The first hump day of the year – what a treat.
1. The UK Parliament discussed the Australian bushfires overnight, with the Speaker of the House of Commons describing them as a "wake-up call for the world". "The magnitude of the disaster unfolding in Australia should shock us all, with human and animal lives and precious species of fauna being destroyed," Lindsay Hoyle said. "This is a wake-up call for the world. All Australians are in our thoughts and prayers." Prince Charles also sent his regards.
2. Facebook confirmed Celeste Barber's mammoth bushfire fundraiser – which has now pulled in just under $45 million – is the largest in the platform's history. The previous record-holder was a US fundraiser that raised US$20.77 million for RAICES (the Refugee and Immigrant Centre for Education and Legal Services) in Texas. Barber's money will go to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
3. Social media and the various new internet platforms, which have sprung up in the past few years have given us a veritable panoply of options for fundraising and donations. Which means, of course, that we all need to be careful about where and how we're donating. Scams and the proper allocations of resources are obviously a primary concern, but there are also tax considerations – some donation vectors may not provide you with a tax receipt.
4. We spoke to the founder of Zero Mass Water, a company which designs solar-powered 'hydropanels' which produce drinkable water without pipe infrastructure. The company, which has received investment from Australia's renewable energy agency, has deployed its panels in remote areas of the country – including Indigenous communities. “Our vision is to perfect water for every person, every place,” Cody Friesen said. “We have the technology that entitles us to that crazy vision. The technology can do that. Now it’s about us executing.” Very cool stuff.
5. Facebook has announced it will ban 'deepfake' videos and similar 'manipulated content' from its platform. The company said in a statement it was taking a multi-pronged approach to address the issue, including investigating deceptive behaviours in artificially generated content and partnering with academia, government, and industry to better identify manipulated content. The ban includes exceptions for satire or parody.
6. Trump has walked back his threat to target Iranian cultural sites after basically everyone yelled at him that it would constitute a clear war crime. “If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” the president said. We should probably stand by for another reversal on this in the coming days, if history is a guide.
7. There's one place where the threat of war between the US and Iran isn't registering at all: the stock market. Investors on Wall Street so far have largely dismissed escalating tensions in the Middle East, which some fear could lead to a full-blown war between the United States and Iran.
8. This week, Elon Musk's SpaceX blasted another 60 internet-providing Starlink satellites into space, making the company the single largest operator of spacecraft in orbit. Musk tweeted "no training" would be required for users to connect to the Starlink internet network – just point a device which looks like a "UFO on a stick" upwards and you're good to go. Sounds nice, if it actually works.
9. One thing we're particularly interested in is seeing what is actually inside the labs of these newfangled 'fake meat' startups. Our US friends got into the lab of Beyond Meat and it's... pretty cool! Very sciencey. Lots of people in lab coats, petri dishes, robots, the works.
10. NASA's planet-hunting telescope found an Earth-size exoplanet 100 light-years away, which could hide a vast ocean beneath its surface. The planet is in its star’s habitable zone and has the potential to hold liquid water. Are there aliens living on it? In my uninformed, optimist opinion: yes.
In the trend of all devices folding, Intel revealed a foldable laptop concept at the massive tech conference, CES, in Vegas. The device is nicknamed "Horseshoe Bend" and is about the size of 12-inch laptop. Unfortunately for foldable fans, it isn't coming to stores any time soon.