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.
Grab all of these as a Readlist.
On Plan X
Noah Shachtman gets a look at the Pentagon's demos for Plan X, a DARPA project that pulled together design talent from and Frog Design to make the future of cyberwar more like World of Warcraft than Hackers.
Wired: Noah Shachtman - This Pentagon Project Makes Cyberwar as Easy as 'Angry Birds'
Nick de la Mare, Frog’s executive creative director, thought of Plan X as a similar project: take a tiny chunk of the Internet; plot out how packets move from one node to another; and then make that map so easy to navigate, even a white-haired general could do it. "We didn’t approach it as a cyberwarfare program at all," del la Mare says. "We approached it as a mapping project."
On rare diseases
Carl Zimmer explores rare diseases through the story of Jeannie Peeper. She suffers from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a disease where the victim's body sprouts a second skeleton that often severely limits mobility.
The Atlantic: Carl Zimmer - The Girl Who Turned to Bone
"I remember vividly, because I was getting dressed for Sunday school," she told me. She realized that she could no longer fit her left hand through her sleeve. "My left wrist had locked in a backwards position"—the result of a new bone that had grown in her arm.
Teju Cole writes about the confusion and flood of photography in the digital age, and the new associations enabled by Google Image Search.
The New Inquiry: Teju Cole - Google’s Macchia
What, photographically speaking, addresses this new time, this age of clandestine assassination, torture, oppressive policing, economic immiseration, proliferating apartheids, and war without end? Or brings new light to the old questions of love, death, loneliness, beauty, and mystery? A number of photographers, only some of whom "run around taking pictures of thing," make non-journalistic responses to our current situation.
The Guardian's impressive interactive feature tells the story of a violent Tasmanian fire and the new challenges of fighting bushfires.
The Guardian: Jon Henley - Firestorm
Extreme high temperatures seem also to be affecting the way fires burn. Since around 2003, Braganza says, experienced firemen with whom the Bureau of Metereology works closely have reported seeing bare paddocks burn. "That means fire is now moving fast even across country with a relatively low fuel load," Braganza says.
Alex Jay traces the long, strange evolution of the now iconic 'Star Wars' logo.
Tenth Letter of the Alphabet: Alex Jay - Anatomy of a Logo: Star Wars
"I’d been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today—how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most ‘fascist’ typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."
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.