This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
An AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new cures and materials
What happened?: A new AI tool could help researchers discover previously unknown proteins and design entirely new ones. When harnessed, it could help unlock the development of more efficient vaccines, accelerate research into cancer cures, or lead to entirely new materials.
How it works: ProteinMPNN, developed by a group of researchers at the University of Washington, offers scientists a tool that will complement the ability of DeepMind’s AlphaFold tool to predict the shapes of all proteins known to science. ProteinMPNN will help researchers with the inverse problem. If they already have an exact protein structure in mind, it will help them find the amino acid sequence that folds into that shape.
Why it matters: Proteins are fundamental to life, and understanding their shape is vital to working with them. Traditionally, researchers design proteins by fitting those that occur in nature, but ProteinMPNN will open up a whole universe of possible proteins for researchers to design from scratch. Read the whole story.
+ DeepMind has predicted the structure of almost every protein known to science.And it’s giving the data away for free, which could stimulate new scientific discoveries. Read the whole story.
+ This is why Demis Hassabis started DeepMind. AlphaFold has changed the way researchers work and set DeepMind on a new course. Read the whole story.
The ‘fingerprints’ of climate change are clear in Pakistan’s devastating floods
What we know: Climate change is very likely to have intensified the South Asian monsoon that flooded Pakistan in recent weeks, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying nearly 2 million homes. That’s according to a new analysis by World Weather Attribution, a network of scientists who use climate models, weather observations and other tools to determine whether global warming increased the likelihood or severity of recent extreme weather events.
What we don’t know: It’s not clear how much climate change had it. Using climate models to identify the role of global warming in amplifying the full monsoon season has proven complicated, due to some combination of wide variability in heavy rainfall patterns over long periods, natural processes at work that models may not fully capture and meteorological peculiarities. of the territory And the country’s climate is likely to be even more extreme. Read the whole story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you the funniest/important/scary and fascinating stories about technology.
1 It looks like Uber was hacked by a teenager
An 18-year-old claims to be behind the cyber security breach, which compromised the company’s internal systems. (NYT$)
+ In the meantime, its services are operating as normal for customers. (Bloomberg$)
2 An AI used medical notes to teach itself how to detect disease in chest X-rays
Teaching AI models to read existing reports could save researchers from having to manually label data. (MIT Technology Review)
3 The US government’s large database of traveler data is growing rapidly
Data from phones and other devices is kept for 15 years. (WP$)
4 The White House wants Congress to remove social media immunity
Tech companies are protected by Section 230, which means they are not legally responsible for content posted by their users. (Reuters)
+ Here’s why it’s worth saving. (MIT Technology Review)
+ We need clearer guidelines on what constitutes harmful online content. (The $ info)
+ Senators are asking Big Tech better questions these days. (Blackboard $)
5 million people in India have geotagged their homes
The move, which was part of the country’s Independence Day celebrations, has surprised privacy advocates. (Rest of the World)
6 organic molecules have been found in the rocks of Mars
They could show that life could have thrived there. (via cable $)
+ Microbes may have lived in brackish lakes. (motherboard)
+ The best places to find extraterrestrial life in our solar system. (MIT Technology Review)
7 The most sophisticated AI systems can baffle even their creators
Which is kind of a deep learning point. (The Atlantic $)
8 Inside the wild world of leg extension
More and more men are willing to break their legs to make them look taller, for a price. (GQ)
+ Bionic limbs could also be more widely available within a decade. (Neo.Life)
9 TikTok is the new Google
Why trust a restaurant’s website when TikTok shows you what their food really looks like? (NYT$)
10 The race to stop aging
Reflecting on a person’s epigenetic age is a place to start. (Neo.Life)
+ Aging clocks aim to predict how long you will live. (MIT Technology Review)
quote of the day
“Facebook is extinct.”
—Natasha Hunt Lee, 25, explains why Gen Z is embracing new digital ways to invite friends to parties beyond the social network in the New York Times.
The great story
Two Sick Kids and a $1.5 Million Bill: One Family’s Race for a Gene Therapy Cure
Jennie and Gary Landsman launched an online appeal to save their children on Thanksgiving Day 2017. In a moving video, the couple describe how their two sons, Benny, then 18 months, and Josh, four months, both have a fatal genetic brain disorder called Canavan Disease. It is ultra rare, so rare, in fact, that there is no reliable understanding of how many children are born with it. Relatively few researchers are studying Canavan, and no drugs are approved to treat it.
The Landsmans refused to accept doctors’ advice to make their children comfortable until they died. Instead, they learned: There may be a way to fix the genetic error in boys’ brains. But the family would have to pay for it themselves. And it would be expensive.
The Landsmans had discovered gene therapy, a technology that uses viruses to add healthy genes to defective cells. The medical logic of technology is especially compelling to parents of children with the rarest diseases on earth, because it suggests the ultimate fix for mistakes. The problem is: who will pay? Read the whole story.
We can still have beautiful things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet them to me.)
+ If you enjoyed the hit TV show The White Lotus, The Resort should be right up your alley.
+ Why following your gut isn’t necessarily the path to happiness.
+ As we head into fall, here are some of the best horror movies on Netflix right now.
+ I didn’t know it was possible to make butter even more delicious, but it turns out it is!
+ This collection of Roman coins is quite amazing.