The Download, Feb 21, 2017: DIY Autonomous Cars, Quantum Computer Duel, and a Real Hover Bike

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Feb 21, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

The Rise of DIY Autonomous Cars
If a Tesla's too expensive, why not fit self-driving capabilities to your own car. Our own Tom Simonite reports that some people are starting to use off-the-shelf components and open source software to imbue their vehicles with Autopilot-like features. The mods are based on plans made available by autonomy start-up Comma.ai, which released code after its technology, intended for sale, was questioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There appears to be little stopping consumers from making such tweaks to their vehicles—other than their own limits on personal safety.

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Quantum Computers Go Head-to-Head
A quantum computer duel signals that the technology is maturing. Devices made by researchers from IBM and the University of Maryland in College Park using different approaches have been challenged to run a set of algorithms head-to-head—the former was faster, the latter more reliable. In the past, quantum computers have been pitted against regular hardware, rather than quantum rivals. As Sciencenotes, the new results are less exciting than their symbolism, as the ability to perform such a test suggests that quantum computing is coming of age.

An Audacious Climate Science Cruise
To understand the impact of global warming, get a ship stuck in ice. A team of climate scientists has a brave new plan: sail the 120 meter-long Polarstern research ship into the sea-ice of the East Siberian Sea, where it will become embedded and be slowly drawn across the Arctic, passing right over the North Pole. Along the way, researchers will perform experiments—analyzing water, ice, air, and weather—to understand more about the region's rapidly changing conditions. The voyage is scheduled for 2019.

Ten Fascinating Things 

Good news for millennials and life-loggers: after months of retailing from a handful of vending machines, you can now buy Snap’s smart glasses online.

A possible climate policy shift under the current administration could scrap Obama-era regulations but introduce a carbon tax. Should liberals embrace the idea?

The Mojave desert has become the Silicon Valley of space startups.

Optogenetics, which controls gene function with bursts of light, usually requires at least three surgeries to implement in a living creature. Not any more.

Disney Research has outlined a compelling plan for providing wireless power throughout an entire room.

With shifting immigration policies in the U.S., the makers of prison, detention, and tracking tech are bracing for a boom.

How 3-D printing is taking prosthetics to people that would otherwise go without.

In Chile, less than 10 percent of garbage gets recycled. Now, an Uber-like app links refuse collectors with waste-makers to change that

According to CNN, Donald Trump has bought up 3,643 domains to protect his various business dealings from digital slurs.

A Russian-made hover bike is real, impressive—and incredibly dangerous-looking.

Quote of the Day 

"Virtual reality is very powerful. But the amount of information is going to be so vast, we’re going to need new ways of interacting with [it].

— Garry Nolan, a molecular biologist at Stanford University, explains that the surfeit of data produced by mapping every cell in the human body will demand some impressive new visualization tricks.