Watch this Tolkien expert's master class on every race in Middle Earth

Cory Olsen, aka The Tolkien Professor, explains how Tolkien's hobbit stories got fused with his earlier mythologic work around languages he created to become the Tolkien universe inhabited by Hobbits, Men, Ents, Elves, Dwarves, and what-not. Read the rest

Wired just canceled Bruce Sterling's long-running blog

For the last 18 years Bruce Sterling has been writing an unpaid blog called "Beyond the Beyond" for Wired. But now, writes Cory Doctorow, "Beyond the Beyond is done. Wired publisher Conde Nast is in such deep financial trouble that they're realizing minuscule savings like those to be gleaned from shutting down an unpaid blog."

Bruce just posted his farewell column at Wired.com:

I’m even proud and happy that I managed to spare the readers so much of my own mental compost in this blog. The chosen, curated material that made it on to this blog was maybe one percent of the vast heaps of rubbish I was overturning. I could have stuffed this blog with two hundred times as much “content,” and if I’d lived for two hundred years, I would never have lost interest in my sky-blackening sandstorm of off-the-wall topics. Every day was a gift, and full of grist for the mill.

In conclusion, people may wonder “what next” — well, I’m still active, or even hyperactive, on Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Medium and Ello. But those platforms are not my “weblogs” — they’re social media, or image-sharing sites. I find them cozy mostly because I’m indolent, and they’re not as much work as a weblog. It’s easier to quip about the same-old same-old than it is to explore the frontiers.

If I was a young person, and starting over today, I would not experiment with a weblog supported by a West Coast US technology magazine. Instead, I would try something more youthful in spirit, less conventional, more beyond-the-beyond.

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The new Barbie Polaroid camera actually sounds pretty wonderful

Over at Wired, Medea Giordano has brought her insightful eye as a photographer and a writer to the new Polaroid 600 Barbie Throwback camera, a retro take on the classic camera with all the Barbie flourishes you'd expect. But according to Giordano, the seemingly-novelty nature of the camera is tertiary to the fact that … it actually might be the best Polaroid alternative available right now, or at least, the least shitty thing that still connects most closely with our nostalgic memories of what a true Polaroid camera should be.

The new Polaroid 600 Barbie Throwback camera ($149) doesn't just look like an old Polaroid. It kinda is one. The camera's internals are made from original Polaroid electronics that have been refurbished and tested by Retrospekt, a vintage-product restoration company, housed in a new plastic exterior that is just slightly updated from the ‘99 version. No batteries are needed, as they’re built into each film pack. (It takes an eight-pack of 600 film in color or black and white.) Unlike some of the other instant cameras released today, it produces the full-size photos you’ll remember from yesteryear.

[…]

The new Polaroid—formerly known as Polaroid Originals and the Impossible Project—has had trouble with its film quality since it first released its instant film in 2010. We noted the improvements in film quality back in 2017, but as Gear writer Scott Gilbertson wrote in March, newer Polaroid film is still sometimes plagued by grainy areas or spots that don't look fully developed.

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Jane Metcalfe, co-founder NEO.LIFE, has a cool upcoming book

Kevin Kelly and I interviewed our friend Jane Metcalfe for the Cool Tools podcast. Jane is the founder of NEO.LIFE, a media and events company tracking how digital tools and an engineering mindset are transforming human biology. Prior to that, she made chocolate on a pier in San Francisco at TCHO Chocolate. Jane is probably best known as the cofounder of Wired magazine.

The Kickstarter campaign for her new book "Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species" is now live.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Offi Mag Table ($249) I love bent plywood! I also love magazines, so this bent plywood magazine holder/side table designed by Eric Pfieffer is a total winner. There is something just so satisfying about seeing a sweep of beautiful wood flow down into a curve and splash back up the other side. And that's not all. The table makes a perfect companion to your LazyBoy recliner for Sunday afternoon reading delight. But, you can also turn it on its end and use it as a makeshift work surface, which is great when a colleague has to come be in the video conference but also wants desk space to take notes. It's so good looking I used it this week on stage for an event we produced.

Souk Shopper Basket by Bohemia I used to find shopping at farmers markets physically taxing mostly because I get excited and buy way more than I can carry, always. Read the rest

Ken Jeong answers medical questions posed on Twitter

TIL: Actor and comedian Ken Jeong is also a licensed physician. He put his career in medicine on hold to become an actor. Mind you, this isn't new news, I just hadn't gotten the memo until today.

In 2017 a video he made with Wired went viral with over 24M views. It was called "Doc Support" and in it he answers medical questions people asked on Twitter. This video is part two, which he jokingly calls "Doc Support 2: Electric Boogaloo." It's already at nearly 10M views and it was only just published on Monday.

Dr. Jeong's first Netflix comedy special, "You Complete Me, Ho," is now available to watch. Read the rest

Watch this journalist uncover how games mess with his brain

There's a lot of text out about how, for better or worse, playing computer games will mess with your brains. Instead of adding to the pile of words already scrawled on the subject, WIRED's Peter Rubin took it upon himself to work up a video that examines how gaming messes with his brain in particular. Read the rest

Design fiction, speculative design, and "creepiness"

In "design fiction" and "speculative design," designers and science fiction writers create fictional products and services, which go on to inform real engineering and product design processes. Read the rest

Wired releases a surveillance self-defense guide

Wired's new Guide to Digital Security is an excellent addition to the genre of simple-to-follow how-tos for reducing the likelihood that you'll be victimized by computer-assisted crime and harassment, and that if you are, the harms will be mitigated. Read the rest

Stranger Things cast answers web's most-searched 'autocomplete' questions

What do people most want to know about Stranger Things? Google's search engine's autocomplete will tell us. Here's Stranger Things stars Joe Keery and Gaten Matarazzo to answer those most-commonly asked questions about their hit show and themselves.

It's called the WIRED Autocomplete Interview: Stranger Things is based on a true story, kinda Read the rest

Chris Anderson: Drone mogul and former bass player for REM (no, not *that* REM).

(Photo: Joi Ito, CC-BY)

He’s not the only major figure in the world of tech and ideas who goes by Chris Anderson. His namesake runs the TED conference - whereas the Chris Anderson of this article was Editor-in-Chief of Wired for twelve years. During that stint, he co-founded a company that helped launch the consumer drone industry, which he now runs (the company - not the industry).

There are those who think these guys are one solitary, mega overachiever, but no. They could settle who has rights to the name through some kind of brainy public smackdown - the nerd equivalent of a battle of the bands, say. But not a chance. This Chris Anderson has been through that once already. With his band. They were called REM.

No - not that REM. That REM clobbered Team Chris in musical combat back in 1991 (at the storied 9:30 club in Washington), winning rights to the name. Chris’s band then took Mike Mills’ suggestion that they rebrand as Egoslavia – a clever-ish name back when Yugoslavia wasn’t just a fading memory and a handful of spinoffs.

Chris and I cover this, plus the story of his impressively misspent youth in an hour-plus interview you can listen to right here (or by typing the name of the podcast series – “After On” – into the search bar of your favorite podcast app):

But we mainly talk about drones, his company (3D Robotics, or 3DR), and how he launched and grew it to millions in revenues in partnership with a Tijuana teen, while winning awards for running the world’s most influential tech magazine as a day job. Read the rest

Mondo 2000's R.U. Sirius interviews Wired founder Louis Rossetto

On the newly relaunched Mondo 2000 website, R.U. Sirius interviewed Wired founder Louis Rossetto about the origins of Wired and about his new novel, Change is Good. I was an editor at Wired from 1993-1998 and I learned a lot about Wired and Louis that I didn't know. One thing was that Louis wanted to base Wired in my hometown, Boulder, CO, but his partner and co-founder Jane Metcalfe thought San Francisco was a better headquarters. Smart choice!

Any regrets about Wired’s typhoon? (In the first issue, Louis wrote, “The Digital Revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon.”)

LR: Oh jeez. We are evolution’s agents, and we are making and testing mutations on an accelerated basis as we network ourselves and our sensors and our machines together. Some mutations survive, some don’t. The ones that survive may still cause humans (and the universe) problems because they are disruptive. Some are not only disruptive but wildly beneficial — at least they appear that way, at least at first. But can we ever really know what’s good or bad for us in the long run? All we can do is try to shape the flow as best we can with good intention. Regrets about what’s happening? Always. Excited about what’s happening? Immensely. Through it all, I remain a critical optimist. Change is good. Change is hard. Change is good? Change is…

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Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig answer the internet’s questions about them

Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig are the latest celebrities to tackle the always-entertaining Wired Autocomplete Interview. Read the rest

A great oral history of Funny Or Die, which just turned ten

Funny Or Die is ten years old this week. The comedy site's launch a decade ago almost didn't happen. Wired has compiled a definitive oral history of the site, right up through its most recent reset as Trump ascended to the Presidency. Read the rest

Asskicker coffee has 80 times more caffeine than regular coffee

A cup of Asskicker coffee supposedly has 5 grams of caffeine, or 80 times the amount in a regular cup of coffee. Can that be right? According to Wikipedia, the median lethal does of caffeine "is estimated to be 150 to 200 milligrams per kilogram of body mass (75–100 cups of coffee for a 70 kilogram adult)." That would mean you'd have a good chance of dropping dead from drinking a cup of Asskicker coffee.

From Oddity Central:

[Adelaide, Australia's Viscous Coffee owner Steve Benington] says he came up with the idea for the Asskicker when an emergency department nurse asked him for something that would keep her awake and alert for an unexpected night shift. “She consumed her drink over two days and it kept her up for almost three days — I toned it down a little after that and the Asskicker was born,” he recalls. Nowadays, the complex concoction is made with four espresso shots, four 48-hour brewed cold drip ice cubes, 120ml of 10-day brewed cold drip and is finished with four more 48-hour brewed cold drip ice cubes. “Each cold drip ice cube is approximately equivalent of a bit more than two shots of espresso in caffeine,” Benington explains.

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Inside China's 'Silicon Valley of Hardware,' Shenzhen, with hardware hacker Bunnie Huang

In the first of a series of documentary videos about 'Future Cities,' WIRED UK has released a wonderful short doc on Huaqiangbei, the vast market district in Shenzhen, China.

They picked the best host and guide imaginable for this project, hardware hacker and researcher Andrew "Bunnie" Huang. Read the rest

Mondo 2000 retrospective in Wired - UPDATED

When I saw my first issue of "Reality Hackers" -- at a bookstore I was working at in high-school -- I knew I wanted to keep reading this magazine, and made my boss place a big order for the next issue, which was called "Mondo 2000." Read the rest

We just discovered 'badass snails' and an asshole bug that eats its mom from the inside out

Wired writer Matt Simon writes about weird animals. Read the rest

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