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.

Why sounds and smells are as vital to cities as the sights

When David Howes thinks of his home city of Montreal, he thinks of the harmonious tones of carillon bells and the smell of bagels being cooked over wood fires. But when he stopped in at his local tourism office to ask where they recommend that visitors go to smell, taste, and listen to the city, he just received blank stares.

“They only know about things to see, not about the city’s other sensory attractions, its soundmarks and smellmarks,” says Howes, director of Concordia University’s Center for Sensory Studies, a hub for the growing field often referred to as “sensory urbanism.”

Around the world, researchers like Howes are investigating how nonvisual information defines the character of a city and affects its livability. Using methods ranging from low-tech sound walks and smell maps to data scraping, wearables, and virtual reality, they’re fighting what they see as a limiting visual bias in urban planning. Read the full story.

—Jennifer Hattam

These scientists want to capture more carbon with CRISPR crops

The news: Plants are the original carbon capture factories—and a new research program aims to make them more effective by using gene editing. The Innovative Genomics Institute, a research group founded by CRISPR co-inventor Jennifer Doudna, has announced a new program to use the revolutionary gene-editing tool on agricultural crops to boost their aptitude for carbon storage. 

How it’d work: One of the primary goals will be to tweak photosynthesis so plants can grow more quickly. By altering the enzymes involved, researchers could cut out energy-sapping side reactions, including some that release carbon dioxide. The researchers also hope they can find ways to store more carbon in the soil, for example by encouraging larger, deeper root systems. 

Bigger picture: It’ll be a significant challenge to make these techniques work, but the research is part of a growing effort by scientists to find ways to vacuum up the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere in order to slow climate change. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

The must-reads

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

1 The crypto market is in freefall 
With colossal amounts of money at stake, crypto’s volatility now looks less thrilling and more worrying. (New York Mag)
The price of Bitcoin has plunged to its lowest in 18 months. (Bloomberg $)
Even the most bullish investors are freaking out. (Motherboard)
Crypto companies are making major layoffs, too. (The Verge)
El Salvador has lost around half its Bitcoin investment. (Mashable)
It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Big Tech has agreed to disclose more about disinformation
On a country-by-country basis, something tech companies have previously resisted. (FT $)
The EU is threatening to fine them for failing to deal with deepfakes. (Reuters)

3 What studying strokes teaches us about addiction

A particular neural network in the brain could hold the key to quitting smoking. (NYT $)

4 The long fight to get illegal, nonconsensual videos taken offline  
Survivors have struggled to get footage removed from Pornhub. (New Yorker $)
Deepfake porn is ruining women’s lives. (MIT Technology Review)

5 SpaceX has gained approval to launch its Starship rocket from Texas

But it has to meet stringent measures to protect the environment. (WP $)
This newborn star has a sibling. (Phys)
Our maps of the Milky Way have just received a major upgrade. (Nature)

6 India’s officials are big fans of facial recognition
Privacy advocates disagree with police claims it’s only being used to surveil criminals. (Motherboard)
Here’s how to stop AI from recognizing your face in selfies. (MIT Technology Review)

7 We need to change how we warn beachgoers about deadly currents 
Static warning signs aren’t working. Systems that warn of changing conditions might. (Hakai Magazine)
There’s a global movement dedicated to raising awareness of rip currents. (The Guardian)

8 People are increasingly terrified of being canceled
Psychiatrists wonder if it’s a new manifestation of OCD centered around fear of social ruin. (Slate)

9 Electric car designs are getting more creative
While some are becoming more luxurious, others seat only two passengers. (The Guardian)
This startup wants to pack more energy into electric vehicle

Read More


By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Sensory cities and carbon trapping-crops
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Published Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2022 12:01:00 +0000