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

Neurologists listened to people’s brains for a week. They found order and chaos.

News: Our brains are in a state between stability and chaos as they help us make sense of the world, according to recordings of brain activity made by volunteers over the course of a week.

What this means: For example, when we go from reading a book to talking to a friend, our brain goes from one semi-stable state to another, but only after chaotically switching through several other states in a pattern that appears to be completely random.

Why it matters: Understanding how our brains restore some degree of stability after chaos may help us figure out how to treat disorders at both ends of the spectrum. Too much chaos is probably what happens when a person has a seizure, while too much stability can leave a person in a coma. Read the story in its entirety.

— Jessica Hamzelow

We were promised smaller nuclear reactors. Where are they?

For more than a decade, we’ve been hearing that small reactors could be a big part of the future of nuclear power. In theory, small modular reactors (SMRs) could solve some of the major problems of traditional nuclear power by making plants faster and cheaper to build and safer to operate.

Oregon-based NuScale recently became the first company of its kind to clear one of the final regulatory hurdles before the company can build its reactors in the US. But even though SMRs promise to speed up the construction timeline for nuclear power, the journey has been fraught with delays and cost overruns — and there’s still a lot to sort out before they become commonplace. Read the story in its entirety.

— Casey Crownheart

How Telegram groups can be used by the police to find protesters

Many Chinese are still in police custody after taking to the streets of Beijing late last year to protest the zero-covid policy. While the actions took place in many cities in China, the police in Beijing consistently made new arrests, as recently as mid-January.

For younger generations, the movement became a prelude to civil disobedience. But many people lack the technical knowledge to protect themselves when organizing or participating in public events. This means that their digital connection could have made them open to identification. Read the story in its entirety.

— Zei Yang

Zeia’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter covering the country. Register to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

Podcast: AI in the newsroom

OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot has taken the internet by storm since launching late last year. The latest episode of our award-winning podcast In Machines We Trust looks at the benefits and potential pitfalls of using AI tools in newsrooms and what it could mean for the future of journalism as we know it. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you normally listen.

A must read

I’ve combed the web to find the funniest/important/scary/interesting tech stories for you today.

1 Microsoft introduced Bing based on OpenAI
Tech companies are racing to update search engines with artificial intelligence. (NYT$)
+ However, some of Bing’s AI-powered answers are a bit tricky. (WP$)
+ Could this finally be the reason to use Bing? (vox)

2 How China’s “spy balloon” drama unfolded on TikTok
With loads of silly jokes and footage of a big ‘pop moment’. (WP$)
+ The US insists that the balloon belonged to the Chinese military. (WP$)
+ What the balloon means for the latest iteration of the space race. (vox)
+ A new Cold War may be on the horizon. (Economist $)

3 IC manufacturers are worried about a “perpetual ban on chemicals.”
They are worried it will tip the already fragile branch over the edge. (FT$)
+ These simple design rules could turn the chip industry upside down. (MIT Technology Review)

4 We strengthen superbugs by destroying the environment
Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise, as is environmental destruction. (Wired $)
+ We can use wastewater to monitor the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (MIT Technology Review)

5 How Big Tech managed to take away the right to repair
Lobbyists successfully tweaked the US bill in favor of phone manufacturers. (Markup)

6 Digital payments are not developing in Iraq
Decades of war and sanctions mean citizens are still heavily dependent on cash. (rest of the world)
+ The country has just revalued its currency. (Reuters)

7 The problem with lab-grown meat
An experimental shortcut is not a tasty stimulus. (Bloomberg $)
+ Will lab-grown meat end up on our plates? (MIT Technology Review)

8 Meet the guinea pigs
Innovators are increasingly experimenting on their own bodies. (Neo.Life)

9 We stop To be Real⚠
Downloads of the app that assesses authenticity are down. (sifted)

10 Don’t Expect Crypto Ads at the Super Bowl
The organizers have learned their lesson. (Insider $)
+ Crypto exchange Binance has become more powerful after the collapse of FTX. (FT$)
+ What’s next for crypto. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“I would be hurt or offended if I found out that my Valentine’s Day message was written by a machine/artificial intelligence.”

— A statement with which 50% of surveyed US residents agreed, according to Fast Company.

A great story

What is bigger than a metropolis? China’s planned city clusters

April 2021

China is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate. About 20 years ago, only 30% of the Chinese population lived in cities; today it is 60%. That means roughly 400 million people—more than the entire US population—have moved to China’s cities over the past two decades.

To accommodate the influx, China’s national urban development policy has shifted from the expansion of individual cities to the systematic construction of massive urban clusters. The cities in the cluster will cooperate economically, environmentally and politically, in turn increasing the competitiveness of each region. Read the story in its entirety.

— Lin Xin

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Scribble me a few lines or shout at me.)

+ The legendary Sarah Michelle Gellar speaks!
+ Tech Bros sick threads probably love them.
+ Hear me out: Being grateful for the things we don’t like can be an emotionally rewarding exercise.
+ I like this photo the skin by Skunk Anansie accepts an award from King Charles.
+ When Christmas is over, winter doesn’t have to be heartbreaking. Here’s how to learn to love it.

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