Browser Newsletter 1143

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

Best of the Moment

Death In Space

Olaf Stampf | Spiegel | 23rd October 2013

An astronaut fact-checks the film Gravity. Getting a puncture in your space-suit isn't all bad. "When you're slowly running out of oxygen, everything seems funny. You slowly nod off. I experienced this phenomenon in an altitude chamber during my training as an astronaut. At some point, someone in the group starts cracking bad jokes. Our brains are gentle with us. A person who dies alone in space dies a cheerful death"

Treat Finance And Fast Food Alike

John Kay | 23rd October 2013

"Perhaps the most fundamental confusion in the evolution of financial services regulation is the equation of financial stability with the survival of established institutions. The objective of reform is not to prevent Northern Rock or Lehman going bust. It is highly desirable that organisations such as Northern Rock or Lehman should go bust. Financial stability is best promoted by designing a system that is robust and resilient in the face of failure"

Gambling With Civilisation

Paul Krugman | New York Review Of Books | 22nd October 2013

William Nordhaus's book, The Climate Casino, gives a calm and reasoned view of the dangers from climate change. Which is all very well, but something fiercer is needed to overcome the prevailing scepticism and indifference. "Given the current state of American politics, the combination of self-interest, ideology, and hostility to science constitutes a huge roadblock to action, and rational argumentation isn’t likely to help. Meanwhile, time is running out"

The Real Privacy Problem

Evgeny Morozov | MIT Technology Review | 22nd October 2013

The privacy and surveillance debate belongs in the domain of politics, not technology. "The balance between privacy and transparency is especially in need of adjustment in times of rapid technological change. That balance itself is a political issue par excellence, to be settled through public debate and always left open for negotiation. It can’t be settled once and for all by some combination of theories, markets, and technologies"

The Greatest Philosopher Of The Twentieth Century

David Papineau | Times Literary Supplement | 21st October 2013

The title may well belong to F.P. Ramsey, who died at 26, having "figured out the principles governing subjective probability, and so opened the way to decision theory, game theory and much work in the foundations of economics ... Contemporary debates about truth, meaning, knowledge, logic and the structure of scientific theories all take off from positions first defined by Ramsey". He translated Wittgenstein, who overshadowed him

Flann O’Brien: Clutching At Railings

Jonathan Coe | London Review Of Books | 22nd October 2013

Review of two new anthologies: Plays and Teleplays; and The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien. Brian O'Nolan wrote "three short but perfect works of twisted comedy" under the name of Flann O'Brien. Cruiskeen Lawn, his column in the Irish Times, was a "sprawling, fragmented, unclassifiable masterpiece". But his life was "a relentless catalogue of frustration, bitterness and repression, accompanied of course by a slow descent into alcoholism"

Video of the day: Unbound Robotics

Thought for the day:

"Freedom, security, convenience — choose two"— Dan Geer

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