This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through October 29)


Neoplants Bioengineers Houseplants to Use Them as Air Purifiers
Romain Dillet | TechCrunch
“Neoplants targets specifically a group of indoor air pollutants that can’t be efficiently captured by traditional air purifiers. Most air purifiers focus on particulate matters. But it’s harder to tackle volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That’s why Neoplants focuses on two categories of VOCs—formaldehyde (HCHO), and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). These pollutants come from outdoor pollution, but also from materials that are used in construction, such as paints, coatings and chemicals.”


This Robotic Tentacle Gripper Is Gentle, Practical, and Terrifying
James Vincent | The Verge
“Hands, man, they’re a tough gig to beat. Four fingers? An opposable thumb? A design classic. But that’s never stopped scientists from trying to surpass what nature perfected. …Instead of robot hands, they use suction cups and deflatable balloons. Or, in this case, pneumatic tentacles. This means that Mr. Jelly Hands doesn’t have to have a particular smart brain to operate. Essentially, you can just throw it in the general direction of the object you want to pick up, inflate the tentacles, and it’ll grab on as best as it can.


Machine Learning Could Vastly Speed Up the Search for New Metals
Tammy Xu | MIT Technology Review
“Machine learning could help develop new types of metals with useful properties, such as resistance to extreme temperatures and rust, according to new research. This could be useful in a range of sectors—for example, metals that perform well at lower temperatures could improve spacecraft, while metals that resist corrosion could be used for boats and submarines.”


What If We Didn’t Have to Test New Drugs on Animals?
Emily Sohn | Neo.Life
“Enshrined into law, [the bipartisan FDA Modernization Act 2.0] would eliminate an 85-year-old requirement that pharmaceutical companies must test drugs on animals before starting clinical trials in people and would usher in a new era of cell-based or computer-based testing instead.”


Scientists Manipulate Dreams With Sound to Help Nightmare Sufferers
Ed Cara | Gizmodo
“Freddy Krueger has a new problem to worry about. Researchers say they might have found an improved way to fend off frightful nightmares: a dose of sound played during sleep. The method could boost the effectiveness of an existing therapeutic treatment for people with chronic nightmares.”


On Eve of First Launch, Relativity Space Seeks to Join SpaceX as ‘Disruptor’
Eric Berger | Ars Berger
i‘Almost from the beginning of the company I wanted to build a Falcon 9 competitor, because I really think that’s needed in the market,’ said Tim Ellis, co-founder and chief executive of Relativity Space, in an interview with Ars. The impending test flight of Terran 1 may have a lighthearted name—Good Luck, Have Fun—but it has a serious purpose. Relativity needs to show customers that its novel approach to 3D-printed rockets is viable.”


Andreessen Horowitz Went All In on Crypto at the Worst Possible Time
Berber Jin | The Wall Street Journal
“As cryptocurrency prices soared last year, no investor bet more on the sector than Andreessen Horowitz. …Prices for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have plunged this year in the midst of a broad market downturn, erasing billions of dollars in paper gains for Andreessen’s funds. Consumer demand has vanished for some of the firm’s most-prized crypto startups, while others are facing increased scrutiny from regulators.”


Ford CEO Farley Explains the Business Factors Behind Argo AI’s Shuttering
A. Tarantola | TechCrunch
i‘It’s estimated that more than a hundred billion has been invested in the promise of level four autonomy,’ [Farley] said during the [company’s Q3 earnings call], ‘And yet no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.’ In short, Ford is refocusing its investments away from the longer-term goal of Level 4 autonomy (that’s a vehicle capable of navigating without human intervention though manual control is still an option) for the more immediate short term gains in faster L2+ and L3 autonomy.”


Brightest-Ever Space Explosion Reveals Possible Hints of Dark Matter
Jonathan O’Callaghan | Quanta
“A recent gamma-ray burst known as the BOAT—’brightest of all time’—appears to have produced a high-energy particle that shouldn’t exist. …So how did it get here? One possibility is that, following the gamma-ray burst, a high-energy photon was converted into an axion-like particle. Axions are hypothesized lightweight particles that may explain dark matter; axion-like particles are thought to be slightly heftier.”


AIs Become Smarter If You Tell Them to Think Step by Step
Chris Stokel-Walker | New Scientist
“Telling artificial intelligence models to ‘think’ step by step when carrying out a task can improve their performance so much that they can outperform humans at jobs AIs usually struggle with. …Without the chain-of-thought prompt, the AI models were only better than humans in between four and six of the 23 tasks, depending on which model was used. With the prompt, the AIs were better than humans in between 10 and 17 of the tasks.”


Shutterstock Partners With OpenAI to Sell AI-Generated Artwork, Compensate Artists
Benj Edwards | Ars Technica
“Today, Shutterstock announced that it has partnered with OpenAI to provide AI image synthesis services using the DALL-E API. Once the service is available, the firm says it will allow customers to generate images based on text prompts. Responding to prevailing ethical criticism of AI-generated artwork, Shutterstock also says it will compensate artists ‘whose works have contributed to develop the AI models.’i


Getty Images CEO Says Firms Racing to Sell AI Art Could Be Stepping Into Illegal Territory
James Vincent | The Verge
“Getty Images CEO Craig Peters has criticized companies ‘racing’ to commercialize AI art generators, saying firms aren’t thinking through the potential legal and ethical hazards of the technology. ‘I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless […] I think the fact that these questions are not being addressed is the issue here. In some case, they’re just being thrown to the wayside. I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal,’ [Peters said].”

Image Credit: NASA/Swift/A. Beardmore (University of Leicester)

Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs and issues shaping the future as well as supporting a global community of smart, passionate, action-oriented people who want to change the world.
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