John Lanchester, India, Time, Diane Arbus, Brothers, Bicycles


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

Brexit Blues

John Lanchester | London Review Of Books | 20th July 2016

Truly excellent. Sated as you probably are with post-Brexit analysis, make room for this. “If I had to pick a single fact which has played no role in political discourse but which sums up the current position of the UK, it would be that most people in the UK receive more from the state, in direct cash transfers and in benefits such as health and education, than they contribute to it. The numbers are eerily similar to the referendum outcome: 48 per cent net contributors, 52 per cent net recipients” (4,900 words)

Confessions Of A Killer Policeman

Grace Jajo & Raghu Karnad | Guardian | 21st July 2016

“When he began to kill, Thounaojam Herojit never intended to tell his wife – let alone the whole country. He was a young police constable in Manipur, a province in the north-east of India bloodied by decades of separatist insurgency and state reprisal. But he was also a commando, part of an elite unit raised to fight the insurgents, and he was set to become their most effective executioner. He kept a diary, recording dates and names. Eventually there was a second notebook, then a third” (7,200 words)

A Debate Over The Physics Of Time

Dan Falk | Quanta | 19th July 2016

Physicists debate the “block universe” theory, which holds that the cosmos is timeless and that time is an illusion. “An objection voiced many times was that the block universe seems to imply that the future already exists, yet statements about, say, next Thursday’s weather, are neither true nor false. For some, this seems like an insurmountable problem with the block-universe view. Ismael had heard these objections many times before. Future events exist, she said, they just don’t exist now“ (2,900 words)

The Invention Of Diane Arbus

Alex Mar | The Cut | 15th July 2016

How Diane Arbus the fashion photographer becomes Diane Arbus the street photographer. “On one assignment that spring, after a day spent posing little girls on a swing set for Vogue, Diane stepped back. Raising her voice only slightly, she made an announcement: I’m not going to do it anymore.” She wanted to leave her husband, explore the world, take risks. “You see her slowly realizing that she can talk to people, that they will stop for her, that she might even be able to follow them home” (5,300 words)

The Olympian And The Terrorist

Lukas Eberle | Der Spiegel | 19th July 2016

Mourad Laachraoui is an Olympic athlete; his brother Najim was the suicide bomber who blew up Brussels airport. “It is often siblings who perpetrate Islamist attacks. Wail and Waleed al-Shehri on Sept. 11; Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston; Saïd and Chérif Kouachi at Charlie Hebdo. Islamic State recruits most of its new fighters from the circles of friends and families. Mourad must not only accept that his brother turned into a monster, but must also prove that he isn’t one himself” (2,950 words)

The Bicycle Problem That Nearly Broke Mathematics

Brendan Borrell | Nature | 20th July 2016

Two hundred years after the bicycle was invented, we begin to understand how it works. “What unseen forces allow a rider to balance while pedalling? Why must one initially steer right in order to lean and turn left? And how does a bike stabilize itself when propelled without a rider?” Early engineers had some conjectures on the subject, but they were wrong. Designs evolved by trial and error. Bicycle theory is “a math problem that happens to relate to something you can see” (3,100 words)

Video of the day: Some Kind Of Quest

What to expect:

Documentary about a vast model railway installation and the man who built it (10’50”)

Thought for the day

One must credit a hypothesis with all that must be discovered in order to demolish it
Jean Rostand

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