similar targets before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference,...


WEDNESDAY 21. APRIL 2021


This spit test promises to tell couples their risk of passing on common diseases

A new startup called Orchid is offering the chance for couples planning a pregnancy to learn their odds of passing on risks for common conditions like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, type 1 and 2 diabetes, schizophrenia, and certain cancers to their future child. Existing pre-conception tests, which are widely available, can tell parents whether their children could have certain inherited...

This has just become a big week for AI regulation

It’s a bumper week for government pushback on the misuse of artificial intelligence.  Today the EU released its long-awaited set of AI regulations, an early draft of which leaked last week. The regulations are wide ranging, with restrictions on mass surveillance and the use of AI to manipulate people. But a statement of intent from the US Federal Trade Commission, outlined in a short blog...

How a tiny media company is helping people get vaccinated

More than 132 million people in the US have received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine, and as of this week, all Americans over 16 are eligible. But while the US has vaccinated more people than any other country in the world, vulnerable people are still falling through the cracks. Those most affected include people who don’t speak English, people who aren’t internet-savvy, and shift...


MONDAY 19. APRIL 2021


NASA has just flown a helicopter on Mars for the first time

The news: NASA has flown an aircraft on another planet for the first time. On Monday, April 19, Ingenuity, a 1.8-kilogram drone helicopter, took off from the surface of Mars, flew up about three meters, then swiveled and hovered for 40 seconds. The historic moment was livestreamed on YouTube, and Ingenuity captured the photo above with one of its two cameras. “We can now say that human beings...


FRIDAY 16. APRIL 2021


NASA has selected SpaceX’s Starship as the lander to take astronauts to the moon

Later this decade, NASA astronauts are expected to touch down on the lunar surface for the first time in decades. When they do, according to an announcement made by the agency, they’ll be riding inside SpaceX’s Starship vehicle. NASA’s award of a $2.9 billion contract to build Starship, first reported by the Washington Post on April 16 and later confirmed by NASA, is a huge achievement...


THURSDAY 15. APRIL 2021


The $1 billion Russian cyber company that the US says hacks for Moscow

The hackers at Positive Technologies are undeniably good at what they do. The Russian cybersecurity firm regularly publishes highly-regarded research, looks at cutting edge computer security flaws, and has spotted vulnerabilities in networking equipment, telephone signals, and electric car technology.  But American intelligence agencies have concluded that this $1 billion company—which...

Building a high-performance data and AI organization

CxOs and boards recognize that their organization’s ability to generate actionable insights from data, often in real-time, is of the highest strategic importance. If there were any doubts on this score, consumers’ accelerated flight to digital in this past crisis year have dispelled them. To help them become data driven, companies are deploying increasingly advanced cloud-based technologies,...

Why is it so hard to review the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Data.

The future of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson covid vaccine remains in limbo after an advisory panel recommended taking a deeper look into reports of rare—and sometimes fatal—side effects. The US Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration advised suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday, after reports that six people who had received a dose...


WEDNESDAY 14. APRIL 2021


Podcast: What’s AI doing in your wallet?

Our entire financial system is built on trust. We can exchange otherwise worthless paper bills for fresh groceries, or swipe a piece of plastic for new clothes. But this trust—typically in a central-government-backed bank—is changing. As our financial lives are rapidly digitized, the resulting data turns into fodder for AI. Companies like Apple, Facebook, and…

The new lawsuit that shows facial recognition is officially a civil rights issue

On January 9, 2020, Detroit police drove to the suburb of Farmington Hill and arrested Robert Williams in his driveway while his wife and young daughters looked on. Williams, a Black man, was accused of stealing watches from a luxury store. He was held overnight in jail. During questioning, an officer showed Williams a picture of a suspect. His response, he told MIT Technology Review last year,...


TUESDAY 13. APRIL 2021


The US says not to give Johnson & Johnson vaccines after a woman died from a rare blood clot

The US took the dramatic step of recommending that health-care providers stop giving people the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against covid-19 after six women who received it developed serious blood clots and one died. The US Food and Drug Administration described its action as a temporary halt to give regulators time to understand the apparent side effect. “We are recommending a pause in the...


MONDAY 12. APRIL 2021


New business models, big opportunity: Retail

Now is a tough time to be a retailer. Even before the 2020 coronavirus pandemic brought rapid changes to the market, many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses were struggling. For example, from 2011 to 2020, the number of US department stores shrank from 8,600 to just over 6,000. The global crisis only amplified retail challenges. Since March 2020, at least 347 US companies cited the...

New business models, big opportunity: Tech/manufacturing

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic upended the way companies do business. Some are coping better than others—but largely, businesses are optimistic about 2021. That’s especially so for tech-forward organizations in two different industries—technology and manufacturing— that are planning major business initiatives to move beyond crisis response and thrive in a transformed corporate landscape....

US covid contract details are a “trade secret”—according to the contractors

As the US government pumps billions of dollars into projects aimed at curbing the pandemic, from vaccine development to genomic sequencing, officials claim they are being transparent about how money is being spent. But government contractors have a lot of leeway to hide things, as shown by a recent records request filed by MIT Technology Review. After reporting on the struggles of the US’s...

NASA’s next lunar rover will run open-source software

In 2023, NASA will launch VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), which that will trek across the surface of the moon and hunt for water ice that could one day be used to make rocket fuel. The rover will be armed with the best instruments and tools that NASA can come up with: wheels that can spin properly on lunar soil, a drill that’s able to dig into extraterrestrial...


FRIDAY 9. APRIL 2021


Facebook’s ad algorithms are still excluding women from seeing jobs

Facebook is withholding certain job ads from women because of their gender, according to the latest audit of its ad service. The audit, conducted by independent researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), reveals that Facebook’s ad-delivery system shows different job ads to women and men even though the jobs require the same qualifications. This is considered sex-based...

The NYPD used a controversial facial recognition tool. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s been a busy week for Clearview AI, the controversial facial recognition company that uses 3 billion photos scraped from the web to power a search engine for faces. On April 6, Buzzfeed News published a database of over 1,800 entities—including state and local police and other taxpayer-funded agencies such as healthcare systems and public schools—that it says have used the company’s...


THURSDAY 8. APRIL 2021


Forget Boston Dynamics. This robot taught itself to walk

A pair of robot legs called Cassie has been taught to walk using reinforcement learning, the training technique that teaches AIs complex behavior via trial and error. It’s the first time reinforcement learning has been used to teach a two-legged robot how to walk from scratch, including the ability to walk in a crouch and while carrying an unexpected load. But can it boogie?...

Preparing for AI-enabled cyberattacks

Cyberattacks continue to grow in prevalence and sophistication. With the ability to disrupt business operations, wipe out critical data, and cause reputational damage, they pose an existential threat to businesses, critical services, and infrastructure. Today’s new wave of attacks is outsmarting and outpacing humans, and even starting to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). What’s known...

You don’t get an invite to these weddings unless you’re vaccinated or have a negative covid test

On March 20, Kyle Niemer and Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom had the wedding of their dreams: intimate (around 40 guests), in a spacious venue with a dance floor, great food — and PCR tests on demand to check unvaccinated guests, administered by a doctor and nurse in the bridal party. For two weeks, the couple was on edge. Niemer said he had “CNN dreams, where we were that wedding party with...


WEDNESDAY 7. APRIL 2021


What you need to know about the Facebook data leak

The news: The personal data of 533 million Facebook users in more than 106 countries was found to be freely available online last weekend. The data trove, uncovered by security researcher Alon Gal, includes phone numbers, email addresses, hometowns, full names, and birth dates. Initially, Facebook claimed that the data leak was previously reported on in 2019 and that it had patched the...


TUESDAY 6. APRIL 2021


The future of work is uniquely human

The disruptive shifts of 2020, including covid-19 shutdowns that led to millions of workers working remotely, forced organizations to radically rethink everything from worker well-being, business models and operations to investments in cloud-based collaboration and communication tools. Across every industry, last year’s best-laid plans were turned upside down. So it’s not surprising that...


MONDAY 5. APRIL 2021


The CDC’s $1.75 billion sequencing boom may be throwing money at the wrong problem

Shortly after President Biden was inaugurated, the man who was being given command of his coronavirus response had a message about what America needed to do. “We’re 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing,” said Jeff Zients at a press conference in January. “Totally unacceptable.” The answer, he suggested, was to “do the appropriate amount…


FRIDAY 2. APRIL 2021


How has the US pandemic response increased inequality? Look at New York’s nail salons.

Even when covid-19 forced nail salons in New York to close, Araceli continued to work. A nail technician for over a decade, she now found herself making house calls to clients, entering their homes to manicure their nails as the pandemic raged. It was spring of 2020: vaccines had not yet been approved, but she needed the income—even though she knew that without health insurance, the hospital...

Podcast: In the AI of the Beholder

Ideas about what constitutes “beauty” are complex, subjective, and by no means limited to physical appearances. Elusive though it is, everyone wants more of it. That means big business and increasingly, people harnessing algorithms to create their ideal selves in the digital and, sometimes, physical worlds. In this episode, we explore the popularity of beauty…


THURSDAY 1. APRIL 2021


Error-riddled data sets are warping our sense of how good AI really is

The 10 most cited AI data sets are riddled with label errors, according to a new study out of MIT, and it’s distorting our understanding of the field’s progress. Data backbone: Data sets are the backbone of AI research, but some are more critical than others. There are a core set of them that researchers use to evaluate machine-learning models as a way to track how AI capabilities are...


WEDNESDAY 31. MARCH 2021


In pursuit of pragmatic solutions to pervasive problems

The Alibaba Damo Academy is a unique hybrid research and development (R&D) facility. An academically-oriented independent science organization established in 2017 in Hangzhou, China, it is also an arms-length research affiliate of its founder, Chinese internet technology giant Alibaba. Damo’s project development pipelines are positioned around developing data-enabled technologies for...

Geoengineering researchers have halted plans for a balloon launch in Sweden

In an unexpected move, the advisory committee for a Harvard University geoengineering research project is recommending that the team suspend plans for its first balloon flight in Sweden this summer. The purpose of that initial flight was to evaluate the propelled balloon’s equipment and software in the stratosphere. In subsequent launches, the researchers hope to release small amounts...

Deepfake “Amazon workers” are sowing confusion on Twitter. That’s not the problem.

The news: Ahead of a landmark vote that could lead to the formation of the first-ever labor union at a US-based Amazon warehouse, new Twitter accounts purporting to be Amazon employees started appearing. The profiles used deepfake photos as profile pictures and were tweeting some pretty laughable, over-the-top defenses of Amazon’s working practices. They didn’t seem real, but they...