Chickens, Propaganda, Fantasia, IKEA, Complacency, Loss

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

Which Came First: The Chicken Or The Egg?

Yo Zushi | New Statesman | 27th February 2017

A survey of the controversy so far. Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought that both chicken and egg must always have existed. Plutarch (AD 46-120) couldn’t decide; his dining companion Sylla thought the answer depended on “whether the world had a beginning”. The Bible favours the chicken: On the Fifth Day God created “every winged fowl”. Evolutionary science favours the egg, since whenever the first domestic chicken appeared, around 10,000 BC, it must have come from a chicken-egg (880 words)

Defence Against The Dark Arts

Jonathan Stray | 24th February 2017

Discussion of modern propaganda techniques. The Kremlin’s “firehose of falsehood” floods media channels with skewed and trivial stories that crowd out serious news. China pays millions of freelance “cheerleaders” to join online discussions and change the subject. Propagandists thrive on attention, including contradiction: “Repeating a lie in the process of refuting it may actually reinforce it. The counter-strategy is to replace one narrative with another. Affirm, don’t deny” (2,700 words)

Walt Disney’s Dinosaurs

Jillian Noyes | Extinct | 20th February 2017

To advise on the dinosaur sequence in Fantasia, Walt Disney hired America’s two greatest paleontologists, Barnum Brown and Roy Chapman Andrews; the world’s leading evolutionary biologist, Julian Huxley; and its leading astronomer, Edwin Hubble. “To think that all of them worked on the same project — an animated film, no less! — is mind-boggling.” Disney got his money’s worth. The sequence, set to Rite Of Spring, “pushed scientific boundaries and inspired new discoveries” (1,370 words)

How Ikea’s Billy Bookcase Conquered The World

Tim Harford | BBC | 27th February 2017

IKEA stays far head of its rivals, not by leaps of innovation but by a constant search for small efficiencies. The “bare-bones, functional bookshelf” called Billy has sold 60 million units since its launch in 1978 — one for every 100 people in the world. Over that time the cost of producing a Billy has fallen 30% thanks to scale and automation. The only humans at the single manufacturing plant in Sweden are there to tend the robots that process 600 tons of particle board per day (1,300 words)

The Complacent Class

Dan Wang | 26th February 2017

Discussion of Tyler Cowen’s book about the decline of American dynamism. “Decades ago, people had a greater sense of urgency. Some of this wasn’t always good. People are no longer so seduced by ideas like communism. But society loses other things when people aren’t dynamic. Productivity doesn’t grow; politics becomes more gridlocked, businesses wield greater monopoly power. Toqueville considered the US to be a land perpetually in motion; isn’t it a shame that seems no longer the case?” (2,500 words)

When Things Go Missing

Kathryn Schulz | New Yorker | 13th February 2017

On losing things — and losing people. “Nine times out of ten we are to blame for losing whatever it is that we can’t find. In the micro-drama of loss we are nearly always both villain and victim. This entanglement becomes more fraught as we grow older. Beyond a certain age, every act of losing gets subjected to an extra layer of scrutiny, in case what you have actually lost is your mind. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days” (Metered paywall) (6,900 words)

Video of the day: Every Second Of Sydney

What to expect:

Bright, upbeat, time-lapse tour of Sydney (2’24”)

Thought for the day

To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks
Flannery O'Connor

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