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A Chinese rocket is falling back to Earth—but we don’t know where it will land

Last week, China successfully launched Tianhe-1, the first part of its new space station, to be completed before the end of 2022. A week later, the mission is still making huge waves—and not in a good way. The core booster from the Long March 5B rocket that launched Tianhe-1 ended up in an uncontrolled orbit around Earth. It is expected to fall back to Earth this weekend, with current...


THURSDAY 6. MAY 2021


AI consumes a lot of energy. Hackers could make it consume more.

The news: A new type of attack could increase the energy consumption of AI systems.  In the same way a Denial-of-Service attack on the internet seeks to clog up and make a network unusable, the new attack forces a deep neural network to tie up more computational resources than necessary and slow down its “thinking” process.  The target: In recent years, growing concern over the costly...

Why mixing vaccines could help boost immunity

A dozen covid-19 vaccines are now being used around the world. Most require two doses, and health officials have warned against mixing and matching: the vaccines, they argue, should be administered the way they were tested in trials. But after emerging concerns about the very rare risk of blood clots linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, that advice may soon change. Guidance on this issue...

How China turned a prize-winning iPhone hack against the Uyghurs

In March 2017, a group of hackers from China arrived in Vancouver with one goal: Find hidden weak spots inside the world’s most popular technologies.  Google’s Chrome browser, Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and Apple’s iPhones were all in the crosshairs. But no one was breaking the law. These were just some of the people taking part in Pwn2Own, one of the world’s most...


WEDNESDAY 5. MAY 2021


How to stop AI from recognizing your face in selfies

Uploading personal photos to the internet can feel like letting go. Who else will have access to them, what will they do with them—and which machine-learning algorithms will they help train? The company Clearview has already supplied US law enforcement agencies with a facial recognition tool trained on photos of millions of people scraped from the public web. But that was likely just the...

Why upholding Trump’s Facebook ban won’t break the cycle

The night before The Facebook Oversight Board decided to stand by the company’s decision to ban him from its platforms, former president Donald Trump announced—via an exclusive on Fox News—that he’d created a website. Called From the Desk of Donald Trump, it looked like a social media site, but was really just a feed of his statements. Each statement had a “Like” button, and buttons...


TUESDAY 4. MAY 2021


The internet is excluding Asian-Americans who don’t speak English

Jennifer Xiong spent her summer helping Hmong people in California register to vote in the US presidential election. The Hmong are an ethnic group that come from the mountains of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand but don’t have a country of their own, and Xiong was a volunteer organizer at Hmong Innovating Politics, or HIP, in Fresno. There are around 300,000 Hmong people in the US, and she...


MONDAY 3. MAY 2021



SATURDAY 1. MAY 2021


What India needs to get through its covid crisis

In a cruel irony, India, the world’s vaccine manufacturing powerhouse, is now crippled by a virus for which multiple safe and effective vaccines have been developed in record time. Official reports of more than 380,000 new cases and 3,400 deaths daily, while staggering, likely underestimate the actual toll. As health systems across India buckle under the pressure of a second wave of covid-19...


FRIDAY 30. APRIL 2021


Here’s what China wants from its next space station

At 11:23 a.m. local time Thursday at Wenchang, Hainan Island, China launched Tianhe-1, the first module of a new orbital space station. It’s scheduled to be operational by the end of 2022. The launch, which went flawlessly, sets China up for a very busy next two years as it seeks to build upon the decade’s successes and follow through with one of its most ambitious space projects yet. ...


THURSDAY 29. APRIL 2021


Computer vision in AI: The data needed to succeed

Developing the capacity to annotate massive volumes of data while maintaining quality is a function of the model development lifecycle that enterprises often underestimate. It’s resource intensive and requires specialized expertise. At the heart of any successful machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) initiative is a commitment to high-quality training data and a pathway to...

New business models, big opportunity: Financial services

By any measure, 2021 corporate planning isn’t business as usual. As the coronavirus pandemic grinds on, financial services institutions are coming out of crisis mode— addressing immediate cash management and operational challenges—with a renewed readiness for business growth. Fortunately, most businesses across industries are doing a good job of navigating the pandemic and its economic...

Some vaccinated people are still getting covid. Here’s why you shouldn’t worry.

Tens of millions of people in the United States have now been fully vaccinated against covid-19. These people are seeing friends, eating out, and—in rare cases—getting infected. But we shouldn’t panic: these kinds of “breakthrough infections” are entirely expected with any mass vaccine rollout.  According to new figures released by the Centers for Disease...

The J&J vaccine is back. Next comes trust.

Last week US regulators recommended resuming use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after deciding that a side effect involving blood clots was too rare to justify continuing the brief suspension they had imposed: there were just 15 reported instances out of 8 million doses. But even though the pause lasted just 11 days, it raised new concerns about whether Americans will trust vaccinations....


WEDNESDAY 28. APRIL 2021


Podcast: AI finds its voice

Today’s voice assistants are still a far cry from the hyper-intelligent thinking machines we’ve been musing about for decades. And it’s because that technology is actually the combination of three different skills: speech recognition, natural language processing and voice generation. Each of these skills already presents huge challenges. In order to master just the natural…

Can “democracy dollars” keep real dollars out of politics?

Teresa Mosqueda used to spend her days asking people to run for office. A union leader and third-generation Mexican-American from Seattle, she figured the most effective way to address working families’ issues was to encourage people who had once experienced them to enter politics. But when people would ask her to run, Mosqueda would decline, citing an obstacle faced by most Americans: she...

Cape Town fights for energy independence

Power outages are a way of life in Africa’s most industrialized country. Over the last decade, South Africa’s electricity grid has come apart at the seams and failed to deliver dependable power. As renewable energy gets cheaper, South African cities such as Cape Town have demanded the right to find their own sources.  The primary culprit in South Africa’s power woes is the aging...

Fiction: Unpaired

They drilled a hole in my skull on the 43rd floor of an empty skyscraper in Lower Manhattan. One of those towers where they told people to go and work from home and they never came back. Floor-to-ceiling windows, beige and white walls, spaces that felt impossibly big now that the cubicle dividers have vanished.…

How megacities could lead the fight against climate change

In 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities than do today. As the world grows more urbanized, many cities are becoming more populous while also trying to reduce carbon emissions and blunt the impacts of climate change. In the coming decades, cities will be engines of economic growth. But they must also play a key role in confronting climate change; the world’s 100 most populous...

How technology helped archaeologists dig deeper

Construction workers in New York’s Lower Manhattan neighborhood were breaking ground for a new federal building back in 1991 when they unearthed hundreds of coffins. The more they dug, the more they found—eventually uncovering nearly 500 individuals, many buried with personal items such as buttons, shells, and jewelry. Further investigation revealed that the remains were all between 200 and...

Politics and the pandemic have changed how we imagine cities

Science fiction is full of cities imagined from the ground up, but an author who writes about a real place has to engage with real cultures and real histories. It takes a special kind of world-building skill to develop a city when its origins are already known. The Membranes, a fascinating new book out in June by Chi Ta-wei, meets this challenge. It presents metropolitan Taiwan in 2100 as...