Information, Fouquet, Pigs, Avocados, Architecture

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

Does Information Smell?

Riccardo Manzotti & Tim Parks | New York Review Of Books | 30th December 2016

Conversation about consciousness, between a writer and scientist. We rely so heavily on computing metaphors for talking about the brain that we conflate the metaphor and the reality. “When physiologists address other parts of the body — the immune system, the kidneys, our blood circulation — they don’t feel the need to use anything but the language of biology. Yet, when dealing with the brain, we suddenly find that neurons are processing ‘information’ rather than chemicals” (2,600 words)

On The Trail Of The Man In The Iron Mask

David Coward | Times Literary Supplement | 21st December 2016

The tale of the 17C French prisoner confined in an iron mask raises many questions — not least whether the mask was made of iron. “Wearing an iron helmet would quickly induce septicaemia and death. Since the prisoner lived to be over 70, it must have been removable and worn only when his face risked being seen”. Alexandre Dumas “adopted gleefully” a theory that the prisoner was Louis XIV’s twin brother. The truth is probably far duller — so we are lucky that it continues to elude investigators (1,240 words)


Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey | Boston Review | 4th December 2016

Diary of an idealistic experiment in raising, killing and eating pigs respectfully. “We were meat eaters who had never taken personal responsibility for the fact that eating meat means killing. We had tried to be responsible consumers of meat by buying the flesh of humanely raised animals, but we had never borne the personal burden of consuming meat as a being, of killing to eat, and we felt there was something deep and undeniable, even inexcusable, about this contradiction” (5,000 words)

All About Avocados

Joanna Sciarrino | Lucky Peach | 22nd December 2016

The avocado is a single-seeded berry with 82% fat, rivalling the olive as the fattiest fruit in the world. It matures on the tree but ripens only when picked, and can then take from a few days to two weeks to ripen naturally at room temperature. Once ripened, an avocado will keep in the refrigerator for seven to ten days. Americans eat four billion avocados a year. There are more than a thousand varieties of avocado, but the Hass, first grown in California in 1926, accounts for 95% of the US market (900 words)

The Economist Bids Farewell

The Economist | Medium | 22nd December 2016

A look back at fifty years of life and work in The Economist building on St James’s Street in London — which the paper will vacate this year in favour of slightly more affordable space off the Strand. The tower block, a distinctive product of Britain’s brief infatuation with brutalism, was more of a pleasure to work in than to look upon — even though, in this case, the brutalism was tempered; the architects used Portland stone rather than bare concrete for the cladding (3,500 words)

Video of the day: Morning In Montreal

What to expect:

Snow causes traffic chaos on a street corner in Montreal (1’47”)

Thought for the day

Better to debate a question without settling it than settle a question without debating it
Joseph Joubert

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