The Download: future space food, and EV battery swapping

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.

Future space food could be made from astronaut breath

The future of space food could be as simple—and weird—as a protein shake made with astronaut breath or a burger made from fungus.

For decades, astronauts have relied mostly on pre-packaged food, or the occasional grown lettuce, during their forays off our planet. With missions beyond Earth orbit in sight, a NASA-led competition is hoping to change all that and usher in a new era of sustainable space food.

To solve the problem of feeding astronauts on long-duration missions, NASA asked companies to propose novel ways to develop sustainable foods for future missions. Around 200 rose to the challenge—creating nutritious (and outlandish) culinary creations in the process. Read the full story.

—Jonathan O’Callaghan

How 5-minute battery swaps could get more EVs on the road

Charging is the main way people keep their EV batteries full of juice while on the go. But some companies have an alternative that could be even quicker than the fastest chargers today: battery swapping.

But while proponents say battery swapping could help strengthen the case for EVs by making it faster to replenish a car’s range, some experts are skeptical—viewing battery swapping as an expensive solution that will at best serve a narrow niche within the future of electric transportation. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Read more battery swapping analysis from Casey, in the latest issue of The Spark, her weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things batteries, energy and climate. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Montana has become the first US state to ban TikTok
But it’s unlikely to survive legal challenges. (The Guardian)
+ The state has also banned Telegram and Chinese apps from government devices. (The Verge)

2 The world looks increasingly likely to breach 1.5°C global warming 
In at least one of the next five years, according to the World Meteorological Organization. (Economist $)
+ Do these heat waves mean climate change is happening faster than expected? (MIT Technology Review)

3 The US isn’t prepared for AI-induced job losses
In theory, universal basic income is at least one solution. (The Atlantic $)
+ What would an AI regulator look like, exactly, Sam Altman? (Wired $)
+ ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. We need to decide what that looks like. (MIT Technology Review)

4 A New York-based crypto miner is setting up shop in Iceland
It’s a dodge to avoid the Biden administration’s heavy crypto mining tax. (WSJ $)
+ How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Facebook’s content moderators in Nairobi are suing Meta
It’s just one of three lawsuits the company is facing over how it treats moderators. (FT $)

6 Homeland Security is using AI to analyze travelers’ social media
It raises questions over what purpose surveilling them serves. (Motherboard)

7 California’s EV push is coming for truckers
The state’s charging infrastructure can’t accommodate heavy vehicles. (Wired $)+ The U.S. only has 6,000 fast charging stations for EVs. Here’s where they all are. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Anti-aging drugs make lofty promises
Sometimes, good old fashioned exercise is just as effective. (New Scientist $)
+ How scientists want to make you young again. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Serving celebrities with legal papers is easier said than done
Lawyers for FTX investors are being thwarted at every turn. (WSJ $)

10 How TikTok is shaking up restaurant menus 🧀
Extra cheese, please! (NY Mag $)

Quote of the day

“It seems like playing the lottery.”

—Author Michelle Schusterman tells Insider about how book sales seem to increasingly be at the mercy of TikTok’s algorithm.

The big story

The quest to show that biological sex matters in the immune system

immunity concept illustration

August 2022

For years, microbiologist Sabra Klein has painstakingly made the case that sex—defined by biological attributes such as our sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive tissues—can influence immune responses.

Klein and others have shown how and why male and female immune systems respond differently to the flu virus, HIV, and certain cancer therapies, and why most women receive greater protection from vaccines but are also more likely to get severe asthma and autoimmune disorders.

Klein has helped spearhead a shift in immunology, a field that long thought sex differences didn’t matter—and she’s set her sights on pushing the field of sex differences even further. Read the full story.

—Sandeep Ravindran

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.)

+ Check out this fascinating explanation why we’re more closely related to sponges than some jellyfish-like creatures.
+ Finally—justice has been served for this ruby slippers thief.
+ This is cool: Weezer performed a short set for the striking TV writers outside Paramount Studios.
+ If only we could all look as youthful as Patrick Bateman.
+ A fun potted history of the Caesar salad.

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