The Download: Identify Rioters in Brazil and Aim for the Moon
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
Brazilians take to Instagram to identify far-right rioters
Hours after far-right insurgents ransacked government buildings in the Brazilian capital on Sunday, January 8, a new account has appeared on Instagram.
Called Contragolpe Brasil, it soon began posting photos of suspected participants in the riots, reaching over a million followers in just 24 hours. The idea was to collect information that could identify “people who attack democracy in Brazil,” which would make it easier for authorities to find and punish those who escaped arrest that day.
Shortly after the account started posting, comments started pouring in, including people’s full names, the cities and states they live in, and their Instagram handles. But trying to identify online criminals can be risky, especially if people get it wrong. Read the full story.
NASA’s return to the moon is off to a good start
Five decades after man first set foot on the moon, NASA has a plan to send astronauts back. Project Artemis aims to visit a new area of the moon and collect samples, this time with new faces behind the sun visors, including the first woman and the first person of color.
Whether this plan will succeed – and whether another moon landing will inspire a new “Artemis generation” in space exploration – is a matter of debate.
Although its first mission thundered into space in November, if something goes wrong, or if the mighty Space Launch System rocket that carried it is deemed too expensive or unsustainable, there’s a chance the entire program lunar fails – or at least be judged in the same way. Read the full story.
Rebecca’s article is from the latest edition of our print magazine, dedicated to the latest cutting-edge technological innovations. Don’t miss future issues – sign up for a subscription.
TR10: ancient DNA analysis
Scientists have long searched for better tools to study the teeth and bones of ancient humans. In the past, they had to sift through countless ancient remains to find a sample well enough preserved to analyze.
Today, cheaper techniques and new methods that make damaged DNA readable for commercial sequencers are fueling a boom in ancient DNA analysis and discovering extinct species along the way.
Ancient DNA Analysis is just one of our 10 game-changing technologies, which we feature one by one in The Download every day. You can check out the rest of the list for yourself and vote in our poll to help us decide what should make our final 11th tech.
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.1 China braces for a surge in covid cases
People will mingle in large groups to celebrate the Lunar New Year. (The Guardian)
+ The country has reported nearly 60,000 virus-related deaths. (NYT$)
+ Paxlovid cyber scams in China are everywhere. (MIT Technology Review)
2 Open source intelligence in Ukraine is a double-edged sword
It can both help and hinder war efforts. (Economist $)
+ How Ukrainian tech workers work in the context of war. (The edge)
3 Twitter seems to be abandoning third-party clients
External developers are furious that they weren’t informed. (Information $)
+ Fired workers cannot unite in a class action lawsuit, a judge has ruled. (Reuters)
+ Who would make a better CEO than Elon Musk? (The edge)
+ The New York office of Twitter is invaded by cockroaches. (Initiate $)
4 Disgruntled investors are suing Virgin Galactic
They claim that the flaws in his planes were not properly disclosed. (The Guardian)
5 Important Issues in Monitoring Hate Crimes in India
Religious violence is on the rise, and a data project that monitors it is under threat. (WP$)
+ Saudi prosecutors want to execute an academic for his use of social media. (The Guardian)
6 The US government’s big bet on chips is risky
It is an extremely expensive and ambitious undertaking. (WSJ$)
+ Chinese chips will continue to power your daily life. (MIT Technology Review)
7 England cracks down on single-use plastics
Say goodbye to disposable plastic plates and cutlery. (Engadget)
+ How chemists are tackling the problem of plastics. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Students Perplexed By Auburn University’s TikTok Ban
Mainly because it has an incredibly simple workaround. (NYT$)
9 How El Salvador’s Biggest Gig Saving App Crashed And Burned
Hugo was so successful that he even kept Uber at bay, until it was no longer the case. (Rest of the world)
10 Not All AI-Generated Art Is Awesome
In fact, much of it is pretty much rubbish. (Atlantic $)
+ Artists are leading a class action lawsuit against AI art companies. (Kotaku)
+ Generative AI changes everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone? (MIT Technology Review)
quote of the day
“I would recommend not go fast and break things.
—Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, warns against experimenting too freely with AI in an interview with Time.
The big story
China’s path to modernization has, for centuries, passed through my hometown
For generations, politicians and intellectuals have searched for ways to build a strong China. Some tools and ideas imported from the West. Others left for a better education, but the homeland always beckoned.
Yangyang Cheng, a particle physicist at Yale Law School, is a product of their complex heritage. She grew up in Hefei, then a humble mid-sized city in east-central China, which is now a burgeoning metropolis with new research centers, manufacturing plants and tech startups. For two of the city’s proudest sons, born a century apart, a strong homeland armed with science and technology was a lifelong aspiration. Cheng grew up with their stories. They teach him about the forces that propelled the rise of China and how lives can be compressed by geopolitical pressures. Read the full story.
We can still have beautiful things
A place of comfort, pleasure and distraction in these strange times. (Have ideas? Send me a message ortweet them to me.)
+ What can we learn about TV characters from the books they read?
+ Someone spent three months recreating Toto’s Africa in Minecraft and I’m in love (thanks Charlotte!)
+ Oh, to be a starfish whisperer.
+ Why are we on an eternal quest to invent even more labor jargon?
+ Don’t call it a comeback, redheads never went out of style.