Our pick of the week’s science and tech stories, including Elon Musk's dream, pregnancy myths and why CNN's Sanjay Gupta has changed his mind on marijuana.

We could make Elon Musk’s Hyperloop real
David Biello | Scientific American | 14 August 2013

Critique of Musk’s proposal for a “hyperloop” transport system capable of carrying passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes. The basic idea of shooting pods through pressurised tubes is at least a century old. Musk’s update, using low-pressure tubes and photovoltaics, doesn’t violate any laws of physics. But cooling will be a problem: each car would have to carry a ton of water.

Why I changed my mind on weed
Sanjay Gupta | CNN | 9 August 2013

“I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. They didn’t have the science to support that claim. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologise for my own role in that.”

Take back your pregnancy
Emily Oster | Wall Street Journal | 9 August 2013

Economist challenges the conventional wisdoms of pregnancy. For example: coffee. “We know that nausea is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, but (as in my case) it also causes women to avoid coffee. This means that the pregnant women who drink a lot of coffee also are more likely to be the ones who aren’t experiencing nausea. So here we may well be mistaking a correlation for an underlying cause.”

Smug about suffering
Andrew Solomon | 8 August 2013

“Psychiatry is deeply flawed, but flawed does not mean worthless.” Doctors are better at dealing with depression than they were 50 years ago; in another 50 years they’ll be better still. We overvalue neurological approaches, and undervalue talk therapies, but we do need both. Review of Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm than Good, by James Davies, and Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry, by Tom Burns          (2,320 words)

Interview: Vaclav Smil
Ritchie King | Quartz | 8 August 2013

Short, pithy conversation with Bill Gates’s favourite intellectual, author of 34 books, expert in everything. “Harvesting the biosphere is still the most fundamental human activity. Without that, everybody’s dead, really. We could do quite well without microchips, or the business site of Atlantic Monthly, the gated communities, Guccis, and high growth GDP. But we cannot do without harvesting the crops and cutting down the wood.”

The Powerball Jackpot Is $425m. Should you play?
James Harvey | Medium | 7 August 2013

Everything you never need to know about lottery odds. “The total number of possible combinations [for the winning number] is 175,233,510. It costs two dollars to play. So if the Jackpot is more than $350,467,020, it makes sense to play, right?” Wrong. The maths is more complicated than you might imagine, but the odds are always against you. It’s never worth buying a ticket, except possibly for the entertainment value.

Meet the Dread Pirate Roberts
Andy Greenberg | Forbes | 14 August 2013

Online conversation with manager of Silk Road web site, black-market hub for drug traders. “Roberts spoke with Forbes in his first-ever extended public interview for a reason: As with physical drug dealing, a turf war has emerged. Competitors, namely a newly launched site called Atlantis with a real marketing budget and a CEO with far less regard for his privacy, are stealing Roberts’ spotlight.”

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