Shakespeare, Minds, Maintenance, Findings, Birdsong

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

Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

Rowan Williams et al | New Statesman | 23rd April 2016

Rowan Williams on Henry V, Will Self on King Lear, Imogen Stubbs and Simon Callow on The Tempest, Howard Jacobson on The Merchant Of Venice, Germaine Greer on Hamlet, Colm Tóibín on The Winter’s Tale. “It is through Shakespeare that we know what being modern is: free from irrationality, alone in a world we understand imperfectly and usually too late. And free from political or religious dogma, too. The play’s the thing” (5,600 words)

Other Minds And Cryptominds

Alun Anderson | New Scientist | 20th April 2016

Review of The Mind Club, “a brilliant short guide to thinking like a truly modern post-Cartesian”, by Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray. “Robots are high in agency but low in feeling, babies are high in feeling but lack agency, God has infinite agency but isn’t much of a feeler, never getting hungry. We see mind in big corporations too, but they are all agency and no feeling, which may explain why we can easily end up hating them” (1,500 words)

Hail The Maintainers

Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel | Aeon | 7th April 2016

We overvalue innovation; we undervalue the routine work that keeps the built world going. Innovation is “only a small piece of what happens with technology”. Most of what happens is repair and maintenance, when innovation becomes infrastructure. Just as we celebrate innovators, so we should celebrate maintainers, “those individuals whose work keeps ordinary existence going rather than introducing novel things” (3,000 words)


Rafil Kroll-Zaidi | Harper's | 25th April 2016

News from the world of science. “Ravens understand that a peephole allows a pilferer to spy on them. Male red-backed fairy-wrens who swiftly and loudly join their mates in duets are less likely to be cuckolded. Highly schizotypal French students are better at blindfolded self-tickling. Short dogs act more defensively than tall dogs when confronted with humans dressed as ghosts. Old dogs are slower to learn new tricks” (580 words)

The Genius Of Birds

Jennifer Ackerman | Literary Hub | 24th April 2016

A songbird’s voice-organ, called the syrinx, has two vibrating membranes buried deep in the chest where the trachea splits. Gifted birds can tense the membranes independently, yielding “different, harmonically unrelated notes at the same time”. They “shift the volume and frequency of each with such breathtaking speed as to produce some of the most acoustically complex and varied vocal sounds in nature” (2,300 words)

Video of the day: Planet Earth

What to expect:

New ultra-high-definition footage from the International Space Station (1’37”)

Thought for the day

In war, force and fraud are the cardinal virtues
Thomas Hobbes

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