Hangovers, Mongeese, Hummingbirds, Time, Atul Gawande, Black Death


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

The Metaphysics Of The Hangover

Mark Edmundson | Hedgehog Review | 19th July 2017

“After a drink or two, the internal lines blur; we transgress, or at least we’re tempted to. We disobey the standard rules and regulations, or we can imagine doing so. What Freud calls the superego, and Christians call conscience, clamours less: You can’t quite hear the old parental voice calling from the backbench, Don’t! Cut it out! We’ll have no more of that around here! But then in the morning, the police are back again, in force, to retake the territory they were compelled to cede the night before” (3,500 words)

I Am The Fifth Dimension

Bee Wilson | London Review Of Books | 19th July 2017

Highly entertaining review of Gef! The Talking Mongoose, by Christopher Josiffe. “For several years in the 1930s the case of this Manx mongoose – who was said to speak in a range of foreign languages as well as singing, whistling, swearing, dancing and attending political meetings – was discussed across Britain. Josiffe is still not entirely clear about the nature of the hoax. He leaves open the possibility that Gef lived and talked and ate lean bacon exactly as the Irvings claimed he did” (4,700 words)

The Frenzy Of The Hummingbird

Brendan Borrell | National Geographic | 17th July 2017

All about hummingbirds, the world’s smallest birds, which live exclusively in the Americas. Between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego there are 340 species, 27 of which have been sighted in the United States. The centre of hummingbird diversity is the northern Andes, home to 290 species. “The smallest can weigh less than two grams. The largest, the giant hummingbird found in Peru and Chile, tips the scales at 20 grams. You could send something that weight in the mail with a single first-class stamp” (2,900 words)

The Beginnings Of Time

John Steele | Nautilus | 18th July 2017

Interview with physicist Paul Davies about the nature of time. Time exists, but it does not flow, and it may be a product of other things. “The inter-comparison of time between different observers and different places is a delicate business even within one universe. When you talk about what is the rate of a clock, say, near the surface of a black hole, it’s going to be quite different from the rate of a clock here on Earth. So there isn’t even a common time in the entire universe” (1,600 words)

A Conversation With Atul Gawande

Tyler Cowen | Conversations with Tyler | 19th July 2017

Interesting throughout. Subjects include artificial intelligence, CRISPR, anaesthesia, sponges, checklists, health insurance, longevity, regulation, Michael Crichton. “One of the things you realize is that, when you have an awake patient in the operating room, they can be part of the team, not just someone sitting there who is annoyingly awake, and they’re actually piping up to tell you they’d like to change the music you’re playing. In many ways, having people awake can be far safer” (9,090 words)

How Devastating Was The Black Death?

Alexander More et al | Medieval Histories | 19th July 2017

New studies using archaeological and geological data suggest that half the populace died when the Black Death swept Europe in the mid-14C — at least as bad as historians’ worst-case estimates based on written records. Core samples from Alpine glaciers show that mining and metal production “simply collapsed” in the plague years. Some towns in England lost 55% of their population. In Sardinia it took 70 years for industry to recover; in Germany, a century (850 words)

Video of the day: Un Albero Un Anno

What to expect:

What you see if you train a camera on a tree for a year. Guest stars include boars, wolves, foxes, badgers, deer, and bears (2’45”)

Thought for the day

If you can do it then why do it?
Gertrude Stein

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