Free 2 min read

The articles in this week's free edition have been selected from the daily emails we send full subscribers. If you'd like to see what you've been missing, why not join now?


The Messy Truth About Carbon Footprints

Sami Grover | Undark | 9th September 2021

The idea of the personal carbon footprint has fallen out of favour of late. Critics argue that once fossil fuel interests co-opted the technique as a form of greenwashing, scrutinising one person's impact on the environment became meaningless. But self examination is never a bad thing, and having a way of knowing what lifestyle changes make a difference does matter (1,054 words)


Italy’s Book Doctor

Luisa Grosso | Craftsmanship Quarterly | 9th July 2021

Conservator Pietro Livi is in high demand with flooded archives and museums. He studied book restoration with Benedictine friars and over his decades of work has put together "a kind of Renaissance workshop" of different artisans who can, between them, save a priceless manuscript. They have been working non stop since the Venetian flood of 2019, which damaged 25,000 texts and scores (899 words)


Help! I Keep Writing Fake Agony Aunt Letters

Bennett Madison | Gawker | 13th September 2021

Writer confesses to submitting dozens of fictional letters to an advice column. They were regularly published and nobody seemed to realise or care that they were invented. "I learned that a good letter is defined by two opposing values: it must be plausible, but it must also be ridiculous." He targeted just one column — Dear Prudence at Slate — and considered the columnist his nemesis (1,953 words)



Video: Eight Levels Of Bach | Shutian Cheng. An aspiring concert pianist plays eight extracts from different works by Bach, each more difficult than the last. Onscreen annotations explain the techniques demanded by each piece (6m 39s)

Podcast: The Missing Ships, 1944-45 | The Kraken Busters. The US Navy has a surprising history of conflicts with supposedly mythical creatures. This episode tells the story of how one such incident went down during WW2 (23m 33s)

Interview: Steve Randy Waldman writes about finance, economics, and politics at interfluidity.com. He talks to Baiqu Gonkar about wading in the river of intellectual life, the dynamics of capitalism, and the evolution of the blogosphere
(24m 15s, or read the transcript here)


Afterthought:
"Of all the qualities that enable Kant to achieve so much, one is inconsistency"
Derek Parfit

Proudly published with Ghost, the fiercely independent website and newsletter platform

Free 2 min read

If you enjoy The Browser, why not forward this to a friend? And if this has been forwarded to you, and you enjoyed it, why not join now?


A Loveable Anarchist

Isabelle Aron | Vice | 1st September 2021

Oral history of a bizarre yet beloved British cultural property: the seven-foot tall pink and yellow spotted shape that is Mr Blobby. Originally introduced as a minor character for a prank segment on a 1990s gameshow, he soon had a life of his own and the country was swamped with Mr Blobby merchandise. Best of all: for 20 years the man in the suit was a serious Shakespearean actor (2,649 words)


Wingwalker To The Rescue

F. Gerald Phillips | Air & Space | 16th July 2021

Thrilling tale of an aeroplane mishap in 1926. A pilot took off on a photographic mission before a mechanic had finished securing one of the wheels. To avoid a crash landing, another plane with a stuntman flew alongside to do a mid-air repair. "At 1,500 feet and 70 mph, Al made an extremely difficult job look easy," but he still had to hold the wheel on with his foot as they came into land (1,525 words)


What The Romans Found Funny

Orlando Gibbs | Antigone | 28th August 2021

With its stock characters, punch-lines, reversals and running gags, ancient humour worked in much the same way as its modern counterpart. "The structure of the jokes bears a striking resemblance to modern joke-telling. A set-up introduces some incongruity or tension. The punchline defuses, clarifies, or blasts through that tension with a secondary proposition or idea" (2,540 words)


Video: Inside A New York City Micro Apartment | Erik Conover. Tour of three progressively smaller apartments for rent in NYC, with discussion of the trade offs and practicalities of each (14m 10s)

Podcast: The Unsilencing | Radiolab. Autoimmune disorders disproportionately affect women, but tend to disappear during pregnancy. The reasons for this can be traced back to the evolution of the placenta (28m 56s)

Interview: Browser Publisher Uri Bram talks to three Stanford professors –  philosopher Rob Reich, political scientist Jeremy Weinstein and computer scientist Mehran Sahami – about their brand new book System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot, discussing sensible regulation, democratic values and the future of technology in under ten words each (video: 26m 39s, podcast: 26m 34s, transcript: 4,136 words)


Afterthought:
"There's no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous hard work in the right way"
Winslow Homer


Tired of waiting for the latest instalment? Subscribers get:
- five hand-chosen, expertly-summarised pieces each day
- the latest, greatest articles from publications you wouldn't read otherwise
- additional selections of audio, videos and quotes
- a weekly Best Of featuring our absolute favourite pieces
- no ads, and no fuss.

Join the Browser
Free 2 min read

The articles in this week's free edition have been selected from the daily emails we send full subscribers. If you'd like to see what you've been missing, why not join now?


The World's Longest Shrubbery  

Kamala Thiagarajan | BBC Future | 25th August 2021

It seems hard now to believe, and not a trace of it remains, but when the British ruled India in the mid-19th century they partitioned the country with a fortified hedge 2,300 miles long — an "impenetrable thicket of thorny native shrubs" — to frustrate smugglers. "By 1869, the great hedge stretched from the foothills of the Himalayas to Odisha, and then inched towards the Bay of Bengal" (2,200 words)


Tetlock And The Taliban

Richard Hanania | Substack | 25th August 2021

Thoughts provoked by America's failure to stabilise Afghanistan, despite spending billions of dollars and deploying thousands of specialists in warfare and nation-building. What colossal failure of expertise allowed pundits and policymakers to spend 20 years "making a living off the idea that the US was doing something reasonable in Afghanistan"? And what else are they getting wrong? (5,300 words)


Culture As Counterculture

Adam Kirsch | New Criterion | 18th August 2021

On taste, snobbishness and the rejection of cultural hierarchies. In the last two centuries, everything has been reversed. "Preferring things that are old, distant, and difficult to those that are immediate and ubiquitous means alienating oneself from one’s community, in some cases from one’s own family. It is at best an inexplicable quirk, at worst a form of antisocial arrogance" (3,952 words)


Video: Harp Distortion | Emily Hopkins. A harpist demonstrates the effect of a heavy distortion pedal on two different harps. She utterly transforms the instrument's sound into something from a metal band (3m 52s)

Podcast: A Tale Of Edible Intrigue | Subtitle. Who writes the fortunes in fortune cookies, and how did this practice begin? A blend of language analysis and history here explains — it's not a Chinese tradition (27m 38s)

Interview: Baiqu sits down with Sylvia Bishop, who is a children's book writer with nine titles translated into 16 languages, part of the musical improv duo Peablossom Cabaret, and (not least) Assistant Publisher of The Browser (17m 03s, podcast or transcript here)


Afterthought:
"We enormously exaggerate the part that law plays in the universe. It is by means of regularities that we understand what little we do understand of the world"
— C.S. Peirce


Tired of waiting for the latest instalment? Subscribers get:
- five hand-chosen, expertly-summarised pieces each day
- the latest, greatest articles from publications you wouldn't read otherwise
- additional selections of audio, videos and quotes
- a weekly Best Of featuring our absolute favourite pieces
- no ads, and no fuss.

Join the Browser
Free 2 min read

Your weekly free edition of The Browser. If you'd rather get daily recommendations, and no ads, join now.


The Story Of The Anglo-Yugoslav Café

Natasha Tripney | Vittles | 23rd August 2021

On "Yugonostalgia" and how food can keep a national identity alight long after the nation is gone. There are few Yugoslav restaurants now in the UK, but the food survives through home cooking. "Flaky pastry, hot from the oven, seeping grease through its paper bag, accompanied by a drink of yoghurt and, almost inevitably, a cigarette, remains the ex-Yugoslavian breakfast of choice" (2,295 words)


A New Look At The Hobo

Jason Christian | LA Review Of Books | 20th August 2021

The tramping tradition of the American hobo has all but disappeared from popular culture. In the early 20C, these free spirits had their own unseen society, even their own newspaper, and many stayed in motion on the US's rail freight network. The scene then overlapped anarchism and punk. Even when romanticised, the life is hard: "My hunger was my constant companion," one writes (2,581 words)


Drunk And Disorderly

Alexander Lee | Engelsberg Ideas | 11th August 2021

Can a statue be drunk? Can a statue be "too gay"? Michelangelo's Bacchus may have been both — shocking the Cardinal who commissioned the masterpiece, then rejected it. "The god, who has obviously had one too many, is struggling to keep his balance. As he tries to lift his right foot off the ground, his weight slips clumsily onto the left. His mouth flops open and his eyes flash lasciviously" (1,200 words)


Video: The Art Of The Focus Pull | Philip Jozef Brubaker. Succinct visual essay about an under-appreciated technique in cinema — the sudden and skilful change of focus mid shot that a director can use to direct the viewer's gaze (4m 39s)

Podcast: A New Raptor From Tajikistan | I Know Dino. Enthusiastic conversational podcast about dinosaurs, which keeps listeners abreast with all the latest news in the field of palaeontology (53m 17s)

Interview: Jordan Schneider In Conversation With Baiqu Gonkar. Jordan shares the joy of Chinese landscape painting whilst listening to Anna Karenina, learning to dribble like Devin Booker, and staging Hamilton in Beijing (20m 57s, or read the transcript here).


Afterthought:
"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Free 2 min read

Your weekly free edition of The Browser. Full members get daily recommendations, no ads, and access to the complete archive. If that sounds tempting, why not join now?


Emotional Support Peacocks

Wesley Yang | Year Zero | 12th August 2021

Notes on the rise and fall of emotional support animals. US airline regulators finally decided in December that all pets, however supportive, must travel as cargo. "The move came after a year of lobbying by the airlines in the wake of zany news stories such as the case of the emotional support peacock that was forbidden entry on to a flight, and the 80-pound pig that defecated in the aisles" (1,630 words)


Tech Industry Idioms

Karina Chow | Gitconnected | 30th July 2021

Glossary. Five tech idioms deserving wider currency. I knew about bikeshedding and dogfooding. Rubber-duck debugging and bus factors were new to me. Yak-shaving had long puzzled me, and now I understand: It means roughly the same as going down a rabbit hole — when one task leads to another, and then to another and another, taking you ever further from your original objective (1,900 words)


The Case For Loud Music

Marc Ribot | LitHub | 13th August 2021

A noise guitarist writes in praise of distortion. He loves to push an amplifier as far as it will go, and then some more. "The truth about playing really loud is this: on a really good night, nothing hurts — not howling volume, not airless rooms at sauna temperatures, not bleeding callouses, not a fever of 103, not a bottle in the head, not a recent divorce. Nothing much. Not till later" (1,940 words)


Book Of The Week: Afghanistan

by Thomas Barfield | Courtesy of Five Books

A cultural and political history of Afghanistan, notable for how accessible and witty it is. Originally published in 2009, this single volume has since become a reference point for Afghanistan both among scholars and among officials in the US Army (408 pages)


Interview Of The Week: Laura McInerney

Browser Interviews | 14th August 2021

Laura McInerney is an education journalist, app founder and former high school teacher. She was once taken to court by the UK government for asking a question. This week Laura and Baiqu discuss teaching teenagers, how the London Olympics brought people together, and tornados in Missouri (32m 18s, or read the transcript here).


Afterthought:
"Life without industry is guilt. Industry without art is brutality"
John Ruskin


Proudly published with Ghost, the fiercely independent website and newsletter platform

Free 2 min read

Your weekly free edition of The Browser. Full members get daily recommendations, no ads, and access to the complete archive. If that sounds tempting, why not join now?


Trotsky After Kolakowski

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 5th August 2021

Trotsky's early life was one of the most brilliant of the 20th century. How many intellectuals might be "sipping coffee in Café Zentral in Zurich on a Friday", then "leading to victory the largest army of workers and peasants in the world next Monday"? So where did it all go so wrong for Trotsky after Lenin's death? What were the weaknesses that made him so helpless against Stalin? (1,000 words)


Inside Pro Bowling Balls

Stan Horaczek | Popular Science | 27th July 2021

I had no idea the inside of a bowling ball looked anything like this, nor of the physics involved. "The rotational forces generated by the asymmetrical chunky green block inside the Intense wouldn’t be able to influence the orb’s trajectory as well if the cover couldn’t firmly grip the lane. Crushed mica mixed into the surface of this ball increases friction once it hits dry boards near the pins" (585 words)


An Ode To Marmara

Kaya Genç | Eurozine | 5th August 2021

On "sea snot", a suffocating film of organic matter that can develop on the sea's surface. The Marmara Sea in Turkey is badly affected; in a sense, it has stifled the inland lagoon's history. It's a shocking sight. "I first saw it in June, on my way to a ferry: a mirage, as if land began to extend into the sea. All that was liquid had turned solid. It also resembled the skin of a terminally ill patient" (3,315 words)


Podcast Of The Week: The Last Generation To Die

70 Over 70 | Pineapple Street Studios | 6th July 2021

Interview series devoted to people over the age of 70. Although the show resists the impulse to look entirely on the bright side of getting older, there is something uplifting about the way experiences — good and bad — are related without hesitation or fear. This episode features both a Texas barbecue pitmaster and the physicist Michio Kaku, co-founder of string field theory (38m 29s)


Interview Of The Week: Stella Zawistowski In Conversation With Baiqu Gonkar

Browser Interviews | 6th August 2021

Stella is a cryptic-crossword evangelist and puzzle maker for The Browser and the New Yorker. She tells Baiqu how she comes to be "the only person in the world, man or woman, who can say both of those things: that they've solved in New York Times crossword in under five minutes, and can lift 325 pounds"  (19m 22s, or read the transcript here).


Afterthought:
“The chief practical use of history is to deliver us from plausible historical analogies”
— James Bryce

Free 2 min read

The articles in this week's edition are three of the twenty-five that we send to full Browser subscribers, along with videos, podcasts, and crosswords. If you'd like to see the rest, why not join now?


Lying Eyes

Gayan Samarasinghe | New Humanist | 28th July 2021

We no longer believe that physiognomy can reveal innate criminality, as claimed by Lombroso. But how people look in a court of law can still have a big impact on how they are judged. Jurors and judges may be swayed by defendants' and witnesses' posture, clothing, body language and facial expression. Can demeanour provide useful information, or is it always a dangerous distraction? (2,600 words)


The Four Hours Rule

Oliver Burkeman | 29th July 2021

How to manage your time like Darwin or Dickens. Use the control you have over your schedule not to "maximise your time" or "optimise your day" in some vague way but "specifically to ringfence three or four hours of undisturbed focus" each day to do your best work. "Just focus on protecting four hours – and don't worry if the rest of the day is characterised by the usual scattered chaos" (700 words)


The Bet

Anton Chekhov | Berfrois | 15th Jul 2021

A short story, and a chilling one too, reproduced here in Constance Garnett's translation. A Russian dinner-party conversation about the relative merits of life imprisonment and capital punishment gives rise to a bet between the host and a guest. If the guest can voluntarily endure 15 years of solitary confinement, the host will pay him a great fortune. The experiment begins (2,800 words)


Audio of the Week: The Cost Of Power

Think African | Sound Africa | 18th June 2021

Power is a hot topic on the African continent, as this documentary explains. African countries are grappling with the same environmental pressures to reduce emissions as everywhere else, but in many cases without the same resources. Nuclear is a popular choice, although at the moment the continent's only nuclear plant is in South Africa and is now nearly forty years old (19m 27s)


Interview of the Week: Ian Leslie On Creating The Adversary You Want

Browser Interviews | 1st August 2021

Ian Leslie, author of Conflicted and editor of The Ruffian, talks to The Browser's Baiqu Gonkar about the Darwinian nature of disagreements, how to create the adversary you want, and the joy of small gadgets. (23m 16s, transcript here).


Afterthought:
"Simplicity is the hallmark of truth, but complexity continues to have a morbid attraction"
E.W. Dijkstra


Tired of waiting for the latest instalment? Subscribers get:
- five hand-chosen, expertly-summarised pieces each day
- the latest, greatest articles from publications you wouldn't read otherwise
- additional selections of audio, videos and quotes
- a weekly Best Of featuring our absolute favourite pieces
- no ads, and no fuss.

Join the Browser

Caroline Crampton, Editor-In-Chief; Robert Cottrell, Founding Editor; Jodi Ettenberg, Associate Editor; Raymond Douglas, Associate Editor; Uri Bram, CEO & Publisher; Al Breach, Founding Director

Editorial comments and letters to the editor: editor@thebrowser.com
Technical issues and support requests: support@thebrowser.com
Or write at any time to the publisher: uri@thebrowser.com

Join 72,000+ curious readers who grow with us each week

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in
search