Big Tech &
Netflix Is Finally Adding a Streaming Roulette Feature As It Clinches 200 Million Subscriptions (2 minute read)
Netflix has surpassed 200 million subscribers. It is planning to add a new feature in the first half of the year that lets the service pick shows for users based on their preferences. Netflix has more competition than ever before, and it has responded by churning out a large amount of original content. It is set to release at least one original film every week this year, with over 500 titles currently either in post-production or ready for broadcast. Netflix claims that it is very close to being cash-flow positive and that it no longer needs to raise external financing.
Study: Solitary electric eels sometimes hunt in groups with synchronized zaps (4 minute read)
Scientists have observed groups of electric eels hunting in groups. The eels were previously thought to be solitary predators. Hunting in groups is rare in fish, with only nine other species known for the behavior. Electric eels produce electric discharges via three pairs of abdominal organs. A single eel can produce up to 860 volts of electricity, enough to power 100 light bulbs. A 16-second video showing a pack of electric eels hunting together is available in the article.
Electric car batteries with five-minute charging times produced (4 minute read)
StoreDot, an Israeli company, has developed car batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes. The batteries can be mass-produced on standard production lines. StoreDot has so far raised $130 million in funding to date, with investors including BP and Samsung. Faster charging will mean less range anxiety as drivers won't be stuck charging their cars for hours. Charging stations will need to be upgraded in order to achieve fast charging. The batteries will likely be available to the mass market in three years.
Programming, Design & Data Science
The Embedded YouTube Player Told Me What You Were Watching (and more)
There was a bug in the embedded YouTube player that allowed hackers to view anyone's YouTube watch history, the links to their unlisted videos, their Watch Later playlist, the list of videos they've liked, and more. YouTube creates internal playlists for all users, which can be accessed by replacing some characters in the URL. You can't just view other people's private videos just with this knowledge, but the embedded player had a bug that could be exploited to do so. The bug was reported, but Google's response showed that they might not have seen the severity of the issue. It has now been fixed.
GPT Neo (GitHub Repo)
GPT Neo is an implementation of model and data parallel GPT-2 and GPT-3-like models. It can be scaled up to full GPT-3 sizes using the included alternative model architectures and linear attention implementations. The project's goal is to replicate a GPT-3 sized model and open source it to the public for free.
China wants to build an open source ecosystem to rival GitHub (6 minute read)
Open source code has been essential for China's rapidly growing tech sector. GitHub has been a large part of this growth, but its future in China is uncertain. Many fear that the Chinese government might ban the site for hosting censored information, or that US regulators could ban the company from doing business with Chinese firms. The Chinese government has championed Gitee, a domestic alternative, and Chinese firms have created the OpenAtom Foundation, an organization analogous to The Linux Foundation. While the Chinese government supports open-source development, it has objections to the free and open exchange of information, which could damage these efforts.
Reddit’s former CEO is now in the forest-planting business (4 minute read)
Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong is building a system to transform desert land into fertile ground to grow the trees we need to help stop climate change. Trees can recapture carbon at scale, but efforts at reforestation have been moving slowly. Part of the reason for this is the lack of land, as some of the previously forested land is now covered by cities or used for farming. Wong's startup hopes to restore land by irrigating seedlings with desalinated water. A restored forest will eventually be able to sustain itself.