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The Art Of Compression

Richard Hughes Gibson | Hedgehog Review | 31st May 2023

Quantity has a quality all its own. A work of fiction shorter than 10,000 words is a short story. A work of fiction longer than 30,000 words is a novel. But is there a stylistic frontier between the two? Is "vigorous compression" a useful marker for the short story, and "expansiveness" a useful marker for the novel? Or is a short story something to be read in one sitting, and a novel episodically? (1,770 words)

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We Are Not Human Beings

Derek Parfit | Philosophy | 5th January 2012

Was Derek Parfit the greatest philosopher in living memory, or a windy eccentric who wrote one fine book and one dud book? Opinion is divided, as recent reviews of a new biography demonstrate. Judge for yourself. This essay shows Parfit at his best. He considers what might make a person the same person over time, replete with thought experiments about teleportation and head transplants (9,600 words)

Browsing takes time, so let us do it for you. Robert and Caroline read hundreds of articles a day and send you the ones worth knowing about. Get their daily recommendations for reading, watching, and listing, plus our Sunday Supplement with quizzes, crosswords, competitions, and more.
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The full Browser features five outstanding articles, a video and a podcast daily. Today, enjoy our video and podcast picks.

Podcast: The Only People Who Made Money From Tumblr | ICYMI. In the early 2010s, there was a brief period when book publishers were hunting for their next big hits on the esoteric blogging platform Tumblr. A small handful of people benefited from that — and they explain here how it worked (34m 20s)

Mystified by cryptic crosswords? We at The Browser are here to help. Pick up the ultimate guide, by Dan Feyer and Uri Bram, and let us guide you through the meaning of those clues - so you can get on with puzzling.

Video: The Lone Valley | Vimeo | Robin Pogorzelski | 5m 22s

Atmospheric short film about the life and work of a shepherd in the French Alps.

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An Illustrated Guide To Mouth Gestures

François Caradec | MIT Press Reader | 29th May 2023

Excerpt from Caradec's Dictionary of Gestures, focusing on the mouth. For instance, "to thrust one’s thumb into the mouth, inflate the cheeks, and blow" in the Netherlands signifies indifference, and "to blow the smoke from a cigarette in the direction of a person whom one desires" is, in the Middle East, an act of flirtation. The illustrations by Philippe Cousin are worth seeing (2,112 words)

Hey you - yes you - this newsletter is blowing metaphorical cigarette smoke your way. If you enjoyed flirting with today's top picks, why not try the full Browser: five outstanding articles, plus a video and a podcast, every day. Phwoar.

Astrophysics And Stale Beer

John Messick | Salon | 29th May 2023

Life at the South Pole is weird. A platoon of seasonal support workers makes the research station there run smoothly. People with romantic ideas about ice and isolation come to shovel snow in exchange for a bunk at the bottom of the world. "I met architects who had quit high-paying jobs to load cargo, Scuba instructors hired to clean toilets, and a poet who drove a forklift" (3,802 words)

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The Joy Of Sulk

Rebecca Roache | Aeon | 12th May 2023

Sulking is a fascinating form of indirect communication. It only works as long as everyone involved refuses to address the situation clearly. "A sulk is like a magic spell, which is broken if referenced directly. Even a sympathetic mention of it by the target risks giving the sulker something new to sulk about. You cannot sulk if you announce in advance that you’re going to do so" (2,600 words)

Browsing takes time, so let us do it for you. Robert and Caroline read hundreds of articles a day and send you the ones worth knowing about. Get their daily recommendations for reading, watching, and listing, plus our Sunday Supplement with quizzes, crosswords, competitions, and more.

I Asked ChatGPT To Control My Life

Maxwell Strachan | Vice | 17th May 2023

Not an original idea at this point, but worth your time for the sheer chaos and nihilism it exudes. The writer spends a week existing according to a daily schedule ChatGPT sets. The model's insistence that he prioritise "overall wellbeing" quickly becomes ludicrous; the shallowness of what it calls "self-care" is soon exposed. "I do as I am told. I have become a robot-fuelled monster" (6,428 words)

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Body Languages

Anvita Abbi | Scientific American | 23rd May 2023

A linguist immerses herself in a family of almost-extinct Andaman Island languages, and finds in them a seemingly unique grammatical structure modelled on the human body. "The prefix e-, which originally derived from an unknown word for an internal body part, had, over eons, morphed into a grammatical marker signifying any internal attribute, process or activity" (3,800 words)

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The Law Of The Sea Needs A Rewrite

Surabhi Ranganathan | Dial | 9th May 2023

What lawyers call the "law of the sea" consists mostly of international treaties regulating trade routes and territorial waters; it has little or nothing useful to say about today's problems and priorities — melting ice-sheets, rising sea-levels, man-made islands, sinking states, floating cities. The law is obsolescent, even obsolete. "The legal distinction between land and sea no longer holds" (5,200 words)

From extinct languages to obsolete laws, the world is moving on fast. Keep up with the full Browser: we read hundreds of articles hot off the press, and send you five of the best, plus a video and a podcast.

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Take The "I" Out Of AI

Kevin Munger | Crooked Timber | 22nd May 2023

A sensible, small, concrete, and, one imagines, relatively straightforward step towards demystifying artificial intelligence and making its product more recognisable. AIs should be required, if necessary by law, to stop referring to themselves as "I", and to stop referring to humans as "we", in text and speech. To pass as human was once a test for an AI, but is not the job of an AI (1,200 words)

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The Penguin Emperors Of Fluid Dynamics

Sam Harris | Chalkdust | 22nd May 2023

Instinct and evolution have equipped Antarctic penguins to huddle against wind and cold with mathematical precision. Random, static huddling would leave those on the edge of a huddle to freeze and those in the middle to overheat. What penguins actually do (some algebra required) is to regroup dynamically so as to maximise the sheltering effect across the huddle as a whole (2,200 words)

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The Scientist And The Bats

Caroline Chen | ProPublica | 22nd May 2023

Profile of Peggy Eby, who works on virus transmission between bats and other mammals. A decade before Covid-19, she was being told that her work was not a "sufficiently important contribution". Her methods are not trendy or AI-based: just plenty of observation and recording. But the data she gathers allows her team to prove that virus spillover is not only predictable, but preventable (3,833 words)

The full version of this Browser edition also featured autofiction, 10,000 birds, the sound of Latin, nuclear disaster and the first draft of Ted Lasso. See the full picture: subscribe for five outstanding articles, a video and a podcast daily.

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How Markets Crowd Out Morals

Michael Sandel | Boston Review | 21 May 2012

Sandel considers where economic markets belong. Is there anything that money cannot buy? "Suppose, on your wedding day, your best man delivers a heartwarming toast, a speech so moving it brings tears to your eyes. You later learn that he bought it online. Would you care? Would the toast mean less than it did before you knew it was paid for? For most of us, it probably would" (4,341 words)

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