Essays ("Good Reads")

Here is a collection of essays, articles, etc. that I found interesting/funny/whatever at the time that I read them. I'll hopefully expand this list over the years.

Scott and Scurvy

Maciej Cegłowski, 2010 (link)

Idle Words is a great blog to follow, and this is possibly my favorite piece on the site. It's an intriguing, detailed read on how the cure for scurvy became "lost" over time.

Hacker News discussion: here and here

Pearls before Breakfast

Gene Weingarten, 2007 (link)

"Pearls before Breakfast" is a fine, classic piece of journalism. Unfortunately, the Washington Post has recently taken objection to Firefox's default anti-tracking mechanisms, but I think the article is worth the read.

In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

multiple signatories, 2015 (link)

This is a thoughtful open letter about the current academic publishing crisis.

Hacker News discussion: here

The Right to Read

Richard Stallman, 1997 (link)

Stallman is known for being a bit of an idealist with some of his views, but it's a little scary to see how much of what he wrote twenty years ago has come true. His predictions in this short story have been right so far; it's chilling to think what will come to pass if they continue to be right.

Hacker News discussion: here

Are Software Patents Evil?

Paul Graham, 2006 (link)

While this essay is overall geared toward people who would like to found startups (Graham is a founder of Y Combinator, after all), it's a pretty interesting read. In a topic that's mired with passionate arguments over ideals, this essay takes a very practical approach to the matter (although there is some nice theoretical discussion toward the end). Actually, a lot of Graham's essays are worth reading (e.g. this or this).

Hacker News discussion: here

We Should All Have Something to Hide

Moxie Marlinspike, 2013 (link)

This is a very nice rebuttal to the reasonable question: "if I don't have anything to hide, why should I be concerned about mass surveillance?" The stories posted on this site are also worth perusing, if you have the time.

Hacker News discussion: here and here

A Mathematician's Lament

Paul Lockheart, 2002 (link)

This is a pretty interesting (if lengthy) essay about the state of mathematical education in the United States. (Granted, it's been almost two decades since this was written, but I get the feeling that things haven't changed much.) I actually haven't finished the whole thing yet, but I have some other minor updates to this site and I figured I might as well bundle this one in here.

Hacker News discussion: here

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

Scott Aaronson, 1999 (link)

I remember really liking this essay when I first read it, and I was happy to stumble across it again yesterday. It's a fairly fascinating read about the busy beaver numbers, a sequence that grows uncomputably fast, and what implications there might be. Scott Aaronson's blog in general is also a fun read and good source on quantum computation, although I've barely scratched the surface on it.

Hacker News discussion: here

Cat -v Quotes Archive

various (link)

I can't say that I agree with everything that appears on cat-v, but the quotes archive is an excellent place to lose an afternoon. In fact, several of these nearly became my senior yearbook quote. (I eventually settled on a quote from Suetonius's Twelve Caesars.) Fun fact: I mentioned this website on my Princeton application. I did not get in.