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The booming cult of multiplayer games

Eve Online cultivates a devoted following

(Copyright: Eve Online/Wikimedia Commons)

Our pick of the week’s science and tech stories, including dark matter, Boston bombers, big data and Eve Online’s devoted following.

In the dark
Alexander Fry | Aeon | 23 April 2013

Scientist working on “dark matter” tries to explain in relatively simple and even lyrical terms what it’s all about and what it implies. “We have gradually got used to the idea that nature’s true reality is one of uncertain quantum fields; that what we see is not necessarily what is. Dark matter is a profound extension of this concept. It appears that the majority of matter in the universe has been hidden from us.”

The rise of Big Data
Kenneth Cukier | Foreign Affairs | 23 April 2013

How big data will change the way we think about the world. Scientists will “no longer have to settle for small amounts or samples, as statisticians have done for well over a century”. We will have to “shed our preference for highly curated and pristine data and instead accept messiness”. And, most profoundly, we will “need to give up our quest to discover the cause of things, in return for accepting correlations”.

Police, citizens and technology in Boston bombing probe
David Montgomery | Washington Post | 21 April 2013

How surveillance cameras, social media, crowdsourcing, mobile phones and good old-fashioned police work came together, and sometimes collided, in identifying and tracing the Boston bombers. It helped that the terrorists were reckless, and that the police were smart. But Reddit didn't help at all. Includes a guest appearance from the Russian secret services.

Distant peak car
Peter Collins | The Economist | 20 April 2013

Young people in rich countries are losing the passion for cars. But old people are used to them, and won’t give them up. The result: “A one-off shift in the timing of people’s driving careers, so that they start later but then continue well into old age”. But it’s too soon to call “peak car”. Young people may change their minds if self-driving cars bring falling insurance rates and freedom from driving lessons.

The eternal mainframe
Rudolf Winestock | Throw | 19 April 2013

The revolution has come full circle: from time-sharing on mainframes in the university, to personal computers in the home, and back again to time-sharing on mainframes in the cloud. It’s also a story about the gain and loss of freedom and privacy. In the era of personal computing we owned our data and our software. In the era of cloud computing we don’t, and even our hardware is remote-controlled.

Eve Online cultivates a devoted following
Ashlee Vance | Business Week | 18 April 2013

Massive multiplayer game Eve Online is “a controlled experiment in human nature and unfettered capitalism”. Players have three basic aims: “You mine asteroids for minerals, use the minerals to build spaceships, and deploy those spaceships in battles. Things get complex quickly … Eve is a dark strategy game underpinned by libertarian philosophy, which attracts government operatives and hedge fund managers as much as space geeks.”

This is what humane slaughter looks like. Is it good enough?
Mac McClelland | Modern Farmer | 17 April 2013

If you’re going to eat beef, you should watch a cow die first. So: A visit to Prather Ranch Meat Company of California and its abattoir. Perhaps against expectations, the news from here — and from most American farms — is relatively good. “Prather doesn’t just give cows the best life possible, but the best death possible. There is hardly an animal in nature — humans included — that dies as quickly and painlessly as Prather’s herd.”

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