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Petrifying CO2, Cancer Vaccines, and Russian Hack Retaliation—The Download, April 13, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

How to Fight Russian Hacking
We’re already embroiled in a cyber war—so how do we respond? In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, America and Europe finally acknowledged Russian attempts to interfere with Western politics using cyber attacks. But it turns out that huge data breaches and massive botnets have plagued the West’s digital infrastructure for years, and as the extent of Russia’s involvement in those attacks begins to emerge so does the size of the task ahead. We investigate how there are many ways to fight back.

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Taking Earth's Lead to Turn CO2 Into Rock
Tapping our planet's mantle could help us lock away emissions. A power plant in Iceland has already demonstrated that it’s possible to pump carbon dioxide deep underground, where it reacts with calcium, magnesium, and iron to form carbonate minerals like limestone. But a project in Oman is now exploiting the only exposed section of the Earth's mantle, where the same reactions occur naturally at the planet’s surface, to better understand the process. The long-term goal: to engineer an efficient way to lock away CO2 for thousands of years.

To AI Assistants, Any Voice Is a Commander
Call Alexa and thou shalt receive—whoever you are. Yesterday, Burger King launched an ad containing the line “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” so that the search company’s Home assistant would read out the sandwich’s Wikipedia entry all over the U.S.. It worked, though the ruse is now blocked. While it’s not the first time an AI assistant has been misfired, it does highlight a pressing concern: despite proliferating in our homes, no AI assistant is yet smart enough to identify individuals. Until they are, expect more tricks to occur.

Ten Fascinating Things

China’s growing appetite for cutting-edge AI research is on display at a huge poker tournament—and the machines are winning.

A new technique that can generate vaccines tailored to specific tumors seems to have stopped early relapses in 12 people with skin cancer

Want to add a little more feeling into VR? How about some facial electrodes to measure your expressions and inject them into the virtual world.

Jeff Bezos has a vision that he hopes will keep Amazon vital, and it includes AI, committing to ideas he dislikes, and treating every project like a startup.

A new battery made from silk could power an electronic device for a few days before it simply melts away to nothing.

Through a microscope, cells look like serene blobs. But new technologies are helping biologists understand the tiny yet complex forces inside and around them.

To save Florida’s iconic oranges from a deadly disease called citrus greening, scientists have a plan: a weaponized virus to kill harmful sugar-sucking bacteria.

With more data comes greater insight. At least, that’s what we’ve all been told to think—but we might have been living a lie.

It’s been strenuously argued that Brexit will be bad for scientific collaboration. Truth is, joining the EU actually appears to harm cross-border research.

Getting a robot to deliver pizza: how hard can it be? Turns out, plenty hard.

Quote of the Day

"This is all about local efforts to do the best they can with local money to build great, local networks ... this kind of local leadership will be echoed in federal policy. Just not for the next four years."

— Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford describes how she sees the rollout of fiber networks occurring in the near future.

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Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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