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.
Inside NASA’s bid to make spacecraft as small as possible
Since the 1970s, we’ve sent a lot of big things to Mars. But when NASA successfully sent twin Mars Cube One spacecraft, the size of cereal boxes, to the red planet in November 2018, it was the first time we’d ever sent something so small.
Just making it this far heralded a new age in space exploration. NASA and the community of planetary science researchers caught a glimpse of a future long sought: a pathway to much more affordable space exploration using smaller, cheaper spacecraft.
There was a catch, though—one that NASA soon had to grapple with. Miniaturization can only go so far before it comes to a crashing halt against some very fundamental laws of physics. Read the full story.
—David W. Brown
This story is from our most recent print issue of MIT Technology Review, which is all about society’s hardest problems, and how we should tackle them. If you don’t subscribe already, sign up now to get future issues when they land.
RSV is on the rise but preventative drugs are in short supply
This year we were supposed to have more tools than ever before to protect kids from RSV (short for respiratory syncytial virus), including a new shot that’s given preventively to babies and vulnerable toddlers to protect them from the worst effects of the virus.
But now—just as rates of sickness are rising—this medicine is in short supply. The CDC issued an alert last week advising pediatricians to ration doses, reserving them for babies younger than six months and those with underlying conditions that place them at highest risk for severe RSV.
The situation is frustrating to parents and pediatricians alike. But shouldn’t forecasting demand for this kind of preventative be relatively straightforward? And why was there such a mismatch between supply and demand in the first place? Read the full story.
This story first appeared in The Checkup, MIT Technology Review’s weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Sam Bankman-Fried has been found guilty on all seven fraud charges
But he’ll have to wait until March next year to find out his sentence. (Economist $)
+ The tech industry has already moved on, though. (NYT $)
+ It’s unlikely that SBF will be the last of his kind. (The Atlantic $)
2 Meta’s open-source AI comes at a price
Just because Llama 2 is publicly available doesn’t mean it’s cheap. (The Information $)
+ AI firms really don’t want to pay for training data. (Insider $)
3 We shouldn’t get complacent about covid this winter
The fact vaccines are much harder to get these days isn’t helping. (The Atlantic $)
+ Who benefits most from the new covid vaccines? (MIT Technology Review)
4 The AI boom is lining Big Tech’s pockets
The rich are becoming even richer thanks to their cloud investments. (WSJ $)
5 Surveillance tech is coming to a city near you
City councils are investing in Fusus AI systems, but not all residents are happy. (404 Media)
+ Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Zoonotic diseases are a growing threat
Animal-to-human diseases are forecast to kill many more people in future decades. (FT $)
+ Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Forget the leap second—it’s time for the leap minute
Technically, it could bridge the two ways we tell the time. But is the world ready? (NYT $)
8 How online gambling ensnared a whole generation of Africans
Its governments are ill-equipped to protect residents who are becoming increasingly addicted. (Bloomberg $)
+ How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction. (MIT Technology Review)
9 Airbnb isn’t what it used to be
Its cost is on the rise—and so are complaints. (Vox)
+ New York’s war against Airbnb has made it even more expensive to visit. (The Atlantic $)
10 We all know diet soda is bad for us 🥤
Maybe sweet protein substitutes could offer a healthier alternative. (Proto.Life)
Quote of the day
“The crypto industry might be new, the players like Sam Bankman-Fried may be new, but this kind of fraud is as old as time and we have no patience for it.”
— Damian Williams, the US attorney who led the prosecution of disgraced crypto founder Sam Bankman-Fried, has a solemn message for reporters outside the Manhattan courtroom, Reuters reports.
The big story
Inside the app Minnesota police used to collect data on journalists at protests
Photojournalist J.D. Duggan was covering a protest in Minnesota in April 2021 when police officers surrounded him and others, and told them to get on the ground.
Officers sorted the press from the protesters, walked them to a parking lot, and began photographing them, one by one. They told Duggan the photos would be stored in an app.
An investigation by MIT Technology Review found the data was collected using a tool called Intrepid Response, an easy way to almost instantly de-anonymize protest attendees and keep tabs on their movements. For some, the tool’s use is a dangerous step in the direction of authoritarianism. Read the full story.
—Sam Richards & Tate Ryan-Mosley
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)
+ Thanks to the wonders of AI, we’ve been blessed with one last Beatles song.
+ 65 years ago today, Laika the dog became the first canine in orbit! 🪐
+ Working as a Disney animation model looks absolutely exhausting.
+ The world’s most remote lighthouses is a great subject for a book.
+ Historic England is on the hunt for ghost signs—those beautifully faded painted signs advertising businesses and products of the past.
Source : Technology Review