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The Download

The Download: This startup wants to kick-start a molecular electronics revival

Plus: Facebook is revealed to have paid a consultancy to conduct a smear campaign against arch rival TikTok

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

This startup wants to kick-start a molecular electronics revival

In 2000, many hoped molecular electronics (using single molecules to create circuits and components) would leapfrog silicon-based circuitry to allow computer chips to keep getting denser and more powerful.

That vision was short-lived. Five years later, flash had cornered the memory market, silicon continued to dominate chip technology, and the well-funded molecular electronics field nearly collapsed. 

Now, the San Diego-based startup Roswell Biotechnologies hopes to give molecular electronics a second life. Instead of taking aim at computing circuitry, Roswell wants to integrate single molecules into electronic biosensor circuits, an approach it hopes will soon provide a cheap and convenient way to detect viruses, pick up on environmental toxins, and evaluate the effects of pharmaceuticals in real time. Read the full story.

—Karmela Padavic-Callaghan

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Facebook financed a secretive smear campaign against TikTok
This reveals just how rattled Meta really is. (WP $)
Facebook seems to be incapable of learning from its many mistakes. (Platformer $)
There’s no 911 in the metaverse. (The Information $)

2 Apple and Meta were tricked by hackers masquerading as law enforcement
One of the perpetrators is believed to be the teenage Lapsus$ mastermind. (Bloomberg $)
+ Nvidia is still refusing to cave to pro-crypto hackers holding it ransom. (Slate $)

3 Blaming tech for mental health problems misses the bigger picture
Humans get depressed even when we don’t have phones in our hands. (Wired $)
+ Please, help me stop doomscrolling. (Wired $)
People are swapping drinking for microdosing. (Vox)

4 More than half of Americans may have never had covid
Researchers are increasingly keen to study the ‘never covid’ cohort for immunity clues. (Bloomberg $)
+ Covid.gov has launched. Better late than never? (NPR)

5 El Salvador is courting crypto “whales” for new bitcoin-backed bonds
After most big international investors shunned them. (FT $)

6 Russia’s answer to Instagram is… not great
It may look like Instagram, but Instagram it ain’t. (The Guardian)
+ Russian influencers aren’t convinced they’ll be able to make money on it, either. (Insider $)
+ Meanwhile, Instagram is still pushing reluctant creators to make Reels. (Vox)
+ …And they’re mostly ripped off from TikTok anyway. (Vox)

7 A researcher who laid the foundations for supercomputers has won the Turing Award
Dr Jack Dongarra’s code paved the way for complex algorithms. (NYT $)

8 Why is everyone acting so weird right now?
Spoiler: it’s not just because of the pandemic. (The Atlantic $)

9 What’s it’s like going down the strangest Wikipedia rabbit holes
Why did the chicken cross Yunnan Provincial Road 214? It’s time to find out. (NYT $)
How a Wikipedia joke about the name of the Pringles mascot became fact. (The Guardian)

10 Worms are taking over 🪱
And they’re surprisingly destructive. (Nat Geo)
There are hundreds of mammal species yet to be discovered. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

"I cannot shoot anything, but I can fight with a keyboard and mouse." 

—Ukrainian hacker Danylo tells CNN why he’s been going after a Russian ransomware gang.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ The way these flocks of sheep move is oddly soothing.
+ When Megan Thee Stallion meets Metallica.
+ British comic The Beano’s explanation of NFTs is…pretty accurate.
+ I respect dumbphones, even if muggers don’t.
+ A rundown of Bruce Willis’ best performances—not all of them are cops.
+ Check out the new House of the Dragon images ahead of its August 21 pilot.
+ Inevitably, Elden Ring players are turning their characters into Shrek.

Deep Dive

Computing

Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true

MIT Technology Review obtained Prince’s investor presentation for the “RedPill Phone,” which promises more than it could possibly deliver.

Corruption is sending shock waves through China’s chipmaking industry

The arrests of several top semiconductor fund executives could force the government to rethink how it invests in the sector.

Inside the software that will become the next battle front in US-China chip war

The US has moved to restrict export of EDA software. What is it, and how will the move affect China?

Hackers linked to China have been targeting human rights groups for years

In a new report shared exclusively with MIT Technology Review, researchers expose a cyber-espionage campaign on “a tight budget” that proves simple can still be effective.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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