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MIT Tech News

Covid clusters among the vaccinated are killing our back-to-normal dreams

11 hours 40 minutes ago
They were gold miners in French Guiana, revelers in Cape Cod, and Indian health-care workers. Even though they inhabit worlds apart, they ended up having two things in common. All were vaccinated against covid-19. And they all became part of infection clusters. In recent weeks, cases like these are proving that covid-19 transmission chains and…
Antonio Regalado, Casey Crownhart

An endlessly changing playground teaches AIs how to multitask

18 hours 46 minutes ago
DeepMind has developed a vast candy-colored virtual playground that teaches AIs general skills by endlessly changing the tasks it sets them. Instead of developing just the skills needed to solve a particular task, the AIs learn to experiment and explore, picking up skills they then use to succeed in tasks they’ve never seen before. It…
Will Douglas Heaven

Hundreds of AI tools have been built to catch covid. None of them helped.

1 day ago
When covid-19 struck Europe in March 2020, hospitals were plunged into a health crisis that was still badly understood. “Doctors really didn’t have a clue how to manage these patients,” says Laure Wynants, an epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who studies predictive tools. But there was data coming out of China, which had…
Will Douglas Heaven

The best vaccine incentive might be paid time off

2 days 1 hour ago
Free doughnuts. Tickets to see the Los Angeles Lakers. Video visits with loved ones for people in prison. The chance to win a million-dollar lottery.  States, cities, and private companies are dangling anything they can think of to convince Americans to get a covid-19 vaccine. The idea is to nudge people who are open to…
Mia Sato

She risked everything to expose Facebook. Now she’s telling her story.

2 days 2 hours ago
The world first learned of Sophie Zhang in September 2020, when BuzzFeed News obtained and published highlights from an abridged version of her nearly 8,000-word exit memo from Facebook. Before she was fired, Zhang was officially employed as a low-level data scientist at the company. But she had become consumed by a task she deemed…
Karen Hao

Israel begins investigation into NSO Group spyware abuse

2 days 15 hours ago
Israeli government officials visited the offices of the hacking company NSO Group on Wednesday to investigate allegations that the firm’s spyware has been used to target activists, politicians, business executives, and journalists, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement today. An investigation published last week by 17 global media organizations claims that phone numbers…
Patrick Howell O'Neill

Astronomers have spotted x-rays from behind a supermassive black hole

2 days 20 hours ago
When gas falls into a black hole, it releases an enormous amount of energy and spews electromagnetic radiation in all directions, making these objects some of the brightest in the known universe. But scientists have only ever been able to see light and other radiation from a supermassive black hole when it’s shining directly toward our…
Neel V. Patel

What you need to know about the CDC’s new mask guidelines

3 days 11 hours ago
On Tuesday, July 27, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor spaces in communities where covid cases are spiking. Along with the new policy, the CDC recommends that children in grades K–12 attend school in person while continuing to wear masks inside.  Why is the CDC making this switch?   The announcement comes on the heels of rising infections…
Tatyana Woodall

The pandemic slashed the West Coast’s emissions. Wildfires already reversed it.

4 days 1 hour ago
Wildfires raging across the US West Coast have filled the air with enough carbon dioxide to wipe out more than half of the region’s pandemic-driven emissions reductions last year. And that was just in July. The numbers illustrate a troubling feedback loop. Climate change creates hotter, drier conditions that fuel increasingly frequent and devastating fires—which,…
James Temple

Meet the people who warn the world about new covid variants

5 days 1 hour ago
In March, when covid cases began spiking around India, Bani Jolly went hunting for answers in the virus’s genetic code.  Researchers in the UK had just set the scientific world ablaze with news that a covid variant called B.1.1.7—soon to be referred to as alpha—was to blame for skyrocketing case counts there. Jolly, a third-year…
Cat Ferguson

“We never created a supervirus.” Ralph Baric explains gain-of-function research.

5 days 2 hours ago
In May, the longtime coronavirus researcher Ralph Baric found himself at the center of the swirling debate over gain-of-function research, in which scientists engineer new properties into existing viruses. And during a congressional hearing, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky implied that the National Institutes of Health had been funding such research at both the Wuhan…
Rowan Jacobsen

We just got our best-ever look at the inside of Mars

1 week ago
NASA’s InSight robotic lander has just given us our first look deep inside a planet other than Earth.  More than two years after its launch, seismic data that InSight collected has given researchers hints into how Mars was formed, how it has evolved over 4.6 billion years, and how it differs from Earth. A set of three new studies, published in Science this week, suggests that Mars has a…
Tatyana Woodall

Is the UK’s pingdemic good or bad? Yes.

1 week 1 day ago
Oscar Maung-Haley, 24, was working a part-time job in a bar in Manchester, England, when his phone pinged. It was the UK’s NHS Test and Trace app letting him know he’d potentially been exposed to covid-19 and needed to self-isolate. The news immediately caused problems. “It was a mad dash around the venue to show…
Chris Stokel-Walker, Lindsay Muscato

DeepMind says it will release the structure of every protein known to science

1 week 1 day ago
Back in December 2020, DeepMind took the world of biology by surprise when it solved a 50-year grand challenge with AlphaFold, an AI tool that predicts the structure of proteins. Last week the London-based company published full details of that tool and released its source code. Now the firm has announced that it has used its…
Will Douglas Heaven

An albino opossum proves CRISPR works for marsupials, too

1 week 2 days ago
Mice: check. Lizards: check. Squid: check. Marsupials … check. CRISPR has been used to modify the genes of tomatoes, humans, and just about everything in between. Because of their unique reproductive biology and their relative rarity in laboratory settings, though, marsupials had eluded the CRISPR rush—until now. A team of researchers at Japan’s RIKEN Institute,…
Casey Crownhart

Disability rights advocates are worried about discrimination in AI hiring tools

1 week 3 days ago
Your ability to land your next job could depend on how well you play one of the AI-powered games that companies like AstraZeneca and Postmates are increasingly using in the hiring process. Some companies that create these games, like Pymetrics and Arctic Shores, claim that they limit bias in hiring. But AI hiring games can…
Sheridan Wall, Hilke Schellmann

Review: Why Facebook can never fix itself

1 week 3 days ago
The Facebook engineer was itching to know why his date hadn’t responded to his messages. Perhaps there was a simple explanation—maybe she was sick or on vacation. So at 10 p.m. one night in the company’s Menlo Park headquarters, he brought up her Facebook profile on the company’s internal systems and began looking at her…
Karen Hao

Podcast: Playing the job market

1 week 3 days ago
Increasingly, job seekers need to pass a series of tests in the form of artificial-intelligence games just to be seen by a hiring manager. In this third of a four-part miniseries on AI and hiring, we speak to someone who helped create these tests, and we ask who might get left behind in the process…
Anthony Green

Blue Origin takes its first passengers to space

1 week 3 days ago
This time, there was a blastoff.   Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and three other civilians watched the sky turn from blue to black this morning as the company’s reusable rocket and capsule system New Shepard passed the Kármán line, the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.   Around 9:25 a.m. US Eastern time, Bezos and his fellow passengers landed…
Tatyana Woodall

How Zello keeps people connected during South Africa’s unrest

1 week 3 days ago
On June 29, former South African president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for corruption during his presidency. Zuma—the first ethnic Zulu to hold the country’s highest office—has a loyal following. He also has many detractors, who blame his administration’s corruption for a stagnant economy and weakened democracy. Zuma didn’t turn himself…
Tanya Basu
3 hours 28 minutes ago
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