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CRISPR’s Seedless Tomato, Taming Trolls, and the Future Mall—The Download, April 12, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Beware of the Trolls
Our editor in chief, Jason Pontin, has a troll. Not a totally toxic troll: @zdzisiekm, as he likes to be called, plays by the rules, has good manners, and is well educated. But he really, really dislikes the way that MIT Technology Review covers climate change and clean energy. Now, Pontin reflects on four years of interactions with @zdzisiekm and others like him, exploring how his conversations have shaped the way that our website approaches the thorny issue of online commenting—and tamed at least one troll, if only a little.

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A Seabed Mining Quandary
Striking rare metal at sea highlights a pressing resource dilemma. The BBC reports that off the coast of the Canary Islands and 1,000 meters below the sea’s surface lies an undersea mountain so rich in the metal tellurium that it accounts for one-twelfth of the world's supply. The metal is used in some of the world’s most efficient solar cells and is hard to get hold of, but recent studies suggest that deep-sea mining could have a profound impact on the marine environment. The open question is: do the clean energy benefits outweigh the ecological damage?

The CRISPR Tomato That Has No Seeds
A newly engineered tomato could help increase food security. The CRISPR gene-editing tool shows great promise in helping us engineer better food. And now researchers from Tokushima University in Japan have used it to create seedless tomatoes, by introducing a genetic modification to increase production of a hormone that causes fruits to develop before seeds have formed. As New Scientist notes, the resulting plants don’t require pollination, which means that they could be grown in areas where insect life fails to help nature’s reproduction.

Ten Fascinating Things

Rarely do you get more for less. But in 2016 the world added greater quantities of renewable energy capacity than ever, while decreasing spending on it.

Uber’s head of communications is leaving the company—"amicably," according to its CEO, though the two did clash in the past. Either way, she’s earned a rest.

Google’s been experimenting with trying to understand your crappy drawings for a while, but its new AutoDraw AI effortlessly turns your doodles into perfect pictures.

Toyota’s new leg brace is designed to help partially paralyzed people walk again.

For all its incredible abilities, artificial intelligence can still be tricked if it’s presented with ambiguous data. Here’s why that could be a big problem.

The golden age of air travel is by this point a distant memory—and technology may be partly to blame.

Targeted holographic displays, clothes manufactured on demand, and not a checkout in sight. The New York Times imagines the retail stores of the near future.

Whatever happened to Google’s vision of cataloging the world’s books online? Backchannel decided to find out.

A three-atom thick microchip with over 100 transistors is said to be the most complex such device ever made from 2-D materials.

Don't have enough friends to practice your volleyball shots? Try this robot.

Quote of the Day

"When I removed the ceiling tiles I found two PCs hidden in the ceiling on two pieces of plywood."

— A report describes how two prisoners at Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio managed to hide Internet-connected computers, which were used to view pornography and drug recipes.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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