The Download

What's up in emerging technology

August 11, 2017 Hotel rooms

Hackers Use NSA Tools to Spy on Hotel Guest Wi-Fi and Steal Their Details

Source: Image credit:
  • Joseph Gonzalez | Unsplash
Yesterday woman in a kitchen, man in an office

AI Learns Sexism Just by Studying Photographs

“Spoon” is to “woman” as “tennis racket” is to “man.” At least, that’s according to AI algorithms trained on two of the more common collections of thousands of images that are usually used by researchers to help machines understand the real world.

Wired… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech
Inside a lab animal's VR rig

Now There’s a VR Rig for Lab Animals

How do you study the way zebrafish translate visual cues into movement, or whether mice are afraid of heights? For researchers at the Vienna Biocenter in Austria, the answer seemed obvious: build a virtual-reality rig for lab animals. So that’s exactly… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • FreemoVR/Straw Lab
Volkswagen's electric I.D. Buzz

Volkswagen’s Iconic Microbus Is Back—and This Time, It’s Autonomous and Electric

The original Volkswagen microbus may have appealed to all of our inner hippies, but the green credentials of the engine that propelled it would surely now bring a tear to their eyes. Good news, then: Volkswagen has announced that it’s bringing the old… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Volkswagen
An MQ-9 Reaper drone

Tech Titans Call to Stamp Out Killer Robots

An open letter published today from 116 technologists, including DeepMind founder Mustafa Suleyman and (predictably) Elon Musk, calls on the United Nations to ban the development and use of autonomous weapons. The note warns that killer robots "threaten… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • U.S. Department of Defense | Flickr
August 18, 2017

This Mobile Robotic Arm Totally Won’t Haunt Your Dreams

One of the more reassuring things about industrial robotic arms is that they tend to stay put. Well, not this one. Clearpath Robotics, a company that specializes in building mobile automatons, has strapped a Kuka robot arm to its omndirectional Ridgeback… Read more

Source: Video credit:
  • Clearpath Robotics
Mining for Bitcoin

A Day in the Life of a Worker at One of the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Mines

If you live in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, employment options are limited. You could work in a coal mine, but the industry is in decline. You could take a job at a chemical plant, but it won’t do much for your health.

Or you could work in one of the world’s… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Mr. Tech
Donald Trump

Trump’s Science Wish List Shuns Advanced Manufacturing, the Climate—and His Own Cuts

The White House has published a memo telling federal agencies how they should focus their scientific efforts. Here's a rundown of his five priorities and the kinds of associated research that agencies should be funding, in the same order as they're listed… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • U.S. Army
Wind turbines

The Expense of Renewables Is Outweighed by the Health-Care Savings They Provide

So says new research by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, who have studied the economic impact of clean-energy installations in the U.S. Their analysis of wind and solar systems between 2007 and 2015, published in Nature Energy, suggests… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Witch Kiki | Unsplash
August 17, 2017

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