Browser Newsletter 1146

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

Best of the Moment

Douglas Hofstadter: Replicating The Human Mind

James Somers | Atlantic | 23rd October 2013

Hofstadter shot to fame with Gödel, Escher, Bach in 1980, a book that "launched an entire generation of eager young students" into the study of artificial intelligence. He's been working on AI ever since, but outside, and possibly far ahead of, the tech-driven mainstream. He seeks to model how the human brain thinks; not merely to write programmes that do particular things faster or better than humans

Spanish Prisoners And Confidence Games

Robert Whitaker | Appendix | 23rd October 2013

History of the Spanish Prisoner con trick, in which the fraudster contacts the victim offering a large sum of money in return for a small advance of funds that the fraudster — posing as a distressed yet reputable person — cannot provide because of some impediment, usually imprisonment or illness. This is the Nigerian Letter or "419" scam of the internet age; but it dates back two hundred years, to England and the Carlist Wars in Spain

Coffee Or Smoothies: Which Is Better For You?

Michael Mosley | BBC | 24th October 2013

Two to five cups of coffee a day help you live longer, think more clearly, feel happier. Smoothies are sugary drinks that make you fat and increase your chances of getting some kinds of cancer. So it's coffee by a mile. If you want fruit, go for fruit, not smoothies. The reason that coffee got a bad reputation in the first place was that coffee-drinkers tended to have other bad habits, and the causation got confused

One Day In The Life Of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Neil Buckley | FT Magazine | 24th October 2013

Email interview with jailed Russian oil tycoon, who may be freed next year. He says prison is harsh but not cruel: "The attitude towards me has changed somewhat over these ten years. In prison they respect age (I’m now older than most people here) and term (ten years is a lot)". On Putinism: "It’s the consistent annihilation of the substance of independent state and civic institutions. It's an attempt to run a huge country in manual mode”

Black Death Bank Struggles To Survive

Elisa Martinuzzi & Vernon Silver | Bloomberg | 25th October 2013

Eye-opening tale of the incompetence and cynicism that has almost killed Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. The new CEO in 2007 didn't know the difference between capital and liquidity, but still spent €9bn taking over a neighbouring bank, with help from Merrill Lynch, just before the global crash — after which the bank borrowed and lost billions more on derivatives deals supposed to make the balance sheet look better

Video of the day: Stephen Fry Meets Malcolm Gladwell

Thought for the day:

"Human knowledge increases, while human irrationality stays the same"— John Gray

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