Parenting, Evolution, Science, Smart Cars, New York Birds, Russia

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

A Manifesto Against Parenting

Alison Gopnik | Wall Street Journal | 8th July 2016

“To parent” is a goal-directed verb. The goal is “to somehow turn your child into a better or happier or more successful adult; better than they would be otherwise.” But beyond a very basic level, the effort is misdirected. It’s true that children who are deprived or neglected are more likely to have problems as adults. But the sort of details that tend to obsess middle-class parents — should strollers face front or back? — have no predictable effect on what children will be like when they grow up (2,300 words)

China Rewrites The Book On Human Origins

Jane Qiu | Nature | 12th July 2016

Asia was “the cradle of humanity” until the discovery of far older human remains in Africa relegated it to “a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac”. Now China is “pouring tens of millions of dollars a year” into excavations aimed at restoring Peking Man’s central place in evolution. “Finds in China and other parts of Asia have made it clear that a dazzling variety of Homo species once roamed the continent. They are challenging conventional ideas about the evolutionary history of humanity” (2,300 words)


Rafil Kroll-Zaidi | Harper's | 1st July 2016

News from the world of science. “A male black-horned tree cricket restricted to a diet of apples and water will consume his own spermatophore after a failed mating attempt. The number of chubs sold per day positively correlates with the frequency with which deli slicers are cleaned. Chinese engineers created a necklace that listens to what you eat. The Large Hadron Collider was shut down by a weasel later identified as a marten. The largest python ever captured laid a single egg, and died” (630 words)

Your Car Has Been Studying You Closely

David Welch | Bloomberg | 12th July 2016

Your car is spying on you, and hoping to sell the data. “Fire up a new model and it updates more than 100,000 data points, including rather personal details like the front-seat passenger’s weight. The navigation system tracks every mile and remembers your route to work.” The connected car “will be a wonderful convenience or an intrusive nightmare, depending on your tolerance”. The driverless car will be the same, only more so. Freed from the wheel, we will be “shopping in seat belts” (1,075 words)

Look Up And See!

Robert Paxton | New York Review of Books | 23rd June 2016

“New York is a particularly ‘birdy’ city (to use the birder’s term). Someone who makes a serious effort to find birds in the city almost every day — there are such people — can find upward of three hundred species in one year without ever leaving the city limits. The cumulative bird list of Central Park alone includes over 280 species. More different kinds of birds nest in New York City now than did fifty years ago, although those that just pass through may not be as numerous” (2,600 words)

We Are Smarter, Stronger And More Determined

Christian Neef | Der Spiegel | 13th July 2016

Interview with veteran Russian foreign-policy analyst Sergei Karaganov. Deliberately provocative, but many interesting points. “The political elite in Russia don’t want domestic reform, they aren’t ready for it. As such, they welcome an external threat … We currently find ourselves in a situation where we don’t trust you in the least, after all of the disappointments of recent years. And we are reacting accordingly. You should know that we are smarter, stronger and more determined” (1,600 words)

Video of the day: A Little Film About Thomas Burden

What to expect:

Profile of an English illustrator and designer who draws inspiration from the toys that he lacked as a child (3’04”)

Thought for the day

Gaiety is a quality of ordinary people. Genius presupposes some disorder in the machine
Denis Diderot

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