The Download

What's up in emerging technology


Why Do We Scratch an Itch?

The science of itching is fascinating and strange. In 2008, Atul Gawande wrote what may be the definitive work of popular science journalism on the issue. In "The Itch," he wrote about the neuroscience of itching and its many causes—including remarkable… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech
California drought

California Researchers Want a Climate Science Institute to Plug Holes Left by Trump

The new president is no fan of climate research and clean energy technology, which is prompting many people to take matters into their own hands. Chief among them is California, which has already proposed an ambitious new cap-and-trade carbon scheme that… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Kevin Cortopassi | Flickr
China’s male tech perspective

You Think Silicon Valley Has a Problem with Diversity? China’s Is Way Worse

James Damore became a poster boy for the alt-right last week when he wrote a memo suggesting that women weren’t necessarily suited to careers in tech for biological reasons. But Wall Street Journal columnist Li Yuan paints a picture of Chinese tech employment… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Chris Marchant | Flickr
Instagram hacker friendship

Making Friends with Your Hacker Can Change Your Life

When Negar Mottahedeh’s Instagram account got hijacked four months ago, something rather unusual happened. Filled with rage, she confronted her hacker in order to reclaim her photo-sharing account. And while that did (ultimately) have the desired effect,… Read more

August 16, 2017

White Supremacists Have Stumbled Into a Huge Issue in Genetic Ancestry Testing

Neo-Nazis, it turns out, dig gene tests—but they often don't like the results. Two sociologists, Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, plowed through years of posts on the white-supremacist website Stormfront in search of accounts of people taking genetic… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech
U.S. and Russian flags pixelated and blending together

Hacker Whose Tools Were Used in DNC Hack Steps Forward

A Ukrainian hacker called "Profexer" who built one of the tools used to penetrate the Democratic National Committee servers last year has turned himself in to authorities. According to a report today in the New York Times, the man, who first contacted… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech
Microsoft's AI glider

Microsoft Is Training AI Gliders to Fly Themselves

Last week in the Nevada desert, Microsoft researchers threw a glider into the air, then left it to its own devices hoping that it would fly for hours. But they’re not as foolhardy as they sound: the New York Times reports that their Styrofoam aircraft… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • John Brecher and Microsoft
Tobacco plants that produce polio vaccine

Need a Polio Vaccine? Get a Plant to Grow It for You

Researchers from the U.K.'s John Innes Center have hijacked tobacco plants to have them produce a polio vaccine. Writing in Nature Communications, the team explains that they inserted genes from the polio virus into soil bacteria that's been engineered… Read more

Image credit:
  • John Innes Center
August 15, 2017 Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandoski texting in front of a lidar image

Inside the Self-Driving Bromance of Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski

Uber and Waymo's nasty legal dispute has taken a strange turn, as the release of a series of text messages between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his star self-driving-car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, charts the blossoming of a close connection… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech

Here Come the Mind-Blowing Smartphone Sensors That Could Bring AR to the Masses

Over the course of the next year, get ready for phones to get some awesome new imaging capabilities. We're talking more than just a tweak to the camera, or stereoscopic vision. Think full-on depth sensing and mapping. 

Today, Qualcomm released a video… Read more

Source: Video credit:
  • Qualcomm