Lighthouse, Face, Nazi, Stove, Sound

Our Browser Conversation tomorrow, at the usual time of 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm GMT, is with literary non-fiction writer Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment and Thicker Than Water. Please reserve your spot at, and feel free to share with friends who would be interested.

The Invention That Fixed Lighthouses

Vox | YouTube | 17th February 2021

While normal lamps are too weak to illuminate the dark seas, Fresnel lenses use prisms to focus and magnify their light into a powerful beam—and they happen to be one of our most beautiful inventions. "Colored panels, or even colored flames, could make lights more distinct. Some got huge: a first-order Fresnel was three meters tall"  (8m 11s)

Khuleshov Characters

The Writer's Bloc | YouTube | 8th February 2021

Why doesn't a character need a face? Because "far too much emphasis is placed on the spoken word as a character-building tool"; action is really what allows us to connect (and one does not need a face to act!). They can be faceless in a more metaphorical sense, too: "raging asshole characters work because our biggest inroad to empathy is to see our own flaws and ambitions" in others  (24m 47s)

Is Being "Fair And Balanced" Always Good?

J.J. McCullough | YouTube | 13th February 2021

Fascinating dive into children's books about politics and the questions they raise. For example, one kids' book on the Second World War describes Churchill and Hitler simply as two notable historical rivals with differing ideologies. Do we risk painting an inaccurate portrait of historical figures by adhering to a strict "no value-judgments" policy? (14m 53s)

How Expanding Credit Could Help Fight Climate Change

Chicago Booth Review | YouTube | 17th February 2021

A field study found that Kenyan households were not willing to pay extra for a more energy-efficient stove even though it would save them money in the long run. But offering a three-month loan changed all of this: "access to credit was the primary driver for these households being willing to invest in energy-efficient upgrades" (5m 38s)

Funny Video Of The Week

What would English sound like if it were phonetically consistent? (Answer: strange)

Browser Video Of The Week

Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of The Economist and now co-director of the Global Commission for Post-Pandemic Policy, talks with Alex Tabarrok, Professor of Economics at George Mason University and co-author of the blog Marginal Revolution, about lessons learned from the pandemic so far and how societies can prepare for pandemics in future.

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