Information, Malthus, Galapagos, Title IX, Richard Posner


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

The Bit Bomb

Rob Goodman | Aeon | 30th August 2017

More on the genius of Claude Shannon, whose theory of information was precisely 34 years ahead of its time. “Strictly speaking, it wasn’t necessary to solve the immediate problem of placing a long-distance call, or even required for the unveiling of the first transatlantic telephone cable in 1956. But it would be necessary for solving the 1990 problem of transmitting a photograph from the edge of the solar system back to Earth across 4 billion miles of void” (4,000 words)

Will The Earth Ever Fill Up?

Adam Kucharski | Nautilus | 24th August 2017

Thomas Malthus was a “curly haired, 32-year-old curate of a small English chapel” when he published his Essay On The Principle of Population in 1798. His argument that humanity was doomed to poverty through overpopulation made him briefly a luminary, but then a byword for bad science, as the world entered a long cycle of high economic growth and high population growth. But his work inspired so much good science; and he may yet be proved right (2,100 words)

Killing Goats To Save Tortoises

Paolo Bocci | Cultural Anthropology | 31st August 2017

Scholarly account of the consequences of a five-year programme to kill goats on the Galapagos Islands, because the goats, introduced by 17C pirates, were killing indigenous tortoises. But as humans tried to turn back the clock, Nature had already moved on. “The project had unexpected ecological repercussions. In the targeted areas, invasive plants, rather than native ones, have grown back and taken over, and their eradication is deemed even more difficult than removing goats” (10,300 words)

Comfort Woman

Erika Krouse | Granta | 4th September 2017

Memoir of a private investigator tasked with investigating allegations of rape against a college football team. PG-13, obviously. “I showed up and lied to people, which is illegal for attorneys but not for private investigators – not for me. I pretended to be a triathlete; I pretended to be a wealthy donor; I pretended to have breast cancer. It felt strange to lie to people’s faces – wrong, until I discovered that they actually believed me” (5,290 words)

Cass Sunstein | Bloomberg | 3rd September 2017

Admiring appreciation of Judge Richard Posner, “the world’s most influential legal thinker”, soon to retire. “In the modern era, no one comes close to Posner in terms of his influence on contemporary law. Posner showed that economic analysis casts a new and often surprising light on questions that people might otherwise try to answer with unhelpful intuitions. If a Nobel Prize were to be given in law, he would be the first to receive it, solely on the basis of his academic contributions” (1,020 words)

Video of the day: Low Earth Orbit

What to expect:

Breathtaking images from drones orbiting up to 2,000 km above Earth (3’09”)

Thought for the day

It’s lonely at the top, but it ain’t crowded
David Mamet

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