Eclipse, Cleaning, Gerontocracy, Existence, Running, Bonds

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

Total Eclipse

Annie Dillard | Atlantic | 8th August 2017

Virtuoso account of a total eclipse of the sun. Slow start, the excitement begins in paragraph 15. “The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world. In the sky was something that should not be there” (5,800 words)

How To Please A Customer

Lisa Naftolin | Vestoj | 1st August 2017

A dry-cleaner explains the trade. “There are two kinds of stains: wet side and dry side. Wet side includes coffee, juice, wine, anything from the body, which has to be taken out with water or water-based solvents. The dry side is lipstick, paint, nail polish, grease; those can’t be taken out with water, which will only set the stain. Imagine pasta sauce – it’s got both oil and tomato. You have to treat the dry first and get rid of the oil, then treat the wet and knock out the tomato” (2,200 words)

Very Old Politicians

Harold Pollack | Vox | 7th August 2017

America becomes a gerontocracy. Of 50 senators, 23 are over 70 and seven are over 80. Most Supreme Court justices are above traditional retirement age. The three leading Democratic contenders for the presidency — Warren, Biden and Sanders — would be 71, 78, and 79 on Inauguration Day 2021. “These matters are hard to talk about in American politics because they are hard to talk about in our own lives. I see my mortality etched on my father’s face, as my daughters see it in mine” (1,900 words)

Benevolent Artificial Anti-Natalism

Thomas Metzinger | Edge | 7th August 2017

An artificial intelligence might decide to wipe out humanity, for our own good, with logic on its side. “No entity can suffer from its own non-existence. The superintelligence concludes that non-existence is in the own best interest of all future self-conscious beings on this planet. Empirically, it knows that naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. The superintelligence decides to act benevolently” (3,060 words)

American Runners Have Never Been Slower

Jens Jakob Andersen et al | Run Repeat | 1st August 2017

American runners are getting slower across all four major race distances — 5 kilometer, 10 kilometer, half-marathon and marathon. The fastest competitors have lost 9.87% of their speed over the past 17 years; the slowest competitors have lost 17.1%; the slowest men have lost 21.2%. There could be many reasons for this, but the decline in speed correlates strongly with the rise in obesity. “The average American runner has never been slower across gender and distance” (2,300 words)

Your Country Needs Money

Michael Anson et al | Bank Underground | 8th August 2017

The British government had to borrow the equivalent of a full year’s GDP to finance the First World War. Investors balked. When the 1914 War Loan raised less than a third of its target, the Bank of England secretly lent money to its chief cashier and his deputy so that they could over-subscribe the balance of the issue and forestall a crisis of confidence. J.M. Keynes called it “a masterly manipulation”. But he also saw that this was no way to run a central bank, or a country (1,500 words)

Video of the day: Travelling Through Brush And Ink

What to expect:

Imaginary journey through the landscapes of classical Chinese paintings in the National Palace Museum Taiwan (3’28”)

Thought for the day

I cannot altogether dislike anyone who makes me laugh
W. Somerset Maugham

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