Browser Daily Newsletter 1273


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

Watching A Brain Surgeon At Work

Erica Wagner | New Statesman | 20th March 2014

Brain surgery is "like bomb disposal work", says Henry Marsh, a British neurosurgeon; "with the crucial difference that it is only the patient’s life at risk, not the surgeon’s". Marsh's memoir, Do No Wrong, is "a self-lacerating document: by and large, it contains stories not of triumph, or the author’s skill and expertise, but of the emotional and psychological toll exacted when things go horribly wrong" (3,920 words)

Notes On TV

Benedict Evans | 27th March 2014

"Everyone hates the way the US TV industry works, except for the US TV industry. This makes the current model very rigid, but also of course potentially very brittle." We are in a "pre-iPod phase": The technology exists for an internet-based TV revolution, but needs to be packaged up in just the right way. "This is really about unbundling shows from TV channels, not unbundling channels" (1,320 words)

Daniel Kahneman At 80

John Brockman et al | Edge | 27th March 2014

Festschrift in honour of the Nobel-prizewinning economist and psychologist. Contributors include Nassim Nicholas Taleb; Cass Sunstein; Richard Thaler & Sendhil Mullainathan; Steven Pinker; and Gary Marcus, who says: "Nobody will come up with a compelling account of human cognition unless they wrestle seriously with Daniel Kahneman's pioneering work with Amos Tversky on heuristics and cognitive biases" (9,800 words)

The Humour Code: Polish Jokes

Joel Warner & Peter McGraw | Slate | 27th March 2014

Every country has a Polish joke, or equivalent. The Tajiks have Uzbek jokes, the English have Irish jokes, the Finns have Karelian jokes. The urge to make fun of supposed stupidity appears to span all time and space. The world's oldest-known joke book, the 4C Philogelos, contains 265 jokes, of which one-quarter concern "people from cities renowned for their idiocy". But only Americans make fun of lawyers (750 words)

John Updike Turned Everything To His Advantage

Adam Begley | New York | 26th March 2014

Excerpt from forthcoming biography. Updike used everything in his life as source material for his fiction — places, friends, family. Anything of note that happened to him was liable to reappear six weeks later as a short story for the New Yorker. His mother encouraged him "to write exactly what he pleased, no matter how painful to his family". He duly caused her great pain by depicting her as "a large, coarse woman" (2,500 words)

Swedish Pop Mafia

Whet Moser | Pacific Standard | 24th March 2014

How Sweden came to dominate world pop music. In the 1940s Swedish church and state set out to teach all children classical music as a defence against American dance music. Later generations redirected their musical training. "What Nashville is to country music, and what Silicon Valley is to computing, Stockholm is to the production of pop. Sweden is the largest exporter of pop music, per capita, in the world" (2,170 words)

Video of the day:  Slow Life

What to expect: Time-lapse photography of marine life at high magnification

Thought for the day:

"A vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat. It's not someone who loves vegetables" — Ezra Klein

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