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.

The baby formula shortage has birthed a shady online marketplace

Across the United States, parents are scrambling to find baby formula amid a nationwide shortage. To non-parents, the shortage may seem sudden, but it’s been quietly snowballing into a crisis for months, sparked by a recall from a plant run by Abbott Nutrition—the main provider of powdered infant formula to the US market. It may take months for supplies to become adequate. 

In the meantime, out of sheer desperation, many parents are turning to Instagram and TikTok for tips on where to find formula, and despite repeated warnings from the FDA that homemade or diluted formula lacks the critical nutrients babies’ delicate systems need, videos of dangerous homemade recipes are being shared online. Parents are also getting stung by price-gouging and outright scams as they try to find formula to feed their babies. Read the full story.—Tanya Basu

These materials were meant to revolutionize the solar industry. Why hasn’t it happened?

Solar panels are basically synonymous with silicon. The material is used in about 95% of the panels in today’s market. But silicon solar cells are limited in how much energy they can harness from the sun, and they are still relatively expensive to make. 

For many, compounds called perovskites have long held promise as potentially cheaper, lighter, more efficient solar materials. But despite the excitement—and a flurry of startups to commercialize the technology—some experts caution that perovskite-based solar cells could still be nearly a decade away from having a significant commercial impact, if it ever happens. Read our story to find out why.

—Casey Crownhart

An infuriating and expensive quest to buy an NFT

Our editor-in-chief Mat Honan attempted to buy an NFT of an Olive Garden restaurant for his friend Katie—partly as a gift, and partly to learn more about NFTs ahead of our print magazine issue all about money, and how it’s changing.

Unfortunately, it was far from straightforward, reflecting just how volatile the NFT market is these days, and reinforcing his belief that money is weird now. Read the full story.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The risk of starvation is growing sharply in poorer countries
Much of the world is on the brink of an economic crisis, thanks to a combination of the pandemic’s aftermath plus the war in Ukraine, and rising inflation. (NYT $)

2 Elon Musk is hell bent on paying less for Twitter
And he’s happy to use spam bots as a convenient excuse. (Bloomberg $)

3 Data from period tracking apps is on sale
And could be used to identify specific users considering abortions. (Motherboard)
Abortion has been legal for the majority of America’s existence. (Wired $)
Overturning Roe v Wade will make navigating the unexpected extremely dangerous for women. (Slate $)

4 Apple’s mixed-reality headset program is in turmoil 
Technical challenges and leadership clashes mean it’s unlikely to see the light of day before next year. (The Information $)

5 The internet’s hatred of Amber Heard is rooted in misogyny
Many Johnny Depp supporters are more invested in attacking her than defending him. (The Atlantic $)
Cruel TikToks and memes mocking her testimony are hard to avoid on social media. (Wired $)

6 Crypto’s celebrity champions have gone very quiet
Because pushing digital currencies in the middle of a market meltdown is bad business. (NYT $)
If you’ve bought crypto in the past year, you’ve probably lost money. (New Yorker $)
Comedian Seth Green’s NFTs were stolen in a common phishing scam. (Motherboard)

7 Chinese sellers are abandoning Amazon
Reaching wider audiences has come with a hefty price tag, and they’ve had enough. (Rest of World)

8 The deepfake industry still has a major pornography problem
Despite its efforts to distance itself from vile, non-consensual videos, they’re still easily accessible. (Motherboard)
Deepfake porn is ruining women’s lives. (TR)

9 China has leapfrogged the US in the race to supercomputer supremacy
But experts want more collaboration, rather than competition, between the two. (FT $)

10 VHS tapes are reaching new generations of viewers online

Amateur archivists are digitizing and streaming decades-old programs. (Input)

Quote of the day

“The message is clear: if you see something you need to report it.”

—Scott Bray, a US intelligence official, tells a Congress briefing on UFOs that pilots need to feel free to report strange sightings without stigma, according

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: A baby formula crisis, and the hunt to improve solar panels
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 May 2022 12:04:37 +0000

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