Train to the Roof of the World

On riding China’s Qinghai-Tibet Railway just before it opened:

Staring out at the shimmering tracks and concrete-reinforced embankment extending to the horizon, I can’t help but think of the senior Chinese scientist who confessed to me that the rail line he helped build might not be safe for long.

The Secret History of Iraq’s Invisible War

In the early years of the Iraq war, the U.S. military developed a technology so secret that soldiers would refuse to acknowledge its existence, and reporters mentioning the gear were promptly escorted out of the country. That equipment—a radio-frequency jammer—was upgraded several times, and eventually robbed the Iraq insurgency of its most potent weapon, the remote-controlled bomb.

Crypto Rebels

Steven Levy’s piece on cypherpunks and Internet libertarians could not feel more relevant in the wake of WikiLeaks’ rise and the heavily scrutinized role of online organizing in recent revolutions. During Wired’s first year, I’d just gotten an Internet account and had somehow stumbled on the magazine. It became my guide to this hybrid life that we all live now, half-online, half-offline.

-A. Madrigal

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

“I’m not the kind of guy who hears voices. But that night, as I passed the station, I heard a little voice coming from the back of my head…‘If you do it that way, if you use that algorithm, there will be a flaw. The game will be flawed. You will be able to crack the ticket. You will be able to plunder the lottery.’”

By Analogy

An interview with Douglas Hofstadter, who after winning the Pulitzer for Gödel, Escher, Bach retreated into the lab and published only sparingly in technical journals, on what it would mean if a program could generate humor and/or masterful compositions.