Weight, Productivity, Disobedience, Gödel, Nero

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

On Being Smaller

Colin Gillis | Avidly | 18th July 2017

How it feels to shed 100 pounds of body weight. Your sense of self and your relations with others are transformed for the better. “How different it feels to be in a world that celebrates your physical presence as healthy and desirable — and, indeed, is designed for bodies roughly your own size. Clothes fit me properly and flatter my figure. I can sit on the bus without squeezing against other commuters. Strangers open themselves to me with smiles and nods. The pleasure is mutual” (1,600 words)

Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant?

Adair Turner | INET | 21st July 2017

Yes. As a limit-case, imagine that a hundred years from now solar-powered robots deliver most goods and services. This huge volume of activity will count for a “trivial proportion” of measured GDP because it will cost so little. Almost all measured GDP will reflect “zero-sum or impossible-to-automate activities” such as rents, artists’ earnings, brand royalties. “Measured productivity growth will be close to nil, but also irrelevant to improvement in human welfare” (1,009 words)

When Can A Soldier Disobey An Order?

John Ford | War On The Rocks | 24th July 2017

The Manual For Courts Martial says that an American soldier should disobey orders that he or she “[knows] to be unlawful or a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known the orders to be unlawful”. Thus, soldiers who abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were convicted despite claiming, correctly, that they were following orders. “Those who serve in the US military are not automatons, and they are not asked to surrender all independent moral judgment” (2,100 words)

Kurt Gödel’s Story

Dr Dilts | Infinity +1 | 22nd July 2017

Brief, non-technical, rather charming sketch of the life of Kurt Gödel. “Gödel is famous for proving foundational questions about mathematics. He asked questions like, ‘Can I prove that math is consistent?’ and, ‘If I have a true statement, can I prove that it’s true?’ and, ‘Can I prove that it’s impossible to prove the statement, This statement is unprovable, is provable?'” For Einstein’s 70th birthday, Gödel created a spacetime which broke general relativity (890 words)

Nero At Grenfell Tower

Mary Beard | TLS | 22nd July 2017

Nero fiddled and sang while Rome burned in 64 AD, probably having started the fire himself in order to replan the city. But when the fire was over, Nero stepped up: He opened his grounds to the homeless, and issued rafts of building regulations to keep fires contained in the future. Which is more than can be said for the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or the British government, in the aftermath of Grenfell Tower. “What Nero didn’t do was set up a public inquiry” (506 words)

Video of the day: Firing Line: Jorge Luis Borges

What to expect:

William Buckley interviews J.L. Borges in Buenos Aires. Recorded 1st February 1977, monochrome (59’19”)

Thought for the day

The universe is not complicated, there’s just a lot of it
Richard Feynman

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