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    The best writing of the week, October 27

    The best writing of the week, October 27

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    Your Sunday reading

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    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.

    On Douglas Hofstadter

    James Somers profiles Douglas Hofstadter, the man known for Gödel Escher Bach, and his quest to understand how humans think.

    The Atlantic: James Somers - The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think

    Hofstadter wanted to ask: Why conquer a task if there’s no insight to be had from the victory? “Okay,” he says, “Deep Blue plays very good chess—so what? Does that tell you something about how we play chess? No. Does it tell you about how Kasparov envisions, understands a chessboard?” A brand of AI that didn’t try to answer such questions—however impressive it might have been—was, in Hofstadter’s mind, a diversion.On indie horror

    Amy Nicholson looks at the new crop of filmmakers creating the next wave of low-budget, indie horror movies.

    LA Weekly: Amy Nicholson - Mumblegore

    “This is the new drive-in era,” says Devin Faraci, editor in chief of BadassDigest.com. “Kids just need something to make out to, and the easiest stuff to make and sell is going to be horror. It goes back to the way that weird, old exploitation movies used to happen. There’d be the money guy who would say, ‘We want to make a movie. It’s going to be called 10,000 Virgins Go to Hell. You have seven days to do it, I need seven tits and two decapitations for the trailer — go.’ And then the guy who made it would put whatever he wanted in between those tits and the decapitations, and we’d get some really weird, arty and strange films.”On storage

    Johsua Rothman writes about the strange history of storage company Iron Mountain.

    The New Yorker: Joshua Rothman - The many lives of Iron Mountain

    Knaust moved into the storage business only when, after the Second World War, American mushroom growers started losing ground to scrappy competitors from Europe and Asia. He brought a flair for publicity to his new company, which he called Iron Mountain Atomic Storage. Knaust purchased the twenty-eight-ton bank-vault door from a bankrupt bank in Ohio—he paid a dollar for the door, and twenty thousand to ship it—because he thought it gave the mine a Fort Knox atmosphere. He hired a dozen ex-cops, armed them with Colt .45s, and stationed them as guards. He put in an underground generator because, he told the Wall Street Journal, “If we got into an atomic war, we might need that power.”On Wikipedia

    Tom Simonite reports on Wikipedia's shrinking base of editors and contributors, and how the Wikimedia Foundation is trying to fix it.

    MIT Technology Review: Tom Simonite - The Decline of Wikipedia

    The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. On disaster response

    About a year after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the northeast, Robert Sullivan describes how New York City's M.T.A. protected and fixed a century-old transit system.

    The New York Times Magazine: Robert Sullivan - Could New York City Subways Survive Another Hurricane?

    The area was a lake, the subway stairs at the South Ferry entrance a small cascade. As Leader was imagining all-new worst cases in his head, another engineer shouted at him. “He said to me, ‘I just got a call from Con Ed, and there’s like a 26-foot surge or wave that’s coming into the bay that they got alerted of, and they are shutting down the 14th Street plant.’ And before we could absorb that, we could see power shutting down in the city. So that was a moment when you started to say, ‘Oh [expletive].’ ”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.

    Today’s Storystream

    Feed refreshed 12:00 AM UTC Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

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    Twitter
    Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
    A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

    Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


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    The Verge
    We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

    At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


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    Twitter
    Emma RothSep 26
    There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

    Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

    During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


    Asian America learns how to hit back

    The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

    Esther WangSep 26
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    Twitter
    Emma RothSep 26
    Missing classic Mario?

    One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

    Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


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    External Link
    Russell BrandomSep 26
    The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

    The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


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    Youtube
    Richard LawlerSep 26
    Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

    Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

    Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


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    Russell BrandomSep 26
    Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

    The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


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    External Link
    Emma RothSep 26
    Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

    Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

    The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


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    Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

    Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


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    James VincentSep 26
    Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

    And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


    Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
    Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
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    The Verge
    James VincentSep 26
    Deepfakes were made for Disney.

    You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

    Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


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    External Link
    Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

    “An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


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    The Verge
    Richard LawlerSep 26
    Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

    City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

    They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.