The Download: IBM’s quantum ambitions, and tasting lab-grown burgers

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

IBM wants to build a 100,000-qubit quantum computer

What’s happening: Last year, IBM took the record for the largest quantum computing system with a processor containing 433 quantum bits, or qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum information processing. Now, the company has set its sights on a much bigger target: a 100,000-qubit machine that it aims to build within 10 years.

Why it matters: The project is part of IBM’s plans to push quantum computing into the realm of full-scale operation, where the technology could potentially tackle pressing problems that no standard supercomputer can solve. 

The potential: The idea is that the 100,000 qubits will work alongside the best “classical” supercomputers to achieve new breakthroughs in drug discovery, fertilizer production, battery performance, to name just a few fields. Read the full story.

—Michael Brooks

Here’s what a lab-grown burger tastes like

Eating meat has an undeniable impact on the planet. Animal agriculture makes up nearly 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, and beef is a particular offender, with more emissions per gram than basically any other meat. 

Intrigued by the promise of lab-grown meat, our climate reporter Casey Crownhart decided to see whether a cultivated Wagyu burger could ever live up to the lofty promises made by alternative meat companies. Find out how she got on.

Casey’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly climate and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

If you’re interested in the future of alternative meats, why not check out:

+ Will lab-grown meat reach our plates? Ethical, environmentally friendly, mass-produced meat might be nothing more than a pipe dream. Read the full story.

+ Your first lab-grown burger is coming soon—and it’ll be “blended.” Growing meat in a lab is still way too expensive. But mixing it with plants could help finally get it onto our plates. Read the full story.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign got off to a disastrous start
The launch on Twitter Spaces was besieged with glitches. (NYT $)
+ Even without the bugs, launching the campaign on Twitter would have been weird. (Vox)
+ Elon Musk’s commitment to free speech is slanting sharply rightward. (Insider $)

2 OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman is on a global PR offensive
However, the protestors outside his talk in London aren’t buying it. (The Verge)
+ OpenAI is backing regulation for “superintelligence,” which conveniently doesn’t exist. (WP $)
+ Our quick guide to the 6 ways we can regulate AI. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Chinese hackers have compromised critical US infrastructure
Microsoft says they’ve been gathering intelligence across a staggeringly large range of sectors. (FT $)
+ The targets of the hack would be critical in an Asia-Pacific conflict. (The Guardian)

4 Moore’s Law is struggling
A new scheme might be the only hope to keep it going. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law. (MIT Technology Review)

5 We can generate electricity out of thin air ⚡
If it can be scaled up, it could be a future alternative to fossil fuels. (Motherboard)
+ This abundant material could unlock cheaper batteries for EVs. (MIT Technology Review)

6 New Alzheimer’s drugs come with very high risks
While they appear to slow the disease’s progression, they can make peoples’ brains swell and bleed. (Wired $)
+ How AI is helping scientists to study human brains more closely. (Economist $)

7 This chatbot promises to protect your privacy
Data leaking is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s models.(Motherboard)
+ Three ways AI chatbots are a security disaster. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How Nextdoor blew up local politics
The busy-body neighborhood app has been accused of politically-biased moderation. (The Atlantic $)

9 Ticket sellers’ tech simply isn’t up to scratch
Demand to see Latin America’s biggest stars perform is causing systems to buckle. (Rest of World)

10 How we can finally communicate with aliens 📡
Or interpret signals from elsewhere in the universe, at least. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate.”

—A Trump spokesperson savages US presidential candidate’s Ron DeSantis’ botched running announcement on Twitter, reports Politico

The big story

How technology helped archaeologists dig deeper

April 2021

Construction workers in New York’s Lower Manhattan neighborhood were breaking ground for a new federal building back in 1991 when they unearthed hundreds of coffins. The site, known as the African Burial Ground, became one of the best-known archaeological discoveries in the country and is now a national monument.

The African Burial Ground project was among the first to use a new constellation of “bioarchaeology” tools that went way beyond the traditional pickaxes and brushes. But this was simply the first stage of a much broader archaeological revolution that brought scientists and humanities scholars together to generate data about our ancestors. Read the full story.

—Annalee Newitz

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Goodbye to the one and only Tina Turner, you really were simply the best.
+ Looking to book a vacation in June and need some inspiration? Look no further.
+ The shimmering colors in butterflies’ wings have inspired a new kind of paint—the lightest paint in the world, in fact.
+ How much cake is too much cake?
+ The Greek island of Paros looks absolutely incredible.

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