We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekendmorning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
Grab all of these as a Readlist.
Author Nathaniel Rich spends some time with scientist Shin Kubota, who researches Turritopsis dohrnii, otherwise known as the "immortal jellyfish."
The New York Times: Nathaniel Rich - Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?
You might expect that, having learned of the existence of immortal life, man would dedicate colossal resources to learning how the immortal jellyfish performs its trick. You might expect that biotech multinationals would vie to copyright its genome; that a vast coalition of research scientists would seek to determine the mechanisms by which its cells aged in reverse; that pharmaceutical firms would try to appropriate its lessons for the purposes of human medicine; that governments would broker international accords to govern the future use of rejuvenating technology. But none of this happened.
Adrien Chen profiles infamous internet troll Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, best known and convicted for the massive AT&T iPad 3G breach in 2010.
Auernheimer deploys a peculiar rhetorical strategy that he's learned to work to his advantage: he peppers his conversation with bizarre but true facts and historical references—he has an encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Greek history, world religions and contemporary U.S. anti-government extremists, among other things—then hits you with dubious details about his own life. The idea is that the overwhelming strangeness of the world will make you more receptive to the relatively banal stuff Auernheimer makes up about himself.
Cienna Madrid writes about the disturbing world of people faking serious sickness online.
the Stranger: Cienna Madrid - The Lying Disease
The deception began with an opaque post here and there. "Oh I’m sick again" posts, as Alex calls them. "No one paid attention until I started full-time illness blogging." So in April 2011, she ordered two wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, face masks, some veterinary IV tubing, and other medical equipment from Amazon.com. She also cut her hair off and told her IRL best friend that she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She reasoned that this would help validate her story.
Edible Geography's Nicola Twilley covers the architecture and infrastructure behind cooling and refrigeration in shipping and food storage in Cabinet.
Cabinet: Nicola Twilley - The Coldscape
As a result, meat locker visitors (who include many of the city’s best chefs, armed with a stamp to mark their purchases) walk down fluorescent-lit, white-tiled aisles surrounded by purpling, mold-covered primal cuts and chased by gusts of malty, mushroomy, slightly sweet-smelling air. Of course, according to Mark Solasz, Sam’s son, "it’s not a smell, it’s an aroma."
With Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' turning 30, Steve Greenberg looks back at the market and culture the best-selling album of all time was released into.
Billboard: Steve Greenberg - Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' at 30: How One Album Changed the World
What really had happened over the previous three years was a seismic technological shift that had torn apart the very idea of the mass audience upon which pop hits depended: By the end of the 70s, 50.1% of radio listeners were tuned to FM, ending AM's historical prevalence and hastening the demise of the mass-audience Top 40 stations that had dominated the radio ratings since the 1950s. By 1982, FM commanded 70% of the audience-and among the 12-24 year old demographic, it was 84%. Consequently, a mass pop music audience that crossed demographic lines could not be sustained.
On music blogs
Mark Allen offers a look at the distinct online culture of obscure music download blogs that flourished around 2004-2008.
The Awl: Mark Allen - The Rise And Fall Of The Obscure Music Download Blog: A Roundtable
If one smart record collector was able to share the entire contents—music, artwork and all—of one vinyl LP on his blog, for free, and upload another item from his 1,000+ collection the next day, for weeks and years, and others like him did the same, competing with each other about who could upload the rarest and most sought-after record, and anyone who downloaded it could then share it again and again… Suddenly everyone in the world had the coolest record collection in the world; and soon, nobody in the world had the coolest record collection in the world.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.