Kabul, Ethan Zuckerman, Inertia, Utilitarianism, Physics

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

When Hope Is Gone

Shah Marai | Correspondent | 30th April 2018

An Afghan photographer’s memoir of living and working in Kabul. “I long for those years immediately following the arrival of the Americans. Of course the city has changed a lot since 2001. The stores are full and you can find almost anything. But there is no more hope. Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity. I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house” (1,600 words)

Ten Lost Years

Noah Kulwin | New York | 23rd April 2018

Ethan Zuckerman, inventor of the pop-up ad, remembers the Internet before Facebook and Google: The world seemed full of possibilities, and it was, but the possibilities were squandered. “It took a while for Google to become Google. I worked for Lycos, and companies like Excite and AltaVista were actually taken seriously. There were debates — were we all going to go the way that Google wanted us to go? Or were we going to do something different? In retrospect, we were idiots” (4,260 words)


Shane Parrish | Farnham Street | 30th April 2018

Inertia is the “force that holds the universe together”. Literally. “Without it, matter would lack the electric forces necessary to form its current arrangement. Inertia is counteracted by the heat and kinetic energy produced by moving particles. Subtract it and everything cools to -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit (absolute zero temperature). It’s the pull that keeps us clinging to old ways and prevents us from trying new things. But it is also a necessary one. Without it, the universe would collapse” (1,900 words)

Utilitarianism And Its Discontents

Michael Shermer | Scientific American | 29th April 2018

“Would you cut off your own leg if it was the only way to save another person’s life? Would you torture someone if you thought it would result in information that would prevent a bomb from exploding and killing hundreds of people? Would you oppress a people for a limited time if it increased the overall well-being of the citizenry? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are a utilitarian, the moral system encapsulated in the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number” (770 words)

Looking In The Wrong Places

Sabine Hossenfelder | Edge | 30th April 2018

A physicist wonders about the value of physics. “The field that I mostly work in is the foundations of physics, which is, roughly speaking, composed of cosmology, quantum mechanics, high-energy particle physics, and quantum gravity. It’s a peculiar field because there hasn’t been new data for almost four decades, since we established the Standard Model of particle physics. Why do people continue to work on it if it doesn’t look like anything has been happening? It’s a good question” (3,420 words)

Video of the day The Fable Of The Dragon-Tyrant

What to expect:

We should fight death, not accept it. Words by Nick Bostrom, video by C.G.P. Grey (13’00”)

Thought for the day

All things want to float
Rainer Maria Rilke

Podcast The Man Who Wouldn’t Die | Futility Closet

Prohibition, The Bronx, and the story of the most clumsily executed insurance scam in New York City history
(32m 50s)

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