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 the entire list as a Readlist.
Ryan Britt considers modern sci-fi's uneasy relationship with technology (Elysium spoilers), and Scott Brown sits down with Damon Lindelof to discuss the unending quest for escalation in summer blockbusters.
The Awl: Ryan Britt - Our Science Fiction Movies Hate Science Fiction and Vulture: Scott Brown - Star Script Doctor Damon Lindelof Explains the New Rules of Blockbuster Screenwriting
"Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world," explains Lindelof. "And when you start there, and basically say, I have to construct a MacGuffin based on if they shut off this, or they close this portal, or they deactivate this bomb, or they come up with this cure, it will save the world—you are very limited in terms of how you execute that.""
Katie Collins looks at Google's quest for the "perfect" map, OpenStreetMap, and the challenge of mapping slums.
Wired UK: Katie Collins - Uncharted territory: amateur cartographers fight to put their communities on the map
"As soon as you hear anyone saying they're making a perfect map of the world, alarm bells should ring because they're trying to sell, metaphorically, a certain ideological vision, a certain kind of product. They're trying to push something, be it religious, political, ideological, commercial, whatever it might be," he says.
Maria Konnikova writes about how food labeling and our ideas about what is natural and unnatural affects how we perceive, and even taste, food.
The New Yorker: Maria Konnikova - The psychology of distrusting G.M.O.s
For instance, people judge the risks of radiation from nuclear power plants to be much higher than those from medical X-rays—a conclusion that is not backed up by the data and is at odds with the advice of most risk experts—simply because nuclear power plants seem more foreign and inspire greater dread. What’s more, when we’re in a state of heightened emotion, we don’t weigh risks and benefits equally—risks take on an outsized impactand benefits begin to pale in comparison.
On Gary England
Sam Anderson profiles Gary England, Oklahoma City's famous Channel 9 weatherman, and explores Tornado Alley's "arms race for meteorological supremacy."
The New York Times: Sam Anderson - The Weather God of Oklahoma City
In the eyes of most Oklahomans, England is less a meteorologist than a benevolent weather god who routinely saves everyone’s lives. He has become a cult figure: a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Foghorn Leghorn, Atticus Finch, Dan Rather, Zeus and Uncle Jesse from "The Dukes of Hazzard."
For more great longreads, visit our friends at Longreads.
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.