Reading List

Here is a collection of essays, articles, websites, etc. that I found interesting, funny, or otherwise notable 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. The site is full of awesome pieces, like this one on the shuttle program, which gives me conflicting feelings, of course.


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.


The Right to Read

Richard Stallman, 1997 (link)

Stallman is somewhat controversial now and has always been a bit of an idealist with some of his views, but some of his earlier work especially has been incredibly prescient.


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, particularly the earlier ones.


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.


A Mathematician's Lament

Paul Lockhart, 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.) Maybe also see Scott Aaronson's comments.


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.


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.


Hiroshima

John Hersey, 1946 (link)

This is nontechnical, old, and long, but I think it's a really good piece. It chronicles the stories of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.


Exposing Floating Point

Bartosz Ciechanowski, 2019 (link)

I haven't actually read through the entire piece, but this is just an example of the sort of excellent, beautiful content that Bartosz posts regularly on his blog. (I chose this particular article as the canonical representative because it's on something that I know a little bit about.) I'll be happy if my own writing is half as informative as his one day.


XKCD

Randall Munroe (link)

I think this is pretty much required reading for anyone with any technical interests.


Ken Shirriff's Blog

Ken Shirriff (link)

Ken blogs about very cool historical computing projects. I first found out about his blog through his work on the Apollo Guidance Computer.


A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry

Bret Devereaux (link)

Bret's blog is mostly about history. There are also some interesting historical analyses of popular culture items; I particularly enjoyed his series on the Siege of Gondor from Tolkien's legendarium, although maybe that's just because I'm a slight Tolkien nerd.