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Scotland’s Trauma

The Scottish independence vote offers a playbook for British campaigners against the European Union, who also want a referendum. Lesson one: Plenty of people want change for its own sake; anything will do. Lesson two: Class warfare works. “The Out campaign’s playbook will be a close replica of the one developed by the Yes team in Scotland. It will be deliberately divisive, creating rancour and resentment” (1,180 words)

The Human Factor

Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic five years ago because a transient technical glitch sent the two junior pilots into a panic. They were trained to fly automated planes. They couldn’t cope when the automation faltered. “The mental makeup of airline pilots has changed. A different crowd is flying now, and though excellent pilots still work the job, on average the knowledge base has become very thin” (12,300 words)

What If Counterfactuals Never Existed?

Hypotheticals can help us to understand history. They correct hindsight bias — the judgment that whatever happened was bound to happen. They challenge deterministic theories by emphasising chance and individual action. But historians should use them in moderation. The special value of history as a discipline lies in its capacity to discern what did happen, not what could have or should have happened (4,080 words)

Scientist And Mob Idol

Profile of Albert Einstein, “a mental Hercules, according to those who know his work”. Once reclusive, “he has developed into a mixer, a wit, an authority on things in general” since moving to America in 1930. Nobody can truly understand his theories, but they fascinate the public, as shown by “the famous Einstein riot at the American Museum of Natural History, where movies purporting to explain relativity were being shown” (2,808 words)

Grandmaster Clash

“One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.” Brooklyn-born Fabiano Caruana, 22, scored “the highest tournament performance rating of all time”, 8.5 points out of a possible 10, at the Sinquefield Cup at St Louis. His seven wins and three draws included one win and one draw against world champion Magnus Carlsen, two years his senior; Caruana rises to world number two (6,400 words)

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