Tech

The Download: cancer-detecting blood tests, and crypto’s big Merge


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

The US is conducting a blood test that promises to detect cancer earlier

News: The United States is launching a national trial to evaluate how effective tests designed to detect markers of multiple cancers are in real blood taken from a patient’s arm. The aim is to help determine how to interpret blood test results for cancer, and it should provide a standard approach to launching cancer screening studies as companies flood the field with new tests.

Why is it important: Most cancers cannot be reliably screened before symptoms begin — tools like mammograms and cervical smears are the exceptions, not is the rule. Most of these multiple cancer early detection tests work by looking for the remnants of tumor cells that explode after the immune system attacks them. Debris from dead tumors will appear in the bloodstream, where it can potentially be detected to warn of cancer before someone feels sick. If imaging confirms the finding, a biopsy will follow.

What’s next: The trial, run by the National Cancer Institute, will begin enrolling participants in 2024 and test how effective various blood tests are at detecting cancer in 24,000 healthy patients over four years. five. If the findings look promising, a clinical trial nearly 10 times larger will begin. Read full story.

—Hana Kiros

Why Ethereum Moves To Proof Of Stake And How It Will Work

This weekend, one of the world’s largest blockchains will switch to a new way to approve transactions and move away from energy-intensive “proof-of-work” systems.

If successful, the process, called Merge, will reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption by about 99.95% and potentially help it reach 100,000 transactions per second. If the Merge continues at current rate, the process will be completed on Thursday. Read our explanation on How will it work?.

Things to read

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

1 The Russian government was affected by the first lawsuit on climate change
A group of activists hope to force the country’s authorities to comply with the Paris climate accord. (Guardians)
+ Forest biomes in Russia are at serious risk from climate change. (FT $)
+ Europe’s rising demand for coal is undermining the country’s climate credentials. (Reuters)

2 A new cancer drug appears to be more effective than chemotherapy
However, there is no evidence that it reduces the total number of deaths. (WSJ $)

3 Twitter whistleblowers are appearing before the US Senate
Peiter Zatko’s testimony next week could change the course of Elon Musk’s legal battle with the platform. (CNN)
+ These are just some of the questions Zatko may face. (Guardians)
+ Why the Chinese government buys ads on Twitter, despite the ban. (Reuters)

4 A Blue Origin rocket has booster failure during launch
However, there were no humans on board. (WP $)
+ Maybe we need to expand our search on ‘smart living’. (Atlantic $)

5 Why it’s important to understand why some people don’t
And why do many people think they are immune when they are not. (Wired $)
+ Persistent brain fog affects women disproportionately. (Atlantic $)
+ A battle is raging on longstanding grounds in children. (MIT Technology Review)

6 CRISPR needs smartphone moments
The push to mainstream adoption could change the way we deal with genetic mutations. (Atlantic $)
+ Protein factories can help us shed light on the origins of life. (New Scientist $)
+ Editing cholesterol genes could stop the biggest killer on earth. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Why the Internet Archive’s legal case could change digital history
It can also take a large amount in the process. (Slate $)

8 Antarctica is in danger
We’re still figuring out how vulnerable the East Antarctic ice sheet really is. (Cnet)

9 Ways Beauty AI repacks body learning for selfie lovers
Its claims to read personality traits from facial features are not supported by science. (Information $)
+ The battle for the “Instagram face” (MIT Technology Review)

10 WhatsApp groups are tricking us into false feelings of intimacy
But getting rid of them is easier said than done. (Guardians)

Quote of the day

“Our main request is not to be killed.”

—Camila, a student in Mexico City, tells The rest of the world how her classmates track each other’s whereabouts using WhatsApp amid a dramatic increase in violence against women in Mexico.

Big story

The 50-year problem without theoretical computer science

October 2021

In July 2021, a proof appeared online in the journal ACM Transaction on Computational Theory. The result is purported to solve all problems — the Holy Grail of theoretical computer science, $1 million worth and a reputation on par with Aristotle.

This precious problem — called “P versus NP” — is considered the most important in theoretical and mathematical computer science and is completely out of reach. It addresses central questions about computational promise, limits, and ambition, asking: Why are some problems harder than others? What problems can computers actually solve? How much time will it take?

The million dollar question posed by P versus NP is: Are these two types of problems one and the same? That is, can seemingly very difficult problems in fact be solved by an algorithm in a reasonable amount of time, if only the right algorithm can be found horribly fast? Because if all the complex problems could be transformed with such algorithmic ingenuity, the consequences for society – for humanity and our planet – would be enormous. Read full story.

—Siobhan Roberts

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.)

+ New Netflix horror movies Oniona sequel to Knives Out, looks very interesting.
+ This Twitter account of a cat flutters before music was the best (thanks Melissa!)
+ Whether you are comfortable in the water or not, we can all agree that wave looks pretty majestic.
Teen TV shows are surprisingly good at dealing with death. This is why.
+ TikTok is throwing its weight back California’s Outstanding Farmers.





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