The Download

What's up in emerging technology

Yesterday DNA data storage device

Microsoft just booted up the first “DNA drive” for storing data


Microsoft has helped build the first device that automatically encodes digital information into DNA and back to bits again.

DNA storage: Microsoft has been working toward a photocopier-size device that would replace data centers by storing files, movies,… Read more

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  • Microsoft

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A swarm of robots with cogs around their rims

These cell-inspired robots can swarm together to move toward the light

The robots are inspired by the way cells travel through the bloodstream to wounds to assist with healing. 

How it works: The 25-strong cluster comprises disc-shaped robots, each equipped with magnets around the edges and cogs so they can “stick” to their… Read more

Image credit:
  • Felice Frankel

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...

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Yesterday Matt Hancock

The UK’s health minister accidentally revealed everything wrong with polygenic risk scores

The UK has been pioneering big databases that permit a new type of disease prediction called a polygenic score—basically, a guesstimate from your genome that you’ll develop a particular disease.

But an effort by the UK’s own health minister to promote… Read more

Image credit:
  • Wikimedia Commons
An image from a European Space Agency satellite showing the extent of Cyclone Idai's damage

Satellites and drones are showing the devastating extent of Cyclone Idai’s damage

Cyclone Idai swept through southeast Africa a few days ago, killing thousands and leaving entire towns and farmlands under water. The aftermath is only just starting to become clear, with the help of drones and satellite imagery.

Mapping: Satellites are… Read more

Image credit:
  • European Space Agency
March 20, 2019 EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager

Google has just been hit with a $1.7 billion fine by the European Union

It’s being punished over restrictive contracts forced on customers using its AdSense business.

Specifically: Google is accused of abusing its dominant position by forcing customers to advertise solely through AdSense, the product that places relevant… Read more

Image credit:
  • Johannes Jansson
Facebook sign

Facebook is going to stop letting advertisers target by race, gender, or age

The firm spent $5 million yesterday settling three cases that claimed Facebook’s practices allowed employers to illegally exclude women from being served ads for jobs.

What it means: Facebook says it will make a few changes to its advertising platform… Read more

Image credit:
  • AP

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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March 20, 2019 The Stadia gaming contoller

Google’s Stadia is a video game-streaming platform that is taking aim at consoles

Is this the death of the traditional console? The new service will let people stream video games that usually have had to be bought as a download or CD.

The details: Google says Stadia will work on any device, be it a TV, laptop, or smartphone. It also… Read more

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  • Google
March 19, 2019 Jack the Ripper

Did DNA finger Jack the Ripper? Probably not, but old objects are ready to reveal their secrets

Although the claim by a UK researcher that he identified Jack the Ripper from a semen stain on an 130-year-old shawl is drawing derision, new forms of DNA analysis mean old letters, pipes, and locks of hair may be ready to shed their secrets. 

London… Read more

Image credit:
  • Wikimedia