Massive data centers are creeping into cities

You’ve probably never heard of Hikvision, but chances are you’ve been caught by one of its millions of cameras. The Chinese company’s products can be found in more than 190 countries, from police surveillance systems to baby monitors. Hikvision’s ability to produce high-quality products at low prices (as well as its relationship with the Chinese government) has helped Hikvision become the world’s largest maker of video surveillance equipment.

But while Hikvision’s close ties to the Chinese government have helped it thrive, those ties may now be undermining it. The company helped build China’s vast police surveillance system and adapted it to oppress Xinjiang’s Muslim minority. As a result, the U.S. government has imposed sanctions on it several times over the past three years. This year, the U.S. Treasury Department is reportedly considering adding Hikvision to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blockade Persons (SDN) list, which is usually reserved for countries like North Korea or Iran.

Here’s everything you should know about Hikvision: The once-obscure company now faces becoming the world’s most sanctioned tech company. Read the full article.

—Zeyi Yang

Scientists chop off locust brains to sniff out cancer

What did they do? Some animals, including dogs, are taught to spot signs of illness in humans. They are thought to be able to sense chemicals that people emit through body odor or breath. The combination of chemicals can vary depending on a person’s metabolism, which is thought to change when we get sick. But the cost of training and caring for dogs is high, and it’s still too difficult to create a device that mimics a dog’s nose. So scientists decided to “hijack” the insect’s brain instead.

How do they do it? They exposed the brain of a live locust and inserted electrodes into lobes that receive signals from the insect’s antennae, which they use to sense odors. In the lab, the locust brains responded significantly to scents emitted by human cells, with or without cancer — the first time a live insect brain has been tested as a tool to detect disease.

What’s next? The team behind the work hopes to one day develop an insect-based breath test that could be used for cancer screening, or inspire an artificial version that works in much the same way. Although that’s a long way to go. Read the full article.

– Jessica Hamzelew

Power-hungry data centers are creeping into cities

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