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The Download, Mar 22, 2017: Baidu’s AI Loss, Making Solar Pervasive, and Your Brain on Satnav

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Baidu Is Losing Its AI Guru
As the Chinese Internet giant Baidu doubles down on AI, its leading expert has decided to resign. Just last week, Bloomberg noted that the company has suffered mixed results with attempts to diversify into areas like food delivery, localized services, and video streaming, and is instead going all-in with artificial intelligence. But today, Andrew Ng—the expert who led the company’s initiative to build a 1,300-strong team of machine learning staff—tells our own Will Knight why he’s leaving the company to work on the next big AI challenge.

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How to Make Solar Power Pervasive
Harnessing the Sun’s energy may require concerted international coöperation. Solar installations soared in the U.S. recently, but the technology still only accounts for around 1 percent of total electricity generation in the country. A new report from Stanford University explains that policy must change dramatically if the clean energy source is to become pervasive in the future. Perhaps the report's biggest message: the U.S. can’t afford to enter into a solar trade war with China, and instead each country must play to its strengths in a global effort to drive adoption.

Ethical Issues of Synthetic Embryos
We may one day create synthetic human life—but should we? In a new report, researchers wrestle with the ethical issues surrounding the creation of so-called “synthetic human entities with embryolike features.” One concern: that human stem cells could be reprogrammed and pieced together in such a way that they can be used to create life without the need for a normal sperm or egg. Such situations are still a ways off, but, as one of the authors of the report explains to the New York Times, “we need to address this now, while there’s still time.”

Ten Fascinating Things

New York aims to take Internet to the sticks, by auctioning off grants to Internet companies who will roll out broadband in underserved areas. Can it work?

When you fire up your in-car GPS, two brain regions that coöperate to simulate routes and plan a path appear to switch off. This is your brain on satnav.

Apple’s new Clips app is the company’s first foray into social video—and a tentative toe-dip into the world of augmented reality.

First it was smartphones, then it was … tractors? American farmers, armed with the right to repair their vehicles, are now jailbreaking their John Deeres.

Suburbia isn’t renowned for its ability to foster diversity. One architect thinks that algorithmic design could shake up new neighborhoods.

A U.S. grand jury has decided that an animated GIF can be considered to be a deadly weapon.

Yves Meyer has been awarded the Abel Prize, a kind of Nobel of math, for his work on wavelets. Here’s what they are and why they matter so much.

Scientists are trying to understand the complex molecular signals involved with hunger in order to develop new treatments for obesity.

Depending on your view, the gadget travel ban is maddening or comforting. Either way, the proliferation of electronics has made it easier to smuggle bombs.

Ah, Beauty and the Beast—a traditional story about the power of love. Or was it just a cautionary tale about the smart home all along?

Quote of the Day

"You don’t really have to do anything."

—Ramses Alcaide, CEO of Boston-based startup Neurable, describes the physical exertion required to explore a VR world when using his company’s new brain wave-controlled headset.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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