Best of the Moment
Philip Ball | Prospect | 19th September 2013
Roger Penrose's work on general relativity in the 1960s led to Stephen Hawking's rewriting of black-hole physics. He also discovered 'Penrose tiling': a pair of rhombus-shaped tiles that can be used to tile a flat surface ad infinitum without the pattern ever repeating itself. The tiling was not only beautiful and practical: it predicted a new class of crystals whose eventual discovery was rewarded with a Nobel prize in physics
Seth Abramson | Boston Review | 19th September 2013
Former public defender on how the American criminal justice system functions: "Given how overbroad most criminal statutes are, most Americans probably have, at some point, technically committed a misdemeanor-level crime, such as simple assault, theft, a driving offense, a trespass, an act of vandalism, or a more esoteric malfeasance such as unsworn falsification, hindering prosecution, or misconduct after a car accident"
Adam Fisher | PopSci | 18th September 2013
They're still on their way, but there a pricing blockage with the rotating radar array which sits on the top of the car and reports what's happening in the immediate neighbourhood. It costs about $80,000 to make, and needs to sell for more like $1,000 to reach a mass market. But Google is right to bet on full autonomy. Partial autonomy — systems for automated steering, automatic braking — make drivers lazy and distracted
Louis Menand | New Yorker | 23rd September 2013
Review of Eric Schlosser's Command and Control, on the management and mismanagement of the world's nuclear weapons. We've been on the brink of disaster fairly regularly, not least when Russia mistook a weather rocket for a possible nuclear attack in 1995. "On most days, the probability of a nuclear explosion happening by accident was far greater than the probability that someone would deliberately start a war"
Ben Thompson | Stratechery | 22nd September 2013
America's leading business strategist misunderstands Apple. His theory of disruption — that rival producers will start at the bottom of the market and work their way up — presumes that buyers are rational; that product attributes can be documented and measured; and that modular providers can become "good enough” on all the attributes that matter. That only works for business purchases. Apple sells to individuals
Thought for the day:
"Opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists" — Bertrand Russell