Browser Daily Newsletter 1278 (copy 01)

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

Biblio Bizarre: Who Publishes In Google Books

Ben Schmidt | Sapping Attention | 3rd April 2014

Large-scale book digitisation makes Ngrams possible; but it also makes Ngrams obsolete for analysing literature later than 2000. Digitisation "changes what a book is in ways that makes the selection criteria for Ngrams — if it made it into print, it must have some significance — completely meaningless. Minor decisions about whether an e-book actually exists or not can cause shifts in 40% of the corpus" (680 words)

The Mental Life Of Plants And Animals

Oliver Sacks | New York Review Of Books | 4th April 2014

How worms, jellyfish and other living things think. "If one allows that a dog may have consciousness of an individual and significant sort, one has to allow it for an octopus, too". Plants "are capable of registering what we would call sights, sounds, tactile signals, and much more". They cannot learn, however; all information must be there in their genomes, which is why some plant genomes are larger than ours (3,770 words)

Sex, Death And Dissonance

Tom Service | Guardian | 1st April 2014

Anton Brucker was "a credulous yokel who propositioned girls half his age; a death-obsessed ghoul who kept a photo of his mother's corpse; a cranky, backwards-looking obsessive." Perhaps a drunkard too. But his obsessive personality produced "some of the greatest, grandest and most ambitious symphonies" of the 19th century. His music, filled with "violent sonic terrors", is "the cosmos in pain" (930 words)

Priest Who Witnessed 1,700 Executions

Natalia Junquera | El Pais | 3rd April 2014

Notes from the diary of a priest who gave absolution to Republicans executed in Zaragoza during the Spanish Civil War, and was horrified by what he saw. “My attitude was in sharp contrast with that of other men of the cloth, including some of my superiors, who displayed extraordinary delight at the unfolding events, and not only approved of them but even clapped and cheered quite frequently" (740 words)

High Frequency Trading: Threat or Menace?

Justin Fox | Harvard Business Review | 3rd April 2014

The furore is overblown. "Yes, the stock market is rigged, but it’s always been rigged, and that hasn’t prevented it from delivering pretty impressive returns to long-run investors. Yes, we should strive toward a market that’s rigged in the least expensive, most transparent, most efficient, most stable way possible. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the people (or computers) in the middle making money off the customers, though" (1,160 words)

Where Storytelling Does Not Reach

Karl Ove Knausgaard | Samtiden / Eurozine | 3rd April 2014

Chatty essay about the relationship of writer and editor. The editor's main job is "to support the writer, which very often means to trick him, to tell him that his work is really good, just carry on". The writer needs support, because "to fail on your own is all right for a while but only up to a point, since it is not like failing at a game, but a serious failure. It grows more and more difficult to defend your writing" (12,100 words)

Video of the day:  Swan Song

What to expect: Stop-motion animation. Hotel advertisement. Contains mild shock

Thought for the day:

"At the core of all successful societies are procedures for blocking the advancement of bad men" — Paul Collier

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