Wired in 1,200 words


Wired 15.12 comes in at two pounds, half the weight of a September Vogue. Most of it's the water weight of ads and a shopping guide, and I've summarized the meat of the issue in 1,200 words, so now you don't need to pick it up and risk ergonomic injury.

Start

  • Superpowers fighting to claim the melting, oil-rich Arctic will want the moon next; we need the rule of law.
  • New unsticky "Clean Gum" won't mar sidewalks.
  • Satellite photos caught an empty Burma during a communications blackout.
  • Faceslam: Facebook snub. Crowd farming: Stadium foot traffic as power plant.
  • Forty rocketeers made an X-Wing, but it exploded.
  • Chipuya Town is a Japanese mobile MMORPG.
  • Matter/antimatter mix powers superlaser.
  • Athlete's foot medicine contains no surprises.
  • Mr. Know-it-all: Surgical masks do little against Chinese pollution. eBay bidding just for good feedback violates TOS. Shark cartilage doesn't fight cancer.
  • Russia's covering Chernobyl with a steel shelter.
  • Fire hoses spray mist on ignitable gases.
  • Lace running shoes more comfortably: One normal cross, then up to the next eyelet, then cross again.
  • Memorize numbers by giving each digit a mnemonic, then think of those mnemonics appearing along a walk around your block.
  • Google buys companies that dominate, are first to a space, or could be a threat if Microsoft buys them.
  • Self-absorbed geeks = "microcelebrities."
  • Preteens are the best competitive texters.
  • If The Golden Compass makes bank we'll see two sequels.
  • Scotsmen have reinvented ancient Scottish ale.
  • Infoporn: Silly Santa math.

Play (highlights)

  • Stripper-blogger Diablo Cody wrote the sweet new comedy Juno.
  • Comic book Persepolis became a 9-out-of-10 film.
  • F4CC motorcycle could go over 200 mph but the tires would melt.

The Angry Mogul

  • CD sales fell 10 percent in 2006. The future is digital.
  • Universal Music CEO Doug Morris made Yahoo and YouTube pay to run music videos. He made Microsoft pay UMG a dollar per Zune. He's pissed at piracy. But he's letting Amazon sell DRM-free MP3s.
  • Why DRM-free? To break Apple's monopoly. iTunes represents 20 percent of all U.S. music sales.
  • UMG's digital revenue comes from iTunes and cell companies (ringtones).
  • UMG will sell a subscription service (with DRM) called Total Music, urging Microsoft to add it to Zunes.

The Ultrabuilder

  • The secret behind future "supertall" buildings is the buttressed core, a Y-shaped floor plan with a strong central support.
  • Structural engineer Bill Baker is the go-to man for supertalls.
  • Baker designed the butressed core to maximize window access and usable space in skyscrapers like the over-2600-foot Burj Dubai; it makes buildings taller, faster to build, and potentially more profitable.

Ode to Joystick

  • Video Games Live directs live orchestra and choir videogame music performances.
  • Creator Tommy Tallarico and conductor Jack Wall arrange the score and direct local musicians at symphony halls.
  • VGL and competitor Play! are barely profitable, but they bring a new 20s/30s crowd to symphony halls.

Getting a Grip

  • Making robots interact with a human environment, even finding and picking up a stapler, is tough.
  • Solution: Make them learn. AI, for real this time, honest!
  • RoboCub is a humanoid bot being taught to mimic and learn from human motions it sees.

Features
What Went Wrong

  • Iraq went wrong because we concentrated on the hardware, not the social landscape.
  • Since the '90s, everyone (including Wired) got excited about war in the information age.
  • Under Bush, Rumsfeld made an Office of Force Transformation to give the armed forces a $230-billion networked makeover.
  • That hasn't helped against our tech-primitive enemies in Iraq.
  • Oh, our technology worked great for invasion, but it's rubbish at securing peace. For that, we actually need troops.
  • For example, 150 troops are in charge of security for the 50,000-person Iraqi city of Tarmiyah.
  • Their leading officer recruits local watchmen to help.
  • US forces have sophisticated command centers on a network (CPOF), but the system was designed for "short, decisive battles" against armies, not extended missions against insurgents.
  • Many forces can't get online enough to make CPOF useful.
  • Meanwhile, insurgents just use the Internet and TV, and they already know the local culture.
  • Psyops agent Joe Colabuno wins over informants by knowing the culture, name-dropping sheikhs and debating using the Koran. He makes posters spoofing insurgents to sway public perception.
  • General Patraeus still believes in network-centric warfare, but as the man behind the surge, he believes in adequate troops too.
  • The co-conceiver of networked warfare says: Combat operations are like football; stability operations are like soccer. The network model needs to adapt.
  • The Army is adapting, spending $41 million on "Human Terrain Teams" of "150 social scientists, software geeks, and experts on local culture." They're credited for more local support and less combat in certain areas.
  • HTTs will become more integral, but we don't know if they'll be armed or given command authority.

Back to the Futurama

  • Five years after Fox canceled it, David Cohen and Matt Groening's Futurama returns on Comedy Central.
  • The new shows — four features split into 16 22-minute episodes — are also being released on four DVDs starting November 27.
  • Fox shuffled the show during its four seasons, and ratings dropped.
  • Added to those four years, reruns and DVD sales earned over $100 million, estimates a writer.
  • Creators are David X. Cohen and Matt Groening.
  • Groening, Simpsons creator, still draws a weekly comic strip called Life in Hell. He has never seen any Star Trek.
  • Cohen is a Trekkie, invented "Worst. Episode. Ever," and loves sci-fi.
  • Futurama is about pandering to the elite audience. Cohen checks the web to see fans discover hidden jokes; then he makes the jokes harder.

Your DNA Decoded

  • A thousand-dollar test tells you what diseases your genes predispose you to, as well as other factors.
  • In the future, we'll use genetic information to plan our lives, and we could live an extra ten years.
  • 23andMe, founded by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google cofounder Sergey Brin, will give people their genetic info and build a database for research. Google invested $3.9 million.
  • FedEx 23andMe a ten-minute wad of spit, and view your results online in under a month.
  • There's still much to learn about which combinations of genes cause what conditions.
  • It cost the Human Genome Project $3 billion to map an entire genome in 2003; it's about $250,000 now.
  • Disease isn't solved yet; half of heart disease cases aren't explained by known risk factors.

Chat: Rich Barton, Zillow

  • The housing crunch makes Zillow's algorithmic house appraisal more useful.
  • Selling houses is no longer binary: homeowners can name a "make me move" price.

The Bone Factory

  • Many medical skeletons are illegally shipped overseas. India has long been the biggest exporter.
  • The country banned exporting human remains in 1985, but the black market thrives.
  • India banned exports after a bone trader with 1500 child skeletons was suspected of kidnapping and killing the children.
  • Skeletons are vital for medical schools.
  • Example process: Corpses are taken from funeral pyres or graves, anchored in a river where they're eaten to mush and bone, scrubbed, sunbleached, and sanitized.

The Secrets of Silicon Valley

  • "Ted," founder of TheFunded.com (where startuppers rate venture capital firms), is Adeo Ressi.
  • Ressi, a self-promoter, made millions with 90s dot-coms, then started an online gaming platform Game Trust, which was taken over by investors.
  • Ressi started TheFunded in response, getting friends like Weblogs Inc. founder Jason Calacanis to tell stories.
  • When firms started invading TheFunded, Ressi banned shills to keep ratings real.
  • Angel investments are surpassing VC money; hedge funds offer a low-maintenance alternative. VCs have to emphasize "customer service."

Nick Douglas writes at Valleywag, Too Much Nick, and Look Shiny. He would, in fact, read that magazine if you paid him to.