Browser Newsletter 1115

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

Best of the Moment

The Books Interview: David Epstein

Jonathan Derbyshire | Prospect | 20th September 2013

On the balance between genes and talent in sport. "Exercise genetics is showing that in many cases the most important kind of talent is your ability to profit from your one hour of training more rapidly than your peer does. So just as medical genetics shows that no two people respond to a drug the same way, exercise genetics finds that no two people respond to training the same way"

Unholy Mystery

Jason Webster | Aeon | 20th September 2013

On the rise of detective fiction, which produced its first masterpiece, The Moonstone, in 1860s Britain. Why then? Because Darwinism was shaking faith in traditional religion, and the detective offered a new, secular version of the priestly class, answering the riddles of existence. Just look at the names assigned by authors to their heroes: Dr Priestley, George Gideon, Adrian Monk, John Luther, Aurelio Zen, Alex Cross, Simon Templar

Who Is Janet Yellen?

Matthew Philips & Sheelah Kolhatkar | Business Week | 19th September 2013

Profile of the front-runner to succeed Ben Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve. Interesting throughout — and too short, I wish it were twice or thrice the length. Sample sentence: "Yellen developed the 'efficiency wage' model of unemployment, suggesting that if people feel underpaid, they’ll work less efficiently and will be more likely to quit, implying that cutting wages could lower productivity"

In Praise Of W.H. Auden

Alexander McCall Smith | New Statesman | 19th September 2013

Forty years after his death, his poetry still speaks to us directly. "He comes across as a man of great sympathy, kindness and understanding. He is forgiving; he knows that we are rather weak, frightened creatures, afraid of the dark, but we need not be frightened, he says, because we can create for ourselves the just city for which we yearn". Bonus: a lovely cameo of Auden giving a public reading with his flies open

A Big Heart Open To God

Antonio Spadaro | America | 18th September 2013

Extraordinary interview in which Pope Francis seems to launch a Catholic perestroika. “There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong ... The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, "


David Papineau | Times Literary Supplement | 13th September 2013

Review of Time Reborn, by Lee Smolin, resuming the past century's philosophical debate about the nature of time. "Why does time have a preferred direction, always pointing from the past to the future? (After all, space doesn’t similarly point in any particular direction.) And why does it seem to us as if we are travelling in that direction from our births to our deaths, carried effortlessly along by the progress of now?"

Video of the day: Rich People Things

Thought for the day:

"What is special about banks is what they get away with" — Anat Admati

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