Missileers, Decryption, Alexander Calder, Smokers, Nordbat

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

The Women Who Stand Between You And Nuclear War

Danielle McNally | Marie Claire | 8th September 2017

Meeting the “missileers”, who stand ready to launch America’s nuclear missiles. If and when the order comes, they “open a safe located between their workstations secured with two padlocks, one fastened on by each missileer. Inside is a code that the incoming encrypted message must match. But there’s an A-side and a B-side and neither missileer knows both. It’s all part of Two-Person Control — a system that ensures a rogue missileer can’t start World War III on her own” (3,400 words)


Christopher Felix McDonald | Creatures Of Thought | 20th September 2017

While Alan Turing was reverse-engineering the Enigma machine, William Tutte was doing the same thing a few huts away for a Nazi naval coding engine called Tunny. For all Turing’s mathematical genius, Tutte and his colleague William Newman achieved something that was even more momentous, in its way. They saw that electronics could process information far more quickly than humans, and they taught British engineers to make the first factory-built computers (3,400 words)

America’s Most Beloved Sculptor

Jed Perl | Smithsonian | 20th September 2017

Portrait of Alexander Calder, “a troubadour of the giddy high spirits of the Roaring Twenties”. By the time of his breakthrough Paris show in 1931, marriage had sobered him. “Nobody had ever seen abstract sculpture of such austere lucidity. Arranged on a long, low platform, these works had an eloquence that was rooted in the artist’s simplicity of means — the elegance with which wire elements were attached to one another. The work was a deep dive into the nature of nature” (3,800 words)

Smokers Are The Last Nice People Online

Rosa Lyster | Outline | 19th September 2017

“The online love-to-smoke community is one of the most supportive and kindly corners of the internet I have ever encountered, especially for a group preoccupied with abetting a habit that is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. I’m not sure if this is a particularly illuminating observation, whether it says something profoundly terrible about humanity and where it is headed, or whether this is something we should find solace in. I change my mind about it a lot” (1,980 words)

Trigger-Happy, Autonomous, And Disobedient

Tony Ingesson | Strategy Bridge | 20th September 2017

Gripping account of the Nordic Battalion in Bosnia, explaining why Sweden, seemingly Europe’s most peace-loving nation, has its most freebooting military culture. “Officers and enlisted men were taught that the only truly mortal sin was to hesitate. To seize the initiative and act was the primary imperative. There was no priority higher than that of achieving the mission objectives at hand. Orders could be disobeyed, rules could be broken — as long as the mission was successful” (3,100 words)

Video of the day: Wittgenstein In Cambridge

What to expect:

Wittgenstein talks to Keynes and others, from Derek Jarman’s film “Wittgenstein” (3’00”)

Thought for the day

Procrastination is a prelude in a minor key
Boris Vian

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