Causation, Boston Corbett, Yemen, Günter Grass, Anderson Valley

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

Cigarettes, Damn Cigarettes And Statistics

Tim Harford | Undercover Economist | 14th April 2015

It is a cliché among scientists to say that correlation is not causation. But how to prove causation? Can you prove that a predisposition to lung cancer does not cause smoking? Causation is a philosophical question. In the age of big data, a vast and robust correlation is as good as causation for practical and commercial purposes. The job of science is to be honest about the evidence. In short: Don't take money from tobacco companies (885 words)

The Self-Castrated Hatmaker In History

Bill Jensen | Washingtonian | 13th April 2015

Boston Corbett shot John Wilkes Booth, who shot Abraham Lincoln. This was by no means the only remarkable feature of Corbett's life. He was a widowed hatmaker who took to drink, found God, castrated himself with a pair of scissors, joined the Northern Army, survived the Civil War, shot Wilkes Booth, took to drink again, went mad, escaped from a mental asylum, leapt on a train to San Francisco — and was never seen again (3,675 words)

Hidden Agendas In Yemen

Graham Fuller | 10th April 2015

Check-list of actors and interests driving the proxy war in Yemen. "Saudi Arabia is determined to keep Yemen weak and under its control. It seeks to crush the Houthis, not really because they are Shi’ite (as half of Saudi allies there have been over time), and not even because of Iranian assistance to the Houthis, but because of the negative regional symbolism of Yemeni forces no longer under the Kingdom’s control" (1,150 words)

Günter Grass: Even Now

Neal Ascherson | London Review Of Books | 2nd November 2006

Neal Ascherson reviews the memoir, Peeling The Onion, in which Günter Grass, who died this week, admitted to having joined the Waffen-SS in 1944. Grass was 17 at the time; he was typical of his generation both in his willingness to serve Hitler and in his later silence on the subject. The damning charge against Grass is that of hypocrisy: He kept his past secret while demanding honesty and moral courage in others (4,860 words)

The Last Newspaper In America

Alexander Nazaryan | Newsweek | 13th April 2015

The Anderson Valley Advertiser of Boonville, California, is like a local newspaper from Norman Rockwell's America given a makeover by Hunter S. Thompson. "This is not a community rag for old ladies who want to clip coupons and read about lost felines. It is a weirdly edgy and sophisticated operation for old ladies with a backyard ganja grow, a degree in political science from Berkeley and a predilection for Thomas Pynchon" (3,100 words)

Video of the day: Stephen Hawking Sings The Galaxy Song

What to expect: Monty Python song re-interpreted by Stephen Hawking, with collage of Python scenes (2'43")

Thought for the day

In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them
John von Neumann (

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