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Mark Zuckerberg still won’t address the root cause of Facebook’s misinformation problem

In a congressional hearing about disinformation on Thursday, Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to a claim he once made about his own company: that the more likely content posted to Facebook is to violate the company’s community standards, the more engagement it will receive.  Is this, she asked, still accurate?  ...


WEDNESDAY 24. MARCH 2021


This is how (almost) anyone can train to be an astronaut

In his 1979 book of the same name, Tom Wolfe described astronauts as needing the “right stuff”—meaning they had to be in top physical and mental shape to withstand the rigors and dangers of space travel. In the days of the Apollo missions, you had to be an experienced pilot to stand much chance of getting into the program. But the idea of commercial space travel always promised that one day,...

This new image shows off magnetic fields swirling around a black hole

Astronomers have released a brand-new image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy. It’s a sharper follow-up to a historic 2019 picture, showing the polarized light that traces the monster’s magnetic field lines.  The background: The Event Horizon telescope made history on April 10, 2019, when it released the first ever image of a black hole. The bright orange...

Inside Netflix’s Indian Gambit

One afternoon before the pandemic, I went to a decommissioned hospital in West London to meet the Hindi film director Anurag Kashyap on the set of his new Netflix production. The old maternity unit where he was filming had never been entirely cleared out. Members of his crew, recently arrived from Mumbai, were maneuvering around…


MONDAY 22. MARCH 2021


The US is about to reach a surprise milestone: too many vaccines, not enough takers

The US has administered more than 118 million doses of covid-19 vaccines so far, and millions more are being injected every day. So far, demand from people who are desperate to get vaccinated has outstripped supply of the drugs, and when vaccine appointments are released, they’re quickly scooped up.  But jurisdictions across the country may soon face the opposite problem.  As...


THURSDAY 18. MARCH 2021


Facebook is making a bracelet that lets you control computers with your brain

Facebook says it has created a wristband that translates motor signals from your brain so you can move a digital object just by thinking about it. How does it work? The wristband, which looks like a clunky iPod on a strap, uses sensors to detect movements you intend to make. It uses electromyography (EMG) to interpret electrical activity from motor nerves as they send information from the brain...


WEDNESDAY 17. MARCH 2021


How lightning strikes could explain the origin of life—on Earth and elsewhere

The search for life on other planets is a lot like cooking. (Bear with me for a second.) You can have all the ingredients in one place—water, a warm climate and thick atmosphere, the proper nutrients, organic material, and a source of energy—but if you don’t have any processes or conditions that can actually do something with those ingredients, you’ve just got a bunch of raw materials...

A mouse embryo has been grown in an artificial womb—humans could be next

The photographs alone tell a fantastic story—a mouse embryo, complete with beating heart cells, a head, and the beginning of limbs, alive and growing in a glass jar. According to a scientific group in Israel, which took the picture, the researchers have grown mice in an artificial womb for as long as 11 or 12 days, about half the animal’s natural gestation period. It’s record for...

Why is it so hard to build government technology?

It’s been a long, challenging year for government technologies. Some have failed massively, requiring endless patches by governments, business, and the informal volunteer corps who have come together to fill the holes.  Developers had to build apps that could identify potential covid exposure without invading people’s privacy. Notoriously janky unemployment websites were crushed under...


TUESDAY 16. MARCH 2021


Scientists plan to drop the 14-day embryo rule, a key limit on stem cell research

In 2016, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz grew human embryos in a lab dish for longer than anyone had before. Bathing the tiny spheres in a special broth inside an incubator, her team at the University of Cambridge watched the embryos develop, day after day, breaking all prior records. The embryos even attached to the dish as if it were a uterus, sprouting a few placental cells. But on day 13,...

Distant jets are giving us clues to how supermassive black holes get so big

At the center of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole—a monster that keeps the neighborhood of stars and planets and gas and dust together. Over the decades since astronomers began studying them in earnest, we have confirmed that these objects indeed exist; we’ve learned they are likely essential for helping stars form; and we’ve even developed a technique for imaging them...

Mars’s lost water may be buried beneath the planet’s crust

Billions of years ago, Mars was a warm home to lakes and oceans. That is, until these enormous liquid bodies on its surface vanished around 3 billion years ago. For years, scientists have assumed that this water disappeared into space when the planet’s atmosphere thinned out. As it turns out, the water may not have gone up, up, and away. It might have actually gone in the opposite...


MONDAY 15. MARCH 2021


Why European vaccine suspensions could have unintended consequences

Europe’s difficult rollout of covid-19 shots took another blow over the weekend, as several countries halted deployment of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid worries it could cause blood clots. On Monday Germany, Spain, Italy, and France were among those to suspend deployment of the vaccine, following similar moves made last week by Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and others. Germany’s health minister,...


THURSDAY 11. MARCH 2021


First he held a superspreader event. Then he recommended fake cures.

In late January, tech impresario Peter Diamandis hosted an exclusive, indoor conference for a group of ultra-wealthy patrons in Los Angeles. As MIT Technology Review reported last month, the get-together, where no masks were required, became a covid-19 superspreader event. Four days later, as staff, speakers, and attendees began testing positive for the virus, an…

Building a better data economy

It’s “time to wake up and do a better job,” says publisher Tim O’Reilly—from getting serious about climate change to building a better data economy. And the way a better data economy is built is through data commons—or data as a common resource—not as the giant tech companies are acting now, which is not just…

Making better decisions with big data personas

A persona is an imaginary figure representing a segment of real people, and it is a communicative design technique aimed at enhanced user understanding. Through several decades of use, personas were data structures, static frameworks user attributes with no interactivity. A persona was a means to organize data about the imaginary person and to present information to the decision-makers. This...


WEDNESDAY 10. MARCH 2021


How China’s attack on Microsoft escalated into a “reckless” hacking spree

At first the Chinese hackers ran a careful campaign. For two months, they exploited weaknesses in Microsoft Exchange email servers, picked their targets carefully, and stealthily stole entire mailboxes. When investigators eventually caught on, it looked like typical online espionage—but then things accelerated dramatically. Around February 26, the narrow operation turned into something much...


TUESDAY 9. MARCH 2021


How much longer will the Hubble Space Telescope last?

On Sunday, NASA announced that the Hubble Space Telescope had gone into safe mode once again, “due to an onboard software error.” The telescope’s science systems were not affected at all, but all science operations were suspended while crews on the ground worked to fix the problem. The agency didn’t release any details as to what exactly the glitch was, what had caused it, or what was...

Driving innovation with emotional intelligence

The world watched in wonder in February as NASA’s robotic rover Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars with the goal of searching for evidence of past life on the red planet. The technology itself was, of course, astounding. But what really captivated the public was the video taken by a couple of miniature cameras from consumer-grade smartphones that were attached to the landing...

Here’s what the CDC says you can do once you’re vaccinated—and what it doesn’t

Fully vaccinated Americans can now gather indoors, maskless and without distancing—as long as it’s with others who’ve gotten their shots, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The advice, which comes as vaccinations continue to gain speed in America, are a positive signal for those who have had a course of shots. But it shows there’s a lot we...


SATURDAY 6. MARCH 2021


Four new hacking groups have joined an ongoing offensive against Microsoft’s email servers

A Chinese government-linked hacking campaign revealed by Microsoft this week has ramped up rapidly. At least four other distinct hacking groups are now attacking critical flaws in Microsoft’s email software in a cyber campaign the US government describes as “widespread domestic and international exploitation” with the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide....