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Best of the Web

Inside a military drone classroom

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Our picks of the week from around the web, including learning to fire missiles, what surgeons can learn from pilots and how life changes when you lose an arm.

Life, after
Miles O'Brien | New York | 12 June 2014

How life changes when you lose an arm. “Your centre of gravity changes dramatically when you are suddenly 8lbs lighter on one side of your body. And while my arm may be missing physically, it is there in my mind’s eye. When I tripped, I reached reflexively to break my very real fall with my completely imaginary left hand. My fall was instead broken by my nose, and my nose was broken by my fall.”

Jonah Peretti goes long
Felix Salmon | Matter on Medium | 11 June 2014

Big, meaty interview with Buzzfeed founder, viral content guru. “If the forest is dry and it’s been hot and the trees are close together, you can just drop a match and the whole thing will burn. There was a period between 2001 and 2003 when the dry forest was ready to burn. If you made something that was pretty funny and had qualities that caused people to want to share and talk and discuss, then things would spread pretty far.”

How Amazon patented white-background photography
Charles Duan June | Ars Technica | 10 June 2014

“I was not in the room with the engineers, the patent attorneys, or the patent examiner; I don’t know them and have no relationship with them. But I do have the public record of the documents filed with the Patent Office, the audit trails of the searches conducted by the examiner, and the correspondence between the examiner and the patent attorneys. This allows me to reconstruct the story of the patent.”

The battle against high-frequency traders
Andrew Smith | The Guardian | 7 June 2014

Gripping tech story; deep dive into high-frequency stock-market trading. Its protagonist is called Michael Lewis; but not the Michael Lewis who wrote Flash Boys. This is Michael Lewis the lawyer from Mississippi who sued Big Tobacco on behalf of 39 American states in the 1990s and won damages of $368bn. Now he’s planning a class-action suit against high-frequency traders, and here’s the guts of it.

How I teach computers to think
Pete Warden | 6 June 2014

“I used to be a coder, now I teach computers to write their own programs. With the deep belief systems I’m using for computer vision, I spend most of my time creating an environment that allows the machines to decide how they want to solve problems, rather than dictating the solution. I’m starting to feel more like a teacher than a programmer, so here’s what it’s like to teach a classroom of graphics cards.”

Inside the Air Force’s drone training classroom
Corey Mead | Atlantic | 4 June 2014

Learning to fire Hellfire missiles is “more like sitting in a regular college classroom than you might expect”. There are texts, tests, nervous students. Pro tips: When chasing a vehicle, aim for the centre of the roof; when chasing an individual, aim for the feet. And by now the targets know the warning signs, so get in quick: “An understanding of sonic boom time is what separates mediocre drone pilots from skilled ones.”

How mistakes can save lives
Ian Leslie | New Statesman | 4 June 2014

What surgeons can learn from pilots. Pilots are surrounded by rules and systems designed to contain their mistakes; their fallibility is assumed. Surgeons are trusted to be the best judges of their situation, whatever the situation might be. So when Martin Bromiley, a pilot, lost his wife to a doctor’s elementary misjudgement, he decided it was high time to export some of aviation’s safety culture to medicine.

Peek inside a professional carding shop
Bruce Krebs | Krebs On Security | 4 June 2014

“Over the past year, I’ve spent a great deal of time trolling a variety of underground stores that sell ‘dumps’ – street slang for stolen credit card data that buyers can use to counterfeit new cards and go shopping in big-box stores for high-dollar merchandise that can be resold quickly for cash. This post takes the reader on a tour of a rather exclusive and professional dumps shop that caters to professional thieves.”

Partial recall
Michael Specter | New Yorker | 23 May 2014

Profile of Daniela Schiller, specialist in affective neuroscience, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, researcher into connections between memory and fear. “She and a growing number of her colleagues have a more ambitious goal: to find a way to rewrite our darkest memories.” False memories can be created by suggestion. Can true but insupportable memories – of suffering, addiction – be physically removed?

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