Browser Newsletter 1101

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

Best of the Moment

Chemical Weapons And The Scientists Who Make Them

Alastair Hay | The Conversation | 30th August 2013

Rare example of a piece that I wish had gone on longer, to tell more about the scientists who make chemical weapons today, as against 100 years ago. Still, it's a fine subject, and the motivation of Fritz Haber, the German who argued for using chlorine gas in WW1, turns out to have been predictably perverse: He thought gas attacks would bring about quick end to the war, and thus have a humane net effect

Berks, Wankers And Wonks

Stian Westlake | The Guardian | 4th September 2013

"If you think about the kinds of people whom policymakers generally hear from when they cast about for advice, the distinction between berks and wankers is rather useful. Berks are easiest to recognise. They're oversimplifiers, charlatans and blowhards. The risk of becoming a wanker is far more subtle. If the berks of the policy world are too ready to give an opinion, the wankers never give an opinion on anything, except to say how complicated it is"

Our Newfound Fear Of Risk

Bruce Schneier | Schneier On Security | 3rd September 2013

"We tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange, and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar, and common ones. This leads us to believe that violence against police, school shootings, and terrorist attacks are more common and more deadly than they actually are β€” and that the costs, dangers, and risks of a militarized police, a school system without flexibility, and a surveillance state without privacy are less than they really are"

Man And Superman

Malcolm Gladwell | New Yorker | 2nd September 2013

Review of The Sports Gene by David Epstein, and The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton; the first about the role of genetic endowment in creating great athletes, the second about the use of drugs in professional cycling. Nature hands out unfair advantages; why should science not do the same? Why can a baseball player use contact lenses for sharper sight, but a cyclist not oxygenate his blood for more energy?

Nine Questions About Britain You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask

Max Fisher & Teju Cole | Washington Post | 3rd September 2013

Teju Cole builds minor masterpieces out of Twitter tweets. Here is his latest, followed by an interview in which he discusses America, Syria, and drones: "The idea that the US would launch missiles into London in 2013 is beyond absurd. But the tragedy is that it’s all too easy to imagine the US launching missiles into other cities in other places in the world. I wanted to bridge that gap, in the little drive-by way of troublemaking that Twitter allows"

Congress Can Authorize War Without Declaring It

Garrett Epps | Atlantic | 3rd September 2013

President Obama's request for a Congressional resolution authorising intervention in Syria raises constitutional issues as well as strategic and political ones. Here's a cut-out-and-keep guide. Key point: "A Declaration of War has always been a specific policy tool β€” a blunt one, and one that many presidents, and Congresses, have chosen not to use. Authorizations, by contrast, permit the two branches to agree on limited war aims"

Video of the day: Errol Morris On Donald Rumsfeld

Thought for the day:

"Sexuality poorly repressed unsettles some families; well repressed, it unsettles the whole world" β€” Karl Kraus

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