Altruism, London Property, Fox News, Justin Gatlin, Drones, Climbing


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

Tom Stoppard’s Hard Problems

David Sloan Wilson | Evolution Institute | 21st May 2015

Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson recounts discussions about altruism with Tom Stoppard. Sloan Wilson's books helped inform Stoppard's play, The Hard Problem. But Stoppard contends that altruism is spiritual, not scientific: "Even if science can explain the kind of instinctive altruism found in bees and brainworms it can’t or at least hasn’t explained the kind of consciously motivated altruism found in humans" (1,690 words)

House Of Secrets

Ed Caesar | New Yorker | 23rd May 2015 | Metered paywall

Enthralling investigation into the history and mystery of Witanhurst, the biggest private house in London, perched on the edge of Hampstead Heath and said to be worth £300 million. To the increasing despair of the neighbours, the absentee owner has spent seven years rebuilding the house and grounds to resemble Versailles. But who is he? Eventually, the New Yorker tracks him down. But that is another story ... (6,950 words)

How Fox News Changed America

Bruce Bartlett | Social Science Research Network | 10th May 2015

Highly readable academic paper (PDF) by economist Bruce Bartlett arguing that Fox News may have succeeded too well in capturing American conservatives. It is "the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions". Viewers undergo "self-brainwashing". They "refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and believe whatever appears on it as gospel truth" (6,770 words)

The Gatlin Dilemma

Ross Tucker | Science of Sport | 19th May 2015

Justin Gatlin, currently the world's fastest runner, is setting new personal records at the age of 33. Which is almost incredible. Most top sprinters peak around the age of 27, Usain Bolt ran his best at 22. Gatlin may be innocently atypical; but a past four-year ban for using steroids scarcely inspires confidence. "Gatlin is a former doper, dominating a historically doped event, while running faster than his previously doped self" (2,360 words)

Theorizing The Drone

Grégoire Chamayou | Longreads | 13th May 2015

Philosopher explores the tactical and ethical implications of drone warfare. Interesting and well-researched throughout. The drone pilot is the opposite of the kamikaze or suicide bomber. The drone pilot cannot be killed; the suicide bomber is certain to die. Both disturb our moral sense of what is acceptable in war, because neither is risking retribution. The drone pilot is far out of reach; the suicide bomber is already dead (7,700 words)

Unclimbable

Eva Holland | SBNation | 20th May 2015

Diary of an expedition into the Cirque Of The Unclimbables, a remote ring of mountains in Canada’s Northwest Territories "sacred to serious rock climbers", reached by floatplane from the Yukon. "You fly until the flat forested land pushes up into toothy gray mountains, glaciers peeking around the sharp edges of the spires, and the pilot cheerily reminds you that any mistake out here will result in all of your deaths" (7,800 words)

Video of the day: The Casebook Of Nips And Porkington

What to expect: Cartoon detective story set inside a newspaper (2'28")

Thought for the day

The best qualification for a prophet is to have a good memory
Lord Halifax

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