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A drone in every home

A drone in every home

(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Our pick of the week’s science and technology stories, including the Bitcoin bubble, domestic drones and what makes smart people do stupid things.

The Bitcoin bubble and the future of currency
Felix Salmon | Medium

The price of Bitcoin went exponential and bounced around at crazy levels. “Bitcoin is in many ways the best and cleanest payments mechanism the world has ever seen. Just about every hacker and cryptographer in the world has had a crack at it. And they’ve all come to the same conclusion: it really works.” 

Facebook leans in
Kurt Eichenwald | Vanity Fair

Tech followers will know the story. Others will value a well-reported piece, even a slightly gushy one, with lots of eyebrow-raising quotes and facts. Here’s Marc Andreessen: “A lot of people looked at Facebook and saw a Web site. None of the people close to Mark and the company thought of Facebook as a Web site. They think of it as a data set, a feedback loop.”

Know your gut
Bee Wilson | New Republic

Book review, of Gulp, by Mary Roach. Sensibility alert: subject matter includes chewing, salivating, digesting, and excreting. “Yes, men and women eat meals. But they also ingest nutrients. They grind and sculpt them into a moistened bolus that is delivered into a self-kneading sack of hydrochloric acid and then dumped into a tubular leach field, where it is converted into the most powerful taboo in history.” 

Can we patent life?
Michael Specter | New Yorker

Scientists can patent living organisms that they have genetically modified. But what about human genes that have merely been identified and isolated? Can the company that identifies a gene linked to Alzheimer’s charge royalties to anybody who wants to use that gene for medical research? The Supreme Court will hear the arguments on April 15th.

Stupidity: What makes people do dumb things
Sally Adee | New Scientist

Why didn’t evolution select for the very highest intelligence? Perhaps because less clever people have other vital strengths and virtues. It may be that modern human societies have become so much more collaborative that lesser thinkers can piggyback on the success of greater ones. (Free registration required) 

Sim Paulo
Mike Rose | Foreign Policy

Sao Paulo in Brazil boasts some of the world’s worst traffic jams. A blogger is moved to act. “But as I’m a video-game blogger living 6,000 miles away in Manchester, England, it seemed unlikely that Sao Paulo’s authorities would hand me the key to the city planner’s office anytime soon. So I decided to try out some ideas first on SimCity.” 

Machines of laughter and forgetting
Evgeny Morozov | New York Times

Makers of tech products aim for frictionless design: It just works. But convenience comes at a cost. Consumers are deprived of awareness and understanding. “This ignorance is neither natural nor inevitable; it stems from a conscious decision by the designer. Multiply such ignorance by a few billion, and global warming no longer looks like a mystery.” 

Climate Science: A sensitive matter
Anonymous | The Economist

Why has global warming paused? Average global temperature has been flat for the past decade, despite soaring greenhouse-gas emissions. There might have been a temporary lag between more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures. Or the 1990s was an anomalous period. Or that the climate is responding in ways not been properly understood before.” (Metered paywall)

Eli Sanders | The Magazine
Ground control: A drone in every garage

“It’s not a stretch to imagine that a few years down the road a drone will be sold as a shrinkwrapped item. That makes this worth considering right now: What happens to our privacy and our safety when all Americans can, with a few clicks, purchase their own flying proxies to act out their wishes?”

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