The Download: mRNA Vaccines and the Battery Breakout Year
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
What’s next for mRNA vaccines
At the start of the covid pandemic, we were warned that wearing face coverings, disinfecting everything we touched and keeping ourselves apart from others were among the only ways to protect ourselves from the life-threatening disease.
Fortunately, a more effective form of protection was in the works. Scientists were developing new vaccines at high speed: Sequencing the virus that causes covid in January and starting clinical trials of vaccines using messenger RNA in March. Vaccination efforts took off around the world at the end of 2020.
As it stands, more than 670 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to the United States. But while the first approved mRNA vaccines are for covid, similar vaccines are being studied for a range of other infectious diseases, including malaria, HIV, tuberculosis and Zika, and they may even help. to treat cancer. Read the full story.
Why 2023 is a pivotal year for batteries
If you stop to think about it long enough, the batteries start ringing a bit like magic. Seriously, tiny chemical factories that we carry around to store energy and release it when we need it, over and over again? Wild.
But magic aside, batteries are set to play a starring role in climate action, both in powering electric vehicles and in storing electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels. There are significant challenges to making them cheaper and more efficient, but 2023 could be the year when some radically different approaches to batteries could see progress. Read the full story.
Casey’s story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter that looks at breakthroughs in battery, climate and energy technology. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Chinese researchers claim to have broken the encryption
If they’re right, this is an important turning point in the history of quantum computers. (FT$)
+ The tricky legality of police hacking encryption to catch criminals. (Wired $)
+ What is a quantum resistant algorithm? (MIT Technology Review)
2 We no longer monitor covid like we used to
But the virus still kills thousands of people every week. (Economist $)
+ The new XBB.1.5 subvariant is spreading rapidly in the United States. (CNN)
+ Chinese government’s covid death toll questioned. (BBC)
3 Coinbase agreed to pay US regulators $50 million
The crypto exchange allegedly violated anti-money laundering laws. (The edge)
4 Amazon lays off 18,000 workers
This is the highest number of people laid off by a technology company in recent months. (WSJ$)
+ Staff will have to wait two weeks to find out. (Initiate $)
+ Salesforce is also cutting 10% of its workforce. (Reuters)
5 Twitter verification is still broken
Paying $8 for a blue check doesn’t verify anyone’s identity after all. (WP$)
6 Apple launched a series of AI-narrated audiobooks
Triggering an instant reaction from writers and voice actors. (The Guardian)
+ The NYC Department of Education has banned access to ChatGPT. (Motherboard)
+ However, it could prove useful in spotting the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ What’s next for AI. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Electric vehicles are unnecessarily powerful
Automakers are missing their chance to make the next generation of cars safer. (Atlantic $)
+ How about a flying taxi instead? (Axios)
8 Consumer products are of lower quality these days
You can thank rising manufacturing costs and the era of fast fashion. (voice)
9 They don’t make MP3 blogs like they used to
TikTok is a poor substitute for the void they left. (New Yorkers $)
10 Shitposting Has Finally Reached LinkedIn
That said, it’s still more authentic than some of the craziest posts on the platform. (Vice)
quote of the day
“Put me there, please. It looks like a nice environment to live in.
—Danielle Venne, musician and electric vehicle sound designer, reflects on how city life will become much quieter once electric vehicles become the predominant mode of transport for The Guardian.
The big story
The Great Flea Crisis threatens the promise of Moore’s Law
A year into the covid-19 pandemic, Apple showed off a custom-designed M1 chip that packed 16 billion transistors onto a microprocessor the size of a large postage stamp at an event. It was a triumph for Moore’s Law, the observation turned prophecy that chipmakers can double the number of transistors on a chip every few years.
But even as Apple celebrated the M1, the world faced an economically devastating shortage of microchips, especially the relatively inexpensive ones that make many of today’s technologies possible.
After decades of worrying about how we’re going to carve features as small as a few nanometers out of silicon wafers, the spirit of Moore’s Law – the expectation that powerful, cheap chips will be readily available – is threatened by something far more mundane: inflexible supply Chains. 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.)
+ Hey, keep your hands off the artwork!
+ Are we finally tired of gallery walls?
+ Here’s how trans singers adapt to their changing voices.
+ Congratulations to Denmark, which did not host a single bank robbery last year.
+ Generation Y fell in love with the Cheesecake Factory because of its crazy atmosphere.
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