The takedown: a deadly tick-borne disease on cattle and molten salt batteries

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

New tick-borne disease kills US cattle

In the spring of 2021, Cynthia and John Grano, who own a cattle farm in Culpeper County, Virginia, began noticing that some of their cows were slowing down and acting “spacey.” They believe the animals are suffering from a common infectious disease that causes anemia in cattle. But their veterinarian warned them that another parasite-borne disease was spreading rapidly in the area.

After a third cow died, the Granos decided to test her blood. Sure enough, the test came back positive for the disease: theileria. And with no treatment available, cows continued to die.

Livestock owners like the Granos are not alone. U.S. livestock producers are facing this new and unknown disease without much information. Researchers do not yet know how theileria will develop, although it is rapidly spreading westward in the country. If states cannot bring the disease under control, then national production losses from sick cows can significantly harm both individual operations and the industry as a whole. Read the full story.

— Britta Lockting

Super hot salt can reach a battery near you

The world is building more capacity for renewables, especially solar and wind, which come and go with time. But for renewables to make a real difference, we need better energy storage capabilities. This is where batteries come into play. And for convenience, there’s a wave of alternative chemicals slowly making inroads into the growing energy storage market.

Some of these new players could end up being cheaper (and in various ways better) than industry-standard lithium-ion batteries. Among the most promising is molten salt technology, which Ambri, a Boston startup, believes could be up to 50 percent cheaper over its lifetime than an equivalent lithium-ion system.

But like its rivals experimenting with other forms of energy storage, Ambri faces real barriers to adoption, with scaling the main, ever-present obstacle. Read the full story.

— Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter covering battery breakthroughs and other climate news. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The required readings

I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating tech stories.

1 What comes after Twitter?
Whatever the answer, downloading data and contacts is a smart move. (NYT$)
+ However, it is unlikely that you will be able to save everything. (with cable $)
+ A bunch of fired contractors aren’t planning to go quietly. (Bloomberg $)
+ One of his former data scientists is extremely concerned. (Rest of the World)
+ The potential collapse of Twitter could erase vast records of recent human history. (MIT Technology Review)

2 The ripple effects of the FTX crash
The crypto exchange’s bad practices are raising fears for the future of the industry — and its officials are furious. (WSJ$)
+ Sam Bankman-Fried had an ill-advised chat with a journalist via Twitter. (Vox)
+ A class action lawsuit has been filed against FTX in the US. (The Keeper)

3 The US bioweapons detection system is unreliable
20 years after its introduction, it still costs $80 million a year. (On the edge)

4 Telehealth sites are full of data trackers
They can reveal sensitive addiction information that is ripe for abuse. (with cable $)

5 Activision Blizzard games are being downloaded offline in China
It failed to close a deal with its Chinese distributor. (FT$)

6 Intel claims it can catch deep fakes with 96% accuracy
By tracking the “blood flow” of video pixels to detect live people. (VentureBeat)
+ Horrifying AI app switches women into porn videos with one click. (MIT Technology Review)

7 We’ve ignored concrete’s carbon footprint for too long
It is not as big a polluter as transport or energy, but it urgently needs a greener overhaul. (Knowable Magazine)
+ How Joe Biden got away with passing the IRA. (Atlantic $)
+ How hydrogen and electricity can clean up heavy industry. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Lab-grown meat is safe to eat
The FDA has green-lit the lab-grown chicken, but it must pass other tests before it can be sold. (NBC News)
+ Will lab-grown meat make it to our plates? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Why NASA Astronauts Are Not Allowed to TikTok From Space 🪐
Although their European counterparts are. (Vox)
+ NASA’s Artemis 1 launch was a strangely subdued affair. (Atlantic $)
+ Here’s everything the mission brought with it to the Moon. (IEEE spectrum)

10 One day we could board a flying taxi 🚁
By the end of the decade, apparently. Let’s see. (Economist $)

Quote of the day

“Ireland really staked the farm on the future of technology. . . almost at the expense of everything else.”

— Mark O’Connell, executive chairman and founder of OCO Global, an advisory firm focused on trade and investment, tells the Financial Times why massive job cuts in the tech sector will hit Ireland particularly hard.

The big story

Bright LEDs could mean the end of dark skies

View of the Milky Way from the Grand Canyon

August 2022

Scientists have known for years that light pollution is increasing and can harm both people and wildlife. In humans, increased exposure to light at night disrupts sleep cycles and is linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease, while wildlife suffers from disrupted reproductive patterns, increased danger and loss of stealth.

Astronomers, politicians and lighting experts are working to find ways to reduce light pollution. Many are advocating the installation of light-emitting diodes in outdoor lighting fixtures such as urban street lights, mainly because of their ability to direct light to a targeted area. But the high initial investment and durability of modern LEDs means cities must get the transition right the first time or face decades of consequences. Read the full story.

— Shel Evergreen

We can still have good things

A place of comfort, entertainment and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Email me ortweet them to me.)

+ Luxury train travel seems like the perfect way to relax.
+ Nothing can replace the joy of picking out a great read from a bookstore.
+ It’s never too early to start planning your next great adventure.
+ Olive oil? Okay. A cake? Okay. Cake with olive oil?! GOOD!
+ The oldest known sentence written in the first alphabet is a fun homework.

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