Browser Daily Newsletter 1260

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

The Behavioural Benefits Of Castration

John Brooke | New Statesman | 13th March 2014

A vet reflects. In a single week he has castrated "40 calves, two colts, three dogs, one cat, one ferret and a coatimundi", mostly "for behavioural rather than medical reasons". Dogs no longer lunge at the legs of passers-by; geldings graze peaceably in fields; rabbits fight less and cease to mate with their siblings. "Freed from desire, they appear to be contented. Brave new world! Time to sharpen the knives for Homo sapiens" (690 words)


Barbara Rose | Interview | 12th March 2014

Conversation with the monumental wrapper. "Our projects have two distinct periods: software period and hardware period. The software period is where the work exists in the mind of the thousand people who try to stop us and the thousand people who try to help us. The hardware period is where the project gets built". His latest work: a $350m pile of oil drums in Abu Dhabi bigger than the Great Pyramid (7,100 words)

The Stuntman

David Runciman | London Review Of Books | 13th March 2014

Scathing profile of Richard Branson, drawing heavily on Tom Bower's biography, Branson: Behind the Mask. Branson "pretends to be much richer than he really is". His business strategy is "to get as close as possible to the people with power and then exploit the connection for all it’s worth". His Virgin empire, full of "hare-brained schemes", is "a brilliant smoke-and-mirrors operation, driven by the undeniable charm of the man himself, along with his occasionally breathtaking shamelessness" (4,500 words)

Haiti’s Shadow Sanitation System

Jonathan Katz | New Yorker | 12th March 2014

Portrait of Leon, a bayakou, "a manual laborer who empties the cesspools that collect human waste under Haiti’s back-yard latrines". In a country with no working sewers "he is the sanitation infrastructure". The job is considered shameful. Some bayakous "never tell their wives what they do for a living". But the money is good. You can make more in three days than you might from a year sewing T-shirts (1,600 words)

A Deeper Look At Uber’s Dynamic Pricing

Bill Gurley | Above The Crowd | 11th March 2014

Uber investor defends surge pricing. Basic argument: it's supply and demand, drivers are independent agents, the market is efficient. Two interesting points: Periods of peak demand for rides - Saturday nights, storms, New Year's Eve — are also periods of reduced supply, when drivers would rather not drive; and surge prices are less damaging for Uber's reputation than sustained periods with no cars available (2,375 words)

Nate Silver On Being A Fox

Joe Coscarelli | New York | 13th March 2014

America's favourite statistician describes the mission of his news site, FiveThirtyEight: "This is data journalism, capital-D. Within that, we take a foxlike approach to what data means. It’s not just numbers, but numbers are a big part of this. We think that’s a weakness of conventional journalism, that you have beautiful English language skills and fewer math skills, and we hope to rectify that balance a little bit" (2,320 words)

Video of the day:  Where Time Comes From

Thought for the day:

"Almost any religion can be explained to another person in about half an hour" — A.C. Grayling

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