8.24.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Thursday, Aug. 24, and we're covering a fatal plane crash for a Russian pariah, an advance in brain-reading technology, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Prigozhin Plane Crash 

Former Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led the private mercenary group to a short-lived mutiny against Russia's defense ministry in June, reportedly died yesterday after a jet crashed 60 miles northwest of Moscow, according to Russia's aviation agency. All 10 people—three crew members and seven passengers—aboard the plane were killed.

 

Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency has launched an investigation into the crash, which was reportedly caught on video (see here). The plane was headed to St. Petersburg from Moscow before losing signal, according to flight data. The plane did not appear to lose altitude before losing signal. All 10 bodies were recovered near the town of Kuzhenkino in the Tver region.

 

The crash comes a day after Prigozhin, 62, made his first public video appearance following the attempted rebellion. The mutiny was seen as a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin's authority, and in exchange for dropped charges, the group was exiled to Belarus. Read about Prigozhin's background here.

 

See updates on the war here.

 

Brain Reading Breakthrough

Advances in digitized surgical implants paired with brain-wave-reading artificial intelligence have allowed two speech paralyzed patients to communicate with unprecedented ability, according to a pair of studies published yesterday.

 

While similar brain-computer interfaces have previously provided some ability to communicate for patients with brain or spinal injuries, researchers say the new platforms approach fluid speech. The two patients are able to speak at a rate of 70 words per minute, slightly less than half the rate of a normal conversation. 

 

To achieve the breakthrough, a machine-learning model was trained by comparing electrical signals in the brain to a large set of more than 125,000 words (see deep dive). The information was then vocalized via speech-to-text software. Scientists say the results suggest a realistic path forward for restoring speech to paralyzed patients in the relatively near future. 

 

Fukushima Water Release

Japan will begin releasing over a million tons of treated wastewater today from the compromised Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. The plant was destroyed by the tsunami caused by the Tōhoku earthquake in March 2011, the country's strongest recorded seismic event (watch overview), which claimed nearly 20,000 lives.

 

Although the plant withstood the magnitude 9.0 quake, the 100-foot waves destroyed its cooling systems, prompting a meltdown in its three active reactors. The enormous volume of water used to cool the reactors—roughly 170 tons per day—undergoes radioactive filtration and is then stored; over 1,000 tanks now crowd the site (how it works). Starting today, roughly 130,000 gallons of water will be piped into the sea daily for decades.

 

International regulators have approved the government's plan, claiming the water contains safe levels of radioactive elements. However, environmental groups, fishing lobbyists, as well as neighbor China have criticized the initiative. See the enduring impact of the nuclear accident on the region here.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

 > "Barbie" tops "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" to become 2023's highest-grossing film at the US box office with just over $574M domestically and $1.28B worldwide (More)

> David Jacobs, TV producer known for creating "Dallas" and "Knots Landing," dies at 84 from Alzheimer's complications (More) | Terry Funk, professional wrestling legend, dies at 79 (More)

> The 2023 PGA Tour Championship begins today from East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for FedExCup title and $18M winner's bonus (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with LiquidPiston

> India successfully lands a probe near the lunar south pole, becoming the first country to study that region from the moon's surface (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> Study reveals mechanism allowing certain fish species to "see" with their skin; hogfish found to carry a light-sensitive protein in their skin that can cause a camouflage effect even when the animal is dead (More)

> Researchers find a single lone male wolf caused the pack population to collapse on Lake Superior's Isle Royale; findings yield new insights into the mechanism of ecosystem decline (More)

From our partners: A quantum leap in engine technology. Battery power may be the rage, but the combustion engine is experiencing a renaissance. Toyota and BMW are selling cars with hydrogen-powered engines as a clean energy alternative—which is great for LiquidPiston, whose engine is both HEV and Hydrogen compatible. They grew revenue 156% last year and have over $30M in contracts. Invest in LiquidPiston here.

 

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Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +1.1%, Dow +0.5%, Nasdaq +1.6%); chipmaker Nvidia posts record sales, shares up 8% in after-hours trading (More)

> E-cigarette maker Juul Labs to reduce workforce by 30% in cost-cutting effort (More)

> Foot Locker shares fall 28% after reducing outlook and pausing dividend as sales drop in second quarter (More) | Peloton shares fall 23% as recall costs lead to lower earnings (More

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Eight 2024 presidential candidates face off in first televised Republican primary debate in Milwaukee; see key takeaways (More) | Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson releases prerecorded interview with former President Donald Trump, who did not attend the debate (More) | See previous write-up (More

> Death toll from Greek wildfires rises to at least 20 as fires continue to burn for the fifth straight day, with flames torching homes on the outskirts of Athens (More) | At least one person killed after Tropical Storm Franklin strikes Dominican Republic (More

> South Carolina Supreme Court upholds state's 2023 ban on abortion after six weeks, reversing its decision in January to strike down a similar ban passed in 2021 (More

 

In-Depth

> Kitt the Police Dog

Boston Magazine | Dave Wedge. The story of a profound decadelong bond that saved both police dog Kitt and Greater Boston area officer Bill Cushing before tragedy struck one night. (Read)

 

> Memories from MLK's March

USA Today | Grace Hauck, Marc Ramirez. Witnesses of Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech from the historic March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963, reflect on their experiences 60 years later. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

NFL quarterback scores mayonnaise deal

 

New York City opens retirement park for worn-out playground animals.

 

Five high school students selected as this year’s National Student Poets.

 

Stunning photos show the diversity of ocean life.

 

The remains of four bodies found in Virginia identified to be Confederate soldiers.

 

Study finds kids who play organized sports and read have better thinking skills.

 

A clock that plays music with the current time in the song title.

 

Japanese company developing personalized digital clones.

 

Clickbait: Eggo ups the ante on boozy brunch.

 

Historybook: Mount Vesuvius erupts, killing up to 15,000 (79); Thomas Edison files patent for the Kinetoscope, an early motion-picture viewer (1891); Dave Chappelle born (1973); Windows 95 released (1995).

"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

- Thomas Edison

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