Browser Newsletter 1153


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

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Best of the Moment

Chess 2: The Sequel

Christian Donlan | Eurogamer | 3rd November 2013

Video-game designer revises the rules of chess to reduce the proportion of draws. "The new victory condition is the simplest, and most immediately satisfying, part of Chess 2. While games still often hinge on good old checkmates, you can now also win if you manage to get your king across the middle of the board. It's bold stuff when you see it in action: a proper NFL touchdown in the midst of a chess game!"

In Praise Of The Polymath

Robert Twigger | Aeon | 4th November 2013

We overvalue specialists in the intellectual world, and undervalue generalists — perhaps because the division of labour has worked well in the business world. But skilled polymaths are happier and more innovative. "Over-specialisation eventually retreats into defending what one has learnt rather than making new connections. The initial spurt of learning gives out, and the expert is left, like an animal, merely defending his territory"

The Would-Be Philosopher-King

Evan Goldstein | Chronicle Review | 4th November 2013

Sympathetic portrait of Michael Ignatieff — his spectacular rise though Canadian politics, his meteoric fall. "One day he had an airplane, security detail, staff of 100, car and driver, and a political future. The next day he had a battered reputation, no job, and no pension." In his newly published memoir, Fire and Ashes, he reflects: "I walked out of the academy, where people listened to me, and into a world where nobody believe a word I said"

What Is Theoretical Physics, And Why Do It?

Mark Jackson | The Conver | 4th November 2013

A physicist explains. "Theoretical physicists construct theories of nature. For a theory to be true it must be both consistent with itself and consistent with nature. The first can be verified with mathematics, the second with experiment. Scientific exploration is like geographical exploration. Popular lore can be sometimes dramatically overturned, like the interdiction against sailing too far away, lest you fall off the edge of the world"

: Political Fear Trumped Technical Needs

Amy Goldstein & Juliet Eilperin | Washington Post | 2nd November 2013

Damning investigation into disastrous implementation of American healthcare reform, focused on failure to get a working Internet platform in place. President Obama ignored repeated warnings that the project was going off the rails; didn't find the right specialists to do the work; feared even to publicise and market the project adequately, for fear of giving ammunition to Republican critics (Metered paywall)

Review: Basic Structures of Reality, by Colin McGinn

Kerry McKenzie | Mind | 31st October 2013

Philosopher's attempt to learn and analyse fundamental physics receives one of the most hostile book reviews ever published: "An impressively inept contribution to the philosophy of physics, and one exemplifying everything that can possibly go wrong with metaphyics; it is mind-numbingly repetitive, toe-curlingly pretentious, and amateurish in the extreme regarding the incorporation of physical fact" (PDF)

Video of the day: Networks

Thought for the day:

"In the short run the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine"— Benjamin Graham

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