Baltic Defence, Apocalypse, History Of Science, Bill Bryson, Crime Fiction, Identity Theft, Growing

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

Wargaming The Defence Of The Baltics

David Shlapak & Michael Johnson | Rand | 4th February 2016

What would happen if Russia invaded the Baltic States tomorrow? It would succeed. Russia could take Riga and Tallin within 60 hours, whatever the efforts at defence, leaving Nato "a limited number of options, all bad". The only sure way to deter Russia would be for Nato to move at least three heavy armoured brigades into Latvia and Estonia, at a cost of $2.7bn annually. And that would be cheap, compared to war (PDF) (9,080 words)

Distant Hammers: Art And Apocalypse

Ben Mauk | Paris Review | 4th February 2016

Artists and writers used to imagine the end of the world as a distinct and readily comprehensible event that would happen in the future. Now they think of it as an incremental and irreversible process which has already begun and which "relies on processes whose technical workings flummox the nonspecialist". The artist is no longer the prophet, but "can only follow the scientist" (3,200 words)

The Whig History Of Science: An Exchange

Arthur M. Silverstein & Steven Weinberg | New York Review of Books | 4th February 2016

Historians of science tend towards Whiggishness: they see the history of science as a progressive movement culminating in the science we have today. But the science we have today is also provisional, and if its assumptions are later falsified, then any 'progress' towards them will have been illusory. By contrast, the history of art is a history of timeless genius. 'Progress' is not required. Should science be seen similarly? (1,220 words)

The Road To Little Dribbling

Bill Bryson | Penguin | 31st January 2016

Book extract. In which Bill Bryson grows old, remembers the 1960s, takes British citizenship, and prepares to write a second book about Britain. "One of the things that happens when you get older is that you discover lots of new ways to hurt yourself. Recently, in France, I was hit square on the head by an automatic parking barrier, something I don’t think I could have managed in my younger, more alert years" (4,500 words)

Rules For Writing Detective Stories

Josh Jones | Open Culture | 5th February 2016

T.S. Eliot's favourite detective-story writer was an art critic named Willard Huntington Wright, who turned to fiction after a nervous breakdown. Wright spent two years in bed reading 2,000 crime novels, abstracting from them 20 rules which he then used to write his own books. First rule: "The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described" (1,890 words)

The Lives And Lies of A Professional Impostor

James McKinley Jr. & Rick Rojas | New York Times | 4th February 2016

Jeremy Wilson — "if we can agree to call him that" — has been stealing social security numbers for 25 years, and uses at least 27 aliases. He currently claims to be an Irish nationalist. He has previously claimed to be an MIT professor, several kinds of soldier, an actor, an Apple executive and a Scottish DJ. “There is so much misinformation about me, no one can say with absolute certainty who I am" (Metered paywall) (3,380 words)

Love In The Graveyards Of Industry

Jeremy Seabrook | Granta | 7th January 2016

An extraordinary piece of writing, on growing up gay in 1950s England. "I do not wonder that my mother clung to me among the fallen masonry and rusty metal of ruined kinship. This was to become, for others, a time of youthful liberation, which I observed from my cage with spellbound fascination. My mother had carefully curtained the chamber of our loneliness to mute any sound of laughter from outside" (3,230 words)

Video of the day: A History Of Japan

What to expect: "The most entertaining history of anything that I have ever seen" — Jason Kottke (8'50")

Thought for the day

A preoccupation with politics is the surest sign of a general decay in society
Michael Oakeshott (

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