Our pick of the week’s science and tech stories, including the search giant's push into health and ageing, and what experts agree is the best pen to write with.

Google vs. death
Harry McCracken & Lev Grossman | Time | 18 September 2013

Google announces a new company, Calico, which will focus on health and aging, and will be run by Arthur Levinson, former CEO of biotech pioneer Genentech. "Medicine is well on its way to becoming an information science: doctors and researchers are now able to harvest and mine massive quantities of data from patients. And Google is very, very good with large data sets."

The play deficit
Peter Gray | Aeon | 18 September 2013

“The rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policy makers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.”

Rise and fall of the Apple Newton
Tony Smith | The Register | 17 September 2013

Twenty years on, the story of the handheld that might have changed the world — if it had been better at handwriting recognition, and if it had come with cellular communications built in, and if the hardware had been cheaper, and if it had been half the size. It was impressive technology, it established ARM as a chipmarker, it inspired Palm to greater things, but it was too early to market.

A jewel at the heart of quantum physics
Quanta | 17 September 2013

“Physicists have discovered a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality. The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory.”

The best pen
Tim Barribeau | Wirecutter | 12 September 2013

Experts agree: the world’s best pen for everyday use is the uni-ball Jetstream, and the basic version costs just $8 for a pack of three. “Every expert we talked to gave it a perfect score for feathering, bleeding and drying time, and it also either came first or equal to the top in smoothness of writing, flow, comfort, reliability and design. That put it at the top of the pack for eight of the twelve factors we asked about.”

How do internet addresses work?
Glenn Fleishman | The Economist | 12 September 2013

It’s all down to the domain-name system, or DNS, which converts a human-readable domain name, such as economist.com, into machine-readable internet-protocol addresses, in this case Most of the time DNS works invisibly and well. But it was designed for a much smaller internet, in which all users were known and trusted: the more it has been extended, the more vulnerable it has become to malicious hackers (Metered paywall).

The spy who loved frogs
Brendan Borrell | Nature | 11 September 2013

Young scientist working in the Philippines retraces the footsteps of zoologist Edward Taylor, who worked there almost a century ago — and finds more than he bargained for. Taylor “was a racist curmudgeon beset by paranoia — possibly a result of his mysterious double life as a spy for the US government. He had amassed no shortage of enemies by the time he died in 1978″. And he may well have been a plagiarist too.

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