The best of the Verge longreads

By The Verge | Essential features, reports, and original reporting from The Verge.

Ring of fire: why our military's toxic burn pits are making soldiers sick | The Verge

PLASTIC, STYROFOAM, ELECTRONICS, METAL CANS, RUBBER TIRES, EXPLOSIVES, HUMAN FECES, ANIMAL CARCASSES, ASBESTOS INSULATION, AND HUMAN BODY PARTS

DUST STORMS
Fierce dust storms in Iraq and Afghanistan frequently swept through bases, littering everything in their wake with fine particulate matter. This …

Military

Second Life's strange second life

Do you remember Second Life? Set up by developer Linden Lab in 2003, it was the faithful replication of our modern world where whoring, drinking, and fighting were acceptable. It was the place where big brands moved in as neighbors and hawked you their wares online. For many, it was the future — our …

Second Life

Machine language: how Siri found its voice

GM Voices is nestled on a rolling, leafy road in Alpharetta, Georgia, an affluent suburb of Atlanta. A recording studio specializing in voice-over work, it produces narration for corporate training videos, voicemail system prompts, and the like — not exactly sexy stuff, but steady, and for the best …

Speech Recognition

The end of kindness: weev and the cult of the angry young man

How internet abuse works: she displeases him and he tries to punish her. He posts doctored photos of her to the web. In one, a noose is near her head. In another, her children appear to be performing sex acts. He emails graphic threats about violating her with a chainsaw. He sneers that she is too

Heartbleed Bug

Broadband gap: Google Fiber isn't the only revolution in Kansas City

Kansas City, a metropolitan area of about 2 million that straddles the border between Kansas state and Missouri, seems an unlikely place to see what the future of internet connectivity could look like. But nearly three years after Google announced that this midwestern metropolis best known for jazz …

Google

Is technology scrambling my baby's brain?

I reached the breaking point, as many parents do, about two and a half months in. My newborn son, Oliver, was hitting a phase where his five senses were really coming online. The mere act of being awake was often overstimulating; sometimes he would start to cry when we turned on a bright light or …

The Brain

Curses! The birth of the bleep and modern American censorship

The Enlightenment sages who wrote the First Amendment into the US Constitution in 1791 created the most secure legal foundation for a real democracy in history thus far. By refusing to grant government the power to shut anyone up, no matter how obnoxious, the authors of the Bill of Rights ensured …

Censorship

Gut feelings: the future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach

Her parents were running out of hope. Their teenage daughter, Mary, had been diagnosed with a severe case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as ADHD. They had dragged her to clinics around the country in an effort to thwart the scary, intrusive thoughts and the repetitive behaviors …

Psychology

The War Inside: fighting depression in Palestine

Ever since he was 18, when Omar Danoun started med school, they’ve called him “doctor.” Friends and family, cousins and neighbors — everyone in Rantis, the West Bank village he’s lived in his whole life. It’s a close-knit population of around 3,000, belonging to six clans and spread over a little …

Depression

Snoop contains multitudes: testing every product in the Dogg empire

Like an ancient bottle of bourbon or a good abstract painting, the modern Snoop Lion (née Dogg) contains multitudes. But it wasn’t always that way.

In 1994, Snoop was a simpler creature: a gangster with a knack for showbiz. But then a crew of Bloods crashed the set of the "Gin and Juice" video, and …

Louis Farrakhan

Your meat addiction is destroying the planet

“Jesus,” Molly said, her own plate empty, “gimme that. You know what this costs?” She took his plate. “They gotta raise a whole animal for years and then they kill it. This isn’t vat stuff.” She forked a mouthful up and chewed.” – William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

On Monday, August 5th, 2013, at a …

Meat

John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln… but who killed John Wilkes Booth?

A murdered president. A fleeing assassin. A dead man’s vertebrae. A deathbed confession and a ghastly suicide. A family’s disgrace. Conspiracy theories and courtroom battles. Secret burials and an unmarked grave. An aborted exhumation and a hopeful DNA analysis. Oh, and then there’s the riddle of …

John Wilkes Booth

David Geffen's beach is yours: crash Malibu's secret oceanside hotspots with your iPhone

Last Saturday Ben Adair and Jenny Price had a party to celebrate the launch of their new app, Our Malibu Beaches. Fittingly, it was on the beach in Malibu — a nice canopy to sit under, kids building sand castles, Doritos and Coke for everyone. But it was kind of hard to chat because Mudvayne’s The

iPhone

Everything you need to know about PRISM

Since September 11th, 2001, the United States government has dramatically increased the ability of its intelligence agencies to collect and investigate information on both foreign subjects and US citizens. Some of these surveillance programs, including a secret program called PRISM, capture the …

Privacy

The Speakers: how two people became the voice of 110 airports and the NYC subway

Airports trigger anxiety. Subway systems cause paranoia. We all know the statistics: it’s riskier to get in your car than it is to board an aircraft or take a train. But our collective memories of bombings, hijackings, and poison gas attacks often turn public spaces of transport into psychic mine …

New York City

Beyond recognition: the incredible story of a face transplant

For Carmen Tarleton, the day started out normally enough. Tarleton, 45, had errands to run, a piano lesson to get to, a house to tidy. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day, and for the first time in a long time — the first time since the attack five years earlier — she looked forward to spending it with a …

Medicine

Online classes can be enlightening, edifying, and engaging — but they're not college

The future of higher education online is, at present, clear as mud. Do Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs — college-level classes offered online through a number of corporate providers — offer students better tools for study, increased opportunities at lower cost? Can they provide access to …

Education

Seduced by ‘perfect’ pitch: how Auto-Tune conquered pop music

In January of 2010, Kesha Sebert, known as ‘Ke$ha’ debuted at number one on Billboard with her album, Animal. Her style is electro pop-y dance music: she alternates between rapping and singing, the choruses of her songs are typically melodic party hooks that bore deep into your brain: “Your love, …

Auto-Tune

Silicon Bayou rising: New Orleans' drive to be the next great tech city

By Jesse Hicks and Andrew Thompson

From a distance it looked like a typical New Orleans street party: a tree-lined, brick walkway just blocks from the Mississippi River, thronged with people enjoying the late-March weather. The air crackled with excitement, a sense of common purpose. Large speakers …

New Orleans

All the president's hitmen: tracking Washington's secret army

Additional reporting by Jesse Hicks and Joshua Kopstein

In the 1960s there was a saying: "Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came?" We'll probably never know the answer to that particular American koan, but a recent book and documentary film sets out to answer a more important question: "What if …

Jeremy Scahill

Ecstasy for my eardrums: tripping through the addictive psychedelia of million-dollar hi-fi

Yesterday I chronicled a skeptical vision quest through the realm of high-end audio appreciation. It brought me to one of the darkest corners of the High End hi-fi trade show in Munich. I found myself in a room surrounded by silver-haired purists in front of a bespoke rig by Pioneer subsidiary TAD …

Psychedelia

Post-process: why the smartphone camera changed photography forever

I am a professional commercial photographer. I have been for the last 25 years.

Throughout most of my career, I’ve had a hard time taking personal pictures — and for years I thought that shooting film was to blame.

I’ve always found shooting film nerve-wracking. The joy of the “latent image” isn’t …

Photographers

Exclusive: Inside Hangouts, Google's big fix for its messaging mess

By Ellis Hamburger and Dieter Bohn

Skydivers equipped with futuristic glasses live-broadcasted their descent into the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco during last year’s Google I/O. Developers lined up to receive not one, but four free devices costing $300 or more. Google announced the Nexus …

Google

Body Message: GI Joe and the invention of the viral video

2003 was an important year for American culture: Baghdad fell, the Human Genome Project was completed, Britney and Madonna French-kissed at the MTV Music Video Awards. And no less significantly, at least as far as internet culture is concerned, it was also the year of the “GI Joe PSAs”: 25 weird, …

Viral Videos

Who am I? Data and DNA answer one of life’s big questions

In March nearly 7,000 people traveled to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to spend the weekend at RootsTech, a yearly technology-focused genealogy conference sponsored by FamilySearch and a few other big names in the family history industry. Genealogy — the search for and …

Genealogy

They're watching: why city-wide surveillance failed to stop the Boston bombing

All day Sunday, police directed traffic around a blocked-off section of Boylston Street in downtown Boston where bombs had gone off nearly a week earlier, killing three and wounding hundreds. A makeshift memorial had been set up to honor the dead with personal messages and flowers, and old running …

Surveillance

OK, Cupid: giving your love life to Google Glass and the hive mind

On January 20, 2013, sometime before 7:45PM, Lauren McCarthy sat down at a table. She was early. She always arrived early. Once she had a spot, she checked her setup. She kept the iPhone in her purse, its camera poking out and angled to capture the whole scene. The iPod touch was kept close at …

Google

Practical magic: Lumarca is a mesmerizing 3D sculpture made of string and light

“When we explain it to people we get a lot of doubt,” Matt Parker says of Lumarca, his volumetric display installation, which renders graphics in 3D and has been in the works for several years. What puts that doubt in people’s heads is not necessarily how brilliant it looks, but instead how it …

Sculpture

Where the richest music nerds go to play: the High End show

In early May Trent Wolbe traveled to the High End trade show in Munich, Germany. This is part one of a two part series exploring the cutting edge of audiophile technology.

Every American should be required to tour the eight distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail before they are allowed to die. …

Rock Music