Snails, Mel Brooks, Windows, Ambien, Mountain Maths


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

The Internet Of Snails

Justin E.H. Smith | Cabinet | 1st July 2015

A history of attempts to transmit messages using the supposed telepathic powers of animals, including wounded dogs and sympathetic snails. “A pair of snails are placed in separate boxes. When one snail is manipulated, it triggers an escargotic commotion that causes its partner to move. By having numerous pairs, each representing a letter of the alphabet, divided between corresponding troughs in the two boxes, successive manipulations of particular snails would transmit words” (4,900 words)

Mel Brooks In His 90s

David Denby | Atlantic | 21st July 2018

Delightful, understated profile. “Mel Brooks has just turned 92. He has blue-gray eyes and a rakish smile; the voice remains powerfully hoarse. No one is ever likely to miss a Mel Brooks joke, since he speaks, sometimes roars, with great precision. His normal speaking voice could be called classical Brooklyn, the sound I remember as a New York kid from encounters with taxi drivers, baseball fans, and teachers. Those men had a definite flavor, and they meant to be understood” (3,600 words)

Doing Windows

Jimmy Maher | Digital Antiquarian | 29th June 2018

A history of Microsoft Windows, on which to fall hungrily if the subject holds the slightest appeal; otherwise, pass by. The Windows name came from a marketing manager, Rowland Hanson, who also devised the branding strategy that Microsoft uses to this day. “Each product’s name would be stripped down to its essence, creating the impression that it was the definitive — or the only — product of its type. Thus Multi-Tool Word, after a few months on the market, became, simply, Microsoft Word” (6,400 words)

The Ambien Diaries

Shuja Haider | Popula | 22nd July 2018

On the faintly psychedelic pleasures of Ambien, the most commonly prescribed sleeping pill in America, which shares “a significant component of its chemical structure” with LSD. “Ambien doesn’t quite knock you out. What it does do is give you a choice. If you choose to sleep, you’ll find it easier to nod off than if you hadn’t taken it. But you can also choose not to, and that’s where things get interesting. My personal theory is that what the drug is treating is not insomnia, but repression” (3,980 words)

The Last Progress

Jordan Ellenberg | Believer | 1st November 2003

Loose-knit reflections on the virtues and skills needed to solve difficult maths problems, versus those needed to climb dangerous mountains. Touches on the Fermat Conjecture and the Riemann Hypothesis. “In 1923, the New York Times asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Everest. He told them: ‘Because it’s there’. No one asked him: ‘How do you know it’s there?’ Let alone: ‘What, exactly, is it?’ There are certain ontological issues mountain climbers are not called upon to address” (5,983 words)

Video of the day A Nuclear Bomb In The Marianas Trench

What to expect:

Kurzgesagt asks what would happen if a hydrogen bomb exploded in the depths of the ocean (6’02”)

Thought for the day

Clear thinking at the wrong moment can stifle creativity
Karl Lagerfeld

Podcast Gary Shteyngart | Hodinkee Radio

Author Gary Shteyngart talks about his new-found passion for collecting watches
(51m 23s)

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