The Download

What's up in emerging technology

Today Inside an optics lab

The US is getting left behind as an innovator

A new ranking claims countries in Europe and Asia have nudged America off the leaderboard of the world’s 10 most innovative nations.

The findings: Every year, Bloomberg scores countries on metrics relating to innovation—R&D activity, patents, productivity,… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Penn State

Subscribe and get the bimonthly magazine and unlimited access to online articles.

Starting at $9.99/3 months

That's a lot of screen time

The average American spends 24 hours a week online

We’re using the internet far more than we used to. So says new data from USC Annenberg (PDF) about the digital lives of Americans.

Nearly always on: Since 2000, time spent online every week by an average American has risen from 9.4 hours to 23.6. Of… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Awmleer | Unsplash

Editor's Pick

We’re about to kill a massive, accidental experiment in reducing global warming

Studies have found that ships have a net cooling effect on the planet, despite belching out nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. That’s almost entirely because they also emit sulfur, which can scatter sunlight in the atmosphere and form...

Read the full story →
Surgeons working

Future surgeons could be trained by VR doctors

Shafi Ahmed is, by some measures, the world’s most-watched surgeon—and now he thinks he can use VR to make medical training more accessible.

The streaming surgeon: Last year, Ahmed used Snap’s Spectacles to walk viewers through a hernia operation. Millions… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Piron Guillaume | Unsplash
Working in the shadows

Hackers stole $172 billion from people in 2017

As many as 978 million people in 20 countries lost money to cybercrime last year, according to a new report by security firm Norton.

The individual impact: Norton says that victims lost an average of $142 to hackers in 2017, and that each victim spent… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Bruno Fontes | Flickr
Yesterday solar panels

Trump’s solar tariffs shoot US clean energy in the foot

President Donald Trump approved a plan to enact tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, committing an unforced error that promises to raise the price on one of the most promising renewable-energy sources. 

Circling the wagons: The move was precipitated… Read more

Image credit:
  • US Army
A photo of a computer chip

An artificial synapse could make brain-on-a-chip hardware a reality

Background: Neuromorphic computer chips are designed to work like the human brain. Instead of being controlled by binary, on-or-off signals like most current chips, neuromorphic chips weight their outputs, mimicking the way different neurons fire at… Read more

Image credit:
  • Johannes Plenio | Unsplash

Editor's Pick

Amazon’s cashier-less Seattle grocery store is opening to the public

In the shadow of Amazon’s offices in downtown Seattle, people enter a tiny grocery store, take whatever they want, and then walk out. And nobody runs after them screaming.

This is what it’s like to shop at Amazon Go, the online retail giant’s vision for...

Read the full story →
Yesterday computer code displayed on a screen

The ICO craze is making cybercriminals rich, too

Besides entrepreneurs and investors, hackers are also cashing in on initial coin offerings.

The news: Professional services firm Ernst & Young examined 372 ICOs and found that roughly $400 million of $3.7 billion raised so far has fallen into the hands… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook admits that the internet can be bad for democracy

The company now says social media may hurt civic discourse, but it promises to do its “moral duty” by understanding how to mitigate such problems.

What it says: Of the thousands of words published in a pair of new essays on the topic, the choicest cut… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Facebook