The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including what it would feel like to fall to the centre of the Earth and how you can function on a few hours’ sleep.

Cancer | I chose a life without breasts

“When in the name of health and awareness and courage do we stop lopping off our breasts and take a more realistic approach?” That was what Brown wrote about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy; then Brown developed breast cancer herself, and faced a decision on having the same operation. “There is a wide gulf between a doctor’s study on survival rates and what a woman needs to do to feel like she can live.” (Lauren Alix Brown, Quartz, 3,300 words)

Human body | Listening to your eyes move

A suggestion of Sir Thomas Browne in this unexpected note on the sounds of the human body. “For most people, sounds from inside the body are screened out, to make the outside world audible. For patients with medical conditions inducing autophony, the internal sounds are dramatically amplified. Patients may be able to hear their eyeballs moving from left to right, the pulsing of blood or the gurgles of digestion.” (Anna Harris, Somatosphere, 1,200 words)

What it would feel like to fall into the Earth’s core

Sleep | I cheated sleep

The trick is to break your sleep into shorter sessions distributed through the day and night. The Dymaxion schedule allows a 30-minute nap every six hours and nothing more. The Everyman allows 3.5 hours sleep at night plus three 20-minute naps during the day. After three weeks it feels great: “The best bit was that I was benefitting from that superb early-morning blank mind four times a day instead of just once.” (Akshat Rathi, Quartz, 2,030 words)

Making predicitons | Andrew Curry: The future

A futurist talks about what futurists do — it’s about pattern recognition, not prediction; how futurists have fared in the past; and the best books on futurism. “There’s three types of futures: possible futures, probable futures, and preferred futures. People tend to do one or the other. Preferred futures are the bit from the peace movement; possible and probable are the bit from the wartime systems analysis work.” (Beatrice Wilford, Five Books, 5,579 words)

Autos | Driverless cars and motor insurance

In Britain roughly one-sixth of car insurance claims arise from one car hitting another while reversing into a parking space. With driverless cars that just won’t happen any more. Accidents in general will happen much less often. So what will become of car insurance companies? Their traditional business will dry up. Their actuarial skills will be obsolete. Basically, they have five years in which to find new lines of business. (Neha Jain et al, Bank Underground, 1,250 words)

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