Lead, Diogenes Laertius, Books, Prehistory, Education

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

Heavy Stuff

Aaron Bady | Popula | 18th July 2018

Lead is good for making pipes — it is dense, durable, malleable and cheap. Unfortunately, lead is also very poisonous. Even the ancient Romans knew that. Last year in America lead killed more than 400,000 people. What combination of factors persuades modern societies to use lead for water pipes in the first place, then not to replace them as a matter of urgency? “The problem is that lead pipes are more stable and long-lasting than the social consensus on their safety” (2,700 words)

Lovers Of Wisdom

Jim Holt | New York Review Of Books | 19th July 2018

Highly entertaining review of “Lives Of The Eminent Philosophers”, written in the early third century AD by Diogenes Laertius. “He may have been a flaming mediocrity. He may have been credulous and intellectually shallow. He may have produced a scissors-and-paste job cribbed from other ancient sources. But those other sources are lost, which makes what Diogenes Laertius left behind truly priceless. He is keenly attuned to the philosopher as a social type, and an eccentric one at that” (3,200 words)

You Probably Don’t Have A Book In You

Kate McKean | Outline | 25th July 2018

A literary agent explains why you shouldn’t write that book. “It is my full-time job to find new books and help them get published. When people talk about ‘having a book in them’, or when people tell others they should write a book (which is basically my nightmare), what they really mean is ‘I bet someone, but probably not me because I already heard it, would pay money to hear this story’. Here’s what they don’t know, and what most beginner writers might not realize, either” (1,100 words)

How To Change History

David Graeber & David Wengrow | Anarchist Library | 2nd March 2018

Big-picture histories of human culture — Fukuyama, Diamond, Harari — rely on outdated theories of prehistory. Following Rousseau, they claim that early hunter-foragers lived in small egalitarian bands, but the arrival of farming and city life created social hierarchies. Rousseau imagined all this; he had no evidence; the best evidence now is that he was wrong. “Agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian” (8,700 words)

Genes And Staying In School

Ed Yong | Atlantic | 23rd July 2018

We have a pretty good idea of the genes associated with gains from education. There are almost 1,300 of them, and they all interact. They predict nothing about educational outcomes for the individual, but they are the strongest indicator available about the outcome of education for large groups — an 11 per cent weighting, against 7 per cent for household income. How do scientists deal with this knowledge? At the moment, by ignoring it, for fear of being tagged as eugenicists (1,400 words)

Video of the day Annals Of Obsession: ASMR

What to expect:

From the New Yorker. How the sounds of crinkling, whispering, and tapping can induce euphoria (7’53”)

Thought for the day

One can always find hands for a work of destruction
André Gide

Podcast The Draft | Civics 101

Professor Jennifer Mittelstadt discusses the history of conscription, and whether it might return
(22m 41s)

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