Best of 2013,
Story picks from this year's winners, including The Washington Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and more.
The public collides uncomfortably with the private in the bathroom as it does nowhere else. How psychology, gender roles, and design explain the distinctive way we behave in the world's stalls:
The vulnerability and exposure of using a urinal seems to create the need for additional social boundaries, in place of even “flimsy” physical ones. A famous, though ethically questionable, study from 1976 found that invading this socially agreed-upon bubble of personal space made it much more difficult for men to pee. To discover this, one researcher hid in a bathroom stall and watched men at the urinals through a periscope, timing the “delay and persistence” of urination when a confederate came into the bathroom and stood right next to or one urinal removed from the unknowing participant. The closer the confederate was, the longer the delay before the man was able to go, and the less time he peed overall. Whether he would have been able to go at all had he known someone was spying on him through a periscope, no one can say.
A longtime manager on the dirty business of professional boxing:
I fixed a lot of fights over the years. In two I didn't fix but should have, people paid heavily for my carelessness. Even though I set up Mitch "Blood" Green and Leon Spinks cushion-soft in their comeback fights, I managed to get one embarrassed and the other nearly killed. There had been opportunities for them, deals that came undone when they lost. It wasn't as if the winners benefited in any tangible way either. At best their victories brought them smallish short-term bragging rights. Among boxing insiders they were objects of scorn for having won, as incompetent at their jobs as Green, Spinks, and I were at ours.
Space elevators, teleportation, hoverboards, and driverless cars: The top-secret Google X innovation lab opens up about what it does—and how it thinks.
If there's a master plan behind X, it's that a frictional arrangement of ragtag intellects is the best hope for creating products that can solve the world's most intractable issues. Yet Google X, as Teller describes it, is an experiment in itself--an effort to reconfigure the process by which a corporate lab functions, in this case by taking incredible risks across a wide variety of technological domains, and by not hesitating to stray far from its parent company's business. We don't yet know if this will prove to be genius or folly. There's actually no historical model, no precedent, for what these people are doing.