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As the Texas power crisis shows, our infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weather

On Valentine’s Day, a rare burst of Arctic air spread across the central US and into Texas, dropping temperatures there into the single digits and nearly causing the state’s power grid to collapse. A state known for its abundant energy resources saw widespread failures of natural-gas and electricity systems that left more than four million Texans without...

How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you

Every day, your life leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs that tech giants use to track you. You send an email, order some food, stream a show. They get back valuable packets of data to build up their understanding of your preferences. That data is fed into machine-learning algorithms to target you with ads and recommendations. Google cashes your data...

Why reopening US schools is so complicated

Across the country, schools are wrestling with the difficult choice of whether to reopen, and how to do it with reduced risk. In Kalamazoo, Michigan—not far from one the main sites where Pfizer is frantically manufacturing vaccines—they plan to stay virtual through the end of the school year. In Iowa, a state without a mask mandate, kids can now go...

I asked an AI to tell me how beautiful I am

I first came across Qoves Studio through its popular YouTube channel, which offers polished videos like “Does the hairstyle make a pretty face?,” “What makes Timothée Chalamet attractive?,” and “How jaw alignment influences social perceptions” to millions of viewers. Qoves started as a studio that would airbrush images for modeling agencies;...

Starship has finally stuck the landing

On March 3, SpaceX’s Starship pulled off a successful high-altitude flight—its third in a row. Unlike in the first two missions, the spacecraft stuck the landing. Then, as in the last two, the spacecraft blew up. What happened: At around 5:14 p.m. US Central Time, the 10th Starship prototype (SN10) was launched from SpaceX’s test facility...

“We’ll never have true AI without first understanding the brain”

The search for AI has always been about trying to build machines that think—at least in some sense. But the question of how alike artificial and biological intelligence should be has divided opinion for decades. Early efforts to build AI involved decision-making processes and information storage systems that were loosely inspired by the way humans seemed...

Rocket Lab could be SpaceX’s biggest rival

In the private space industry, it can seem that there’s SpaceX and then there’s everyone else. Only Blue Origin, backed by its own billionaire founder in the person of Jeff Bezos, seems able to command the same degree of attention. And Blue Origin hasn’t even gone beyond suborbital space yet.  Rocket Lab might soon have something to say about...

Data-driven humanitarianism

It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but its people are among the most vulnerable. Afghanistan’s snowy mountains and fertile foothills give way to arid plateaus, offering a contrast often described as stark and gorgeous. The nexus of ancient East-West trade routes, this landlocked country hosts many languages, artisan traditions, and centuries...

Should the US start prioritizing first vaccine doses to beat the variants?

The vaccine rollout in the United States has been sluggish, hampered by manufacturing delays, logistical challenges, and freak snowstorms. Demand far outstrips supply.  Meanwhile, the more transmissible variant circulating widely in the UK is gaining a foothold in the US. Modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests...

Recovering from the SolarWinds hack could take 18 months

Fully recovering from the SolarWinds hack will take the US government from a year to as long as 18 months, according to the head of the agency that is leading Washington’s recovery. The hacking campaign against American government agencies and major companies was first discovered in November 2020. At least nine federal agencies were targeted,...

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