Richard Feynman, Australia, Rabbits, Weiner, Control, Spotify

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

How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space

Frank Wilczek | Quanta | 5th July 2016

Almost, because they weren’t quite right. But Feynman’s belief that it should be possible to represent particle physics with a pencil and paper and some wavy and straight lines set everybody else thinking too, and helped win Wilczek his Nobel prize. Even in this engaging and highly simplified re-telling, the science gets a bit abstract, but at the back of it is the distinction between a vacuum and a void. When Aristotle said, ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’, he probably meant, ‘Nature abhors a void’ (2,300 words)

Rom Watangu

Galarrwuy Yunupingu | The Monthly | 5th July 2016

An astonishing piece of writing by one of Australia’s most respected indigenous leaders. Reflections in old age on history and politics and culture. “Let us be who we are – Aboriginal people in a modern world – and be proud of us. Acknowledge that we have survived the worst that the past had thrown at us, and we are here with our songs, our ceremonies, our land, our language and our people – our full identity. What a gift this is that we can give you, if you choose to accept us” (8,500 words)

An Extraordinary Delivery Of Rabbits

Edward White | Paris Review | 5th July 2016

The strange tale of Mary Toft, a Londoner expecting her fourth child in 1726. “It seemed that she was going into premature labour. But her midwife, John Howard, observed that Mary gave birth not to a baby but to dead, dismembered animals — first something that looked like a pig’s bladder, then a cat’s paw and head, and afterward rabbits, one after the other. By the time Howard reported the case to the distinguished medical men of London, he had delivered eleven rabbits from Mary” (2,470 words)


Cathleen Schine | New York Review of Books | 4th July 2016

Sparkling review of Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s “baffled and sympathetic” documentary about Anthony Weiner, the New York congressman who ruined his career on two separate occasions by texting nude pictures to strangers. The film is “confusing and true in a way we often associate with fiction. Weiner would be a memorable fictional character, New York’s own Phineas Finn, flawed, weak, charming, moving, and human; an honest man who does not always tell the truth” (2,370 words)

Bias And Control

Chris Dillow | Stumbling And Mumbling | 3rd July 2016

Just as we have biases and blind spots in our economic behaviour, so we have them in our political behaviour. We underestimate inequality. We also seem to think that “control” is intrinsically a good thing; we want more of it, even when the effects are bad. “Controlling immigration” comes to mean shutting people out. “Controlling public finances” comes to mean cutting public spending. “People aren’t just misinformed about political issues. They are irrational too” (1,150 words)

Listening In An Age of Musical Plenty

Deirdre Loughridge | Spooky And The Metronome | 5th July 2016

Discussion of Ben Ratliff’s book, Every Song Ever, about streaming music sites such as Spotify which offer listeners immediate access to almost every piece of music commercially recorded in recent years. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Good, for the obvious reason that we can enjoy whatever music we want. Bad, to the extent that we respond to this plenty by inviting Spotify’s algorithms to choose our music for us. Our listening habits become less, not more, adventurous (1,780 words)

Video of the day: Hong Kong Strong

What to expect:

High-velocity montage of street scenes and aerial views. Dazzling. Never a dull second (7’00”)

Thought for the day

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage
Sydney Smith

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