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As curious creatures, we attempt to understand the world around us in many ways and nowadays that usually boils down to big data visualization. Whether we're creating models of large-scale systems or breaking down reality into wireframes and exposing the digital bones beneath, the data-rich internet and open-source tools are helping people map and explore the world in new ways. People are leveraging technology to make their voices heard in political realms and using digital expression to bypass physical conflict. Indeed, in this digital age, the lines between life and art are becoming blurred. Don't believe us? Then explore the gallery below for just a few examples.


Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.


Record Store Day and the Ambivalent Branding of Independence
by Eric Harvey

Record Store Day celebrates the culture of independent record shops each spring. Today marks the eighth annual holiday for vinyl collectors and music lovers, but the event is becoming packed with more big names each year. Whether it's Jack White's world record or releases from Metallica or Foo Fighters, celebrities are now just as much a part of the festivities, and distributors seem to be favoring bigger shops over smaller, local spots.

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Several companies are working on eye-tracking tech as a way to navigate devices. A team of MIT researchers, however, have their eyes set on another body part: the thumbnail. Graduate students Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao and Artem Dementyev are developing a tiny trackpad that fits over your thumbnail. They're calling it NailO, and it was inspired by colorful nail stickers popular in Kao's native Taiwan and many other Asian countries. The duo envisions NailO to be used in situations where both your hands are occupied -- for instance, you can use it to scroll down a website page to check recipes while cooking. They also think it could be used to control other wearables, such as smart jewelry.

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Earlier this week Valve introduced Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator as a means to keep its users safe from phishing attempts, and now it's taken another step in that direction. From here on out, until you spend a minimum $5 with your account certain features are blocked. What're you going to miss out on? Friend invites, opening group chat, the Steam discussion boards and voting on Greenlight games among other things. But, considering that most people use the service for, you know, buying and playing games, this really should only affect those who're actively using the service for nefarious purposes.

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It's been more than a year since Comcast announced its plan to buy fellow cable giant Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal, but it still hasn't received the blessings of various regulators. Now, word is leaking out from unnamed sources to Bloomberg and the New York Times that suggests Justice Department lawyers will recommend blocking the merger. Many consumer groups, politicians and executives from other companies have raised concerns over the last year that the combination would put too many customers, and too much of the nation's internet under one banner, despite a promise by Comcast to divest itself of some 3 million customers. Facing so much negative attention, Comcast is trying to improve customer service and reassure skeptics that it will be a friendly giant telecommunications company, but hasn't had much success convincing anyone that its plan will make cable TV better.

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Satellite Reentry

To combat the increasingly dense layer of dead satellites and miscellaneous space debris that are enshrouding our planet, no idea -- nets, lassos, even ballistic gas clouds -- seems too far-fetched to avoid. Now, an international team of researchers led by Japan's Riken research institute has put forward what may be the most ambitious plan to date. They propose blasting an estimated 3,000 tons of space junk out of orbit with a fiber optic laser mounted on the International Space Station.

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Every now and then, there are projects on Kickstarter designed for a niche group of people. Adaptalux is one of those: it's a modular, flexible and nearly pocket-sized lighting studio for macro photography and videography. The team behind Adaptalux claims that the system is capable of creating an infinite amount of illumination environments, thanks to an interchangeable design that users can customize based on their needs. For example, the Control Pod lets you choose the amount of light sources (up to five) and the color of them, as well as control the beam angle for each. And, much like the familiar gooseneck desk lamps, Adaptalux's lighting arms can be bent and twisted almost any way you want.

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Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2015 International CES

MakerBot is perhaps the most well-known consumer 3D printer company on the market, having sold tens of thousands of Replicators since its start in 2009. It's a large part of why Stratasys, an industrial 3D printer and manufacturer, decided to acquire MakerBot in 2013. Two years after that merger, however, things don't seem quite so rosy. Motherboard has learned that MakerBot has apparently laid off roughly 20 percent of its staff -- which is around a hundred people -- as part of a recent consolidation effort by parent company Stratasys. An employee told the outlet that the company is trying to eliminate duplicate positions and streamline operations as a whole.

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Owl Cave popped onto the indie scene in 2013 with a macabre, witty point-and-click adventure called Richard & Alice, which received a slew of rave reviews. Studio co-founder Nina White specializes in crafting vaguely horrific stories packed with tension, and her latest creation, The Charnel House Trilogy, is no exception. It's a subdued brand of horror: no jump scares, no boogeymen under the bed, no demonic children with long, limp hair crawling out of the TV. Charnel House takes place on a train and tells the stories of three passengers over the course of a single night.

"For me, horror's all about the creeping dread, the slow, unsettling burn," White says. "It's this sense of unease and discomfort that I really like playing around with when crafting horror stories."

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Maglev Train

The Central Japan Railway company reports that its magnetic levitation bullet train topped 366 miles per hour on Thursday during a test run along a length of test track in the Yamanashi prefecture. This was enough to break its own 12-year-old, 361 mph world record set back in 2003. The train reportedly carried 29 engineers during its run. Unfortunately, the record is only expected to last until next Tuesday when JR Central hopes to spur the magnetically-propelled commuter train past 372 mph (600 kph).

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