Astrobiology, Useful Idiots, Firefighting, Brown Ink, History, Yuval Noah Harari

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Why Would Aliens Even Bother With Earth?

Lewis Dartnell | Lit Hub | 8th May 2017

“Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there are one or more alien civilisations in the Milky Way. We’re all familiar with Hollywood’s darker depictions of what aliens might do when they come to the Earth: zapping the White House, harvesting humanity for food like a herd of cattle, or sucking our oceans dry. These scenarios don’t really stand up to rational scrutiny. Let’s run through a thought experiment on what reasons aliens might possibly have to visit the Earth” (3,200 words)

Fellow-travellers And Useful Idiots

John Gray | New Statesman | 8th May 2017

On the foolishness of fellow-travellers. “The ease with which fellow-travellers pass over the casualties of the regimes with which they identify is one of their defining traits. The most inveterate among them do not limit their enthusiasm to any single state. They are attracted by any large political experiment that seems to prefigure a new order of things. Not long after accompanying Shaw on his frolics in the Soviet Union, Nancy Astor emerged as a moving force behind the set of pro-Nazi appeasers” (3,100 words)

Death By Fire

Miles Wilson | Longreads / Crazyhorse | 8th May 2017

A veteran firefighter’s tribute to his enemy. “Like much of the West, the Angeles is built to burn: heavy fuel loads, Biblical droughts, perpendicular country, big wind, and lots of citizens building cabins, wrecking cars, pitching cigarettes. I put out some of those fires. Turns out, I was doing almost exactly the wrong thing. Putting those fires out was, at best, beside the point. What we did was exchange a temporary fix for a guaranteed apocalypse in the chaparral brushscape” (3,070 words)

Brown Fountain Pen Ink Comparison

Ryan | Jetpens | 26th April 2017

Arguably the perfect blog post if you happen to be looking for a comparison of brown fountain-pen inks. All-round winner: Iroshizuku Tsukushi — “warm and reddish when wet, settling down into a delicious milk chocolate color as it dries”. Runner-up: Yama-guri — “a deep chestnut brown with undertones of purple”. Best for special occasions: J. Herbin 1670 Caroube de Chypre — a “beautifully shading warm brown infused with gold sparkles and an enticing hint of green sheen” (2,500 words)

On History

Bertrand Russell | Independent Review | 3rd July 1904

Classic essay on the uses of history. “History is valuable, to begin with, because it is true; and this, though not the whole of its value, is the foundation of all the rest. That all knowledge is in some degree good would appear to be at least probable; and the knowledge of every historical fact possesses this element of goodness. But truth is not the sole aim in recording the past. All facts are equally true, and selection among them is only possible by means of some other criterion” (3,300 words)

The Meaning Of Life In A World Without Work

Yuval Noah Harari | Guardian | 8th May 2017

What will we do when robots do everything for us? “The real problem will be to keep the masses occupied and content. People must engage in purposeful activities, or they go crazy. Economically redundant people might spend increasing amounts of time within 3D virtual reality worlds. This, in fact, is a very old solution. For thousands of years, billions of people have found meaning in playing virtual reality games. In the past, we have called these virtual reality games ‘religions'” (1,500 words)

Video of the day: Project X

What to expect:

Short film by Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke about working in an NSA building in Manhattan (10’19”)

Thought for the day

I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander
Isaac Asimov

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