The Download: Sensory cities and carbon trapping-crops

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This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekly newsletter offering a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

Why sounds and smells are as vital to cities as sightseeing

When David Howes thinks of his hometown of Montreal, he thinks of the harmonious tones of the carillon bells and the smell of bagels cooking over the wood fire. But when he stopped at his local tourist office to ask where he recommended visitors to go and smell, taste and hear the city, he only received blank glances.

“They only know things to see, not about the city’s other sensory attractions, their sound marks and smells,” says Howes, director of the Concordia University’s Center for Sensory Studies, a center for the growing field that often known as “sensory urbanism.”

Around the world, researchers like Howes are investigating how non-visual information defines a city’s character and affects its habitability. Using methods ranging from low-tech sound walks and odor maps to scraping data, wearables, and virtual reality, they’re fighting what they see as a limiting visual bias in urban planning. Read the whole story.

EnJennifer Hattam

These scientists want to capture more carbon with CRISPR crops

The news: Plants are the original carbon capture plants, and a new research program aims to make them more effective by editing genes. 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 in agricultural crops to increase its ability to store carbon.

How it works: One of the main goals is to adjust photosynthesis so that plants can grow faster. By altering the enzymes involved, researchers could eliminate energy-depleting side effects, including some that release carbon dioxide. Researchers also hope they can find ways to store more carbon in the soil, for example, by encouraging larger, deeper root systems.

Larger image: It will be a major challenge to make these techniques work, but research is part of a growing effort by scientists to find ways to inhale the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere to slow down climate change. Read the whole story.

“Casey Crownhart.”

Mandatory readings

I combed the Internet to find the funniest / most important / scary and fascinating stories about technology.

1 The cryptocurrency market is in free fall
With colossal amounts of money at stake, the volatility of cryptography now seems less exciting and more troubling. (New York Magician)
+ The price of Bitcoin has fallen to its lowest level in 18 months. (Bloomberg $)
+ Even the most optimistic investors are scared. (motherboard)
+ Cryptography companies are also making major layoffs. (The edge)
+ El Salvador has lost about half of its investment in Bitcoin. (Mashable)
+ It is good to opt for the cryptographic revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Big Tech has agreed to disclose further information about the misinformation
Country by country, something technology companies have resisted before. (FT $)
+ The EU threatens to fine them for failing to deal with deepfakes. (Reuters)

3 What the study of stroke teaches us about addiction ⁇
A particular neural network in the brain could be the key to quitting smoking. (NYT $)

4 The long struggle to get illegal and unauthorized videos offline
Survivors have struggled to extract images from Pornhub. (New Yorker $)
+ Deepfake porn is ruining women’s lives. (MIT Technology Review)

5 SpaceX has obtained approval to launch its Starship rocket from Texas ⁇
But it must comply with strict measures to protect the environment. (WP $)
+ This newborn star has a brother. (Physics)
+ Our Milky Way maps have just received a major update. (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 bathers about deadly currents
Static warning signals do not work. Systems that warn of changing conditions could. (Hakai Magazine)
+ There is a global movement dedicated to raising awareness about tear currents. (The Guardian)

8 People are increasingly afraid of being canceled
Psychiatrists are wondering if this is a new manifestation of OCD focused on the fear of social ruin. (Blackboard)

9 Electric car designs are becoming more and more creative
While some are becoming more luxurious, others only have seats for two passengers. (The Guardian)
+ This startup wants to pack more energy into the batteries of electric vehicles. (MIT Technology Review)

10 What Does It Mean to Drink Alcohol? ⁇
Beverage brands are building virtual bars, but there’s not a drop to drink. (WSJ $)

Appointment of the day

“Older people go online for a couple of things. For the younger generation, the Internet is “the thing.”

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

The big story

Lunik: As part of the CIA’s daring plot to steal a Soviet satellite

January 2021

In late October 1959, a Mexican spy named Eduardo Diaz Silveti entered the United States embassy in Mexico City. Silveti, 30, tall and well-spoken with straight hair, had learned to spy on Mexico’s secret police. During the Cold War, the capital had been so invaded by communist spies that the CIA had enlisted the help of Mexican secret services in its fight against the Soviet Union.

Winston Scott, 49, was the first secretary of the U.S. embassy. This was his cover; he was also the most revered CIA spy master in Latin America. Secrets were a commercial value for the silver-haired Alabaman: he had arrived in Mexico City in 1956 and made the CIA station 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 “tremendously necessary for the United States.” If they were wrong, Scott warned that “World War III could begin.” They were plotting to steal a Soviet satellite for a few hours so that American experts could study it. Read the whole story.

“Jeff Maysh.”

We can still have beautiful things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird moments. (Do you have any ideas? Send me a line ortweet me.)

+ This rumor about 40 years of ET makes you think.
+ I love or hate, the texture of inflatable food is so much fun (thanks Charlotte!)
+ An excellent joke for everyone feline feeders over there.
+ An exciting story of how beekeeping is helping psychiatric patients in Greece.
+ That photo of the landscape of Mars made by Perseverance it is magnificent.

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