Quantum Drag Race, Expanding Cancer Cures, and the Bat Drone—The Download, April 24, 2017
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Google Promises Quantum Supremacy Before the Year’s Out
In a California lab, a new chip promises to usher in the future of computing. As we reported earlier this year, quantum computing is at a tipping point, with Intel, Microsoft, and IBM racing to develop practical devices that exploit quirks of physics to compute at incredible pace. Now, our own Tom Simonite reports that Google has built a chip that confirms its readiness for a landmark battle: a drag race with one of the world’s largest supercomputers, by the end of 2017. And it plans to win.
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The Quest to Make Immunotherapy a Bigger Success
One of the pioneers of cancer immunotherapy is on a mission. The idea of turbocharging the body’s own immune cells to destroy cancerous tumors continues to give rise to promising new treatments for the disease. But there’s a problem: of all patients dying of cancer in America this year, only one in 12 would be expected to benefit from such drugs. We met with James Allison, who spearheaded the development of immunotherapy, to find out how that might change.
Should Autonomous Cars Talk to Each Other?
In Britain, robotic cars are set to converse. Oxbotica is to test six communicating driverless vehicles in trials between Oxford and London, and hopes to offer fully autonomous journeys by 2019. The firm's plan to have vehicles communicate isn’t new, but sets the experiment apart from those by many companies, such as Waymo, who are building independent vehicles. As the Guardian recently argued, though, we may only get the best from driverless cars when they do communicate.
Ten Fascinating Things
Last week, Elon Musk outlined his plans for human-to-human telepathy via neural implants. Our own Antonio Regalado thinks that you shouldn’t believe the hype.
The New York Times has a fascinating profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick–including a scandal that almost saw the firm banned from Apple’s App Store.
The world’s most expensive medicine, which makes use of a genetically engineered virus, is being pulled from the market because nobody’s buying it.
More details have emerged about Apple’s autonomous car trials: safety drivers will apparently take the wheel of vehicles via video games controllers.
For the first time since coal power stations were introduced, the UK has gone an entire day without burning the fossil fuel for the generation of electricity.
Nicholas Carr explores why the rise of connectedness has been concurrent with our transition into a “fractious time, defined not by concord but by conflict.”
Thinning forests can actually turn them into more effective carbon sinks.
Globalization has had many unexpected effects, but here's an unusual one: it appears to increase the number of industrial accidents.
Messaging is already encrypted. Should we do the same with voice calls, too?
This is the drone that Bruce Wayne needs—because it's kitted out with ultrasonic detectors to keep track of bats.
Quote of the Day
"In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness."
— Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese technology giant Alibaba, forecasts a bleak few decades for humanity as technology upends the global economy.
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