Quote of the day

"Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies"
Anthony Daniels

The FedEx Problem

A post to Hacker News argues that FedEx’s Memphis hub is 315 miles from the optimal point for serving all America’s major cities. Whereupon the executive who wrote the scheduling software for the FedEx fleet shows up in the comments and explains what else determined the choice of hub besides geometry; and discusses how FedEx plans delivery routes for planes serving multiple cities, a famously complex maths problem (6,100 words)

President Obama Interviews David Simon

Obama sits down with Simon, creator of The Wire, to talk about drugs, policing and prison. Video followed by transcript. Obama acknowledges that America has pursued drug prohibition at too high a cost: “From a libertarian perspective, the way we treat non-violent drug crimes is problematic, and from a fiscal perspective is breaking the bank”. He sees The Wire as an important early step in changing the narrative (2,100 words)

Reader, I Muted Him

Authors of literary fiction hate to let cellphones into their stories — and with good reason. Cellphones ruin coincidences, dispel uncertainties, resolve tensions, and allow everybody to talk at once without being overheard. A popular workaround is to set the story in the 1980s and 1990s — a “nostalgic present” when life is recognisably modern, when modern stories can be told, but cellphones are absent (2,720 words)

The Intangible Corporation

About 80% of the value of the S&P 500 is attributable to intangible assets. We are entering the era of the “mindful corporation”, the enterprise that is valued entirely for its brands, skills, ideas, patents and customers. WhatsApp had no assets, no profits and very few employees when Facebook bought it for $22 billion. “The less tangible a corporation’s assets, the freer it is to escape commitment” — and, of course, taxation (860 words)

The Myth Of Europe’s Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age is generally seen as a major event in European history. But it didn’t happen. European weather was constant from the Middle Ages until 1900. The Little Ice Age is a statistical artefact creating by smoothing the climate data into 25-year moving averages. Nor does the supposed anecdotal evidence hold up. The Thames froze more often owing to the new London Bridge, not to climate change (1,500 words)

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