Dorothy Parker, Arab Spring, Bitcoin, Barbary, Tree Of Life

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

The Brilliant And Troubled Dorothy Parker

Robert Gottlieb | New York Review of Books | 7th April 2016

Parker peaked early, doing her best work as a theatre critic in the 1920s and her second-best work as a book critic in the 1950s. “She was too sensible to live in regret, but she certainly understood how much of her life she had spent carousing and just fooling around”. In her writing “would always rise to the challenges of greatness and of garbage; it was what fell in between that drove her crazy.”

The Edge Of Chaos

Moises Saman | Literary Hub | 13th April 2016

Pages from the diary of a Magnum photographer covering the wars of the Arab Spring. Here, a helicopter crash: “I don’t remember the precise moment we took off, or how soon after the helicopter went down. All my senses were focused on taking pictures. In the moment of impact, I closed my eyes, and for a split second the world went silent, as if someone had suddenly pressed the mute button at the height of a thunderous drum solo” (2,400 words)

When Bitcoin Grows Up

John Lanchester | London Review Of Books | 13th April 2016

Lancunian overview of Bitcoin, prefaced by a disquisition on the history and philosophy of money in general. Bitcoin’s technology has proved robust. Beneath the exchange-rate volatility there has been “a consistent trajectory of growth”. Bitcoin has moved from the margins of finance to the mainstream. It is being co-opted by the banks that it sought to replace. We are at the beginning of the Bitcoin story, not the end (10,800 words)

The Anomaly Of Barbarism

John Gray | Lapham's Quarterly | 12th April 2016

The atrocities of Islamic State need shock only those who cling to a myth of human progress despite mankind’s recurrent descents into barbarism. “The quickening advance of science and technology in recent centuries has not gone with any comparable advance in civilization or human rationality. Instead, the increase of knowledge has interacted with human conflicts and passions to produce new kinds of barbarism” (3,100 words)

A New Tree Of Life

Laura Hug et al | Nature | 8th April 2016

Biologists propose a new “tree of life” — a schematic diagram collecting all known forms of life on earth into related groups. Older versions of the tree relied largely on the things that scientists could see, and hence were dominated by eukaryotes — animals and plants, basically. The new tree relies on gene sequencing, and pushes eukaryotes into a corner. Most life on earth is bacteria and other invisible microorganisms (5,300 words)

Video of the day: Forms In Nature

What to expect:

Animation showing how particular shapes and colours recur in the natural world (2’05”)

Thought for the day

Historical books that contain no lies are extremely tedious
Anatole France

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