Starlings, Mars, Wine, Magic, War


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

Learning To Live With Starlings

Lyanda Lynn Haupt | TED Ideas | 20th June 2017

A 19C Bronx pharmacist and Shakespeare aficionado called Eugene Schieffelin decided to bring every bird mentioned in the works of Shakespeare to Central Park. Based on a single reference to a starling in Henry IV he purchased 80 of the birds in 1890, had them shipped to the US, and released them on a snowy March day. Genetic research leads ornithologists to believe that all of the hundreds of millions of “despised” starlings in North America are descendants of Schieffelin’s birds (1,400 words)

Making Humans A Multi-Planetary Species

Elon Musk | New Space | 1st June 2017

Elon Musk explains the rationale, the economics, and the technology that will be needed for humans to colonise Mars. “You cannot create a self-sustaining civilisation if the ticket price is $10 billion per person. If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilisation is very high. I think it would almost certainly occur” (7,000 words)

What Makes A Great Wine?

Dwight Furrow | 3 Quarks Daily | 19th June 2017

A wine is great in the same way that a book or painting is great — it has an abundance of virtues to delight different people in different ways, always with more to offer. “Some seem on the verge of falling apart before finding their centre; others embody paradoxes with features that seem incompatible but somehow manage to achieve unity. Great wines present themselves as something in process, embodying a kind of instability that is ultimately resolved but experienced in its transitions” (1,800 words)

The Use And Abuse Of Witchdoctors

Lou Keep | Samzdat | 19th June 2017

Bullet-proofing magic is relatively widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Fighters wear gris-gris charms for immunity. The belief is “puzzling, since bullets do seem to keep killing people”. So why does gris-gris thrive? Perhaps because belief in its power makes members of a group more willing to fight, and braver when they do. Believers thus tend to beat non-believers. So gris-gris does confer superiority, if not immunity. It is rational for groups to encourage irrational belief (4,300 words)

The Wages Of War Without Strategy

Jacqueline Tame & Robert Cassidy | The Strategy Bridge | 20th June 2017

Clausewitz described war as the continuation of politics with other means, not by other means. The political strategy must be there. Without it, war is futile — as America has demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American approach “stems from a long-standing propensity for binary perspectives, exacerbated by a anti-intellectualism. It stems from a national intolerance for patience. Wars sell particularly when those who wage them constitute small fractions of the population” (2,700 words)

Video of the day: Woodswimmer

What to expect:

Music by bedtimes, pictures of wood by Brett Foxwell (1’40”)

Thought for the day

Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea
Iris Murdoch

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