New York Subway, American Poverty, Lemurs, Altruism, Graffiti

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

The Missing Countdown Clocks

James Somers | Atlantic | 13th November 2015

A modern signalling system for the New York subway would allow trains to run more frequently, reduce delays, provide real-time travel information, and slash costs. But don't hold your breath. The MTA's attempt to upgrade a single stretch of line took 12 years. At that rate, upgrading the whole system would take 175 years and cost at least $20 billion. “You try to benchmark New York to other places and you can’t" (6,550 words)

America’s Poorest White Town

Chris McGreal | Guardian | 12th November 2015

“I was an alcoholic first. I got drunk and fell in the creek and broke my back. Then I got hooked on the painkillers”, explains one resident of Beattyville in eastern Kentucky, where the median household income is $12,361, half the families live below the poverty line, most rely on food stamps, and drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death. "Education is horrible here. This is a third-world county" (7,400 words)


Rafil Kroll-Zaidi | Harper's | 13th November 2015

Digest of the past month's scientific news. "Malagasy lemurs yawn more following an episode of anxiety. The eruption of Cotopaxi threatened to kill off the Quito rocket frog. Climate change is shortening the tongues of bumblebees. Raindrops bounce ants into pitcher plants. Mad cow disease causes the Galician wolf to eat more wild ponies. Transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces belief in God" (620 words)

Darwinian Bases For Altruism

Richard Dawkins | Delancey Place | 13th November 2015

There are at least four evolutionary arguments explaining why humans often choose to help others. First, in the special case of genetic kinship; second, as part of a continuing trade in the giving and receiving of favours; third, to acquire a reputation for generosity and kindness; fourth, to advertise the giver's high social status. "Only a genuinely superior individual can afford to advertise the fact by means of a costly gift" (705 words)

Kilroy Is Still Here

Scott Beauchamp | Paris Review | 12th November 2015

People make graffiti "wherever they don’t feel comfortable — embellishing the physical space to feel more psychologically at home". Which is why soldiers tend do a lot of it. The enduring fascination with insults and bodily functions ensures that, "in the same way that you could imagine a thread running from, say, the Wife of Bath to Nicki Minaj, it often seems that ancient graffiti is in conversation with our own" (1,450 words)

Video of the day: The Scream

What to expect: Christmas edition of Sebastian Cosor's animation, with music from Pink Floyd (2'16")

Thought for the day

Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them
P.J. O'Rourke (

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