We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning 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.
On creating life
Wil S. Hylton profiles scientist Craig Venter and his efforts to create biological machinery that could be used for everything from creating protein to plastics.
The New York Times: Wil S. Hylton - Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Save the World
We came to the last tub in the room, filled with the telltale yellow: a culture of synthetically modified organisms growing in the open air. They were the color of lemon-lime sports drink and, in the bright sunlight, had a radiant glow. It was like peering into a bathtub filled with the juice of 1,000 light sticks.
Venter gazed happily at the algae. "The photosynthetic process has been working for about three and a half billion years," he said. "This is the first major change."
On Project Glass
Robin Sloan has a fresh take on how differently Facebook and Google see the world.
Robinslan.com: Robin Sloan - Pictures and vision
Really, Facebook is the world’s largest photo sharing site—that also happens to be a social network and a login system. In this context, the Instagram acquisition and the new Facebook Camera app make perfect sense; this is Facebook trebling down on photos. The day another service steals the photo throne is the day that Facebook’s trajectory starts to bend.
On the golden age
In this week's New Yorker — chock full of sci-fi from Colson Whitehead, Junot Díaz, and more — William Gibson recalls his formative years reading and exploring science fiction in the '50s and '60s.
The New Yorker: William Gibson - Olds Rocket 88, 1950
When I was five, I was chastised for disagreeing with an Air Force man, a visitor to our home, who made mock of my Willy Ley book. I knew he was wrong when he said that space travel would never happen. And I was right, at least in the relatively short term, just a few years off from Sputnik. I was a native, I felt unquestioningly, of Tomorrow.
Apparently a Like isn't always just a Like.
The New York Times: Somini Sengupta - On Facebook, ‘Likes’ Become Ads
In filing the case, in United States District Court, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the company had been unfair and deceptive in deploying users’ names and pictures in advertising without consent. In its defense, Facebook took a press-freedom approach, saying it did not need consent because sponsored stories were actually "news," because all Facebook users were public figures to their friends. Details of the tentative settlement were not disclosed.
Alexis Ohanian tells Inc. the Reddit creation story.
Inc.: Christine Lagorio - How Alexis Ohanian Built a Front Page of the Internet
The next morning, on the train back to Virginia, hung over, somewhere in the middle of Connecticut, I get a call from Paul. He says, "I'm sorry, we made a mistake. We don't like your idea, but we like you guys." We got off the train, and I was able to sweet-talk the Amtrak lady into not charging us to turn around. In our conversation, Paul said, "You guys need to build the front page of the Internet." That was all Paul, and that became Reddit.
Choire Sicha goes another round on web "curation."
The Awl: Choire Sicha - You Are Not a Curator, You Are Actually Just a Filthy Blogger
This precious bit of dressing-up what people choose to share on the Internet is, sure, silly, but it's also a way for bloggers to distance themselves from the dirty blogging masses. You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting. Sorry folks! You're in this nasty fray with the rest of us. And your metaphor is all wrong. More likely you're a low-grade collector, not a curator.
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.