Kickoff for September 25, 2023

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I’ve found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let’s get this Monday started with these links:

Lessons From the Catastrophic Failure of the Metaverse, wherein Kate Wagner examines why Meta’s much-hyped virtual world was such a monumental flop.

The Night 17 Million Precious Military Records Went Up in Smoke, wherein Megan Greenwell looks back at the 1973 fire that swept through the US National Personnel Records Center, and at both the personal and historic cost of that disaster.

Britain’s forgotten European empire, wherein we take a trip to the Ionian Islands and learn a bit about an oft-ignored outpost of empire, and why Britain’s colonial experiment there failed.

I Survived a Weekend at Biosphere 2 Pretending to Be in Space, wherein Sarah Scoles recounts what she learned during a conference at the science research facility, and how her opinion of analog astronaut experiments has changed.

Is Wine Fake?, wherein Scott Alexander tries to discover whether there’s any actual reason for, and actual depth to, the pretensions and affectations around fermented grape juice, or whether it’s all pretension and affectation.

My A.I. Writing Robot, wherein Kyle Chayka explores AI-powered writing tools, why companies are starting to use them to replace human writers, how that’s changing the view of what a writer is, and how A.I. might permanently change our relationship to the written word.

An Excellent View of Oblivion: On Italy’s Vanishing Towns, wherein Dominic Smith recounts a trip to Italy to research a novel, and reflects on the idea of abandonment through the lens of towns and villages in the country that are depopulating.

Encountering the High Arctic, wherein James Conaway tells us of his journey to Ellesmere Island for National Geographic magazine, and how he was essentially lost in the arctic wilderness for a few days.

The 19th-Century Trippers Who Probed the Mind, wherein we learn about the individuals in the 1800s who exposed themselves to various mind-altering chemicals and gasses, in the name of science of course, and how they had to develop new ways to record and describe their experiences.

And that’s it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt