This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through January 28)


AI Has Designed Bacteria-Killing Proteins From Scratch—and They Work
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
“The AI, called ProGen, works in a similar way to 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 could specify a group of similar proteins for it 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 enhance its quizzes and personalize some content for its audiences, becoming the latest digital publisher to embrace artificial intelligence. In a memo to staff sent Thursday morning, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said he intends for AI to play a larger role in the company’s editorial and business operations this year.


Metal Robot Can Melt Its Way Out of Tight Spaces to Escape
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | New Scientist
“A miniature, shape-shifting robot can liquefy itself and reform, allowing it to complete tasks in hard-to-access places and even escape cages. It could eventually be used as a hands-free soldering machine or a tool for extracting swallowed toxic items.”


Don’t Be Sucked in by AI’s Head-Spinning Hype Cycles
Devin Coldewey | TechCrunch
“[AI] certainly can outplay any human at chess or go, 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 is difficult to tease out which of these things is important, and to whom, and which will be remembered as briefly diverting parlor tricks in 5 or 10 years, like so many innovations we have been told are going to change the world.”


NASA Announces Successful Test of New Propulsion Technology for Treks to Deep Space
Kevin Hurler | Gizmodo
“The rotating detonation rocket engine, or RDRE, generates thrust with detonation, in which a supersonic exothermic front accelerates to produce thrust, much the same way a shockwave travels through the atmosphere after something like TNT explodes. NASA says that this design uses less fuel and provides more thrust than current propulsion systems and that the RDRE could be used to power human landers, as well as crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and deep space.


The Best Use for AI Eye Contact Tech Is Making Movie Stars Look Straight at the Camera
James Vincent | The Verge
“This tech comes with a bunch of interesting questions, of course. Like: is constant unbroken eye contact good or a bit creepy? Are these tools useful for people who don’t naturally like eye contact? …But forget that high-brow trash for now, because here’s the stupidest and best use case of this technology yet: editing movie scenes so actors make eye contact with the camera.”


Researchers Look a Dinosaur in Its Remarkably Preserved Face
Jeanne Timmons | Ars Technica
Borealopelta markmitchelli found its way back into the sunlight in 2017, millions of years after it had 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 that coats its skin, the spikes along its side, most of its body and feet, even its face—survived fossilization. It is, according to Dr. Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a one-in-a-billion 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 limelight to OpenAI, an upstart that has captured the popular imagination with the public beta of its startlingly conversant chatbot, ChatGPT. Now Google reportedly fears the 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. Its AI investments, which date back to the 2000s, may pay off, and could even power the company’s next quarter century of growth (Google turns 25 this year). Here’s why.


CRISPR Wants to Feed the World
Jennifer Doudna | Wired
A great deal of the attention surrounding CRISPR has focused on the medical applications, and for good reason: The results are promising, and the personal stories are uplifting, offering hope to many who have suffered from long-neglected genetic diseases. In 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 Expose Text Written by an AI
Melissa Heikkilä | MIT Technology Review
“Hidden patterns purposely buried in AI-generated texts could help identify them as such, allowing us to tell whether the words we’re reading are written by a human or not. These ‘watermarks’ are invisible to the human eye but let computers detect that the text probably comes from an AI system. If embedded in large language models, they could 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 | The New York Times
“Imagine Earth’s inner core—the dense center of our planet—as a heavy, metal ballerina. This iron-rich dancer is capable of pirouetting at ever-changing speeds. That core may be on the cusp of a big shift. Seismologists reported Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience that after brief but peculiar pauses, the inner core changes how it spins—relative to the motion of Earth’s surface—perhaps once every few decades. And, right now, one such reversal may be underway.”

Image Credit: Robert Linder / Unsplash

Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs and issues shaping the future as well as supporting a global community of smart, passionate, action-oriented people who want to change the world.
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