Schrodinger, Doomsday, Amo, Wine, Fraud

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

What Is Life?

Philip Ball | Nature | 29th August 2018

Revisiting Erwin Schrödinger’s short book, ‘What Is Life?’, published in 1944, which guessed at the nature of DNA. “The answer he offered looks prescient now: Life is distinguished by a ‘code-script’ that directs cellular organization and heredity, while apparently enabling organisms to suspend the second law of thermodynamics. The book helped to make influential biologists out of several physicists. But there’s no indication that biologists grasped the real significance of Schrödinger’s code-script as a kind of active program for the organism” (1,400 words)

How To Survive Doomsday

Daniel Wolf Savin & Michael Hahn | Nautilus | 30th August 2018

“In 500 million years or so no humans will remain on the surface of the Earth — at least, not outside of some hypothetical controlled environment. After the atmospheric CO2 is gone and no longer able to regulate Earth’s surface temperature, things will start to get very hot. In about a billion years, the average surface temperature will increase to above 45 degrees Celsius from the current 17 degrees Celsius. Important biochemical processes turn off at temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius, leaving most of the planetary surface uninhabitable” (1,400 words)

The Kidnapped German Philosopher

Kwame Anthony Appiah | Literary Hub | 29th August 2018

In 1707 a boy no more than five years old left the African Gold Coast for Amsterdam aboard a ship belonging to the Dutch West India Company. He then had to travel another few hundred miles to Wolfenbüttel, the home of Anton Ulrich, a major patron of the European Enlightenment. The ducal library in Wolfenbüttel housed one of the most magnificent book collections in the world. The librarian was Gottfried Leibniz. The boy, Amo, learned to read in six languages. He taught in two universities. In middle age he returned to the Gold Coast, where he was revered as a sage (1,860 words)

Rising Temperatures Bring A Reckoning

Aleszu Bajak | Undark | 30th August 2018

Bordeaux winemakers grapple with climate change. Since 1950 average local temperatures have risen 2.0 Celsius, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In hotter weather the great Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, produce fruitier, less acidic, more alcoholic red wines. The change is manageable for a few years yet. It may even be good for mid-market winemakers, by allowing for earlier harvesting. But in 40 or 50 years, the great Bordeaux reds will taste quite different, and they will probably have to be made from different grapes (1,830 words)

Nine Lives Of The Spanish Prisoner

Erik Shilling | Atlas Obscura | 3rd August 2018

A century before the first internet phishing scams, there was the “Spanish prisoner” scam — which was roughly the same scam, but slower, by post. Postal shakedowns were a “simple, and sometimes effective, way of illicitly separating rich people from their money” in the 19th century. The sender of the letter declared that he was willing to give one-third of a concealed or sequestered fortune if the recipient would help him recover it. Then came the ask: Before the treasure could be recovered, the writer needed some money in advance to cover expenses (940 words)

Video of the day Feeling A Nuclear Blast

What to expect:

Conversations with retired British soldiers exposed to nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s (12m 16s)

Thought for the day

What you can imagine depends on what you know
Daniel Dennett

Podcast Don’t Open A Restaurant | Freakonomics Radio

Kenji Lopez-Alt was a rock-star food writer. Then he tried opening a restaurant. Here’s what he learned
(37m 17s)

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