Cheap Lunches, Bridgewater, Gadgets, Quasars, Industrial Espionage, Romanovs

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

No Free Lunches But Plenty Of Cheap Ones

Larry Summers | 7th February 2016

Milton Friedman said: "There is no such thing as a free lunch". But here's the good news: There are lots of cheap lunches out there. The "no free lunch" rule "oversimplifies matters and makes economics too dismal a science". It would be true, only if "all opportunities to make things better had been fully exploited". But they haven't. And by helping to find the missed opportunities, "economics can become a cheerful science" (761 words)

Bridgewater’s Bosses Are Fighting

Matt Levine | Bloomberg View | 5th February 2016

Very funny glimpse into the semi-surreal management culture of the giant hedge-fund Bridgewater. A computer does the investing, and perhaps by now the computer does the management too. "One stylized model for thinking about Bridgewater is that it is run by the computer with absolute logic and efficiency; the computer's main problem is keeping the 1,500 human employees busy so that they don't interfere" (1,460 words)

We Are Hopelessly Hooked

Jacob Weisberg | New York Review of Books | 7th February 2016

On smartphones. Discussion of books by Sherry Turkle and others. In the past five years we have changed from "a society in which people walk down the street looking around" to one in which we "walk down the street looking at machines". We trust smartphones to make us "safer, more productive, less bored". Young people in particular live differently. "The art of friendship is the art of dividing attention successfully" (4,330 words)

The Wonder Of Quasars

Oliver Morton | Intelligent Life | 1st February 2016

"In the far reaches of the sky there are sun-bright discs as wide as solar systems, their hearts run through by spears of radiation that outshine galaxies. The energies that feed these quasars beggar all metaphor, their quantification seems all but meaningless. What does it serve to know that they are converting matter to energy at a rate that equates to the annihilation of a planet the size of the Earth ten times a second?" (900 words)

The Plot To Steal The Colour White

Del Quentin Wilber | Bloomberg Businessweek | 4th February 2016

"There’s white, and then there’s the immaculate ultrawhite behind the French doors of a new GE refrigerator. There’s white, and then there’s the luminous-from-every-angle white hood of a Ford Mustang GT." For that absolute whiteness you need titanium dioxide — and a manufacturing process owned by DuPont. China has the titanium dioxide. Now it wants the process. “At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white?" (3,800 words)

Absolute Power

Lucy Hughes-Hallett | New Statesman | 5th February 2016

Vivid review of Simon Sebag Montefiore's Romanovs. "Their world was as gorgeous as it was bloody. The phrase 'jewel-encrusted' recurs in this book almost as often as the word 'drunk'. Empresses are paraded through the streets, whether going live to their weddings or dead to their funerals. If his subjects are Caesars, then he is their Suetonius – gossipy, prurient, sensationalist, with great gifts for storytelling con brio" (1,800 words)

Video of the day: High Windows

What to expect: Philip Larkin's poem read by Harold Pinter. Some adult language in the opening lines, but you knew that anyway (1'14")

Thought for the day

The first one who uses 'but' has lost the argument
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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