Middle East, Psychiatry, Books, Sports Genetics, Colour Photography, Dogs


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

How The Arab World Came Apart

Scott Anderson | New York Times | 12th August 2016

A book-length anecdotal history of the modern Middle East, seeking to explain why the Arab world has refused the opportunities for prosperity and stability available from adopting Western models; and why much of it has become instead the enemy of the West. The Arab Spring was indeed a turning point, but in the wrong direction. The countries created by European colonialism a century before — Iraq, Syria and Libya — had no sustaining institutions, so they collapsed into chaos (Metered Paywall) (42,000 words)

Three Out Of Four

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 12th July 2016

Lessons learned as a third-year hospital resident in psychiatry. “Patients are really suggestible. If you just ask specific questions like ‘Are you depressed?’ then they’ll say ‘Yes’ to make you happy. So instead, the patient says something like ‘I’m sitting in a pool of blood’. And I say. ‘Tell me more’. They say ‘Well, it’s my blood’. I say ‘Tell me more’. After repeating this process a couple of times, we finally get to the stabbing, and the patient doesn’t feel like I railroaded over their chance to tell their story” (3,400 words)

The Book

Keith Houston | W.W. Norton | 1st January 1970

Extract from Keith Houston’s new book about the physical history of books. “In the course of excavating a temple complex in Luxor in 1895-96, Flinders Petrie and his assistant James Quibell discovered a cache of papyrus scrolls in a shaft dating back to the seventeenth century BCE. Among this famed collection, one scroll in particular stands head and shoulders above the others: Papyrus Ramesseum B, the so-called Dramatic Papyrus, is thought to be the oldest illustrated book in existence” (4,060 words)

The Limits Of Athletic Performance

Stephen Hsu | Nautilus | 11th August 2016

Forget drugs in sport. The future is genetic engineering. “The whole enterprise of competitive athletics has been, in effect, a search algorithm for genetic outliers, but it’s been running for less than a century, and it hasn’t been particularly efficient. Its approach has been to passively wait for random recombinations to produce those variants, and hope that athletic programs find the best individuals.” Now that scientists can edit genes directly, sporting performance will go through the roof (2,030 words)

In Living Colour

Yo Zushi | New Statesman | 10th August 2016

William Eggleston’s first solo show of photography at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1976 was dismissed by critics as “perfectly banal”. His sin: To shoot in colour. Art photography in those days meant black-and-white photography. Colour was “for holiday snaps, advertising and fashion spreads”. Eggleston broke through, because, in fact, he wanted to celebrate the banal. His pictures had the fleeting poignancy of real life. Not so much perfectly banal, as perfect and banal (814 words)

The Language Of Dogs

Luc Santé | Paris Review | 11th August 2016

Thought experiment. What if dogs acquired the capacity for human speech? “Across the nation, citizens were being confronted by those they considered their ‘pets’. A Great Dane in Texas directed her human’s attention to the fact that he had gained two sizes since purchasing his suit. A Chihuahua in Los Angeles made merciless fun of his human couple’s table manners. Strays in a Chicago park surrounded a jogger ‘threateningly’ before interrogating her about corporate tax avoidance” (600 words)

Video of the day: Grammar For Cats

What to expect:

The New Yorker’s Comma Queen discusses what pronouns to use when referring to animals (1’57”)

Thought for the day

Any book which is at all important should be re-read immediately
Arthur Schopenhauer

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