The Most Interesting Stories of 2015
Happy new year! I’m reviving my little list of favorite stories from the past year. I didn’t do one last year, but you can see previous versions from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Thanks for reading and I look forward to what 2016 brings!
5) The New York Times: The Agency
Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history, and its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space. In the midst of such a war, the Runet (as the Russian Internet is often called) can be an unpleasant place for anyone caught in the crossfire. Soon after I met Leonid Volkov, he wrote a post on his Facebook wall about our interview, saying that he had spoken with someone from The New York Times. A former pro-Kremlin blogger later warned me about this. Kremlin allies, he explained, monitored Volkov’s page, and now they would be on guard. “That was not smart,” he said.
4) The New York Times: A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes
Industrial-scale violators of fishing bans and protected areas are a main reason more than half of the world’s major fishing grounds have been depleted and by some estimates over 90 percent of the ocean’s large fish like marlin, tuna and swordfish have vanished. Interpol had issued a Purple Notice on the Thunder (the equivalent of adding it to a Most Wanted List, a status reserved for only four other ships in the world), but no government had been willing to dedicate the personnel and millions of dollars needed to go after it.
So Sea Shepherd did instead, stalking the fugitive 202-foot steel-sided ship from a desolate patch of ocean at the bottom of the Earth, deep in Antarctic waters, to any ports it neared, where its crews could alert the authorities. “The poachers thrive by staying in the shadows,” Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Barker, said while trying to level his ship through battering waves. “Our plan was to put a spotlight on them that they couldn’t escape.”
3) Harper’s Magazine: A Goose in a Dress
How does the food taste? To ask that is to miss the point of Through Itself. This food is not designed to be eaten, an incidental process. It is designed to make your business rival claw his eyes out. It could be a yacht, a house, or a valuable, rare, and miniature dog. But I can tell you that the cornet of salmon — world famous in canapé circles — is crisp and light and I enjoyed it; that there are six kinds of table salt and two exquisite lumps of butter, one shaped like a miniature beehive and another shaped like a quenelle; that a salad of fruits and nuts has such a discordant splice of flavors it is almost revolting; that the lamb is good; and that, generally, the food is so overtended and overdressed I am amazed it has not developed the ability to scream in your face, walk off by itself, and sulk in its room.
2) Wait But Why: How Tesla Will Change The World
So when it was time to start what I had labeled in my head as “the Tesla post,” I knew this was going to be one of those posts. To understand if and why Tesla Motors matters, you have to understand both the story of cars and the story of energy—two worlds I somehow am simultaneously confused by and tremendously sick of. Just hearing someone say “climate change” or “energy crisis” or “tailpipe emissions” makes me kind of gag at this point—just too much politics, too many annoying people, too much misinformation on all sides, and it’s just hard to know how much I actually care and if there can be a solution to all of it anyway. […]
After weeks of reading and asking questions and writing, I’ve emerged […] with something that toes the line between a long blog post and a short book. I could have broken this into multiple posts, but it’s all one story and I wanted to keep it all together. It’ll be a bit of a time investment, but I think you’ll come out of it with a sturdier tree trunk about all of this than you have now. And as it turns out, when it comes to this topic, we may be witnessing a very awesome moment in history without quite realizing it yet.
1) The New Yorker: Power to the People
Arguably, the era’s most disruptive technology is the solar panel. Its price has dropped ninety-nine per cent in the past four decades, and roughly seventy-five per cent in the past six years; it now produces power nearly as cheaply as coal or gas, a condition that energy experts refer to as “grid parity.” And because it’s a technology, rather than a fuel, the price should continue to fall, as it has for cell phones. Solar power is being adopted most rapidly in places where there is no grid—it’s cheaper and quicker to stick panels on the roofs of huts in villages than to build a centralized power station and run poles and wires. In Bangladesh, crews install sixty thousand solar arrays a month. Even in the U.S., where almost everyone has been connected to the grid for decades, solar prices have fallen to the point where, with the help of a federal tax credit, an enterprising company can make money installing solar panels.