Labs, Chairs, Birds, Fraud, Ethics

This week's Browser Conversation is with Samira Shackle, a feature writer and the editor of the New Humanist magazine. She is the author of Karachi Vice: Life and Death in a Contested City; the discussion will centre on her reporting in Pakistan and her perspective on contemporary longform journalism. Please join us this Sunday at our usual time of 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm GMT; RSVP at thebrowser.com/conversations, and feel free to share with friends who would enjoy.


Making Vaccine

John Wentworth | Less Wrong | 3rd February 2021 | U

Step-by-step guide to making an anti-Covid vaccine at home, using an open-source vaccine design and ingredients available on Amazon. "All of the materials and equipment to make the vaccine cost us about $1000. We did not need any special licenses or anything like that. I do have a little wetlab experience from my undergrad days, but the skills required were pretty minimal" (1,700 words)


Postures Of Transport

Hunter Dukes | Public Domain Review | 3rd February 2021 | U

A cultural history of armchairs and rocking chairs. Much about Joris Huysmans and Xavier de Maistre, pioneers of armchair travel, and Vilhelm Hammershøi, Danish painter of subdued interiors. "Rocking chairs (and seats that rocked) carried an erotic charge in the nineteenth century. For a certain type of Victorian mind, easy chairs made easy women. Polite society sat erect" (5,600 words)


Intrepid Navigators

Robert Paxton | New York Review Of Books | 4th February 2021 | MPR

How birds think, nest, and navigate. Clever birds have the "problem-solving ability of a five-to-seven-year-old child". Crows can "hide over 30,000 seeds and recall their precise locations many months later". Birds can detect the earth’s magnetic field, "a sense that humans lack entirely". They can also see ultraviolet light: "Some birds that look plain to us probably shine and sparkle to other birds" (3,540 words)


The Lion And The Polygamist

Vince Beiser | Wired | 2nd February 2021 | MP

Fundamentalist Mormon with failed biodiesel plant teams up with Armenian-born truck-stop tycoon to steal $500 million from the US government in bogus tax credits for non-existent fuel. Well-paced yarn with all the ingredients of a classic heist, including private planes, bags of money, guns, bodyguards, and a gold Ferrari. “It was tax fraud on an almost unimaginable scale” (7,500 words)


New Light On The Pentagon Papers

Stephen Engelberg | Pro Publica | 3rd February 2021 | U

Neil Sheehan of the New York Times stole photocopies of the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg of RAND Corporation; Ellsberg had stolen his copies from the Pentagon. The papers, a "deeply critical secret history" of the Vietnam War, showed that successive US presidents had lied to the public. Did Sheehan and Ellsberg act ethically? Ellsberg, arguably; Sheehan, arguably not (2,360 words)


Video: 3.45pm | Alisha Liu. Two friends in Central Park discuss the meaning of life (2m 30s)

Audio: Loophole | The Experiment. Julia Longoria and guests discuss the "zone of death" in Yellowstone National Park, where, thanks to a jurisdictional loophole, you might commit murder and go unprosecuted (25m 31s)

Afterthought:
"To achieve great things you need a plan and not quite enough time"
Leonard Bernstein


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