Browser Daily Newsletter 1345

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

Autism, Sociality, And Human Nature

Gregory Hollin | Somatosphere | 18th June 2014

Essay on the rise of autism as a field of psychological study and theory. Diagnoses of autism have risen 25-fold in 35 years. Diagnostic criteria have expanded such that “intellectual disability is not part of the broader autism phenotype". People with autism are, statistically, the new 1%. Increasingly, a better understanding of autism is seen as a promising route towards a better understanding of human nature in general (2,150 words)

The Philosopher In The World

Tim Crane | New York Review Of Books | 20th June 2014

Interview with John Searle. Interesting throughout. Topics include human rights, animal rights, philosophers in government, Bernard Williams, philosophy of language. "There is a very good case to be made for saying that if you grant the validity of universal human rights, then it looks like it would be some kind of special pleading if you said there’s no such thing as universal animal rights" (2,328 words)

A Walk Along Hadrian’s Wall

Rory Stewart | Financial Times | 20th June 2014

Compared to a walk across Afghanistan, 40 miles along the English borders is a mere hop. But what the region lacks in exoticism it makes up in history. "This fort contained Frisian soldiers from Holland. Further west at Carvoran were Syrian archers. Each unit would have brought their own languages, some their gods; all their cuisine. One African unit had left the remains of an African casserole dish in the ground" (1,890 words)

Instinct Can Beat Analytical Thinking

Justin Wolfers | Harvard Business Review | 21st June 2014

Interview with psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, defending intuition as our best decision-making tool despite its vulnerability to heuristics and biases. He argues that in conditions of uncertainty – which is to say, almost all of the time — we do not have the precise data we need for precise analytical evaluations; and the more we substitute estimates for data, the more error we introduce into our calculations (2,850 words)

The Invention Of Iraq

Scott Anderson | Smithsonian | 19th June 2014

For 400 years prior to World War One the territory which is now Iraq consisted of three autonomous provinces within the Ottoman Empire — one Sunni, one Shiite, one Kurdish. After WW1 the British forced the provinces together into a new country, which had the misfortune to strike oil, while the French delineated Syria and Lebanon. A century later, America strives to preserve Europe's geopolitical errors (1,430 words)

Make It New

Morgan Meis | Smart Set | 20th June 2014

Their painting hardly shows it, but the pre-Raphaelites were angry young men. Millais was 19, Rossetti 20, Holman Hunt 21 when they formed their Brotherhood. They believed that, to move forward, art first had to move back, reclaiming its freedoms before academies and schools claimed the right to dictate what was art and what was not; which meant going back to a time era before Raphael, exemplar of officially-approved art (1,740 words)

Video of the day:  11 Paper Place

What to expect: Animation. Two pieces of A4 paper fall in love

Thought for the day:

"A writer who says that there are no truths is asking you not to believe him. So don’t" — Roger Scruton

London friends: The Browser invites you to an evening with one of our favourite science writers, Philip Ball ( , in conversation with the Gulbenkian Foundation's Sian Ede, hosted jointly with Aeon magazine ( , on Monday July 7th.  Please click here for details and ticketing (

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