Fracking In Bakken, Redefining The Kilogram, CIA Museum, Robots & Wages, Mecca, Jewish Cooking

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

Life In The Bakken Oil Fields

Maya Rao | Atlantic | 29th September 2014

Journal of the fracking boom in North Dakota, seen from behind the counter of a truck-stop. Damon Runyon crossed with Jack London and dosed lightly with George Orwell. Oil, dirt, greed, hard work and low life, animated by a rotating cast of truckers and would-be roughnecks. "Blackneck had the height and build of a loan shark’s enforcer. Fish had screws in his ears and a topless image of his wife tattooed on his leg" (6,000 words)

The Weight Is Almost Over

Tom Whipple | Intelligent Life | 29th September 2014

The reference weight for the kilogram is a platinum block kept in Paris for the past 125 years. But for modern scientific purposes the block is no longer stable; it gains and sheds micrograms. A new standard is needed that defines the kilogram against a universal constant, as the metre is defined against the speed of light. When that happens, probably in 2018, nothing will ever be quite the same weight again (2,440 words)

A Private Tour Of The CIA’s Museum

David Wise | Smithsonian | 29th September 2014

Here's what you would see if you got into "one of the most compelling and least visited museums in the United States" — the museum at Langley reserved for CIA employees and their families. It contains a wunderkammer of spy gadgets, weapons and espionage memorabilia. But no breaches of security: in a photograph of an explosives-detection team, even the dog has its face blacked out (3,000 words)

The Rise Of Robots

J. Bradford DeLong | Project Syndicate | 29th September 2014

The optimistic case for the impact of robots and computers on wages and living standards is that productivity will rise and gains will be shared to some extent. But wages will be determined by demand for labour across the economy as a whole. "What matters is whether jobs outside of the robot-computer economy – jobs involving people’s mouths, smiles, and minds – remain valuable and in high demand" (900 words)

Mecca: Reconfigured Utopia

Ziauddin Sardar | Open | 26th September 2014

Jaundiced portrait of Mecca as "a city of proliferating bling, a haven of consumerism and opulent tourism"; by extension an indictment of Saudi Arabia as guardian of Islam. "In the midst of garish skyscrapers, and the manic consumption that envelops Mecca, stands the Kaaba, which is intended as a symbol of equality. But equality is conspicuously absent in the Holy City. Mecca is riddled with racism, bigotry and xenophobia" (4,540 words)

The Chosen Vegetables

Dan Nosowitz | Awl | 26th September 2014

"The cuisine of the Ashkenazic Jews is kind of awful. This is not the fault of my people; they tried their best, they really did." But the climate and raw materials in Russia and Poland worked against them. They had fatty meat and root vegetables to work with. The Levantim and Mizrahi Jews, by contrast, have all the glories of the mediterranean and Middle East. The solution is obvious: "We must unite the cuisines of the Jews" (2,020 words)

Video of the day: Persian Calligraphy

What to expect: Calligrapher Manzar Moghbeli demonstrates nasta‘liq script (4'30")

Thought for the day

Stupidity is not my strong point
Paul Valéry (

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