The Daily Dose: Major AI advance for science; Tracking the roads of an interplanetary Autobahn.

A major stride in the evolution of artificial intelligence has been made with particular implications for the biological sciences. Per Nature, “An artificial intelligence (AI) network developed by Google AI offshoot DeepMind has made a gargantuan leap in solving one of biology’s grandest challenges — determining a protein’s 3D shape from its amino-acid sequence. DeepMind’s program, called AlphaFold, outperformed around 100 other teams in a biennial protein-structure prediction challenge called CASP, short for Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction. The results were announced on 30 November, at the start of the conference — held virtually this year — that takes stock of the exercise.” This development will have significant impact for future drug development and discovery.

When the Trump Administration first shifted responsibility for compiling COVID-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control to private third-party contractors, many warned that the move could result in conflicting and erroneous data down the line. Those people can now say – we told you so. Per Science, “The feared data chaos now seems a reality, evident when recent HHS Protect figures are compared with public information from states or data documented by another hospital tracking system run by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). ASPR manages the Strategic National Stockpile of medicines, PPE—in perilously short supply in many areas—and other pandemic necessities. ASPR collects data nationwide, although it is more limited than what HHS Protect compiles, to help states and hospitals respond to the pandemic.” Muddy water is the last thing needed when trying to understand pandemic data, especially when you’re in the middle of one. Yet another own goal.

Speaking of own goals, there may be yet another one brewing. This time it has to do with how the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be distributed in the United States. Per STAT, “STAT has learned that senior leaders in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response are pressing for adults 65 years old and older to be given first access to the vaccine. That approach contradicts the position of a committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine policy; the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has signaled for months that it will recommend health care providers be at the front of the vaccination line.”

In some less depressing news, researchers have discovered new interplanetary pathways that speed travel of objects contained within it. Per Science Advances, “Here, we reveal a notable and hitherto undetected ornamental structure of manifolds, connected in a series of arches that spread from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond. The strongest manifolds are found to be linked to Jupiter and have a profound control on small bodies over a wide and previously unconsidered range of three-body energies. Orbits on these manifolds encounter Jupiter on rapid time scales, where they can be transformed into collisional or escaping trajectories, reaching Neptune’s distance in a mere decade. All planets generate similar manifolds that permeate the Solar System, allowing fast transport throughout, a true celestial autobahn.” Now, where are those time traveling wormholes?

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