Japan, Plots, Insects, Cold, Air Force One

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

A Japanese Pilgrimage

Barney Jopson | Financial Times | 8th September 2016

A journey along the 850 miles of Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route, the Shikoku henro, visiting 88 Buddhist temples. “Here is a sample of what I was given on the road: a cup of hot chocolate; a vitamin drink; a rice triangle; a cotton tissue holder; a night’s accommodation in an abandoned bus; a caramel wafer biscuit; a glass of beer; a bread cake filled with melon jam; and two bottles of iced tea from a hotel receptionist who also found a bungee cord so that I could strap them to my bike” (3,100 words)

The Efficient Plots Hypothesis

Ben Schmidt | Sapping Attention | 9th September 2016

By loose analogy with the efficient markets hypothesis, which argues that an investor can never reliably predict a movement in share prices, the “efficient plots hypothesis” argues that the plot of the ideal novel will always be unpredictable, at least for the next few pages — because if the plot were predictable, the reader would skip ahead, or stop reading. This need not mean random plotting: “There are enough fundamental plots that at any point in a book you are unsure what plot you are in” (1,050 words)

The Grubmeister

Joshua Foer | VQR | 11th July 2016

Not for the squeamish. Interview with David George Gordon, science writer, about eating insects; with recipes. “There’s a little bit of a disagreement right now in the bug-eating community about how to introduce newcomers to the world of edible insects. Most of the people who are launching start-ups are using cricket powder in some capacity. There are tortilla chips called Chirps that have cricket flour in them, there are energy bars. People say crickets are the gateway bug” (3,120 words)

Swimming In The Sink

Lynne Cox | Literary Hub | 8th September 2016

A long-distance swimmer participates in an experiment to test the human body’s tolerance of cold. “I thought I was acclimated to the cold, but this test was the most difficult and excruciating I had ever endured. I glanced at my hand in the bucket. It looked strange with the thermocouples attached to my fingers. My hand was ghostly white and shaped like a claw. When I swam across the Bering Strait my hands turned gray, but they never turned white. The tissues were starting to freeze” (3,600 words)

How To Launch A Nuclear Strike

Dave Merrill et al | Bloomberg | 7th September 2016

The US rulebook requires the president to consult briefly with advisers before ordering a nuclear strike. “The senior officer in the Pentagon war room must formally authenticate that the person ordering the strike is indeed the president. The officer reads a ‘challenge code’, two phonetic letters from the military alphabet such as ‘Delta-Echo’. The president retrieves a laminated card and finds the matching response: ‘Charlie-Zulu’, for instance”. Then the Pentagon sends out the launch codes (760 words)

The Only Plane In The Sky

Garrett Graff | Politico | 9th September 2016

Recollections of 9/11 from presidential chief of staff Andy Card and others. George Bush took to the sky in Air Force One when the news broke. “The plane is like the Twilight Zone. There’s just no one on board anymore. I saw one of the agents was standing in the hallway, and I went up to him: So this is the safest place to be? This is Air Force One, right? He said: Well, listen, don’t mention this, but we might as well have a big red X on the bottom of this plane. We’re the only plane in the sky” (16,700 words)

Video of the day: Evolution Of Bacteria

What to expect:

Experiment at Harvard Medical School shows how bacteria mutate within days to defeat antibiotics (1’54”)

Thought for the day

When a man reflects on his physical or moral state, he usually decides that he is ill
J.W. von Goethe

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