Browser Daily Newsletter 1220


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

Rediscovering Bartók’s Quartets

Philip Kennicott | New Republic | 27th January 2014

"There are moments in Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1 when the gloom lifts, when the densely woven musical lines pause for a spot of pure, consonant sunniness. In Beethoven or Brahms these rare and radiant episodes would bring the argument to a conclusion, or summation, before moving on with a new idea. But in Bartók the effect is almost visual. The music has been pierced, like sun through a canopy of trees"

Public Interest And Colonial Records

Robert Gildea | Conversation | 27th January 2014

Britain wrote the history of its Empire in uplifting terms; it brought "free trade, Christianity and education" to other nations. The dark side of colonialism — "ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, torture and massacres" — was censored from the public record, and remains so. A million government files going back to the Crimean War are still hidden in secret archives. It's time to open them up and set the record straight

Our Quantum Reality Problem

Adrian Kent | Aeon | 28th January 2014

Quantum theory is "supposed to describe the behaviour of elementary particles, atoms, molecules and every other form of matter in the universe". But it is still something of a black box. "While the mathematics of quantum theory works very well in telling us what to expect at the end of an experiment, it seems peculiarly conceptually confusing when we try to understand what was happening during the experiment"

How Do Believers Choose Their Beliefs?

John Wilkins | Evolving Thoughts | 28th January 2014

Religious beliefs can be explained as signalling systems for binding communities together. But why choose one belief over another? The reason is: No reason. "There are several properties for a costly signal. One is that it must be arbitrary: it should not be a trait or behaviour that is selectively advantageous, or many different varieties or organisms will trick upon it. So an honest, costly signal is an arbitrary signal"

Lessons From The World’s Most Tech-Savvy Government

Ben Horowitz & Sten Tamkivi | Atlantic | 24th January 2014

Estonia re-engineers society and government for the digital age. General elections are held online; tax collection is near-frictionless. Key elements in the transformation are a "simple, unique ID methodology" across all systems, and universal acceptance of secure digital signatures. Putting government in the cloud raises the cost of successful cyber attack against the State, but lowers the cost of a physical attack

Video of the day:  Peter Seeger And Bruce Springsteen, "This Land"

Thought for the day:

"For every goal you put in front of someone, put in place a counter-goal to restrict gaming of the first goal" — Andy Grove

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