Every day, The Browser selects and summarises the five best articles from across the web on every imaginable topic. Here, instead we turn our attention to the world of academic writing and have selected five papers from different disciplines worth your attention.
Tim Ingold | Archaeological Dialogues | 04 April 2007 | MP
Human reliance on material culture is based on the premise that objects contain inviolable truth. But ceci n'est pas une pipe: our understanding of items is biased by our own limited perspectives and the context in which we see them. If "anthropologically trained moles, of a philosophical bent" were to examine the same objects, would their conclusions be the same as ours? (7,678 words or DOI: 10.1017/S1380203807002127)
Barbara Romanowicz | Science | 24 April 2009 | MP
There is no precise measurement for the thickness of tectonic plates. We know they float on the upper mantle, but the actual boundary between plate and substratum is less clear than our models predict. The crust, heat, low-velocity zones under ocean basins, and partially melting rock all stymie seismic studies. The author covers some recent attempts to tackle this longstanding mystery (1,393 words or DOI: 10.1126/science.1172879)
Dennis Ogburn | Ethnohistory | December 2004 | U
The Incan king Huaina Cápac was once said to have ordered two houses of 450 stones weighing 700 kg each to be moved more than 1,600 km—a feat long dismissed as propagandistic exaggeration. After all, the Incas never invented the wheel, which necessitated transporting all their building materials by hand over mountainous terrain. Yet after comparing stone samples, the author verifies parts of this and other tales (12,981 words or DOI: 10.1215/00141801-51-1-101)
Marlise Rijks | Gems in the Early Modern World | 2018 | U
Due to the popularity of gem collecting for science and decoration, a parallel industry of chemists—who produced fakes such as “pearls made of glass” and “metals imitated by artifice”—sprung up in early modern Antwerp. Collectors deliberately added these counterfeits to their hoards, seeing the process of their creation as displays of a different kind of knowledge. (1,012 words or DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-96379-2)
Marsha L. Dutton | Arthuriana | 2007 | MP
Scholars have long sought the historical antecedent to the tale of King Arthur pulling sword from stone. Dutton postulates it came from a canonization of the life of Edward the Confessor when the bishop Wulfstan thrust his holy staff into the stone tomb of Edward in protest at being sacked. All fail to retrieve the staff in the stone except Wulfstan, a feat that divinely secured his position (10,072 words or DOI: 10.1353/art.2007.0018)
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