Browser Daily Newsletter 1302

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

Restoring Technology After The Apocalypse

Lewis Dartnell | Scientific American | 2nd May 2014

Book extract. Astrobiologist "distills the information survivors would need to recover if society were ever to collapse". Here: How to re-invent photography, using eggs and a silver spoon. "First, coat a sheet of paper with egg whites containing some dissolved salt, and allow it to dry. Now dissolve some silver in nitric acid, which will oxidize the metal to soluble silver nitrate, and spread the solution over your prepared paper" (1,600 words)

Why Sanctions Against Russia Don’t Work

Anatole Kaletsky | Reuters | 1st May 2014

When you replace moral constraints with fines, you put a cash price on bad behaviour — and thus encourage more bad behaviour from those who can afford to pay. That, in effect, is what the West has done by imposing sanctions as the price of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Russia is ready to pay that price for Crimea. "China will probably draw a similar conclusion about the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands" (1,000 words)

Orphan Black

James Daily | Law Of The Multiverse | 1st May 2014

Is it legal to clone humans — the premise of the television show Orphan Black? Yes: "At the US federal level there is no comprehensive prohibition on reproductive cloning, despite several attempts. Part of the problem has been crafting a bill that would prohibit reproductive cloning [of whole humans] without prohibiting therapeutic cloning [of body parts]". But you cannot patent a clone, on that the show errs (920 words)

An Interview With Ai Wewei

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore | Aeon | 2nd May 2014

China's leading dissident artist is busier than ever, employing 40 assistants in his Beijing studio and mocking "absurd" state surveillance by publishing every detail of his life via social media. "Being threatened is addictive. When those in power are infatuated with you, you feel valued". Ai the artist and Ai the dissident have merged in "an ongoing performance in which the man has become the art, and the art is the man" (3,200 words)

The Ship-Breakers Of Bangladesh

Peter Gwin | National Geographic | 1st May 2014

Ocean-going ships are built to last; you need a lot of firepower when the time comes to break them up deliberately. The ship-breaking yards of Bangladesh use swarms of poor labourers with acetylene torches to slice hulls into pieces; 90% of the ship is recycled. It sounds like a good business — “Until you’ve met the widows of young men who were crushed by falling pieces of steel or suffocated inside a ship” (1,500 words)

Measuring China’s GDP

Michael Pettis | China Financial Markets | 2nd May 2014

Headlines claiming that China's GDP is overtaking that of America are misleading in at least two ways. The comparison favouring China uses purchasing-power parities; but for measuring the relative weight of two countries in geopolitical terms, exchange-rate GDP is what matters. Also of note, America and China account differently for debt: Using US accounting principles would shrink China's GDP by 20-30% (4,280 words)

Video of the day:  The Case Of The Missing Fractals

What to expect: Short animated tutorial on fractals, in the manner of Dashiel Hamett

Thought for the day:

"I try to leave out the parts people skip" — James Patterson

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