In Short: J.J. Abrams to direct “Star Wars,” scientists investigate storing audio on DNA

Enjoy a sampling of the stories from around the internet that captured our interest this week:

He’s already the creative force between Star Trek. Now it’s been confirmed that J.J. Abrams will also direct the next episode of Star Wars. [New York Times] See how Abrams’ mind works in his TED Talk, “The mystery box,” above. And for bonus points, watch this recent talk about the messages encoded in Star Wars for children.

A great article called “Making sense of Mali: The real stakes of the war rocking West Africa.” [ForeignAffairs.com]

Elizabeth Murchison: Fighting a contagious cancer Elizabeth Murchison: Fighting a contagious cancer

Science writer Carl Zimmer gives a depressing update on the contagious cancer decimating the Tasmanian Devil population. [New York Times] In the piece, he talks about the work of Elizabeth Murchison, who gave the TED Talk “Fighting a contagious cancer.”

19-year-old Zack Kopplin may consider himself a quiet kid. But he’s become one of the loudest critics of the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows teachers to bring creationist textbooks into the classroom. [io9]

How did dogs evolve? A theory that the carbs found in table scraps helped domesticate them. [Los Angeles Times]

Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness

The Edge has a conversation with philosopher and cognitive scientist Dan Dennett. [The Edge] Check out any of his four TED Talks, including the classic “The illusion of consciousness.”

Werner Herzog’s newest movie, Happy People, zooms in on the Siberian wilderness. It arrives in theaters in the U.S. today and the trailer is simply thrilling. [iTunes Movie Trailers] Maybe it will get you in the mood for the TED playlist “Natural Wonder” » 

Tim Carmody has written an amazing profile of internet activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life this month. [The Verge]

Henry Markram: A brain in a supercomputer Henry Markram: A brain in a supercomputer

Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project has been awarded a major research grant, to the tune of half a billion Euros. [Nature.com] He gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2009 called “A brain in a supercomputer.”

A business idea we like: chain restaurants opening up stores without cash registers, where the economically disadvantaged can pay what they can. Good call, Panera Bread. [Boston.com]

The world got its first clip of Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs this week. [Indiewire] How does he stack up to the real thing?

Not sci-fi: Scientists are storing audio data on DNA. [Wall Street Journal]

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Alain de Botton, whose book How to Think More About Sex was released earlier this month, reveals the last tome that made him cry. [New York Times] Watch his TED talk, “A kinder, gentler philosophy of success.”

New research suggests that dung beetles navigate by using the starlight from the Milky Way as their guide. [Science] Watch our playlist of 7 talks about beetles »

Musician Zoe Keating breaks down where her income comes from. Spoiler alert: It’s mostly iTunes, and barely anything from Spotify and Pandora. [The Atlantic]

Zach Weiner, creator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic strip, is Kickstarting his new book, tentatively titled Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543. [Kickstarter] The book includes stories from TED Speakers Phil Plait and Sean Carroll.