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

This is today’s edition of Download, Our weekday newsletter provides daily coverage of what’s happening in the tech world.

An AI can design new proteins that could help unlock new cures and materials

What’s up?: A new AI tool can help researchers discover previously unknown proteins and design entirely new proteins. When harnessed, it could help unlock the development of more effective vaccines, speed up research into cancer cures, or lead to entirely new materials.

How it works: ProteinMPNN, developed by a team of researchers from the University of Washington, provides scientists with a tool that will complement the ability to predict the shape of all proteins known to science as a tool. DeepMind’s AlphaFold. ProteinMPNN will help researchers solve the inverse problem. If they had the correct protein structure in mind, it would help them figure out the amino acid sequence that folds into that shape.

Why is it important: Proteins are fundamental to life, and understanding their shape is essential to working with them. Traditionally, researchers design proteins by tweaking those that occur naturally, but ProteinMPNN opens up a whole new universe of possible proteins for researchers to design from scratch. Read full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

Read more:

+ DeepMind has predicted the structure of almost every protein known to science.And it offers free data, which could spur new scientific discoveries. Read full story.

+ This is why Demis Hassabis started DeepMind. AlphaFold changed the way researchers work and put DeepMind on a new course. Read full story.

Climate change ‘fingerprint’ clear in devastating floods in Pakistan

What we know: Climate change is most likely to intensify the South Asian monsoon that has overwhelmed 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 that uses climate models, weather observations and other tools to determine if global warming increases the likelihood of occurrence or severity of recent extreme weather events.

What we don’t know: Exactly how climate change’s role is unclear. Using climate models to pinpoint the role of global warming in amplifying the entire monsoon season has proved difficult, due to the combination of widespread variation in precipitation patterns. large periods of time, active natural processes that models may not fully capture and the changing weather of the territory. And the country’s weather could turn even more extreme. Read full story.

— Temple of James

Things to read

I scoured the internet to find you today’s most interesting/important/scary/striking stories about tech.

1 Uber appears to have been attacked by a teenager
An 18-year-old is claiming to be behind a cybersecurity breach that compromised the company’s internal systems. (NYT $)
+ Meanwhile, its services are operating normally for customers. (Bloomberg $)

2 An AI used medical notes to teach itself to spot diseases on chest X-rays
Teaching AI models to read existing reports can save researchers from having to manually label data. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Huge US government database of rapidly growing traveler data
Data from phones and other devices is kept for 15 years. (WP $)

4 White House wants Congress to repeal social media immunity
Tech companies are covered by Section 230, which means they are not legally responsible for user content posts. (Reuters)
+ Here’s why it’s worth the savings. (MIT Technology Review)
+ We need clearer guidelines on what constitutes harmful online content. (Information $)
+ These days, senators are asking better questions for Big Tech. (Slate $)

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

6 Organic molecules have been found in rocks on Mars
They could prove that life could have flourished there. (Wired $)
+ These bacteria may have lived in gray lakes. (Motherboard)
+ The best places to find extraterrestrial life in our solar system. (MIT Technology Review)

7 most sophisticated AI systems that can be confusing even their creators
That’s a kind of perspective of deep learning. (Atlantic $)

8 Inside the wild world of leg stretching
More and more men are willing to have their legs amputated to look taller — at a cost. (GQ)
+ Biological genera 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 $)

The race to slow down the aging process
Finding out a person’s epigenetic age is one place to start. (Neo.Life)
+ The aging clock is intended 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 adopting new digital ways to invite friends to parties beyond social media to New York Times.

Big story

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

October 2018

Jennie and Gary Landsman launched an online appeal to save their son on Thanksgiving 2017. In a moving video, the couple describe how their two sons, Benny, 18 months, and Josh, four months – both have a fatal genetic brain disorder. Canavan disease. It is extremely rare – in fact, so rare that there is no reliable understanding of how many children are born with the disease. Relatively few researchers have studied Canavan, and there are no approved drugs to treat it.

The Landsmans refused to accept the doctors’ advice to make their sons comfortable until they died. Instead, they learned: there might be a way to correct genetic errors in boys’ brains. But the family will have to pay for it themselves. And it will be very 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 irresistible to parents whose children have the rarest diseases on earth, because it suggests the optimal way to correct errors. The question is: who will pay? Read full story.

—Antonio Regalado

We can still have good things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction during these strange times. (Any comments?Drop me a lineortweet ’em with me.)

+ If you like the hit TV series The White Lotus, Resort should be right in your alley.
+ Why? follow your gut not necessarily the path to happiness.
+ Seen when we are about to fall, here are some Best horror movies on Netflix right away.
+ I didn’t know it could do butter even tastier, but turns out you can!
+ This one Roman Coin Collection is pretty awesome.

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