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January 30, 2023
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The Download: what’s next for quantum computing, and hacking circadian clocks

The Download: what’s next for quantum computing, and hacking circadian clocks

For years, quantum’s news cycle was dominated by headlines about record-setting systems. But this year, researchers are getting off the hype train and knuckling down to life in the real world—bucking the trend of packing processors with ever more quantum bits, or “qubits,” in favor of fewer, but higher quality qubits.

Companies are also announcing new chips designed to connect directly to each other. It’s a move that’s expected to accelerate the shift toward “modular” quantum computers—and help the machines to scale up significantly in the process. Read the full story.

—Michael Brooks

How drugs that hack our circadian clocks might one day improve our health

We’ve got more than one biological clock. Beyond the one that marches onwards as we age, the circadian clock that sits in our brains keeps our bodies in rhythm. This clock helps control when we wake, eat, and sleep.

But there’s more to it than that. It also controls the finer aspects of how our bodies work, by influencing hundreds of molecular clocks throughout our cells and organs, from regulating our metabolisms to controlling how our genes make proteins.

Now scientists are working on ways to tailor treatments to our circadian rhythms. Drugs that specifically target the clocks themselves are being explored in the lab. Will we one day be able to hack our circadian clocks to improve our health? Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

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+ AI is bringing the internet to submerged Roman ruins. The technology is making it easier to monitor underwater archaeological sites. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 A new covid subvariant is sweeping across the US 

But there’s no evidence to suggest it’s more severe than its predecessors. (The Atlantic $)

+ The WHO said it’s monitoring its spread closely. (Sky News)

+ Demand for covid drugs is soaring on China’s black market. (Rest of World)

+ The European Union “strongly” recommends member states test arrivals from China. (BBC)

2 Former Twitter workers are still waiting for severance pay

Many of them have been waiting for over two months. (Bloomberg $)

+ Hackers have shared 200 million Twitter users’ data. (The Register)

+ We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)

3 It’s unlikely that Celsius customers will get their money back

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t really own most of their cryptocurrency—the collapsed lender did. (WP $)

+ New York’s attorney general is suing Celsius’s founder. (NYT $)

4 Taiwan wants to build its own satellite network 

In a bid to safeguard the country from potential attacks from China. (FT $)

+ Satellite-to-mobile phones are gaining traction at this year’s CES. (WSJ $)

5Two Wikipedia administrators have been jailed in Saudi Arabia

In a draconian attempt to control the website’s information around the country. (The Guardian)

6 Inside Facebook’s political nightmare

Demoting “sensitive” newsfeed topics was far from smooth sailing. (WSJ $) 

+ Meta management moving overseas has been a headache, too. (The Information $)

7 Encouraging people to donate kidneys is tough

Offering donors a financial incentive is one solution to lowering waiting lists. (Wired $)

8 Bionic penile implants could help treat erectile dysfunction

Pigs with injured penises that received artificial tissue patches were able to experience normal erections. (Motherboard)

+ Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant. (MIT Technology Review)

9 How tech lovers adapt to life off-grid 🌱

It’s time to invest in a wind turbine! (The Next Web)

10 How meme-themed piñatas took off 🪅

Political and social media-themed designs are especially popular. (Rest of World)

Quote of the day

“The greatest risk is not taking one.” 

—A quote from the website of Alex Mashinsky, the CEO of bankrupt crypto lender Celsius Network, who stands accused of having defrauded investors out of billions of dollars, Reuters reports.

The big story

Your first lab-grown burger is coming soon—and it’ll be “blended”

December 2020

One cool fall night in 2010, Jessica Krieger was horrified by a documentary that showed the gruesome ways animals are slaughtered for food. Then an undergrad in neuroscience, she threw herself into what at the time was a fringe area of biotech research: growing and harvesting edible animal cells without killing any sentient creatures.

While lab-grown meat was busy trying to find its way out of the petri dish, plant-based meat substitutes were undergoing a revolution. But rather than treating their success as a threat, Krieger and a number of other entrepreneurs see it as the opening they need to finally bring their creations to market—in the form of “blended meat,” melding the best of the plant-based and cultured-meat substitutes. And it might not be long before you get a chance to taste it. Read the full story.

 —Niall Firth

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ If you’re ever lost in the wilderness, these essential survival skills will stand you in good stead.

+ TikTok’s home cleaning tips are surprisingly easy—and effective to boot.

+ Learning all the major and minor scales on a piano just became a breeze.

+ Soft amaretti biscuits—yes please.

+ The US Transportation Security Administration has released its list of the weirdest finds of 2022—including a gun hidden in peanut butter.

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