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.
Paul Tullis looks at the cutting edge of wildfire research, and how it's changing our understanding of the relationship between fire and nature.
The New York Times: Paul Tullis - Into the Wildfire
Despite the fact that humans have been using fire for at least 300,000 years, “people have no idea how fire actually spreads,” Finney says. It turns out, for example, that one assumption about how grasses and pine needles catch fire — a significant factor built into the computerized models of fire spread used to fight fires — may be completely mistaken.
Ben Austen reports on gang use of Facebook, Twitter, online forums, and more in Chicago.
Wired: Ben Austen - Public Enemies: Social Media Is Fueling Gang Wars in Chicago
There’s a term sometimes used for a gangbanger who stirs up trouble online: Facebook driller. He rolls out of bed in the morning, rubs his eyes, picks up his phone. Then he gets on Facebook and starts insulting some person he barely knows, someone in a rival crew. It’s so much easier to do online than face-to-face. Soon someone else takes a screenshot of the post and starts passing it around. It’s one thing to get cursed out in front of four or five guys, but online the whole neighborhood can see it—the whole city, even. So the target has to retaliate just to save face.
Sarah Hepola defends herself as a selfie enthusiast.
The Morning News: Sarah Hepola - A Good Angle Is Hard to Find
Recently, a friend told me she didn’t like pictures of herself because she never looked the way she thought she did in her head. I think this pretty much describes the universal horror that is looking at your own photos, and that’s why I love the selfie so much. It gives you all the controls to the story you are telling. You can delete the unflattering moments. You can crop and flatter in umpteen ways. The cruel world never gave us the option of editing our own flawed human selves. Can we really be blamed for wishing we could?
Christian Donlan writes about Jonathan Schaeffer's two decade effort to crack the code of checkers.
Eurogamer: Christian Donlan - Tada! The 20-year crusade to solve checkers
How does the optimal game of checkers end? It's a fascinating prospect. People had played variations of checkers for hundreds of years. All this time was it inherently, you know, rigged once you got to a certain - albeit extreme - level of proficiency? Rigged not by a designer, but by mathematics - by the universe?
On wind turbines
Kristen French reports on wind turbines and the people who complain that they cause sickness and sleep problems.
New York: Kristen French - “Never Stops, Never Stops. Headache. Help.”
In Windsor, Ontario, people are losing sleep over a low-frequency “hum”—a combination of audible deep bass sounds and inaudible vibrations some have compared to the crooning of Barry White. Residents of the town say the hum, which began in 2011, vibrates their beds, knocks objects off shelves, makes babies cranky, disturbs cats and dogs, upsets goldfish, and causes illness. Federally funded scientists have traced the hum to Zug Island, on the U.S. side of the Detroit River, but have yet to identify a specific source, and people in Michigan say they hear nothing. Two decades ago, residents of Taos, New Mexico, began to complain about a hum that remains unresolved to this day.
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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.