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The Download, Feb 28, 2017: SpaceX’s Moonshot, Insect-Blasting Lasers, and the Superbug Wanted List

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February 28, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

SpaceX Plans to Fly Tourists Around the Moon Next Year
Elon Musk could take you on the trip of a lifetime. His rocket company, SpaceX, saysthat two private individuals have paid a “significant deposit” to secure spots on a mission that will see them launched into space, looped around the Moon, then returned to Earth. The passengers will spend a week aboard an autonomous Dragon capsule, and Musk says more will follow—eventually going as far as Mars. But making it happen by 2018 will be tough: SpaceX hasn’t flown a crewed Dragon capsule yet, and the company has recently suffered with delays.

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EPA Braces for Big Change
The Environmental Protection Agency looks increasingly set for a big shake-up. Yesterday, Donald Trump sketched out his first federal budget plan and, while short on specifics, a $54 billion increase in military spending is expected to lead to “transformational” cuts at the EPA. It certainly looks like there will be fewer regulations to worry about: the agency’s chief, Scott Pruitt, has said that a number of rules “need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way," mentioning the Clean Power Plan, methane standards, and clean water rules. This is what's at stake.

Have an Insect Invasion? Shine a Light
Targeted bug killing can be achieved using beams of light. Intellectual Ventures, founded by ex-Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, has developed a system that uses cameras and a laser beam to identify and shoot down insects, and it’s now being tested in the citrus farms of Florida against crop-ruining psyllids. Meanwhile, current Microsoft employees have developed a device for selectively catching mosquitoes, which uses an infrared beam to determine what kind of creature has flown into a trap, then closes a door only behind species deemed to be a nuisance.

Ten Fascinating Things

The right-wing propaganda machine’s big data psychological profiling tools may not be as smart as you think.

What’s 6 feet tall, lifts 100 pounds, jumps 4 feet high, and has wheels at the end of its legs? A new Boston Dynamics robot called Handle, on its first official outing.

A new breed of solar cells converts heat into focused beams of light and is more efficient than regular photovoltaic cells.

If AI home assistants send and receive ultrasound as well as speech, they could detect human presence in a room to make sure people are safe.

The future of motorsport as entertainment is here: these are the robotic race cars that will duke it out at 199 mph.

With $5 million and the huge promise of CRISPR, a startup aims to find a “home run” cure for muscular dystrophy.

As the planet gets warmer, snow will melt more slowly. Here’s why.

How much does a Silicon Valley tech worker need to earn? According to those who claim to be scraping by on six figures, the answer is: more.

The World Health Organization has published its first ever list of 12 potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

As automakers and tech companies compete to build autonomous cars, how about a little frivolous future-gazing? This is how we could car-pool in 2027.

Quote of the Day 

"You’re in a race to build your product and get to market, and anything that doesn’t directly contribute to that … is low priority when you’re first starting up."

— Magdalena Yesil, a tech investor, explains why HR is often overlooked in Silicon Valley startups.

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