Peru, Beatles, Irian Jaya, Mathematics, Silver, Walter Lippmann


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

The Distant Shore

Jon Lee Anderson | New Yorker | 8th August 2016

For more than a century the Mashco Piro people of Peru have lived in isolation in the Madre de Dios rain forest. They were last disturbed when the 19C rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald — Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo — tried to run a railway through their territory. So why now are they showing themselves on the river bank, and yet killing strangers who come near? Are they asking to be introduced to the outside world, or is that the very danger against which they are fighting? (Metered paywall) (10,800 words)

Revolver

Edward Greenfield | Guardian | 15th August 2016

Fifty years on, the Guardian’s review of The Beatles’ Revolver holds up well; as does the record. “Specific understanding of emotion comes out even in the love songs – at least the two with the best tunes, both incidentally sung by Paul McCartney, the Beatle with the strongest musical staying power. For No One uses Purcellian tricks to hold the attention, a gently-moving, seamless melody with descending bass motif, over which there emerges a haunting descant, beautiful by any standards” (670 words)

Indonesian Diary

Rory Stewart | London Review Of Books | 20th July 2000

Notes from the jungles of Irian Jaya. “The river was far from the village and bathing was rare. The moss forest was cramped, cold and difficult. There were no deer, monkey, tigers or bear. Caleb’s people, the Una, did not yet make iron, textiles or pottery. It was not a place of natural abundance but a mountain land, soaked in cold rain, where you could not see the sunset. We were on the central spine of New Guinea, a vast island, 2400 kilometres long, marooned between Australia and the Pacific” (4,200 words)

What Is It Like To Understand Advanced Math?

Anonymous | Quora | 15th May 2015

“You are confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof (this happens especially often in geometry). You have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true. It’s not so much that you can imagine the situation perfectly, but you can quickly imagine many other things that are logically connected to it” (3,100 words)

How The Hunt Brothers Cornered The Silver Market

Ben Christopher | Priceonomics | 4th August 2016

It was illegal for Americans to trade gold in the early 1970s, so the Hunt brothers turned to the next best thing. By the start of 1980 they owned “roughly two-thirds of all the privately held silver on Earth”. The silver price spiked from $5 to $50 per ounce. But it didn’t last long. At $50 families started melting down the cutlery, allowing short-sellers to deliver physical silver. The Hunts’ corner crashed. But they live on in fiction: CBS took them as models for the Ewing clan in the soap opera Dallas (3,100 words)

Generations Of Economic Journalism

David Warsh | Economic Principals | 14th August 2016

Walter Lippmann was arguably most influential American economic journalist of the past century, rivalled only by Robert Bartley. A co-founder of the New Republic and a friend of Keynes, Lippmann began as a progressive, swung to the right in mid-life, then swung left again. His book celebrating decentralised markets, The Good Society, became a founding text of neoliberalism. “His life was a panorama of virtually everything that happened to America in the twentieth century” (1,700 words)

Video of the day: Spherical Harmonics

What to expect:

Fantasia, exploiting and satirising the pleasure that we take in being surprised by computer-generated images (5’07”)

Thought for the day

In analysing history, do not be too profound, for often the causes are superficial
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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