Dubai is making artificial rain during extreme heat. New information about NSO’s Pegasus spyware reveled. Netflix is planning to expand into gaming. Goats are preventing the spread of wildfires. Jeff Bezos successfully travels to space. Here are this week’s stories.
1. Dubai is making its own rain during extreme heat
The government in Dubai is making artificial rain to combat drought and extreme heat. They are using the method of cloud seeding, which causes heavy downpours in a small area. Clouds are made of tiny water droplets that can stay up in the air. Electrical charges force droplets to combine and fall as precipitation. However, these droplets evaporate before reaching the ground due to the low humidity and scorching temperatures in the Middle East. Cloud seeding uses drones to increase the electrical charge, creating larger raindrops, which won’t evaporate. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process, but there seem to be negative environmental impacts. Many other cities and countries are also using similar methods to increase rainfall. China, South Korea, Thailand, India, and the United States have used cloud seeding to combat drought and pollution.
2. NSO’s Pegasus spyware
The NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm, develops spyware products for governments to “detect and prevent terrorism and crime,” but oppressive governments might be abusing this technology. The NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware can steal private data from almost any smartphone, including messages, passwords, contacts, and photos. It also has access to the phone’s camera and microphone to create covert recordings. The spyware can be downloaded by just sending the victim a simple link. The spyware then exploits bugs and vulnerabilities in the iOS or Android software. Both Apple and Google have worked tirelessly to protect their customers’ data, but Pegasus is highly sophisticated, and the NSO Group spends millions to identify vulnerabilities. According to a report, over 50,000 users have been targeted, including 189 journalists, 85 human rights activists, hundreds of politicians, three presidents, ten prime ministers, and a king. Several of these people are off-limits to governmental spying, according to NSO standards.
Amnesty International, an international organization focused on human rights, raised concerns that the NSO Group is providing its services to oppressive governments that abuse the technology. NSO Group’s CEO and co-founder Shalev Hulio broadly denied the allegations and claimed that NSO’s 45 clients average about 100 Pegasus targets per year. He also said that the company had been running checks with present and past clients for the past week.
3. Netflix expanding into gaming
Unlike all of its other competitors, Netflix is taking a different approach to expand its business. In a letter to its shareholders, the streaming giant disclosed its strategy: prioritize its services and invest in gaming. While rivals like Disney Plus and Amazon Prime focus on consolidation and studio acquisitions, Netflix will aim to make its content better and expand into the gaming sector. The company plans to start small and develop its games based on existing Netflix content for mobile devices. If successful, the company will then make standalone games and possibly console games for Xbox and Playstation. With over 200 million paid subscribers, Netflix is by far the most-watched streaming service and has the money to take risks and expand its user-base even further.
4. Goats are helping stop wildfires
Extreme heat and drought in the west have created perfect conditions for a disastrous wildfire season. 86 large wildfires have already burned 1.5 million acres and numerous structures across 12 states, and thousands of homes could burn down if wildfires keep growing. To prevent as much damage as possible, firefighters are using an unlikely ally: goats. Goats are willing to eat just about anything in their path, so they can be used to mitigating wildfire by clearing out an area and creating buffer zones around homes. Humans can also do the same job with heavy machinery, but it is not safe, effective, and environmentally friendly. Goats are now being used across the US to clear flammable dead grass and establish a natural fire break.
5. The beginning of space travel
Jeff Bezos has successfully traveled to space aboard his own rocket with his brother Mark and two history-making passengers: 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, the oldest person to fly in space, and 18-year-old Dutch student Oliver Daemen, the youngest to ever fly in space. Funk was one of the 13 female fliers who were tested but eventually denied from NASA’s all-male astronaut corps in the 1960s. Daemen is Blue Origin’s first paying customer. The flight was ten minutes and crewmates enjoyed three minutes of weightlessness. Blue Origin plans to launch three more New Shepard flights before the end of the year, one with science payloads and the other two with passengers. Earlier this month, Richard Branson, owner and founder of Virgin Galactic, also flew into space aboard his own VSS Unity rocket. Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are beginning commercial service with tickets costing more than $200,000, but this price will gradually get more affordable. In addition to taking passengers on joyrides, these suborbital flights will allow valuable scientific research to be conducted.
Above were my top stories for the week of July 25th, 2021. I hope you enjoyed them. Thank you and see you next week!