1917, Ernest Gellner, Pentagons, North Korea, Economics, Marketing


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

The Year Of The Century

Jeremy Black | Imperial And Global Forum | 11th July 2017

The greatest single event of the 20th century was arguably the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1910-11, opening the way to China’s modernisation. But 1917 was the pivotal year, bringing the Russian Revolution, America’s entry into World War I, and the Balfour Declaration reshaping the Middle East. Hard to say now which was more consequential: The communist experiment, the assertion of America as world power, or the entailing of the West in the founding of modern Israel (1,750 words)

Jacques Berque And Arab Culture

Ernest Gellner | Guardian | 11th July 2017

From the archives. One great sociologist’s obituary of another. “Berque became the theoretician of the entire Arab-Muslim world, and even of the Third World as a whole. Yet as the theoretician of Tiers-Mondiste romanticism he never displaced Frantz Fanon, and his personal crisis never received the same attention as that of Camus, notwithstanding the fact that he ended upon the right side and that his involvement was based on a superior knowledge of the rival civilisation” (1,400 words)

Tiling Proof Solves Century-Old Math Problem

Natalia Wolchover | Quanta | 11th July 2017

One of the oldest problems in geometry asks which shapes can interlock to tile a flat area in an endless pattern. The ancient Greeks proved that triangles, quadrilaterals and hexagons are the only regular polygons that tile. A new proof completes the classification. It closes the field of convex polygons that tile the plane at 15 pentagons, plus three hexagons and all quadrilaterals and triangles. Convex polygons with seven or more sides cannot tile (1,875 words)

Scared About North Korea? You Aren’t Scared Enough

Tobin Harshaw | Bloomberg | 8th July 2017

Q&A with arms-control expert Jeffrey Lewis about the threat from North Korea. “I don’t think the North Koreans are going to deliberately start a nuclear war, but I think they might use those weapons if they thought a war was coming. Despite the poor track record of decapitation strikes, the idea really frightens the North Koreans. But instead of making them behave, I suspect it will lead them to do things that I really don’t like, such as releasing nuclear weapons to lower level missile units” (2,600 words)

The Inept Firefighters’ Club

Dean Baker | Democracy | 10th July 2017

Part of a symposium on the shortcomings of economics as a predictive science. “Suppose that our fire department was staffed with out-of-shape incompetents. That would be really bad news, but it wouldn’t be obvious most of the time because we don’t often see major fires. The inadequacy of the fire department would become apparent only when a major fire hit and we were left with a vast amount of unnecessary death and destruction. This is essentially the story of modern economics” (1,230 words)

Things To Hang On Your Mental Mug Tree

Rory Sutherland | Edge | 11th July 2017

Conversation about marketing, behavioural economics and public choice. Interesting throughout. “You should try persuasion first, bribery second, and legislation third. What tends to happen in government, because it’s their natural mode of approach, is they use legislation first before they’ve even tried persuasion. Legislation is a blunter instrument than persuasion. One of the beautiful attributes of persuasion is people can always give a good reason and choose not to be persuaded” (6,500 words)

Video of the day: Beatles, Hippies, Hells Angels

What to expect:

Animated introduction to Sky Atlantic’s documentary about Apple Corps, by Fons Schiedon (2’25”)

Thought for the day

Economics is the study of human motivation with all the interesting variables set to zero
Rory Sutherland

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