Corruption, Malcolm Gladwell, Hong Kong, Claude Shannon, Hares

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


Paul Collier | TLS | 11th July 2017

The only cure for corruption is an incorruptible leader, such as Lee Kuan Yew, willing to jail friends and enemies alike. Without such leadership, cultural norms defeat laws and institutions. Northern Italy is one of the most honest regions in Europe, southern Italy one of the most corrupt. “If being in the same nation for 150 years is not enough to produce convergence of practices, the fashionable attention to building national institutions is unlikely to be enough to make a difference” (3,600 words)

A Conversation With Malcolm Gladwell

David Nussbaum | Behavioural Scientist | 12th July 2017

Discussion of civil rights, education, and — especially — Brown vs the Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court court decision which forced the integration of American public education. Gladwell argues that it might have been better at the time to litigate for black and white students to receive education of equal quality, rather than for immediate integration. “It would have essentially called the bluff of the white establishment. The faster way to undo separate is to fight first for equal” (3,100 words)

The Floating City

Xi Xi | China Heritage | 13th July 2017

Allusive and poetic retelling of the history of Hong Kong pitched midway between magical realism and a fairy tale. “Children were provided with nine years of free education, and there were pensions for the disabled and elderly. Many arts festivals were held each year. If you didn’t want to talk to anyone, there was absolute freedom to be silent. People couldn’t quite believe it possible that houses in the city could float in midair. They all said that the floating city was a miracle” (3,400 words)

Claude Shannon’s New York Years

Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman | IEEE Spectrum | 12th July 2017

Working for Bell Labs in New York during the Second World War, Shannon spent his days tinkering with circuitry and his nights inventing information theory, unveiled in his 1948 masterwork, A Mathematical Theory Of Communication. “Up until that time, everyone thought that communication meant written language, spoken language, pictures. Claude said no, you can turn all of them into binary digits. And then you can find ways of communicating the binary digits” (3,500 words)

The Way Of The Hare

Alex Preston | Guardian | 21st June 2017

Review of The Way Of The Hare, by Marianne Taylor. “We get little in the way of transformative personal narrative, but we learn a hell of a lot about hares. Did you know that Boudicca used to keep a live hare up her dress? Or that the hare, topping 70km per hour, is Britain’s fastest land mammal? Or that the brown hare is not a native species, but was introduced by our iron age ancestors? Or that the number of mountain hares in Britain exceeds the number of roe deer, badgers and foxes combined?” (1,200 words)

Video of the day: How To Recount Your Dreams

What to expect:

Alain de Botton on the essential skills of story-telling. Keep it short, keep it simple, focus on feelings (4’20”)

Thought for the day

I do not paint things, I paint only the differences between things
Henri Matisse

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