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The Download

The Download: our eclipse guide, and what you need to know about bird flu

Plus: influencers are being deepfaked without their knowledge

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.

How to safely watch and photograph the total solar eclipse

On April 8, the moon will pass directly between Earth and the sun, creating a total solar eclipse across much of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Although total solar eclipses occur somewhere in the world every 18 months or so, this one is unusual because tens of millions of people in North America will likely witness it, from Mazatlán in Mexico to Newfoundland in Canada.

Here’s how to safely watch—and photograph—the natural phenomenon, even if you don’t have a fancy camera to hand. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

What you need to know about new bird flu infections

A dairy worker in Texas tested positive for avian influenza this week. But this new human case of bird flu—the second ever reported in the United States—isn’t cause for panic. The individual’s illness was mild, and they are already recovering. There’s still no evidence that the virus is spreading person to person.

However, the rash of recent infections among livestock is unsettling. Last month, goats in Minnesota tested positive. And avian influenza has now been confirmed in dairy cows in Texas, Michigan, Kansas, New Mexico, and Idaho. In some of those cases, the virus appears to have spread between cows. 

Here’s what we know about this new outbreak and what people are doing to prepare for further spread. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly health and biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

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

1 Influencers are being deepfaked without their consent
The eerie AI clones appear in disinformation campaigns and product promotion videos. (FT $)
+ Chinese groups are pushing fake AI images to inflame election debate. (Bloomberg $)
+ Deepfakes of Chinese influencers are livestreaming 24/7. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Big Tech wants to work out how AI will affect jobs
The world’s biggest firms are working together to study the AI boom’s impact on the sector’s workers. (WP $)
+ Even Elon Musk is stunned at the state of the war for AI talent. (WSJ $)
+ How ChatGPT will revolutionize the economy. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Apple has laid off more than 600 workers
Just weeks after deciding to finally ax its electric car project. (WSJ $)

4 YouTube’s rules prohibit using its videos to train OpenAI’s Sora model
…but OpenAI says it doesn’t know whether it did or not. (Bloomberg $)
+ How three filmmakers created Sora’s latest stunning videos. (MIT Technology Review)

5 One man took down North Korea’s internet single handedly
Now he’s urging the US to flex its hacking muscles. (Wired $)

6 New York City’s chatbot is encouraging users to break the law
It’s also offering up inaccurate, unreliable advice. (Reuters)
+ Why Big Tech’s bet on AI assistants is so risky. (MIT Technology Review

7 TikTok is going on a massive marketing blitz to fight a potential ban
With a little help from some nuns. (NYT $)

8 China is betting big on EV battery swapping
No charger? No problem. (Rest of World)
+ How 5-minute battery swaps could get more EVs on the road. (MIT Technology Review

9 The Sims filled millennials’ heads with dreams of home ownership
For some of us, virtual houses are the closest we’re ever going to get. (Slate $)

10 Gen Z’s favorite food? Perpetual stew
How a hearty meal two months in the making became a viral sensation. (The Economist $)

Quote of the day

“A peaceful and quiet Sunday is not undermined by the sale of a bottle of milk and a box of cream.”

—German politician Stefan Naas tells the Financial Times why he’s opposed to a recent legal decision that decrees automated “robot shops” should be forced to close on Sundays too.

The big story

We’ve never understood how hunger works. That might be about to change.

January 2024

When you’re starving, hunger is like a demon. It awakens the most ancient and primitive parts of the brain, then commandeers other neural machinery to do its bidding until it gets what it wants. 

Although scientists have had some success in stimulating hunger in mice, we still don’t really understand how the impulse to eat works. Now, some experts are following known parts of the neural hunger circuits into uncharted parts of the brain to try and find out.

Their work could shed new light on the factors that have caused the number of overweight adults worldwide to skyrocket in recent years. And it could also help solve the mysteries around how and why a new class of weight-loss drugs seems to work so well. Read the full story.

—Adam Piore

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ It is a truth universally acknowledged that cats do not like wearing hats.
+ I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m not sure that Titanic II is a good idea.
+ Conway Library’s photographic archive is fully online, if you fancy a browse.
+ Shaving soap: weirdly soothing.

Deep Dive

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