The Download: a promising new fuel, and why our phones struggle with wildfires

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

This unlikely fuel could power cleaner trucks and ships

Transportation is a huge piece of the climate puzzle, accounting for over 15% of worldwide global greenhouse gas emissions. And while we’re making steady progress, there are parts of the puzzle that are harder to solve, like vehicles that need to cover long distances or run for long durations without stopping to charge.

New York–based startup Amogy thinks the key to solving this problem lies in harnessing ammonia—one of the world’s most widely shipped chemicals—to power electric tractors, trucks, and even ships. 

Casey Crownhart, our climate reporter, visited its headquarters to hear more about the team’s big ideas. Read the full story.

This story is from The Spark, Casey’s weekly climate and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

Learn how technology is changing the world of work 

Are you interested in exploring the emerging technologies like AI reshaping the world of business today? Attend EmTech Next, our three-day online conference from June 13-15. Speakers from leading organizations such as Google, NASA, Johnson & Johnson, NVIDIA, and the USPS will sit down with MIT Technology Review’s editorial team to discuss innovations and impact. Get your ticket today!

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Our phones are failing to capture the reality of wildfires
Their sophisticated color correction algorithms mean it’s harder to take accurate photos. (Vice)
It’s been a terrifying week for New Yorkers. (New Yorker $)
But the situation is slowly improving. (NYT $)
+ These apps let you check the air quality where you live. (WSJ $)

DeSantis’s campaign shared deepfake images of Trump and Fauci
The line between reality and fiction is getting harder to discern. (NPR)

 3 The dam collapse in Ukraine is an ecological disaster
Worst of all, some of the damage it’s caused may be permanent. (Wired $)
Satellite images lay bare the scale of the destruction. (NBC)

4 We need more data on AI’s carbon footprint
We could pay a high environmental price for the technology’s rapid growth. (The Guardian)
Why we need to do a better job of measuring AI’s carbon footprint. (MIT Technology Review)
Labor unions have a new enemy: AI. (WP $)
A detector can spot AI-written academic text. (The Register)

5 Louisiana will require parental consent for kids’ online accounts
But it’s hard to see how this’ll be backed up with action. (NYT $)
Why child safety bills are popping up all over the US. (MIT Technology Review)

6 What Meta’s planning next
The same as all its competitors, it seems: AI everywhere. (NYT $)
Here’s what Zuckerberg had to say about Apple’s new headset. (The Verge)

7 The streaming business model is broken
We’re living in a time of ‘peak TV’, yet no one seems to be able to make the numbers add up. (Vulture)

8 How online advertisers label you
The categories people are placed in are really based on guesswork, but occasionally it can be spookily accurate. (The Markup)

9A tiny ancient hominin may have been cleverer than we thought
We might need to rethink our existing narratives around human evolution. (The Economist $)

10 Please, do not use ‘double click’ as a verb 
I beg of you. (FT $)

Quote of the day

“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run.”

—A top Meta exec tells employees why the company is planning to launch a Twitter clone, The Verge reports.

The big story

The Atlantic’s vital currents could collapse. Scientists are racing to understand the dangers.

F.G. Walton Smith at sea


December 2021

Scientists are searching for clues about one of the most important forces in the planet’s climate system: a network of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). They want to better understand how global warming is changing it, and how much more it could shift, or even collapse.

The problem is the Atlantic circulation seems to be weakening, transporting less water and heat. Because of climate change, melting ice sheets are pouring fresh water into the ocean at the higher latitudes, and the surface waters are retaining more of their heat. Warmer and fresher waters are less dense and thus not as prone to sink, which may be undermining one of the currents’ core driving forces. Read the full story.

—James Temple

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ No one is certain why the Dana octopus squid has the world’s biggest light-producing organs.
+ How to become a really, really good listener? Drop the cliches.
Weird name owners of the world, unite!
+ Some of the tat you come across on Chinese shopping site Temu is… seriously out there.
+ What do sommeliers drink when they’re not working? Costco wine, apparently. 🍷

Main Menu