This week’s awesome tech stories from the web (through January 28)

AI has designed germ-killing proteins from scratch – and they work
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
“The AI, called ProGen, works in the same way as AIs that can generate text. ProGen learned how to generate new proteins by learning the grammar of how amino acids combine to form 280 million existing proteins. Instead of the researchers choosing a topic for the AI ​​to write about, they can specify a group of similar proteins to focus on. In this case, they chose a group of proteins with antimicrobial activity.”


BuzzFeed to use ChatGPT Creator OpenAI to help create quizzes and other content
Alexandra Bruell | The Wall Street Journal
“BuzzFeed Inc. said it would rely on ChatGPT creator OpenAI to improve its quizzes and customize some content for its audience, becoming the latest digital publisher to embrace artificial intelligence. In a memo to employees sent Thursday morning, which was reviewed by The Wall Street JournalCEO Jonah Peretti said he intends for AI to play a bigger role in the company’s editorial and business operations this year.

Metal robot can melt out of tight spaces to escape
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
“A miniature, shape-shifting robot can liquefy and reform itself, allowing it to complete tasks in hard-to-reach places and even escape cages. It could eventually be used as a hands-free soldering machine or a tool to extract toxic objects like swallowed.”

Don’t get sucked in by AI’s head-spinning hype cycles
Devin Coldewey | TechCrunch
“[AI] can absolutely outperform any human at chess or walking, and it can predict the structure of protein chains; it can answer any question confidently (if not correctly), and it can do a remarkably good imitation of any artist, living or dead. But it’s hard to tease out which of these things are important, and to whom, and which will be remembered as short diversionary gimmicks in 5 or 10 years, like so many innovations we’ve been told are going to change the world.”

NASA announces successful test of new propulsion technology for trips to space
Kevin Hurler | Gizmodo
“The rotary detonation rocket engine, or RDRE, generates thrust with detonation, where a supersonic exothermic front accelerates to produce thrust, much the same way a shock wave moves through the atmosphere after something like TNT explodes. NASA says this design uses less fuel and provide more thrust than current propulsion systems, and that RDRE can be used to power human landers, as well as crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and space.

The best use for AI Eye Contact Tech is to make movie stars look straight at the camera
James Vincent | The Verge
“This technology comes with a bunch of interesting questions, of course. Like: is constant, uninterrupted eye contact good or kind of creepy? Are these tools useful for people who naturally don’t like eye contact? …But forget the loud trash for now, because here’s the dumbest and best use of this technology to date: editing movie scenes so that actors make eye contact with the camera.”

Scientists see a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face
Jeanne Timmons | Ars Technica
Borealopelta markmitchelli found its way back into sunlight in 2017, millions of years after it died. This armored dinosaur is so magnificently preserved that we can see what it looked like in life. Almost the entire animal—the skin, the armor covering the skin, the spikes along the side, most of the body and feet, even the face—survived fossilization. It is, according to Dr Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the one billionth find.”

Google, not OpenAI, has the most to gain from generative AI
Mark Sullivan | Fast company
“After spending billions on artificial intelligence R&D and acquisitions, Google finds itself ceding the AI ​​spotlight to OpenAIan upstart that has captured the popular imagination with its public beta startlingly familiar chatbot, ChatGPT. Now Google will reportedly fear ChatGPT AI could reinvent search, its cornerstone business. But Google, which declared itself an “AI-first” company in 2017, may yet regain its place in the sun. The AI ​​investments, which date back to the 2000s, may pay off, and may even drive the company’s next quarter-century of growth (Google turns 25 this year). Here’s why.

CRISPR wants to feed the world
Jennifer Doudna | The cable
Much of the attention surrounding CRISPR has focused on its medical applications, and for good reason: The results are promising, and the personal stories are uplifting, giving hope to many who have suffered from long-neglected genetic diseases. By 2023, as CRISPR moves into agriculture and climate, we will have the opportunity to radically improve human health in a holistic way that can better safeguard our society and enable millions of people around the world to flourish.

A watermark for chatbots can reveal text written by an AI
Melissa Heikkilä | MIT Technology Review
“Hidden patterns deliberately buried in AI-generated texts can help identify them as such, allowing us to tell whether the words we read were written by a human or not. These “watermarks” are invisible to the human eye, but allow computers to detect that the text is likely to come from an AI system. If they are built into large language models, they can help prevent some of the problems that these models have already caused.”

Earth’s Inner Core: A Shifting, Spinning Mystery’s Latest Twist
Dennis Overbye | New York Times
“Imagine Earth’s inner core – the dense center of our planet – as a heavy metal ballerina. This iron-rich dancer is able to pirouette at ever-changing speeds. That core could be headed for a major shift. Seismologists reported Monday in the journal Nature Geosciences that after brief but distinctive pauses, the inner core changes how it spins—relative to the motion of the Earth’s surface—perhaps once every couple of decades. And right now, such a reversal may be underway.”

Image credit: Robert Linder / Unsplash

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