Mona Lisa, Neurons, Kate Raworth, Facebook, Jasper Johns


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

Mona Lisa’s Smile

Walter Isaacson | Atlantic | 8th October 2017

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait is a masterpiece of science as well as fine art. Leonardo spent as much time studying anatomy as he did painting, and he brought his genius to both, spending his days in the studio and his nights in a hospital morgue. “He is probably the only artist in history ever to dissect with his own hands the face of a human and that of a horse to see whether the muscles that move the lips are the same ones that can raise the nostrils of the horse’s nose” (2,800 words)

The Loneliest Neuron

Mark Humphries | The Spike | 5th October 2017

Somewhere at the back of your brain is the last neuron, the loneliest neuron, the one that gets the information from all the other neurons. What is its job? Where does it report? “No part of the brain exists in isolation from the rest. It is all one giant connected system. So where do the loneliest neurons send their pictures of the world? They tell us that perhaps the biggest question in neuroscience is: Why doesn’t every neuron know about everything?” (2,050 words)

Kate Raworth On Rethinking Economics

Caspar Henderson | Five Books | 2nd October 2017

Interview with “renegade economist” Kate Raworth on the need for new priorities in economics: We want quality rather than quantity. Growth is often good, but choose your metaphors carefully. “If I were to tell you I went to the doctor and she told me I had a growth, you know that this would be bad news. When something starts to grow uncontrollably within a healthy living system it will disrupt the very system on which it depends, and in our own bodies we call it cancer” (6,100 words)

Does Anybody Know What Facebook Is?

Max Read | New York | 3rd October 2017

The argument here is that Facebook has become too big to manage; the owners concentrate their control on the parts that produce money; and yet Facebook has inserted itself in the course of its growth into almost every corner of the world and almost every fork of social interaction; with the result that nobody quite understands everything that Facebook is and does. “Like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize” (5,050 words)

Jasper Johns: The Painting Counts

Morgan Meis | The Easel | 3rd October 2017

Another in Morgan Meis’s excellent series of essays for The Easel, on the career of Jasper Johns, who came of age when abstract expressionism was at its height in 1950s New York, and who broke with it decisively. At the risk of seeming banal, Johns explored the literal, painting flags and numbers — “things the mind already knows”. While others wondered about the relationship between image and reality, Johns resolved it by “creating images that are what they represent” (3,500 words)

Video of the day: Grown Structures

What to expect:

Variations on a theme. Generating shapes using computer graphics (5’30”)

Thought for the day

I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t true
Truman Capote

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