Salvator Mundi, Publishing, Prison, Daniel Dennett, Russia, Quantum Technology

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


Felix Salmon | 16th November 2017

Notes on the sale of the supposed and much-restored Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, for $450 million. “It’s fair to say that Christie’s has a personal relationship with every human being on the planet who’s willing and able to pay $400 million for a painting. You can be sure that all of them were contacted by the auction house at some point over the past month. And you don’t need to know anything about art to spend $450 million on a painting; all you need is $450 million” (870 words)

The Uncommon Reader

D.J. Taylor | Guardian | 17th November 2017

In praise of that most voracious of publishers’ readers, Edward Garnett, who gave upward nudges to John Galsworthy, D.H. Lawrence, T.E. Lawrence, and Joseph Conrad. Married at 21, he “spent most of his adult life in a ménage à trois involving his wife, Constance, the distinguished translator of Tolstoy and Chekhov, and a woman named Nellie Heath”. In the course of 50 years he worked his way through 20,000 manuscripts — enough to stretch “from one side of central London to the other” (1,300 words)

Prisoner To Violence

Demetrius Buckley | Marshall Project | 16th November 2017

After a fight in the prison yard, a prisoner reflects on why and how he lost his head. “Everyone here has their war story. Seasoned from past penitentiary wars, time in the hole, lifting law books in laundry bags for exercise, one thousand push-ups a day. Institutionalized. Suddenly, my group of inmates storms one side of the yard. I feel nothing further as I dash across the court and plunge a self-made shank into a combatant’s jaw, neck, and chest. I’m what a prison made of me” (1,530 words)

A Difference That Makes a Difference

Daniel Dennett | Edge | 17th November 2017

Daniel Dennett talks about information theory, consciousness, language, AI, deep learning, and his disenchantment with language and meaning. “What deep learning is now doing is coming up with competences that were unimaginable just a few years ago. They don’t depend on being able to deduce from axioms that this has to be the meaning of this or that. They’re not deductive at all. It may be the butterfly that flaps its wings that causes the hurricane” (3,200 words)

Russia’s Gay Demons

Robert Cottrell | New York Review Of Books | 16th November 2017

Modesty should forbid, but since Masha Gessen has just won a National Book Award, I recommend this review as a pointer to the book. Gessen shows how recent Russian history appeared to those in the midst of it at the time. “On one side is the historian explaining the rise of Putin as a logical reaction to the failings of Yeltsin. On the other is Masha’s mother, wondering how on earth that dull man she met while selling insurance in St. Petersburg a few years back is now the prime minister” (3,290 words)

Quantum Technology: A Primer

Michael Biercuk & Richard Fontaine | Wart On The Rocks | 17th November 2017

Written for national security professionals, but accessible to the general reader. Quantum technology involves the manipulation of individual atoms and sub-atomic particles to process data exponentially faster than current digital technology can do. Quantum technology already enables the ultra-accurate clocks needed for GPS. It can provide completely secure communications channels. Quantum computers, now in development, are likely to make all existing cryptography obsolete (3,700 words)

Video of the day What’s New, Atlas?

What to expect:

A robot does things you probably thought a robot could never do, including a back-flip (1’00”)

Thought for the day

Originality consists of trying to be like everybody else and failing
Raymond Radiguet

Podcast of the day Franklin D. Roosevelt | Washington Post

Allida Black, Paul Sparrow and Sarada Peri discuss Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, from Eleanor Roosevelt’s perspective

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