The Download: discovering proteins, and Pakistan’s climate crisis

This is today’s version of DownloadAnd the Our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new treatments and materials

what happened?: A new AI tool could help researchers discover previously unknown proteins and design entirely new ones. When used, it could help launch the development of more efficient vaccines, accelerate research into treatments for cancer, or lead to entirely new materials.

How it works: The MPNN protein, developed by a group of researchers from the University of Washington, offers scientists a tool that complements DeepMind’s AlphaFold tool’s ability to predict the shapes of all proteins known to science. The MPNN protein will help researchers solve the inverse problem. If they already have a precise protein structure in mind, this will help them find the amino acid sequence that folds into this shape.

why does it matter: Proteins are essential to life, and understanding their shape is vital to working with them. Traditionally researchers design proteins by modifying those that occur in nature, but the MPNN protein will open up a whole new world of potential proteins for researchers to design from scratch. Read the full story.

— Melissa Hekila

Read more:

+ DeepMind predicted the structure of nearly every protein known to science.They provide the data for free, which could spur new scientific discoveries. Read the full story.

+ This is the reason Demis Hassabis created DeepMind. AlphaFold changed the way researchers work and set DeepMind on a new path. Read the full story.

The ‘fingerprints’ of climate change are evident in the devastating floods in Pakistan

What we know: It is very likely that climate change has intensified the intensity of the South Asian monsoon that has inundated Pakistan in recent weeks, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying nearly two million homes. That’s according to a new analysis by World Weather Attribution, a network of scientists who use climate models, weather monitoring, 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 exactly what role climate change has played. Using climate models to determine the role of global warming in amplifying the full monsoon season has proven challenging, due to a combination of wide variation in heavy precipitation patterns over long periods, natural processes at work that models may not fully capture, and atmospheric quirks of the region. The country’s weather is likely to become more extreme. Read the full story.

– James Temple

must read

I’ve combed the internet to find you the most fun/important/scary/cool stories today about technology.

1 It looks like Uber was hacked by a teenager
An 18-year-old claims to be behind the cybersecurity breach, which damaged the company’s internal systems. (The New York Times $)
+ Meanwhile, its services are working normally for customers. (Bloomberg $)

2 Artificial intelligence used medical observations 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 extensive database of passenger data is growing rapidly
Data from phones and other devices is kept for 15 years. (WP $)

4 The White House wants Congress to drop social media immunity
Technology companies are protected under Section 230, which means they are not legally responsible for content posts by their users. (Reuters)
+ Here’s why it’s worth saving. (MIT Technology Review)
+ We need clearer guidelines for what constitutes harmful online content. (the information $)
+ Senators are asking big tech companies 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 privacy advocates worried. (Rest of the world)

6 organic molecules have been found in the rocks of Mars
They can prove that life may have flourished there. (wired $)
+ Microbes may have lived in salt lakes. (Motherboard)
+ The best places to find extraterrestrial life in our solar system. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Even the most advanced AI systems can baffle their creators
It is kind of a point of deep learning. (Atlantic Ocean $)

8 Inside the Wild Realm of Leg Lengthening 🦵
More and more men are willing to break their legs to make them look taller – for a price. (GQ)
+ Electronic parties could be more widely available within a decade as well. (New Life)

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

10 The race to slow down aging
Manipulating a person’s epigenetic age is one place to start. (New Life)
+ Aging clocks are meant to predict how long you will live. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote from today

“Facebook is kind of extinct.”

Natasha Hunt Lee, 25, explains why Generation Z is adopting new digital ways to invite friends to parties outside the social network to The New York Times.

The big story

Two sick kids and a $1.5 million bill: One family races to get gene therapy

October 2018

Jenny and Gary Landsmann launched an online appeal to save their sons at Thanksgiving 2017. In an animated video, the couple describe how their sons, Benny, then 18 months, and Josh, four months, suffer from a fatal genetic brain disorder called Canavan disease. It’s so rare – so rare, in fact, that there is no reliable understanding of how many children are born with it. Relatively few researchers study Canavan, and no drugs have been approved to treat it.

The amorous couple refused to accept doctors’ advice to keep their sons comfortable until their death. Instead, they learned: There may be a way to fix the genetic error in boys’ brains. But the family has to pay for it themselves. And it will be expensive.

The Landsmanns discovered gene therapy, a technique that uses viruses to add healthy genes to cells with faulty genes. The medical logic of technology is particularly irresistible to parents of children suffering from the rarest diseases on earth, as it points to the ultimate fix for the defect. The problem is: who will pay? Read the full story.

– Antonio Regalado

We can still have pretty things

A place to rest, have fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have any ideas?Message me on lineorTweet me.)

+ If you’ve enjoyed Smash TV, The White Lotus has hit, Resort It should be right up your alley.
+ why follow your intuition Not necessarily the way to happiness.
+ As we’re headed for fall, here are some of the The best horror movies on Netflix Immediately.
+ I didn’t know it was possible to do this butter More delicious, but it turns out you can!
+ this roman coins collection Amazing.

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