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Junk food science digested

Junk food science digested

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Our pick of the week’s science and technology stories, including why snacks are addictive, China’s cyber espionage unit and the future of weaponised drones.

The extraordinary science of addictive junk food
Michael Moss | New York Times | 20 February 2013
Fourteen years ago the heads of America's biggest food companies held a secret meeting to discuss the early signs of an obesity epidemic. Far from agreeing to combat obesity, they decided, in effect, to profit from it, by making snack foods more addictive. The industry is finally starting to mend its ways, but the damage has been done.

Exposing one of China’s cyber espionage units
Anonymous | Mandiant | 19 February 2013

Report from American computer security company detailing long investigation into Chinese hacking group called here "APT1", the most prolific of at least 20 such groups. It leaves little or no doubt that APT1 is a unit of the Chinese army, active since 2006, primarily engaged in stealing data from US companies in strategic industries. (PDF)

What data can't do
David Brooks | New York Times | 18 February 2013
New York Times readers will have admired this column already. Recommended here for those who have yet to see it. Scientists and professionals relish the possibilities of "big data" for making more exhaustive models of the world, and thus making more reliable decisions But data has its limits: it's not good with values, qualities, or complex problems.

Can they patent your genes?
Daniel Kevles | New York Review Of Books | 16 February 2013
American biotech firm claims patent on DNA isolated from two human genes that significantly increase women's risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Will such a patent advance or obstruct medical research? Should it stand? Supreme Court to rule in spring. On one side of the case: biotech industry and patent lawyers. On the other: doctors and health researchers.

Unmanned flight
John Horgan | National Geographic | 15 February 2013

Future of weaponised drones: they will masquerade as insects and birds. "They show me an animated video starring micro-UAVs that resemble winged, multi-legged bugs. The drones swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. One of them sneaks up on a scowling man holding a gun and shoots him in the head."

Photoshop is a city for everyone
Paul Miller | Verge | 13 February 2013
Adobe's Photoshop image-editing software is so central to most graphic designers' lives that it isn't just a tool that they use; it's a city where they live and work. It's also city that's grown prodigiously in size and complexity over the past twenty years, such that users love it and hate it at the same time. It's a mess, but it's their mess.

Net wisdom
Robert Cottrell | Financial Times | 15 February 2013

My life as a screen slave. Yes, I agree, it is highly immodest of me to end with my own piece here. But it would also be eccentric of me to ignore it, since it's about the lessons I've learned while editing The Browser and trying to read all of the internet every day. If you enjoy The Browser, there's a chance you might find something of interest here.

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