Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

A Sister's Sleuthing Unravels a Teenage Love Triangle Murder Mystery

A twisted tale of teenage love and cold-blooded murder in Hollywood, Florida.

For detectives, the killing at first glance must have seemed an all-too-common crime: another dead thug, likely felled by the same drug culture that had left him homeless and broke. Yet Savage's life and death — as told through hundreds of pages of police records, text messages, and interviews with his family and itinerant friends — were far more complex.

PUBLISHED: June 23, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6501 words)

The Obliteration of a Person

Marion Coutts recalls the last months of her husband, art critic Tom Lubbock, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Excerpted from Coutt's memoir The Iceberg:

Fast forward to February. The future has arrived early. Tom has a severe fit in the small hours of the morning. He had gone away by himself to get some writing done in a house by the sea and was due home today. It is evening, he is back with us, lying down quietly upstairs. He can talk after a fashion, read a little but he can't write. He is estranged from himself.

Spring. There is going to be destruction: the obliteration of a person, his intellect, his experience and his agency. I am to watch it. This is my part. It is now March. In one week, Tom will have another scan. This is the one to fear. There have not been so many fits, but outside them complexity is multiplying and thousands of lesser confusions also occur. Words slip out, switches are stumbled over and substitutions made.

PUBLISHED: June 14, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3806 words)

The Guardian At the Gate

It broke the WikiLeaks story, then the Snowden scandal, now Alan Rusbridger's crusading newspaper is trying to break America. But with its US campaign on the brink of disaster, has the deadline passed to beat a dignified retreat?

News outlets want to break big stories but at the same time not be overwhelmed by them - a certain detachment is well advised. It is an artful line. But the Guardian essentially went into the Edward Snowden business - and continues in it. It's a complex business, too: to ally yourself with larger-than-life, novelistic characters, first Assange, and then Snowden, and stranger-than-strange middle men, like the Guardian's contract columnist Glenn Greenwald, who brought in the story. The effort to pretend that the story is straight up good and evil, that this is journalism pure and simple, unalloyed public interest, without peculiar nuances and rabbit holes and obvious contradictions, is really quite a trick.

PUBLISHED: June 2, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3909 words)

How To Catch A Chess Cheater: Ken Regan Finds Moves Out Of Mind

Ken Regan was a chess prodigy who earned a master title at 13 and is currently an engineering professor at the University of Buffalo. He's developing a program that would detect cheating in chess, which has become more rampant in a world where button-sized wireless devices have made it easier to take down chess champions:

Regan is a devoted Christian. His faith has inspired in him a moral and social responsibility to fight cheating in the chess world, a responsibility that has become his calling. As an international master and self-described 2600-level computer science professor with a background in complexity theory—he holds two degrees in mathematics, a bachelor’s from Princeton and a doctorate from Oxford—he also happens to be one of only a few people in the world with an ability to commit to such a calling. “Ken Regan is one of two or three people in the world who have the quantitative background, chess expertise, and comput­er skills necessary to develop anti-cheating algorithms likely to work,” says Mark Glickman, a statistics professor at Boston University and chairman of the USCF ratings committee. Every time Regan starts an instance of his anti-cheating code he does not merely run a piece of software—he invokes it. The dual meaning of “invoke” conveys Regan’s inspired relationship to the anti-cheating work that he does.

SOURCE:Chess Life
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2014
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7381 words)

Meet the Godfather of Wearables

Alex Pentland has carved a career path somewhere between the social sciences and science fiction, spearheading the development of everything from Google Glass to fitness trackers.

It all started with beavers. When Alex Pentland was three years into his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, in 1973, he worked part-time as a computer programmer for NASA’s Environmental Research Institute. One of his first tasks — part of a larger environmental-monitoring project — was to develop a method for counting Canadian beavers from outer space. There was just one problem: existing satellites were crude, and beavers are small. “What beavers do is they create ponds,” he recalls of his eventual solution, “and you can count the number of beavers by the number of ponds. You’re watching the lifestyle, and you get an indirect measure.”

The beavers were soon accounted for, but Pentland’s fascination with the underlying methodology had taken root. Would it be possible, the 21-year-old wondered, to use the same approach to understand people and societies, or use sensors to unravel complex social behavior? And in so doing, could we find a way to improve our collective intelligence — to create, in a sense, a world that was more suited to human needs, where cities and businesses alike were developed using objective data to maximize our happiness and productivity?

SOURCE:The Verge
PUBLISHED: May 16, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3535 words)

High Tech

On the science and tech companies hoping to cash in on cannabis, which has been legalized for recreational use in two states and decriminalized in some form in many others:

For the science and technology set, it’s a classic opportunity to disrupt an industry historically run by hippies and gangsters. And the entire tech-industrial complex is getting in on the action: investors, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, scientists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, data analysts, software developers. Industry types with experience at Apple and Juniper and Silicon Valley Bank and Zynga and all manner of other companies are flocking to cannabis with the hopes of creating a breakout product for a burgeoning legitimate industry. Maybe it’s the Firefly. Maybe it’s something still being developed in someone’s living room. There’s a truism about the gold rush days of San Francisco: It wasn’t the miners who got rich; it was the people selling picks and shovels. As the legalization trend picks up steam, Silicon Valley thinks it can make a better shovel.

AUTHOR:Mat Honan
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5177 words)

Life of a Police Officer: Medically and Psychologically Ruinous

The intensely challenging job of law enforcement is linked to many health issues. Erika Hayasaki met a former officer who tried to protect her high school friend and learned the effect her death had on him:

Police officer Brian Post recognized the 16-year-old girl lying face down in the grass at the Whispering Pines apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington. He had gotten to know her in recent weeks, helping her obtain a restraining order against her abusive ex-boyfriend. Now, here was Sangeeta Lal, unconscious, with two bullets in her chest.

PUBLISHED: March 14, 2014
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2679 words)

This Old Man

On life as a nonagenarian:

I get along. Now and then it comes to me that I appear to have more energy and hope than some of my coevals, but I take no credit for this. I don’t belong to a book club or a bridge club; I’m not taking up Mandarin or practicing the viola. In a sporadic effort to keep my brain from moldering, I’ve begun to memorize shorter poems—by Auden, Donne, Ogden Nash, and more—which I recite to myself some nights while walking my dog, Harry’s successor fox terrier, Andy. I’ve also become a blogger, and enjoy the ease and freedom of the form: it’s a bit like making a paper airplane and then watching it take wing below your window. But shouldn’t I have something more scholarly or complex than this put away by now—late paragraphs of accomplishments, good works, some weightier op cits? I’m afraid not. The thoughts of age are short, short thoughts. I don’t read Scripture and cling to no life precepts, except perhaps to Walter Cronkite’s rules for old men, which he did not deliver over the air: Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 17, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5062 words)

The Unique Merger That Made You (and Ewe, and Yew)

In more than 3 billion years of existence on Earth, this merger happened once—and resulted in the complex life we have today:

There are many possible explanations, but one of these has recently gained a lot of ground. It tells of a prokaryote that somehow found its way inside another, and formed a lasting partnership with its host. This inner cell—a bacterium—abandoned its free-living existence and eventually transformed into the mitochondria. These internal power plants provided the host cell with a bonanza of energy, allowing it to evolve in new directions that other prokaryotes could never reach.

If this story is true, and there are still those who doubt it, then all eukaryotes—every flower and fungus, spider and sparrow, man and woman—descended from a sudden and breathtakingly improbable merger between two microbes. They were our great-great-great-great-...-great-grandparents, and by becoming one, they laid the groundwork for the life forms that seem to make our planet so special. The world as we see it (and the fact that we see it at all; eyes are a eukaryotic invention) was irrevocably changed by that fateful union—a union so unlikely that it very well might not have happened at all, leaving our world forever dominated by microbes, never to welcome sophisticated and amazing life like trees, mushrooms, caterpillars, and us.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 6, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4112 words)