Quote of the day

"In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposing team"
— Jean-Paul Sartre

The Fault

Norman Mailer’s ill-founded infatuation with robber and killer Gary Gilmore produced a book, The Executioner’s Song, which is still “absolutely astonishing” 35 years later. “What I didn’t expect is that the book’s most potent voices, the ones that stick in your head long after Gary’s bluster has faded, are those of women: Gary’s defeated mother, his deeply moral aunt, and Nicole, his damaged, hopeful girlfriend. All of Mailer’s admiration for Gilmore’s outlaw romance is balanced against the pain and disappointment of these women” (3,640 words)

Machine Intelligence, Part One

“Because we don’t understand how human intelligence works in any meaningful way, it’s difficult to make strong statements about how close or far away from emulating it we really are. We could be completely off track, or we could be one algorithm away … It’s possible that creativity and what we think of us as human intelligence are just an emergent property of a small number of algorithms operating with a lot of compute power” (1,030 words)

The Thrill Of Defeat

How science works, at its best. Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick, “two of the 20th century’s most brilliant geneticists”, spent ten years trying to decipher the language of DNA, only to find themselves scooped by a little-known biochemist who unveiled his breakthrough to an almost empty room at a conference in Moscow. Their reaction? They were delighted. The problem was solved. “We could get on with more important problems” (2,730 words)

Bayes’ Theorem With Lego

Bayes’ Theorem defines conditional probability — “how information about one event can give us understanding of another”; as such it offers a great improvement over the intuition or guesswork on which most of us tend to rely when relating one thing to another. The basic equation is a fairly easy one for mathematicians; others may need a helping hand. This explainer uses Lego bricks to get the idea across nicely (850 words)

Life With Bob Dylan 1989-2006

Conversations with the producers, engineers and musicians who worked with Bob Dylan on his six albums from Oh Mercy to Modern Times. “As we walked in to hear the playback, Dylan was in front of me, and he said, ‘Well, we’ve done everything on that one except call the symphony orchestra.’ If it had been my session, I would have got on the phone at that point and called the fucking symphony orchestra. But the cut was amazing” (8,000 words)

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