Big Pharma, Self-Defence, Findings, Hugh Leach, Parchment, Networks

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

Big Pharma Is Addicted To An Illusion

John Gapper | Financial Times | 25th November 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

The core skill of pharmaceutical companies used to be the discovery and development of new drugs. Then it became the marketing of blockbuster drugs. Now it is financial engineering. The whole industry has become a "gigantic game of asset trades" in which companies buy one other to strip out drugs and patents that they hope to re-sell at still higher prices. "It is hard to view this evolution as progress" (865 words)

What I Learned At Active Shooter Training

Ander Morgan | The Toast | 24th November 2015

Notes from a half-day training course on how to react in the event of a mass shooting. "Everybody knows to get out of the building if there’s a fire, but the default procedure for virtually everything else used to be to stay put and await further instructions. At Virginia Tech students lined the halls as if it were a tornado warning. Now the first option is to get out of the building by any means possible" (1,640 words)

Findings Is A Dolphin

Dave Madden | Tin House | 24th November 2015

Rafil Kroll-Zaidi explains how he writes the Findings column — a monthly pot-pourri of scientific news — for Harper's magazine. "A Findings finding is interesting if it’s interesting, if it’s an encapsulated simplified version of some discovery about or event in the phenomenal world that withstands multiple tests of human boredom. And by human boredom I mean the boredom of a single human, which is me" (5,724 words)

Hugh Leach, Diplomat And Ringmaster

Obituary | Telegraph | 25th November 2015

"Hugh Leach, who has died aged 81, was a soldier, diplomat, Arabist, author, adventurer and impresario". After ten years as an army officer he joined the Foreign Office — or possibly MI6 — as an Arabist. He travelled through Yemen with Freya Stark, and befriended Wilfred Thesiger. "While pursuing his diplomatic career Leach concurrently had a half-share in a circus, which performed alongside the Egyptian State Circus in Cairo" (1,120 words)

Written On Beasts

Bruce Holsinger | New York Review of Books | 25th November 2015

In praise of parchment. "For a thousand years, the societies of the Western world preserved their written cultures on and between the skins of beasts. Cows and calves, rams, ewes, and lambs, camels, deer, and fauns, goats, gazelles, and horses, seals and walruses were rendered into scrolls and codices, bindings and booklets, charters and mezuzot. Our written inheritance survives as a great mass of animal remains" (1,110 words)

How Railroad History Shaped Internet History

Ingrid Burrington | Atlantic | 24th November 2015

American communication networks still largely follow railroad networks, because the rights-of-way granted to railroad builders in the mid-19C could not be replicated later as the country developed. Telegraph companies and internet companies rented their cable routes from the railways. Big data companies put server farms in Council Bluffs today because the Union Pacific put a railway there in 1864 (1,840 words)

Video of the day: Coffee

What to expect: On the dangers of drinking too much coffee. Animation (in French) (2'54")

Thought for the day

People reveal much more about themselves when lying
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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