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.
Bruce Barcott argues that while bike helmets have helped reduce the risk of death from biking injuries, they offer limited protection against concussions and other brain injury.
Bicycling: Bruce Barcott - Senseless
The problem is that EPS doesn't absorb much energy unless the impact is forceful enough to make it start to disintegrate. "Think of it like a drinking glass," Parks said. "If you hit it lightly it won't deform at all. But if you hit it hard enough it will shatter. It's not really attenuating any impact energy until it starts deforming and cracking."
Making a helmet that deforms more easily might better protect the brain against smaller falls. But that could undermine the helmet's catastrophic-impact protection.
On the spaceport
Andrew E. Krammer writes about Baikonur, Kazakhstan, one of the few remaining launch sites on Earth for manned space liftoffs.
The New York Times: Andrew E. Kramer - Russian Space Center in Kazakhstan Counts Down Its Days of Glory
"It’s painful for me to think of my town," Anna Khodakovskaya, the editor of the local newspaper, said of its glum state. The first cellphones appeared here in 2004; the first M.R.I. machine in 2011. "We are not ahead of the planet in anything but space," she said.
On reputation management
Graeme Woode digs into the world of high-end, black-ops online reputation management.
New York: Graeme Wood - Scrubbed
By now I knew that I had found a vast web ecosystem built almost entirely out of bogus claims and associations. I counted 33 sites in all, most with their own logos and unique design. Someone had worked hard to create these sites, however shoddy or amateurish their content seemed, and yet they were worthless except as vehicles for Phin Upham’s reputation on the web—perhaps worthless even in that way, since it didn’t seem possible they’d fool anybody for very long. If Phin paid for these sites, then it would appear that the manner of his contrition exactly matched the manner of his mother’s crime. She made up fake entities to hide their money, then he made up fake entities to salvage his reputation.
Jill Lepore explores the historical relationship between secrecy and privacy by drawing fascinating parallels between concerns in the late 19th century with today's NSA surveillance.
The New Yorker: Jill Lepore - The Prism
As a matter of historical analysis, the relationship between secrecy and privacy can be stated in an axiom: the defense of privacy follows, and never precedes, the emergence of new technologies for the exposure of secrets. In other words, the case for privacy always comes too late. The horse is out of the barn. The post office has opened your mail. Your photograph is on Facebook. Google already knows that, notwithstanding your demographic, you hate kale.
On geographical machines
Josephine Livingstone looks at ancient maps and Lucida, a 3D "non-contact" imaging technology that's offering fresh ways of looking at old maps.
The Awl: Josephine Livingstone - Mapping The Newest Old Map Of The World
To quote the late, great cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove, "to map is in one way or another to take the measure of a world…The measure of mapping is not restricted to the mathematical; it may equally be spiritual, political or moral." It’s everything to do with communication, to do with the code by which you navigate other people, about the way you see our shared planet. We need to find ourselves, but I hate that finding oneself today doesn’t mean looking around at our environment; it means looking straight down at a telephone.
Finally, don't miss Wired's multi-part series on the history and art of the movie trailer, which includes interviews with editors, analysis of faster trailers, and a breakdown of some of the best trailers ever.
Wired: Jason Kehe and Katie M. Palmer - The Art of the Trailer
Directors talk about how it’s all about casting for them—when they get the right actors, their jobs are easier. For us, that’s true of music. Sometimes 70, 80 percent of the job can be trying to find that perfect piece. Trailers are all about rhythm, pacing, and feeling. That’s why it’s important to always be listening to things.
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.