Browser Daily Newsletter 1316


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

Beauty And Truth: A False Equation

Philip Ball | Aeon | 19th May 2014

Einstein said that "the only physical theories that we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones". But what can "beauty" mean, in science? In practice it seems to connote qualities such as simplicity, inevitability, symmetry. But this is a strange idea of beauty; we usually associate beauty with degrees of complexity and surprise. "Our galleries are not, on the whole, filled with paintings of perfect spheres" (3,050 words)

The Sunk Cost Heuristic

Adam Gurri | The Umlaut | 19th May 2014

Reasoning from sunk costs is too universal a human trait to be dismissed as a fallacy. It can be perfectly rational, if you take the views of others into account. "As a general, if I cut my losses and call off the campaign entirely, I am a failure. If I see it through and win even in the face of greater losses, I am perceived to some extent as successful, or at least as not a complete failure. See for example, the north in the Civil War" (515 words)

Perform Mulholland’s Mind-Reading Mystery

Charles Platt | Boing Boing | 19th May 2014

How to carry off a mind-reading party trick which will dazzle and baffle your friends — assuming they haven't also read this article, of course. Requirements: An accomplice and a lot of practice (800 words)

Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar

Vernon Silver | Business Week | 15th May 2014

Jimmy Page may have borrowed the opening chords of Stairway To Heaven from a song called Taurus, by Spirit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd8AVbwB_6E&feature=kp) , an American band which Led Zeppelin supported in their early days. It wouldn't be the first such borrowing: Zeppelin has already settled at least four other lawsuits by sharing writing credits and royalties. But Stairway is in a league of its own: It may well be the most valuable rock song of all time (4,200 words)

The Leaked New York Times Report

Joshua Benton | Nieman Journalism Lab | 15th May 2014

Excellent digest of the Times's internal report on digital strategy (with the full text embedded), which shows the newsroom to be struggling still with online publishing after 20 years. "You can sense the frayed nerves and the frustration at a newsroom that is, for all its digital successes, still in many ways oriented toward an old model. It’s journalists turning their own reporting skills on themselves" (5,100 words)

The Paradox Of Racism

Andrew Gelman | Slate | 8th May 2014

Another review of Nicholas Wade's book Troublesome Inheritance, about genetics and racial difference. The subject is a big one, there is much to be said, and this review punches Wade's arguments square on the nose. There may be genetic differences between groups of people, but we have no grounds for claiming that those differences translate directly into cultural traits or social outcomes (2,518 words)

Video of the day:  Winter In Georgian Bay

What to expect: Gorgeous long time-lapse of a winter in Ontario

Thought for the day:

"To grow up is to discover what one is unequal to" — Adam Phillips

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