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The Download: handling extreme heat, and replicating superconductor results

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.

How hot is too hot for the human body?

There’s no other way to say it: it’s hot. Temperatures this summer have yet again broken records, and around the world, climate change is pushing the limits of what we can handle. So our climate reporter Casey Crownhart asked the experts: how hot is too hot for the human body?

To keep our bodies at their relatively stable core temperature of around 98.6 °F (37 °C), we constantly lose heat. It’s a process that can be sped up by sweating. But the whole balancing act can get derailed when we’re exposed to extreme heat. If your body isn’t able to cool itself down fast enough, a whole cascade of problems can start, from stressing out your heart to throwing your kidneys and liver into chaos.

Sounds bad, huh? Here’s some good news: to some extent, our bodies can and do adjust slightly to the heat. But there’s only so much people can endure—that might vary by person or place, but limits exist. That’s partly why heat is an equity issue: not everyone has access to cooling, or the ability to shelter inside when temperatures rise. Read the full story. 

This story is from The Spark, Casey’s weekly newsletter keeping you up-to-date on all things to do with energy and climate change. 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 Researchers are racing to replicate the LK-99 superconductor 
It seems unlikely they’ll succeed, but for now there’s still a little hope amid all the hype. (Wired $)
Even if the claims aren’t backed up, they could still lead to progress. (New Scientist $)
Either way, it’s a slow, painstaking process, so we won’t know for a while. (CNET)

2 Ocean temperatures are rising
That is every bit as bad as it sounds. (The Atlantic $)
And it’s not only disastrous for corals. It threatens the entire oceanic ecosystem. (Wired $)
There are also record low levels of Antarctic sea ice this year. (NYT $)

3 AI is shaking up YouTube’s thumbnail industry
Cue much consternation from designersbut it’s still unclear how much it’ll impact their jobs. (Rest of World)
Meta has released a new music AI model. (The Verge)
AI models can get worse over time. (Scientific American $) 
A top gaming YouTuber is trying to replace himself with AI. (Wired $)

4 What we need to know about the new wave of obesity drugs 
They work well—but we don’t exactly know why, or who is best suited for them. (Nature)
When you lose weight, where does it go? (MIT Technology Review)

5 Twitter Blue subscribers now have the option to hide their blue checks
Which does beg the question of what, exactly, it is that they’re left paying for. (Ars Technica)
What on earth should we call Twitter now? (NYT $)

6 Etsy is scrambling to stop a sellers’ strike
Vendors say that the platform’s policies are leaving them out of pocket. (Quartz)
+ Why everyone’s going on strike this summer. (Vox)

7 Tesla is finally starting to get more competitors for EV charging
The crucial thing will be trying to get everyone to converge on a single standard. (IEEE Spectrum)
In the clash of the EV chargers, it’s Tesla vs. everyone else. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Please friends, let’s keep theaters phone-free zones 📵
Taking photos of your TV at home? Knock yourself out! At a theater? Absolutely not. (WSJ $)

9 Sick of dating apps? Try Google Docs.
People are penning ‘date me docs’ in the hope it might help them find better matches. (NYT $)

10 A crucial metric for weather: dew point 💧
The higher it is, the more of a sweaty mess you’ll feel. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“Oh my God. Wow.”

Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s reaction after an interviewer told him he paid $51.69 for a three-mile ride to the company’s annual product event in New York, the Guardian reports. 

The big story

The two-year fight to stop Amazon from selling face recognition to the police 

facial recognition fails


June 2020

In the summer of 2018, nearly 70 civil rights and research organizations wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon stop providing Rekognition, its face recognition technology, to governments. 

Despite the mounting pressure, Amazon continued pushing Rekognition as a tool for monitoring “people of interest”. But two years later, the company shocked civil rights activists and researchers when it announced that it would place a one-year moratorium on police use of the software. Read the full story.

—Karen Hao

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.)

+ A fun challenge for you: try to just do one thing at a time today. ($)
+ These lakes really deliver on the “wow” factor. 
+ A question that’s surely played on all our minds… which president was the most absorbent
+ I bet you’ll learn something new from this post about how inaccurate our maps of the world really are.