Sea Cows, Paradoxes, Uber, Numbers


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

The Fate Of The Sea Cow

Jacob Mikanowski | Atlantic | 19th April 2017

Before the Ice Age, Earth was a land of giants. A few survived. Giant sloths were still living on Cuba six thousand years ago. Mammoths roamed Siberia four thousand years ago. Moa birds twelve feet tall foraged in New Zealand one thousand years ago. The last of the pre-Ice Age giants, Steller’s Sea Cows, survived into the 18C, until Vitus Bering found them in what is now the Bering Sea. One sea cow could feed a ship’s crew for a month. Within 30 years they were extinct (1,870 words)

The Outer Limits Of Reason

Noson Yanofsky | MITP On Nautilus | 24th April 2017

How to unpick paradoxes and self-contradictions. “Let’s take a tour through some small whole numbers. 1 is interesting because it is the first number. 2 is the first prime number. 3 is the first odd prime. The first few numbers have interesting properties. Any number that does not have an interesting property should be called an ‘uninteresting number’. What is the smallest uninteresting number? The smallest uninteresting number is an interesting number. We are in a quandary” (4,800 words)

Do You Have To Be An A–hole?

Ian Leslie | New Statesman | 4th April 2017

Airbnb boss Brian Chesky is an “all-round nice guy”. Uber boss Travis Kalanick is an “asshole”. Ands it shows: Uber behaves like Airbnb’s “dark twin”. But the moral seems to be that you don’t always need morals to win. “Time after time, Kalanick makes the risky but right decision after rejecting the advice of reasonable colleagues. It takes a certain kind of character to behave like this. Yes, it helps to be brave, resilient, and other admirable things – but it also helps to be an asshole” (2,200 words)

Heart Of Whiteness

Ijeoma Oluo | Stranger | 19th April 2017

Amusing and ruthless interview with Rachel Dolezal, the white Spokane woman who passed for a decade as black, headed the local chapter of the NAACP, and has since changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. “For a white woman to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to place herself at the forefront of local black society — well, it’s the ultimate ‘you can be anything’ success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny”

Mrs Whitcher And The Renegade Numbers

Rose Eveleth | Last Word On Nothing | 24th April 2017

“In 1938 a wallet manufacturer called the E.H. Ferree company had a genius idea: to show people just how well cards would fit in the wallet, by using a placeholder.” A genius idea, except that they put a real number on the placeholder social security card, that of an unwitting employee, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher. “At the peak of the Whitcher confusion, 5,755 people were using her social security number. In total over 40,000 people have reported her number as their own” (924 words)

Video of the day: Cat City

What to expect:

Cartoon. A roving cat finds a new job as a hairdresser (3’00”)

Thought for the day

Similes describe much, but prove nothing
Franz Kafka

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