The Download: Protein discovery and the climate crisis in Pakistan

This is today’s issue of the magazine. The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

AI that can create new proteins could help discover new drugs and materials

What happened?: A new AI tool could help researchers discover previously unknown proteins and develop brand new ones. When used, it could help develop more effective vaccines, accelerate research into cancer treatments, or lead to entirely new materials.

How it works: ProteinMPNN, developed by a team of researchers at the University of Washington, offers scientists a tool that will complement the DeepMind AlphaFold tool’s ability to predict the shape of all proteins known to science. ProteinMPNN will help researchers solve the inverse problem. If they already have the exact structure of a protein in mind, it will help them find the amino acid sequence that folds into that shape.

Why is it important: Proteins are fundamental to life, and understanding their shape is vital to working with them. Traditionally, researchers design proteins by modifying those found in nature, but ProteinMPNN will open up a whole new universe of possible proteins for researchers to design from scratch. Read the full story.

— Melissa Heikkila

Read more:

+ DeepMind has predicted the structure of almost every protein known to science.And the data is given away for free, which can contribute to new scientific discoveries. Read the full story.

+ It is for this reason that Demis Hassabis founded DeepMind. AlphaFold has changed the way researchers work and set DeepMind on a new course. Read the full story.

Climate change ‘fingerprints’ visible in devastating floods in Pakistan

What do we know: Climate change has likely intensified the South Asian monsoon that has 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 has increased the likelihood or severity of recent extreme weather events.

What we don’t know: It is not clear how much of a role climate change has played. The use of climate models to accurately determine the role of global warming in enhancing the full rainy season has proven challenging due to some combination of the wide variability in heavy rainfall patterns over long periods, natural processes at work that models may not fully capture, and weather patterns. territory. And the weather in the country is likely to become even more extreme. Read the full story.

— James Temple

Required Reading

I scoured the internet to find the most hilarious/important/scary/exciting tech stories to date.

1 Uber Looks Like It Was Hacked By A Teenager
The 18-year-old claims to be behind a cybersecurity breach that compromised the company’s internal systems. (New York Times $)
+ Meanwhile, its services are working fine for customers. (Bloomberg $)

2 AI used medical notes to learn how to spot diseases on chest x-rays.
Training AI models to read existing reports can save researchers the hassle of manually labeling data. (MIT Technology Review)

3 The US government’s extensive travel database is growing rapidly.
Data from phones and other devices is stored for 15 years. (VP $)

4 The White House Wants Congress to Lift Social Media Immunity
Technology companies are protected by Section 230, which means they are not legally responsible for content posted by their users. (Reuters)
+ That’s why it’s worth saving. (MIT Technology Review)
+ We need clearer guidance on what constitutes malicious online content. (Information $)
+ Senators are asking big tech better questions these days. (Slate $)

5 million people in India have geotagged their homes
The move, which was part of the country’s Independence Day celebrations, has rattled privacy advocates. (The rest of the world)

6 organic molecules found in rocks on Mars
They could prove that life could flourish there. (Wired $)
+ Microbes could live in salt lakes. (Motherboard)
+ The best places to look for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. (MIT Technology Review)

7 The most complex artificial intelligence systems can baffle even their creators
This is the essence of deep learning. (Atlantic Ocean $)

8 Inside The Wild World Of Leg Lengthening
More and more men are willing to break their legs to make themselves look taller – for a price. (GQ)
+ Bionic limbs may also become more widely available within a decade. (Neo.Life)

9 TikTok is the new Google
Why trust a restaurant website when TikTok shows what their food actually looks like? (New York Times $)

10 The race to slow down aging
You can start with the epigenetic age of a person. (Neo.Life)
+ The aging clock is designed to predict how long you will live. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the Day

Facebook is sort of dead.

— Natasha Hunt Lee, 25, explains why Generation Z is embracing new digital ways to invite friends to parties outside of social media. The newspaper “New York Times.

big story

Two Sick Children and a $1.5 Million Bill: One Family’s Race for a Gene Therapy Cure

October 2018

Jenny and Gary Landsman launched an online appeal to save their sons on Thanksgiving Day 2017. In the touching video, the couple describe how their two sons, Benny, then 18 months old, and Josh, four months old, both suffer from a fatal genetic brain disorder called Canavan Disease. This is a very rare disease, so rare that there is no reliable information about how many children are born with it. Canavan is studied by relatively few researchers and no drug has been approved for its treatment.

The Landsmans refused to take the advice of doctors to keep their sons comfortable until death. Instead, they learned that there might be a way to correct a genetic error in boys’ brains. But the family had to pay for it themselves. And that would be expensive.

The Landsmans 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 offers the ultimate fix. The problem is, who will pay? Read the full story.

— Antonio Regalado

We can still have good things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction during these strange times. (Any ideas?Write meorwrite me.)

+ If you liked the popular TV hit “White Lotus”, Resort should be right in your lane.
+ Why following your intuition not necessarily the path to happiness.
+ As we approach autumn, here are some of the best horror movies on netflix right now.
+ didn’t know what to do oil even tastier, but it turns out you can!
+ This Collection of Roman coins pretty amazing.

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