Blindness, History, Algorithms, Auschwitz, Vermeer


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

Mourning My Lost Dark

M Leona Godin | Catapult | 14th August 2018

“The world of the blind is not dark, not black; it is not even the opposite of sight. Blind people are not thinking, all the time, ‘oh my gosh, I am blind!’ but sometimes it seems as if that is all the sighted see in us. As if being blind, while significant, were the only distinguishing factor of our lives; as if we were not also women and men, young and old, possessing different skin colors and ethnicities, with identities as nuanced and multiplicitous as the incremental notches between blindness and sight” (2,220 words)

The Case For Applied History

Robert Crowcroft | History Today | 23rd August 2018

Should statesmen and strategists seek lessons from history? Or is history more likely to mislead with false analogies? “There is a view that the devil is in the detail and that history does not repeat itself. Context, in short, is king. Because no two situations are exactly the same, attempting to draw parallels between events risks distortion. ‘Lessons’ cannot be gleaned across time and space and to affect to do so produces oversimplification” (2,090 words)

God Is In The Machine

Carl Miller | TLS | 21st August 2018

A programmer tries to explain machine-learning algorithms. “If the algorithm looks like it’s doing the job that it’s supposed to do, and people aren’t complaining, then there isn’t much incentive to really comb through all those instructions and those layers of abstracted code to work out what is happening. The preferences you see online – the news you read, the products you view, the adverts that appear – are all dependent on values that don’t necessarily have to be what they are. They are not true, they’ve just passed minimum evaluation criteria” (2,890 words)

To Auschwitz And Back

Takis Würger | Der Spiegel | 23rd August 2018

A holocaust survivor tells his story. Josef Salomonovic and his family were shipped from Ostrava to the Lodz ghetto, and then to Auschwitz. Of the thousand Jews transported with them, 46 survived. “Six-year-old Josef had arrived at a place where the guards would lead some of the children into the gas chambers and give chocolate to others. There was an orchestra that played Chopin and a doctor who had an eye collection. In the commandant’s garden, there were two turtles named Dilla and Jumbo and a river that was black with ash on some days” (4,600 words)

He Made Masterpieces With Manure

Jane Jelley | Literary Review | 1st December 2017

“Before he laid down a dot of paint, Vermeer would have weighed, ground, burned, sifted, heated, cooled, kneaded, washed, filtered, dried and oiled his colours. Lead white needed to be kept in a hut filled with horse manure: The fumes caused the lead to corrode, creating flakes of white carbonate that were scraped off by hand. Vermeer knew how to soak old leather gloves to extract gluesize. Or he might have followed the recipe for goat glue in The Craftsman’s Handbook: boiled clippings of goat muzzles, feet, sinews and skin, best made in high winds to disperse the goaty smell” (950 words)

Video of the day The Making Of ‘Fabricated’

What to expect:

Brett Foxwell talks about the stop-motion fantasy film which took him ten years to complete (9m 58s)

Thought for the day

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater
Albert Einstein

Podcast Ways To Save The Planet | Freakonomics Radio

Charles Mann talks with Stephen Dubner about prophets and wizards. Is humanity doomed, or can technology save us?
(51m 22s)

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