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Massive data centers are creeping into cities

You may never have heard of Hikvision, but chances are you’ve already been captured by one of its millions of cameras. The Chinese company’s products can be found anywhere from police surveillance systems to baby monitors in more than 190 countries. Its ability to make decent-quality products at cheap prices (as well as its ties with the Chinese state) has helped make Hikvision the largest manufacturer of video surveillance equipment in the world.

But while Hikvision’s close links with the Chinese government have helped it grow, these links may now be its undoing. The firm has helped build China’s massive police surveillance system and tailored it to oppress the Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. As a result, the US government has imposed several sanctions on it in the last three years. This year, the US Treasury is reportedly considering adding Hikvision to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List, usually reserved for countries like North Korea or Iran.

Here’s everything you should know about Hikvision: a firm that used to fly under the radar but now faces becoming the most sanctioned tech company in the world. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Scientists hacked a locust’s brain to sniff out cancer 

They’ve done what? Some animals, including dogs, have been taught to spot signs that humans are sick. They’re thought to be able to sense the chemicals that people emit through body odor or breath. The mix of chemicals can vary depending on a person’s metabolism, which is thought to change when we get sick. But dogs are expensive to train and look after and making a device that mimics a dog’s nose is still too difficult. So scientists decided to “hijack” an insect’s brain instead.

How did they do it? They exposed the brain of a living locust and inserted electrodes into the lobes that receive signals from the insects’ antennae, which they use to sense odors. The locusts’ brains reacted distinctly to odors emitted from human cells both with and without cancer in a lab—the first time a living insect brain has been tested as a tool to detect the disease. 

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

—Jessica Hamzelou

Energy-hungry data centers are quietly moving into cities


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