Browser Daily Newsletter 1177


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

Life Does Not Really Exist

Ferris Jabr | Scientific American | 2nd December 2013

Life is a concept, not a thing. It cannot be demonstrated or isolated. "All matter that exists is an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles. In trying to define life, we have drawn a line at an arbitrary level of complexity and declared that everything above that border is alive and everything below it is not. In truth, this division does not exist outside the mind. There is no threshold at which a collection of atoms suddenly becomes alive"

Ukraine, Russia And Europe

Charles Crawford | Telegraph | 2nd December 2013

"The EU cares less about Ukraine than it says it does, whereas Moscow cares a lot. When he first took power Vladimir Putin defined his basic objective for Russian policy: To keep what’s ours. Putin’s Moscow has generous definitions of what is theirs, including all former Soviet republics, any sizeable Russian-speaking communities beyond Russia’s borders, and any Slav/Orthodox nations that have yet to join the EU or Nato" (Metered paywall)

Die, Selfish Gene, Die

David Dobbs | Aeon | 3rd December 2013

For a century the primary account of evolution, culminating in Richard Dawkins's Selfish Gene, has emphasised the gene as the determinant of the species. But the more we learn about genes, the more they take on the character of variables: they can act and interact to produce lots of different outcomes. We may be able to adapt to new environments without changes to our DNA; changes in the way our DNA operates may be enough

Polyester Airlines

Grace | Flightfox | 2nd December 2013

Comparing the business models of Ryan Air in Europe and Southwest Airlines in America. Both are budget airlines; but Southwest wants to be loved for great service, whereas Ryan Air exploits its customers shamelessly — and makes far bigger profits. Conclusion: "In the league that Ryanair plays in, Southwest is simply too nice. Southwest maintains wholesome traditional values that when added together, end up costing them millions"

Central Banks And Property Bubbles

Alex Harrowell | A Fistful Of Euros | 2nd December 2013

You can't always control property bubbles with interest rates, especially when the economy in general is weak. The higher rates you need to curb property speculation would kill the rest of the economy. So, sometimes macro-level policy targets require micro-level interventions. It sounds like a contradiction, but that's why central banks need powers of regulatory intervention: To make monetary policy work

How To Shut Down A Reactor

Jacques Hymans | Foreign Affairs | 3rd December 2013

After agreeing to cap Iran's nuclear programme, President Hassan Rouhani has to sell the deal at home. The programme has been going for decades, is central to national aspirations, and supports thousands of bureaucrats and scientists. There are going to be hiccups. "Iran must be held to its promises, but not in a manner that weakens the power or resolve of the very people who have the strongest interest in keeping those promises"

Video of the day: OWLS

Thought for the day:

"The only meaning of life worth caring about is one that can withstand our best efforts to examine it" — Daniel Dennett

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