Despite fears that NASA and the United States have given up on space exploration, the focus has simply shifted to private companies like Virgin and SpaceX, which are preparing for commercial space travel:
"This was the International Symposium for Personal and Commerical Spaceflight. It had been co-founded eight years earlier by a New Mexico State professor named Pat Hynes, who had been studying and advocating for the commercial potential of space for twenty years. She has watched the conference grow in size and influence alongside the industry. Now, the facility buzzed with engineers and scientists and entrepreneurs and astronauts. Sponsors included Lockheed Martin and Boeing, a European company touting its ability to 'launch any payload to any orbit at anytime,' and another company claiming the authority to sell plots of land on the moon. Hynes, ecstatic, inaugurated the conference by shouting a 'Let’s rock this house!' welcome, before introducing Michael Lopez-Alegria, a recently retired space-shuttle astronaut who spoke of his conversion from 'skeptic with outright disdain for the idea of commercial space” to a “Kool-Aid-pouring believer' in the private space industry."
PUBLISHED: May 20, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8219 words)
A teenager with cancer is fighting to make it to her high school graduation:
"At the end of her junior year, the doctors said there was nothing more they could do for Lyndsey. 'Six months to a year,' they told her. She might not even be alive for her family to break the no-applause rule.
"But the principal, Dan Evans, just told her, 'Okay.' They'd get her to June 5 at Tropicana Field.
"And so began a much quieter race to graduation, one that has not announced itself by shrieking in the hallways or picnicking on the campus lawn, but with all of that urgency and more."
PUBLISHED: May 17, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2989 words)
PUBLISHED: May 16, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2332 words)
A boy with kidney disease finds a way to thrive in high school thanks to a robot:
"'His personality helps out a lot,' says Kent Deville, Lyndon's chemistry teacher. 'A shier kid would have problems.' Lyndon isn't afraid to call out when he needs help, and he uses the bot's tricks to his advantage. He can zoom in, take photos of the whiteboard and homework corrections and refer back to everything later. 'It's like H.G. Wells,' Mr. Deville says. Kelsey Vasquez, a classmate, says Lyndon is actually more outgoing as the robot. 'He's shier in person,' she says, at least until he's had time to relax. 'I don't think I could be as happy as he is.'"
PUBLISHED: May 16, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4326 words)
[Fiction] A young man, estranged from his girlfriend, receives experimental stem-cell treatment in Germany:
"Hayley wasn’t coming. It was pretty obvious. Julian sat shivering in the chill, listening for the 9:13. Then the 9:41. Then the 10:02. He was tired. In winter, he sometimes caught a fever. His arms burned hot, as if a flame were being held to his skin. This was the nerves dying, an Internet confidant had explained. Of course his immune system wanted him dead. It knew. It was making the call on behalf of the wider society. It was taking him out. In the larger project of the universe, of which he must necessarily be kept in the dark, his own existence appeared to be an obstacle. So the species makes an adjustment. It redacts."
PUBLISHED: May 14, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7397 words)
The short life of Jessica Lum, a terminally ill 25-year-old who chose to spend her last days practicing journalism:
"Jessica hadn’t expected to win. The other finalists were teams of students, and she worked solo on her 'Slab City Stories' project—a multimedia report on the inhabitants of a former Marine base-turned-squatter-RV-park in the California desert (though not, she made sure to point out, without the support of her professors, classmates, and Kickstarter backers). Jessica didn’t enjoy being in the spotlight, either; she was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. It took her only a few seconds longer to accept the award than it did to get to the stage. After a rush of thank-yous and a celebratory double fist-pump, Jessica returned to her seat—and to what appeared to be a bright future, one in which she’d tell many more stories and win many more awards.
"Less than four months later, on January 13, 2013, Jessica died. She was 25."
PUBLISHED: May 13, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3370 words)
This week's picks include pieces from Allie Brosh, The Believer, Miami New Times, GQ, The New Yorker, fiction from Guernica and a guest pick by Michael Macher.
Inside the offices—and servers—of the video streaming empire:
"On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.com, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined. Traffic to Netflix usually peaks at around 10 p.m. in each time zone, at which point a chart of Internet consumption looks like a python that swallowed a cow. By midnight Pacific time, streaming volume falls off dramatically."
PUBLISHED: May 9, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3782 words)
The writer investigates why endangered monk seals are being killed in Hawaii:
"'This place should be crawling with monk seals!' Robinson said as we got out to explore one bluff. 'Something’s awfully wrong here. Awfully wrong.'
"Dana Rosendal, the pilot for the family’s helicopter company, was unfazed. We’d covered only a quarter of the island, he told Robinson, and we’d already seen 10 seals.
"'Dana,' Robinson cut in, 'we’ve only seen five or six, plus one lousy turtle.'
"Rosendal ticked off each sighting, then counted up his fingers. Ten, exactly.
"'Well, whoop dee do!' Robinson shot back. 'Ten seals!'"
PUBLISHED: May 8, 2013
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8010 words)