Huge data centers are sneaking into cities

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You may not have heard of Hikvision, but chances are you’ve already been captured by one of the millions of cameras. The Chinese company’s products can be found everywhere from police surveillance systems to baby monitors in more than 190 countries. His ability to make decent quality products at cheap prices (as well as his ties to the Chinese state) has helped Hikvision to become the largest manufacturer of video surveillance equipment in the world.

But while Hikvision’s close ties to the Chinese government have helped her grow, these ties can now undo her. The company helped set up China’s massive police surveillance system and modified it to repress Xinjiang’s Muslim minority groups. As a result, the US government has imposed several sanctions over the past three years. This year, the US Treasury is reportedly considering adding Hikvision to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list, which is usually reserved for countries like North Korea or Iran.

Here’s everything you need to know about Hikvision: a company that used to fly under the radar, but now threatens to become the most sanctioned tech company in the world. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Scientists hacked into a grasshopper’s brain to detect cancer

What have they done? Some animals, including dogs, have learned to recognize signs that people are sick. It is thought that they can sense the chemicals 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 care for, and it’s still too difficult to make a device that mimics a dog’s nose. So scientists decided to “hijack” an insect’s brain instead.

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

What now? 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 is still far away. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

Energy-guzzling data centers are quietly moving to cities