Giraffe Edition 30

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

Draft Number Four

John McPhee | New Yorker | 29th April 2013

Another classic from the New Yorker's ungated archive, while it lasts. John McPhee on how to beat writer's block. Always plan on four drafts. The first is the dark night of the soul. "Blurt out, heave out, babble out something — anything — as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye" (6,150 words)

Amazon, Price And Value

Toby Mundy | Medium | 1st August 2014

Publisher defends the virtues of traditional books. "Books are the only medium for thick descriptions of the world that human beings possess. By ‘thick’ description, I mean an extended, detailed, evidence-based, written interpretation of a subject. If you want to write a feature, or blog, or wikipedia entry, in the end you will have to refer to a book. Authors and publisher-curators are in the civilisation business" (1,230 words)

Smart And Smarter Drugs

Marek Kohn | Mosaic | 29th July 2014

We are still "in the amphetamine age" of smart drugs — which may not be such a bad place. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin can make users more interested in their work and more focused on it; they cannot add new capacities such as perfect memory or genius IQ. They benefit lower performers more than high-fliers — so perhaps their natural constituency should not be ambitious students, but the poor and the unemployed (4,100 words)

Cloudy With a Chance of War

David Berreby | Nautilus | 31st July 2014

English physicist and mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson pioneered scientific weather forecasting in the 1920s by developing equations that captured atmospheric turbulence. His maths was too complex to be useful at the time, but now provides the basis of computerised weather forecasting. Richardson's greater ambition was to develop a mathematics for forecasting war. That didn't go so well (3,940 words)

Anti-War Art: Nearly Impossible

Noah Berlatsky | Atlantic | 29th July 2014

Literature is rich in war stories. Why is it not equally rich in anti-war stories? Perhaps because they are formally very difficult. You start telling a story that involves war, even to show its horrors, and the heroism starts creeping in — as happens with Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. The tension starts with the need for narrative — which is why anti-war poetry works so much better (1,260 words)

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow

Ed Cumming | Guardian | 28th July 2014

In praise of William Gibson, who coined the word "cyberspace" 30 years ago in his novel, Neuromancer, and imagined the internet more or less as we have it now — a "consensual hallucination created by millions of connected computers". The Wachowskis based The Matrix on Gibson's vision. "Every social network, online game or hacking scandal takes us a step closer to the universe Gibson imagined in 1984" (950 words)

Video of the day: Inside-Out Logic

What to expect: If Buckminster Fuller had been a black belt in origami, this is what he might have made

Thought for the day

"Dissonance is the truth about harmony"
— Theodor Adorno

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