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The Download, Mar 13, 2017: Electric Car Adoption Woes, Fighting VR Trolls, and Spider-Silk Neckties

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Three Things You Need to Know Today 

Electric Car Adoption Needs a Political Push
State and federal regulations may hold back consumer demand for electric cars. In many ways, the future looks bright for the vehicles: automakers are readying more cars and battery prices are falling. But, the New York Times points out, gas remains cheap, federal tax credits are potentially under threat, and many states are cutting their own incentives—all of which makes electric car ownership a less appealing prospect. That’s the opposite of what’s happening in many countries, and could leave the U.S. lagging unless it strikes out with emboldened policy decisions.

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Protecting Personal Space in VR
Even virtual reality has trolls, but there might be a way to fight them. Many industry leaders think that VR will really hit the mainstream when it becomes a place for us to socialize, but the sense of presence that makes the medium so compelling can also cause problems when people overstep friendship boundaries as they can in real life. That’s why, reports our own Tom Simonite, some startups are creating ways for people to protect their personal space in virtual environments. 

The Water's Getting Warmer Than We Thought
Warming seas may be a bigger problem than suspected. A new study has refined the techniques used to estimate historical temperature trends of the oceans and the results make uncomfortable reading: warming is about 13 percent faster than previously thought, and has accelerated dramatically, almost doubling from 1960 to 1992. Elsewhere, researchers are speculating that Arctic sea ice could disappear in the summer even if we manage to meet the Paris climate agreement aim of limiting warming to just 2 °C. If that happens, the results may be deeply troubling.

Ten Fascinating Things 

Uber and Lyft don’t operate in Austin, Texas, which has given rise to homegrown alternatives. But at SXSW, demand has proven too much for the upstarts.

For sale: the world’s first commercially available spider-silk necktie. Price: $314.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles plans to allow companies to test autonomous cars on its roads without backup drivers before the end of the year.

Relatedly, the self-driving sector continues to sizzle. Waymo has re-upped its legal fight against Uber, and Intel has announced that it’s buying MobilEye for $15 billion.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet, and now he wants to fix it. These are the three things that he thinks need to change.

A new Bitcoin investment fund has been rejected by the Securities and Exchange Commission because the currency’s markets are so unregulated.

Scott Gottlieb is rumored to be Donald Trump’s pick for FDA chief. Here's what you need to know about him.

Researchers have built a robotic actuator from gelatin, which could help a device to move around your stomach—at least, until you finish digesting it.

Google’s AI subsidiary, DeepMind, is said to be in talks with the UK’s National Grid to use machine learning to streamline energy delivery.

Facing high rents, some Silicon Valley workers are living in communal houses where 40 people sleep in bunk beds and pay $1,900 per month for the privilege

Quote of the Day

"Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world … [but] the good Internet will rise up again."

— Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media—now owned by Univision and rebranded as Gizmodo Media Group following a catastrophic lawsuit with Hulk Hogan—speaks out about his hopes for the future of the Web.

Deep Dive


Capitalizing on machine learning with collaborative, structured enterprise tooling teams

Machine learning advances require an evolution of processes, tooling, and operations.

The race to destroy PFAS, the forever chemicals 

Scientists are showing these damaging compounds can be beat.

How scientists are being squeezed to take sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine

Tensions over the war are flaring on social media—with real-life ramifications.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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