Giraffe Edition 6

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

The Difficult Bequest: A History Of The Smithsonian

Sasha Archibald | LA Review Of Books | 1st July 2014

America’s national museum was "foisted on the country" in 1826 by "an obscure British mineralogist" called James Smithson who had never set foot in America nor shown any particular liking for it. He was "a wealthy apolitical dandy" who saw a new museum as his chance for immortality. John Quincy Adams, who argued for accepting the bequest, "concurred that James Smithson was probably insane" (4,300 words)

Peak Globalisation

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 1st July 2014

Globalisation as a trend may well have peaked over the past twenty years. The reasons: Services are rising as a share of GDP, and they are harder to trade; China's economy is becoming less resource-intensive; wages are converging across borders; robots & artificial intelligence are making it more attractive for richer nations to manufacture locally; the next twenty years may be less peaceful than the past twenty years (314 words)

Inside The Strange World Of Rolf Harris

Peter Conrad | The Monthly | 1st July 2014

Parental guidance advised. It was strange world indeed. Dysfunctional childhood in Australia, ebullient youth, long career in music and television — and a triumphant old age during which Harris achieved "near-priestly status" in Britain. He advised the Church of England. He painted the Queen. But behind the wobbleboard all was not as it seemed: "A child’s request for an autograph allegedly led almost immediately to molestation" (5,300 words)

Sigmund Freud, Never-Ending Storyteller

William Giraldi | VQR | 10th June 2014

Discussion of Adam Phillips's book, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, an "effective breviary and defense" which captures Freud's accomplishments but ignores his errors. "Freud’s real genius was not that he invented the conception of the human being as resolutely hidden from himself — ​literature got there first — ​but that he emphasized and systemized it in a storytelling we’d never be able to forget" (3,700 words)

Recipe For A Better Oven

Nathan Myhrvold & W. Wayt Gibbs | IEEE Spectrum | 30th June 2014

"Most of us bake, roast, and broil our food using a technology that was invented 5,000 years ago for drying mud bricks: the oven. The typical modern oven has a host of problems. It can’t cook food equally well whether full or nearly empty, left alone or regularly checked, or with food placed in any position inside. Yet oven manufacturers could solve every problem with existing technology, if only they would apply it" (3,700 words)

Diffusers Of Useful Knowledge

Jonathan Rose | Literary Review | 1st July 2014

The word "scientist" was invented only in 1833, to characterise a new breed of practical hobbyists and experimenters and to distinguish them from "natural philosophers" who saw science as a "moral, cosmological and metaphysical" enterprise. The early 19C was a golden age for popular science, much of it baloney, but the enthusiasm for speculative theories prepared the ground for the real revolution of Darwinism (1,000 words)

Video of the day: Body Language — The Handshake

What to expect: Lively and amusing TED talk

Thought for the day

"The days of the digital watch are numbered"
—  Tom Stoppard

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