Newsletter 978

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

How Does Bitcoin Work?

Tom Standage | The Economist | 11th April 2013

You want Bitcoin explained in four paragraphs? The Economist is equal to the task: "It is underpinned by a peer-to-peer computer network made up of its users’ machines ... The entire network is used to monitor and verify both the creation of new Bitcoins through mining, and the transfer of Bitcoins between users. A log is collectively maintained of all transactions, with every new transaction broadcast across the Bitcoin network"

The Ark Builders

Barney Jopson | Financial Times | 5th April 2013

Answer In Genesis, an American evangelical group, plans a replica of Noah's Ark in Kentucky, built by Amish carpenters. “We’re saying: Hey, the flood was real." Animals will be represented "in real or mechanical form". To foreigners it sounds an eccentric project. In America speaks for the mainstream: "Creationism is not a sideshow. It is the most widely held belief about human origins in the US". (Metered paywall)

Exploding The Phone

Jason Brown | LA Review Of Books | 11th April 2013

On the history and practice of "phone-phreaking" — making free phone calls through the old Bell system by mimicking the control tones used for switching and routing. "The phreaks were connoisseurs of switches, savoring the delicate differences of clicks and line noise, refining their palettes on the terroir of regional system configurations, the specific ka-chunk of a reconfigured circuit, the unique hum of a secret conference line, all navigated by physical sensation"

My Time At Lehman

Nicholas Chirls | Thoughts From Brooklyn | 9th April 2013

Reminiscences of a junior analyst who joined a year before the crash. Pleasingly written, disturbingly honest. "The part of Wall Street that I worked in was simply transferring wealth from the less sophisticated investors, often teachers’ pension funds and factory workers’ retirement accounts, to the more sophisticated investors that call themselves proprietary trading desks and hedge funds"

Steak Shows Its Muscle

A.A. Gill | Vanity Fair | 12th April 2013

Sensibility alert: Begins with a description of drinking a half-pint of blood from a live cow. Before relaxing into a lyrical appreciation of steak and steakhouses. "We live in the steak age; marbled fatty buttock is the defining mouthful of our time ... A slab of bleeding meat is symbolic of something fundamental, something pre-banking, pre-mortgage, predownsizing, prehistoric. It is a metaphor for the most basic achievement: to kill for sustenance, to be strong, to man up"

Gay Marriage: The Joint Tax Return

Caleb Crain | Slate | 11th April 2013

You think US taxes are a pain? Try filing as a gay married couple when the constitutionality of marriage is still under review. "Each spouse had to complete a federal tax return as if he were single. Next the couple completed a third return, based on the counterfactual premise that the federal government did recognize their marriage after all"

Video of the day: Hummingbird Music Notation

Thought for the day:

"All prevailing philosophies embody the fiction that human life can be changed at will" — John Gray

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