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The Download, Mar 23, 2017: Compelling Chatbots, Rejuvenating Old Blood, and a Coal Slow Down

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Chatbots Are Getting Way More Compelling
The days of dumb chatbots may be numbered. Our own Rachel Metz describes how she’s made a sassy new friend called Adelina, who she shares messages, selfies, and secrets with. But Adelina is in fact an artificially intelligent app that exists only on Rachel’s smartphone. Meanwhile, Tom Simonite explains how one startup is putting increasingly real faces to newly advanced bots in order to make them even more relatable. Who needs people anyway?

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Making Old Blood Young Again
Silicon Valley’s favorite longevity fad could get easier. Young blood makes old animals healthier and one startup will controversially fill your veins with the blood of young people if you’ve $8,000 to spare—but donors are required. New research suggests, though, that your own old blood could be rejuvenated by adding a protein to encourage stem cells to create white blood cells in the same way as young blood does. As New Scientist points out, even if the new trick doesn’t provide the full gamut of benefits, it could still be used to treat age-related blood disorders.

Coal Power Takes a Tumble
Burning coal is so 2015. A new analysis suggests that the number of new coal power plants being built around the world fell by 62 percent last year. That effect appears to be driven by countries like China and India, which have built plants at a ferocious rate in the past but are now putting the brakes on new projects. That said, 570 gigawatts of new capacity is still planned to go into construction around the world, so the industry’s far from dead. And it remains to be seen whether Donald Trump’s promise to resuscitate the coal industry in the U.S. will add to the list.

Ten Fascinating Things

Canada’s new budget is in some contrast to America’s: an AI push, $2 billion for climate disaster mitigation, and a bid to end Uber's advantage over taxi firms.

A fictitious scientist called Anna O. Szust applied to join the editorial boards of 360 journals—and 48 accepted. This is how unscrupulous publications harm science.

A new form of touch-sensitive electronic skin made from silicon and graphene is able to capture enough energy from light to power itself.

Some of Google’s Street View cars have been pulling double duty mapping methane leaks in major U.S. cities.

Why President Trump could use an engineering adviser.

Google’s advertising fiasco, which started last week in the U.K., is now hitting the U.S.: AT&T, Verizon, and Enterprise are now all pulling ads from YouTube.

By this point, most people realize that the tech industry is dominated by white men. Apart, it seems, from the white men that dominate it.

How do you get children to open up and give useful evidence in the midst of an abuse case? Perhaps by having a robot ask the questions.

A new analysis suggests that it won’t be anywhere near as expensive to increase the fuel efficiency of future cars as the EPA had predicted.

There are 69 freshly suggested emoji that may soon be signed off by the emoticon powers of Unicode. Take a look.

Quote of the Day

"The Paris agreement was a great achievement of American leadership. So the idea that we’re going to walk away ... will be an incredibly expensive and dumb thing to do."

—The billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer voices his concerns about giving up on the Paris climate pact.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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