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Fresh approaches to deep learning are going head-to-head in a race to crack one of biology’s grandest challenges: predicting the 3D structures of proteins from their amino-acid sequences. These approaches are cheaper and faster than existing lab techniques such as X-ray crystallography, and the knowledge could help researchers to better understand diseases and design drugs. At the end of last year, AlphaFold — an algorithm devised by Google’s AI firm DeepMind — won a protein-structure prediction competition by a surprising margin. A newly published approach ups the ante by predicting structures in milliseconds rather than hours or days.
Scientists have induced visual hallucinations in mice by using pulses of light to stimulate a handful of cells in the animals’ brains. The technique works with mice that have been modified so that their neurons fire when exposed to light. The feat could improve researchers’ understanding of how the brain interprets and acts on what the eyes see — and perhaps even lead to devices that would help visually impaired people to see. “These optogenetic techniques really are game-changing,” says neuroscientist Anil Seth.
Today, India launched its second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2. It’s India’s first attempt to make a ‘soft’ landing, a feat so far achieved only by the United States, Russia and China. Chandrayaan-2 is heading for the south pole, an uncharted part of the lunar surface, where it will study rocks, soil and minerals. Last week, a launch attempt was aborted because of a leak in the carrier rocket’s engine.
FEATURES & OPINION
Chemist Buddini Karawdeniya offers simple but sound advice for graduate students (and it’s quite handy for the rest of us, too). Don’t compare yourself with others, blindly trust your data or get stuck after one failure. And, when you struggle with problems, don’t suffer alone.
There is evidence, from high-income countries at least, that making vaccination a legal requirement leads to higher coverage rates. But it is crucial that policies don’t inadvertently entrench inequity or fuel anti-vaccine activism, argue vaccine researcher Saad Omer and health-communication researchers Cornelia Betsch and Julie Leask. They outline the best practice for governments considering whether a mandate is the right way to go.
Political economist Jessica Espey has seen the disastrous consequences of cash-strapped, infrastructure-limited national data systems at first hand. While working at Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, she witnessed a single power surge wipe out entire data sets of national statistics stored on a single computer. Now a research group leader in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Espey calls for governments and funders to undertake the huge challenge of creating the innovative, transparent data systems the world needs to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.