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A fortnightly assemblage of science, technology, 3 x 3 metre squares, and good news. Not necessarily in that order.
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The Crunch # 61

Can you help us choose? Plus, blood tests for chronic pain, the inside scoop on Project Maven, Barcelona's fight against surveillance capitalism, and good news on crime and jaguars.

No opening article for this edition.

We've got a pretty full dance card over the next few weeks, including our first ever trip to the United States, to speak at a well known conference. Knocking our 18 minute presentation into shape has been a lot of hard work, and we're feeling a combination of excitement and sheer terror at the prospect of getting up there in front of 10,000 people. 

We thought it might be a good idea to distract ourselves from the nerves by doing a deep dive into one technology area (sort of like the one we did for blockchain a few months ago). Only problem? We're not sure where to start. The world is moving faster, the patterns are getting more confusing and the information firehose is becoming more daunting. 

Our solution is to throw the question back at you, our subscribers. 
If you could see just one technology area covered in this newsletter next,
which of the following would you choose? 

Now, post capitalism being what it is these days, we realise nobody actually does stuff without incentives. So we're giving away a $20 Amazon gift voucher to anyone who clicks on one of those three options above. We'll leave it open for a week, and then start the research on whichever one gets the most votes.

In other words, all you gotta do is click. Means you might be able to buy that book you've heard so much about recently, and even if you don't win the voucher, you stand a better chance of seeing your preferred topic appear in this newsletter. Good deal right? Do it.


Good news you probably didn't hear about


Scotland's carbon emissions have halved since 1990, and its leaders have announced a new target to reduce levels by 90% by the middle of the century. C'mon Australia. BBC

Ikea has announced it will phase out all single-use plastic products, including straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, garbage bags, from its shops and restaurants by 2020. CNN

India has reported a 22% drop in maternal deaths since 2013. That means on average, 30 more mothers are now being saved every day compared to five years ago. The Wire

The World Health Organization has just certified Paraguay as having eliminated malaria, the first country in the Americas to be granted this status since Cuba in 1973.

In 2017, crime and murder rates declined in the United States' 30 largest cities. The overall crime rate fell by 2.1%, violent crime rate by 1%, and the murder rate by 3.4%. Vox

Crime falls when you take in millions of refugees too. The number of reported crimes  in Germany fell by 10% in 2017, dropping to the lowest level in 30 years. Washington Post

Following the collapse of ISIS, civilian deaths in Iraq have decreased dramatically. 80% fewer Iraqis were killed in the first five months of 2018 compared to last year. Anti-War

Still worried about the kids? Youth crime in New South Wales has plummeted in the last 20 years. Vehicle theft is down by 59%, property theft by 59%, and drink-driving by 49%. ANU

Mexico's population of wild jaguars, the largest feline in the Americas, has grown by 20% in the past eight years, and 14 Latin American countries have just signed an agreement at the UN to implement a regional conservation program for the big cats through 2030.

Indistinguishable from magic

A UK company has reached a major milestone for commercial nuclear fusion, creating plasma temperatures of 15 million Celsius, hotter than the sun’s core. The Engineer

Police in Ensenada, Mexico, have used a single flying drone for the last four months to cut overall crime in the city by 10%, including a 30% drop in burglaries. Wired

A startup from Santa Clara has built the world's first true 3D-printed carbon fibre bicycle, reducing the development time from the traditional 18 months, to 18 days. TCT Mag

MIT scientists have used a neural network to see through walls, analysing radio signals from bodies to create a stick figure that moves as the person performs actions. MIT

Scientists from Adelaide have developed the first ever blood test that can instantly identify chronic pain, after discovering its colour biomarkers are different to regular pain. SBS

Researchers in San Diego have successfully tested cell-like nanorobots, powered by ultrasound, that can clear bacteria and bacterial toxins from blood. Medgadget

Biologists at Stanford have pioneered a technique than can transform human immune cells from a regular tissue sample into functional neurons in just three weeks. New Atlas

The information superhighway is still awesome

We've said it before, we'll say it again. The best source of quality content on the internet in 2018 is email newsletters. Josh Spector curates one of our favourites. It's called For The Interested, and has 10 great articles every week to help you with work, art and life.

Christina Nicol has written a beautiful, haunting essay on grief, last year's fires in California and climate change. A powerful reminder of why storytelling matters. n + 1

Google has terminated Project Maven, its collaboration with the US military. Jacobin has the amazing inside story of what went down. So many good lessons for tech activists. 

Barcelona is leading an urban fightback against surveillance capitalism, redefining the smart city to ensure that it serves its citizens, rather than the other way around. Wired

Our latest treasure from the forgotten history of the early internet: the story of Jaime Levy, a cyberpunk kid from LA who created the coolest online publications of the 1990s. NYMag

What3Words divides the world into 3 x 3-metre squares and gives each square a unique, unalterable sequence of three random words. Our Melbourne office is reader.recall.epic.

Meet Siya Kholisi, South Africa's first black rugby captain. A proud Xhosa man, in an interracial marriage, and one of the country's most inspirational figures. Guardian

The Kevin Costner of science newsletters

Thank you so much to all our new Patreon subscribers. Since our last edition, we've managed to convince an extra 54 of you to sign up, which means an additional $326 landing in the coffers every fortnight.

If you'd like to see where your money goes, here's a thank you video from Soudeh Rad and her crew from Hamdam to you, the readers of Future Crunch. They used $2,500 from the money you sent us to help educate 215,000 Iranian women about sexual health.

If you think this newsletter is worth the price of an HB pencil to you every fortnight please join our Patreon. We give ALL the money away to charities like Hamdam, who are using science and technology to make the world a better place.

Thank you message from Hamdam to Future Crunch subscribers
That's all for this round, we know it's short and sweet, hope you'll forgive us. Don't forget to vote for the technology area you'd like to see covered. We're kinda ambivalent as we love all three! 

And if you know anyone that might like to subscribe, they can do that here. 

Big love,

Gus and Tane
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