Big Tech &
The Inside Story of How Signal Became the Private Messaging App for an Age of Fear and Distrust (15 minute read)
Signal is an end-to-end encrypted messaging service owned and operated by a non-profit foundation. It has wide-ranging security protections and it is endorsed by figures like Edward Snowden, who uses the app every day. People have been increasingly using Signal as trust in the authorities continues to decline. It has been used extensively during the recent US protests and in Hong Kong after China imposed a controversial national security law. Signal's privacy features include tools to blur people's faces out of photos, servers that don't store user information, encrypted phone calls, and more. The app has not been popular with the authorities, who aren't able to demand that the service turn over information as the service doesn't retain any. This article follows Signal's story so far, exploring how the app was developed with privacy in mind and how it continues to maintain its stance despite governmental pressure.
Tesla's full self-driving Autopilot beta coming in 'a month or so' (2 minute read)
Elon Musk recently announced that Tesla will release a private beta of the full self-driving version of its Autopilot software in the coming months. Musk is currently driving a bleeding edge, alpha build of the Autopilot. Tesla engineers had to overhaul major parts of the Autopilot, even changing how the system sees the world. The system now labels 3D video rather than 2D images, taking information from all eight of its cameras simultaneously.
Dynamic tattoos promise to warn wearers of health threats (5 minute read)
Nanotech tattoos have been developed over the past few years. They can signal changes in a person's biochemistry, warn wearers of radiation exposure, or detect the presence of UV light. A tattoo that warns users to wear skin protection if there is too much UV light uses a UV-activated dye inside of a plastic nanocapsule. The nanocapsule is required to keep the body from cleaning out the ink. After they are applied, the tattoos are invisible until they are exposed to UV rays, at which point they turn blue. The scientists are also working on temperature-sensitive inks to use as thermometers. Wearable temporary electronic tattoos can be used for sensing electrophysiological signals as well as for controlling mobile devices. They are much less permanent than traditional tattoos, but they can use battery-powered electronics. Little is known about the safety of normal tattoo inks as the US FDA doesn't regulate them. More research is needed to understand the long-term effects of implants in the skin.
Dream-shaping tech from MIT channels suggestions into your dreams (5 minute read)
Scientists can manipulate dreams using an app combined with a sleep-tracking device called Dormio. In a recent study, the researchers inserted certain topics into a person's dreams using the technique. Targeted dream incubation (TDI) targets an early sleep stage known as hypnagogia to achieve results similar to the rare dream state known as lucid dreaming. Using TDI, the scientists introduced targeted information to a sleeper, which resulted in direct incorporation of the information into dream content. Mechanisms that control sleep and dreaming are not well understood, so it is unknown yet what benefits the technology could bring.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Rust Crates that do What the Go Standard library Does (13 minute read)
Rust's standard library is lacking in comparison to some other programming languages, but the community has built crates to make up for it. This article contains a list of crates that can perform many of the tasks that are built into the standard Go library. It provides examples of how to integrate the crates into your code.
Ask HN: How to learn sales? (Hacker News Thread)
Starting a business involves more than just building a product. The product needs to be sold to customers, which involves a different set of skills that someone who has spent a lifetime in engineering might need to brush up on. Sales and marketing are similar yet separate skills, where marketing brings in leads and sales is the conversation that closes the deal. There are different levels to these topics, which the thread goes in-depth about. The thread contains many reading recommendations for business development and selling, as well as anecdotes and advice regarding starting a business.
Metal wires of carbon complete toolbox for carbon-based computers (5 minute read)
Using transistors based on carbon rather than silicon could potentially boost computer performance by more than a thousandfold. Previously, working with carbon circuits was impossible due to insufficient technology, but a team of scientists at the University of California has finally created wire made entirely of carbon. It is a type of graphene nanoribbon, designed to conduct electrons between semiconducting nanoribbons in all-carbon transistors. The nanoribbons allow chemical access to a wide range of structures that wasn't possible with nanotubes. Carbon-based computers can compute many times faster than silicon computers using only a fraction of the power.
A self-erasing chip for security and anti-counterfeit tech (3 minute read)
By stretching a thin film of azobenzenes, a kind of molecule that shrinks in reaction to UV light, over a semiconductor, scientists have created a type of self-erasing chip that can store information until it is exposed to heat and light. The messages stored on the chip will self-destruct in seven days or it can be erased instantly with a flash of blue light. Once erased, the chip can record new information again. The semiconductor is made from a 'beyond graphene' material. Unlike graphene, it can emit light in particular frequencies.