Friday, September 22, 2023

The Download: Sensory Cities and Carbon Capture Crops

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Shreya Christina
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This is today’s edition the download our weekday newsletter that gives a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Why sounds and smells are just as important to cities as the sights

When David Howes thinks of his hometown of Montreal, he thinks of the harmonious notes of carillon bells and the smell of bagels being cooked over a wood fire. But when he stopped by his local tourist office to ask where they recommend visitors to smell, taste and listen to the city, all he got was blank stares.

“They only know what there is to see, not about the city’s other sensory attractions, the sound and scent trails,” said Howes, director of Concordia University’s Center for Sensory Studies, a hub for the growing field that is often referred to as “sensory urbanism”.

Around the world, researchers such as Howes are investigating how non-visual information defines a city’s character and influences its liveability. Using methods ranging from low-tech soundwalks and scent maps to data scraping, wearables and virtual reality, they fight what they see as a limiting visual bias in urban planning. Read the full story.

—Jennifer Hattam

These scientists want to capture more carbon with CRISPR crops

The news: Plants are the original factories for capturing carbon – and a new research program aims to make them more effective through gene editing. The Innovative Genomics Institute, a research group founded by CRISPR co-inventor Jennifer Doudna, has announced a new program to use the revolutionary gene-editing tool on agricultural crops to increase their suitability for carbon storage.

How it would work: One of the main goals will be to adjust photosynthesis so that plants can grow faster. By altering the enzymes involved, researchers were able to turn off energy-guzzling side reactions, including some that release carbon dioxide. The researchers also hope to find ways to store more carbon in the soil, for example by stimulating larger, deeper root systems.

Bigger whole: Making these techniques work will be a major challenge, but the research is part of a growing effort by scientists to find ways to suck up the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere to slow climate change. Read the full story.

— Casey Crownhart

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find the funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology today.

1 The crypto market is in free fall
With colossal amounts of money at stake, crypto volatility now seems less exciting and more worrying. †New York Magazine
Bitcoin’s price has fallen to its lowest point in 18 months.Bloomberg
Even the most bullish investors are panicking.Motherboard
Crypto firms are also making major layoffs. The edge
El Salvador has lost about half of its Bitcoin investment† †mashable
It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Big Tech has agreed to disclose more about disinformation
Country to country, something tech companies have resisted before. †FT
The EU threatens to fine them for not dealing with deepfakes. Reuters

3 What Studying Strokes Teach Us About Addiction?
A certain neural network in the brain could be the key to smoking cessation. †NYT

4 The long battle to take illegal, non-consensual videos offline
Survivors struggle to get footage removed from Pornhub. †New Yorker
Deepfake porn is ruining women’s lives. (MIT Technology Review)

5 SpaceX Got Approval To Launch Its Starship Rocket From Texas
But it must meet strict measures to protect the environment. †WP
This newborn star has a
Our maps of the Milky Way just got a major upgrade.Nature

6 Indian Officials Are Big Fans Of Facial Recognition
Privacy advocates disagree with police claims that it is only used to monitor criminals. †Motherboard
Here’s how to prevent AI from recognizing your face in selfies† (MIT Technology Review)

7 We Need To Change The Way We Warn Beachgoers Of Deadly Currents
Static warning signs don’t work. Systems that warn of changing circumstances can. †Hakai Magazine
There is a worldwide movement working to raise awareness of rip currents. the guard

8 People Are Increasingly Afraid Of Getting Canceled
Psychiatrists wonder if it’s a new manifestation of OCD centered around fear of social ruin. †Slate

9 Electric car designs are getting more creative
While some are getting more luxurious, others can only accommodate two passengers. †the guard
This startup wants to put more energy into electric vehicle batteries† (MIT Technology Review)

10 What’s the point of drinking alcohol in the metavers?
Drink brands are building virtual bars, but there’s not a drop to drink. †WSJ

Quote of the day

“Older people go online for a few things. For the younger generation, the internet is ‘the things’.”

— Payton Iheme, head of public policy for dating app Bumble, explains to the New York Times how different generations use technology and what that means for potential risks.

The big story

Lunik: Inside the CIA’s daring plot to steal a Soviet satellite

January 2021

In late October 1959, a Mexican spy named Eduardo Diaz Silveti slipped into the United States Embassy in Mexico City. Thirty-year-old Silveti, tall and articulate with hair combed back, had learned espionage from Mexico’s secret police. During the Cold War, the capital was so overrun by communist spies that the CIA had enlisted the help of the Mexican secret services in their fight against the Soviet Union.

Winston Scott, 49, was the first secretary of the United States Embassy. That was his cover; he was also the most respected CIA spy master in Latin America. Secrets were a commodity for the silver-haired Alabamans: He had arrived in Mexico City in 1956 and had turned the CIA station into one of the most successful counterintelligence operations in the world.

According to the Mexican, he had called Silveti to his office to offer him a top-secret mission that was “enormously necessary for the United States.” If they were wrong, Scott warned that “World War III could begin.” They would plot to steal a Soviet satellite for a few hours so that American experts could study it. Read the full story.

—Jeff Maysh

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have an idea?Give me a callortweet them to me

+ Regurgitate this on 40 years ET makes you think.
+ Love it or hate it, the texture of resilient food is very nice (thanks Charlotte!)
+ An excellent joke for all cat foods Outside.
+ A heartwarming story about how beekeeping helps psychiatric patients in Greece
+ This photo of the landscape of Mars made by Perseverance is fantastic.

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