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Best of the Web

Steve Jobs, zombies and Pong

Best of the web: Steve Jobs, zombies and Pong

(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Our pick of the week’s science and technology stories include nature’s living dead, the legacy of Apple’s co-founder and the video game that started it all.

Deciphering the tools of nature’s zombies
Carl Zimmer | New York Times | 5 December 2012

What makes a spider abandon its web and build a radically different one, or makes a pond-living gammarid race to the surface instead of diving into the mud? The answer is that their brains have been hijacked by parasites, with the result that these "zombie" creatures start doing things to suit not themselves but their parasitical invaders. It's an extraordinary phenomenon. But how does it work?

Technology will replace 80% of what doctors do
Vinod Khosla | Fortune | 4 December 2012

The future of medicine is fewer doctors and better care. Diagnosis and treatment planning will be done by computer not diagnostician (a case for Dr Algorithm not Dr House, as Khosla puts it) while humans hired not for their diagnostic skills but their empathic qualities will provide the care. "This evolution will take time, but it won't take as long as people think." The opportunities for technologists and entrepreneurs - and benefits for patients - will be huge.

Could boredom be curable?
Maria Konnikova | Boston Globe | 2 December 2012

Yes, if you pay attention. "Cognitive psychologist John Eastwood and his team suggest all boredom may result from essentially the same thing: a conflict of attention, or attention misfocused in a way that disrupts our engagement. If they are right, and boredom is closely connected to the field of attention, then it may pave the way to seeing boredom as something that we can manipulate deliberately—and perhaps even alleviate."

Atari teenage riot: The inside story of Pong
Chris Stokel-Walker | BuzzFeed | 1 December 2012

In 1972, a crude tennis arcade game, featuring two dashes for bats and a white dot as a ball, was delivered to bars around California. "Anyone could play," says one of its developers. "You didn’t have to know physics or space flight or anything. Pong was designed so you could participate in athletics while maintaining a firm grip on a can of beer." Its creation was practically an accident; it gave birth to a multi-billion dollar industry.

Neuroscience fiction
Gary Marcus | New Yorker | 2 December 2012

Neuroscience is hot. But how much do we really know about how the brain functions? "The real problem with neuroscience today isn’t with the science—though plenty of methodological challenges still remain—it’s with the expectations," says Gary Marcus. "Neuroscience has yet to find its Newton, let alone its Einstein."

Secrets from the science of persuasion
Robert Cialdini & Steve Martin

Now here's a bit of video fun. It's an animated talk. How to get what you want. If it works, 12 minutes well spent.

Bonus read: Steve Jobs's legacy
Apple was again in the headlines this week, with news that it's to bring manufacturing of one of its Mac computer lines back to the US. But what of the man who drove Apple into its position as the most valuable company in the world? How should we, how will we remember Steve Jobs? The Browser's special report sizes up the influence and achievements of Apple's co-founder.

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.

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