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Psychopaths, cannibals and death

Cadaver on autopsy table (Copyright: Thinkstock)

(Copyright: Thinkstock)

Our pick of the week’s science and technology stories include lessons from a psychopath and the unforeseen consequences of eating the dead.

Kill The Password
Mat Honan | Wired | 15 November 2012

Tech writer (and hacking victim) Mat Honan says the password is dead. "Nothing you do, no precaution you take, no long or random string of characters can stop a dedicated and devious individual from cracking your account. The age of the password has come to an end; we just haven’t realised it yet".

How To Get Start-Up Ideas
Paul Graham | Paul Graham | 20 November 2012

Advice from the programmer and venture capitalist, including the biggest mistakes you need to avoid. "Ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they'll use it even when it's a crappy version made by a two-person start-up they've never heard of? If you can't answer that, the idea is probably bad".

The Last Laughing Death
Jo Chandler | Global Mail | 13 November 2012

The Fore people of Papua New Guinea used to suffer from a mysterious "laughing death" disease they called kuru. Years of painstaking research concluded that it related to their practice of eating their dead. The disease itself has now all but vanished; studying it has given scientists insights into present-day conditions such as vCJD and Alzheimer's disease.

The Evolutionary Mystery Of Homosexuality
David Barash | Chronicle Review | 19 November 2012

If homosexuality is in any sense a product of evolution and homosexuals reproduce less than heterosexuals—and they do—then why has natural selection not operated against it? The short answer is we don't have a proven explanation. But here are some possibilities to explore.

Learning From Psychopaths
Maia Szalavitz | Time | 19 November 2012

Q&A with psychologist Kevin Dutton. You wouldn't blame a deaf person for failing to respond to unseen cries for help. What if someone can be proven to be emotionally deaf? This is how a psychopath put it to Dutton, and he raises some interesting questions about what science can tell us about the causes of psychopathic behaviour.

Elon Musk, The Rocket Man With A Sweet Ride
Carl Hoffman | Smithsonian | 20 November 2012

A profile of the self-taught engineer who put his money where his mouth was. Now he's revolutionising the electric car market and putting rockets into space on a schedule that'll outdo Russia or China. "If this is a chess game," he says, "they don’t have much of a chance".

Making Cents
Damon Krukowski | Pitchfork | 14 November 2012

The business model for musicians is broken. But do you know how broken? Damon Krukowski had his song "Tugboat" played 14,000 times on Pandora and Spotify in the first three months of this year. The three songwriters got 42 cents each. Is there anything musicians can do to adapt to the new technology?

Bonus read: How To Die

I hope you don't find this too morbid a note on which to end, but how should we die? Scientific and technological advances bring complicated moral choices. Should we resist death with all of medicine's help? What role, if any, should we allow for assisted dying? And what do doctors do when it’s their own lives in question? In The Browser's special report, some of those intimately affected explain the issues they had to face.

For more articles worth reading, visit The Browser. If you would like to comment on this article or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.