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Best of the Web

Best of the web: From Nobel acclaim to ignoble acts

Best of the web: Nobel acclaim and ignoble acts

(Copyright: Getty Images)

Enjoy the pick of the week’s science and technology stories from around the web, as selected by Bob Trevelyan, editor of The Browser.

Quantum computing with ions
Christopher Monroe & David Wineland | Scientific American | 9 October 2012

This article was originally published in 2008, but has been made available online again after one of its authors, David Wineland (pictured above), this week won the Nobel prize in Physics. The Nobel committee cited the article as relevant further reading. This is how Monroe and Wineland introduce their topic: "Computers may begin to look fundamentally different because their workings will be governed by quantum mechanics, the physical laws that explain the behaviour of atoms and subatomic particles. The great promise of quantum computers is that they may be able to perform certain crucial tasks considerably faster than conventional computers can." 

Marooned in the moment
Amy Ellis Nutt | New Jersey Star-Ledger | 30 September 2012

Lonni Sue Johnson, 62, was an accomplished artist and musician. But when an encephalitis virus attacked her brain, she was left with both retrograde and anterograde amnesia – that's to say she was unable to recall old memories or create new ones. It's a very rare condition. This is a touching account of how she is now, and how her case is of great interest to cognitive scientists. 

The patent, used as a sword
Charles Duhigg & Steve Lohr | New York Times | 7 October 2012

Patents are a vital protection for intellectual property. Without them, innovation would be discouraged. But has it come to the point where patents in the tech industry are being misused? In software, patents can be broad and vague, covering concepts rather than defined processes; they're being bought and sold like common commodities; and they're being used as weapons, sometimes cynically, as their owners attempt to kill off or coerce commercial rivals. 

Can Marissa Meyer really have it all?
Lisa Miller | The Cut | 7 October 2012

A big, engaging profile of the new Yahoo boss and mother. "Mayer was fully girl and fully geek, a former ballet dancer who stayed up all night writing code. And one who seemed driven to make her own path when the men around her wouldn't oblige." At Yahoo, she faces "a foundering brand suffering from a dramatic talent drain and years of chaos on its board and in its upper ranks". How is she managing?

Online passwords: Keep it complicated
Oliver Burkeman | Guardian | 5 October 2012

We know the rules of password security. We don't follow them. Who can remember all that stuff? A recent security breach at Yahoo showed that thousands of users' passwords were either "password", "welcome", "123456" or "ninja". So here's a tip: Length beats complexity. And take comfort: "At the height of the cold war the secret unlocking code for America's nuclear missiles was 00000000."

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