Browser Newsletter 1142

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

Best of the Moment

Hidden City: New York’s Homeless

Ian Frazier | New Yorker | 21st October 2013

A sad and beautiful piece of extended reporting. "Homelessness is a kind of internal exile that distributes people among the two hundred and thirty-six shelters around the city and keeps them moving. In this restlessness, the homeless remind me of the ghostly streaks on photos of the city from long ago, where the camera’s slow shutter speed could capture only a person’s blurry passing"

Designer Babies

Jason Brennan | Bleeding Heart Liberals | 17th October 2013

If designer-baby technology leads to massive inequalities of ability, that will be a good thing; and we should welcome such technology going first into the hands of the rich few, so that it will one day be available to many more. "Few of us are as talented as, say, Steve Jobs, James Watt, Edwin Land or Norman Bourlaug, but at the same time, few of us would be better off in a world where they never existed"

The New King Of Trash Publishing

Noreen Malone | New Republic | 21st October 2013

Conversation with Jeremie Ruby-Strauss, editor at Simon & Schuster, who made his name publishing I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, and has been working his way downmarket ever since. His authors include Snooki and a Real Housewife Of Beverley Hills. "It shouldn’t be about the book but the money you can make from the book.” The best author is one who brings his or her own readership from a blog or Twitter feed

Biology’s Brave New World

Laurie Garrett | Foreign Affairs | 22nd October 2013

All the key barriers to the artificial synthesis of viruses and bacteria have been overcome. "The biologist has become an engineer, coding new life forms as desired." Which may produce breakthroughs in public health; equally, it may produce plagues and other horrors on a global scale, as the science gets easier to replicate. "The tracking of novel DNA and life forms should be implemented on a voluntary or mandatory basis immediately"

The Origins Of The Concept Of Species

John Wilkins | Evolving Thoughts | 22nd October 2013

The concept of "species" is a useful organising tool for science, not a category that exists in nature. "We really do see the patterns in the world we name species. The mistake arises in thinking that our perceptual biases somehow give us the structure of the world". Usage comes from Athanasius Kircher, a 17C Jesuit who calculated how many kinds of animal could have fitted on to Noah's Ark, and used the Latin word species for "kind"

Video of the day: New York Travel

Thought for the day:

"A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life"— Virginia Woolf

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