The Download

What's up in emerging technology

Today A replica of "Le Grand K," the previous international standard for measuring a kilogram

The kilogram is being redefined as a fundamental constant, not just a chunk of metal

Scientists from more than 60 countries agreed to change the definition of the kilogram during a conference on Friday in Versailles, France.

The history: The kilogram was originally defined as being equivalent to the mass of a liter of water. Since 1889… Read more

Image credit:
  • LP | Olivier Corsan

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November 16, 2018 Samsung's bot in action.

An old-fashioned AI has won a Starcraft shootout

The latest results in a long-running contest of video-game-playing AIs reveal how hard it is for machines to master swarming insectoid Zergs or blitzing Protoss. They also show that even old-school approaches can still sometimes win out.

The AIIDE Starcraft… Read more

Image credit:
  • Samsung

Editor's Pick

Should a self-driving car kill the baby or the grandma? Depends on where you’re from.

In 2014 researchers at the MIT Media Lab designed an experiment called Moral Machine. The idea was to create a game-like platform that would crowdsource people’s decisions on how self-driving cars should prioritize lives in different variations of the...

Read the full story →
November 15, 2018 Image of a 3D print in progress.

We still don’t know if 3-D printers pose a health risk—but I’m taking no chances

There is so much we don't know about the potential health impacts of desktop 3-D printing, but a new study has shined a bit more light on the precautions makers—like me—should be taking.

The news: A two-year study found the printers release ultrafine… Read more

Image credit:
  • Ines Álvarez Fdez | Unsplash
a genome

A new personal genome test is free, but only if you bare all about your life

A startup company says it will give people free genome reports if they’re willing to answer detailed questions about their health, drinking habits, and more, according to Xconomy

The deal: Nebula Genomics plans to create rough-and-ready maps of people’s… Read more

Google is closing a bipedal-robot project, but the robot revolution is far from over

Google’s parent company Alphabet has decided to close down an ambitious project to develop bipedal robots, created with the acquisition of a Japanese company called Schaft in 2013. 

Robots rising: It’s the latest sign that the robot revolution will take… Read more

Video credit:
  • Schaft
cut outs of zuckerberg in front of congress

Facebook is being accused of hiring a PR firm to smear its opponents

Facebook hired a PR firm to deflect attention from its own failings, according to an investigation by The New York Times.

The background: The Cambridge Analytica data debacle, the tsunami of fake news from Russian trolls, and the use of its platform to… Read more

Image credit:
  • Joe Flood | Flickr

Editor's Pick

Photo of Ingvild Deila as Princess Leia

How acting as Carrie Fisher’s puppet made a career for Rogue One’s Princess Leia

Ingvild Deila had one of the most talked-about roles in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but she was only on screen for about 15 seconds. No one even saw her face. Yet she can now claim on her IMDB page that she was once Princess Leia.

In reality, she was...

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November 14, 2018 A man in a red polo top lying in a hospital bed behind a doctor holding up a smartphone

Google’s decision to absorb DeepMind’s health division has sparked privacy fears

Google is set to take control of its subsidiary DeepMind’s health division, raising concerns that the company will be able to access personal, identifiable health data.

Some background: Google acquired London-based artificial-intelligence startup DeepMind… Read more

Image credit:
  • DeepMind
November 13, 2018 A map depicting damage from the Woolsey Fire in southern California

To capture the extent of California’s wildfires, you need to see them from space

A team from NASA has created maps using satellite data that show the areas most damaged by the ongoing Woolsey and Camp wildfires, the deadliest in the state’s history.

The fires: There are currently 228 people missing and 42 dead, making the Camp fire… Read more

Image credit:
  • NASA