Weekend Edition: The week's best reads

Published

"I wanted to really hate the people and the country and I couldn't bring myself to hate them. Not even dislike them." Albert Dittrich was a Soviet spy who was sent to the USA at the height of the Cold War. His mission was to live under a false identity in the heart of the capitalist enemy, as one of an elite band of undercover Soviet agents known as "illegals".

It's a delicious structure consisting of a small sponge with a chocolate cap covering a veneer of orange jelly. It is arguably Britain's greatest invention after the steam engine and the light bulb. But is a Jaffa Cake actually a biscuit, asks David Edmonds.

"What are the chances that a couple of knuckleheads, with no mountaineering experience could actually go up to the top of this 20,000ft mountain and find anything?" asks Isaac Stoner. On 1 January 1985 a passenger jet crashed into a mountain in Bolivia killing all 29 people on board. The black boxes were never found. But last year two young Americans decided to have a look themselves.

"Everyone can join as long as you speak Russian," says Anton, a malware researcher at security firm SentinelOne, who has inhabited the underground world of cybercrime for more than 20 years. One of the strange features of cybercrime is how much of it is public. A quick search will turn up forums and sites where stolen goods, credit cards and data are openly traded. It's Anton's job to track the malware makers to gain insights into what they might do next.

"After the war in most industries the women were sent home again," says Bill Barry, Nasa's chief historian. "But in the computing business that didn't happen. In fact, Nasa started hiring more women." The Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures tells the story of African-American women whose maths skills helped put a US astronaut into orbit in the 1960s. But the history of black women working for Nasa goes back much further.

Not forgetting...

And the quiz question of the week is:

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