Deterrence, Existence, Motorcades, Fish, Steven Pinker


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Deterrence In Europe

Joshua Pollack | Arms Control Wonk | 2nd January 2017

When Thomas Schelling was helping the American government to incorporate game theory into Cold-War nuclear deterrence, the difficult problem was not how to deter a Soviet nuclear strike on America; obviously that must be done by guaranteeing a catastrophic counter-strike. The difficult problem was how best to deter Russia from waging conventional warfare in Europe. “The classic American literature on deterrence was about nothing but the problem of defending West Berlin” (2,060 words)

Why Anything? Why This?

Derek Parfit | London Review Of Books | 22nd January 1998

Classic essay on metaphysics by the late philosopher Derek Parfit. “Why does the Universe exist? There are two questions here. First, why is there a Universe at all? It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists. Second, why does this Universe exist? Things might have been, in countless ways, different. So why is the Universe as it is?” (5,500 words)

The Art Of The Escort

David Rennie | 1843 | 3rd January 2017

What motorcades reveal about the character of a nation. “American motorcades may be fast and efficient, but that’s more as a result of horsepower and swagger than finesse. British motorcades are understated, elegant and ruthless. British police do not push through congestion with wailing sirens. Instead they somehow unzip it. The clever work is performed by a swarm of motorcycles which zoom ahead, blue lights flashing, to halt traffic at the next two or three junctions” (900 words)

An Ambivalent Amphibian

Bret Weinstein & David Lahti | Inference | 31st December 2016

Carolus Linnaeus grouped animals by similarity; modern scientists prefer to group them by ancestry — which makes people a sub-set of fish. “In modern evolutionary biology we assign official names only to clades, or monophyletic groups — groups of organisms together with all their ancestors back to a most recent common ancestor of all of them and only them. Since mammals are nested within a broader clade that we tend to nickname ‘fish’, we are indeed fish in that sense” (3,600 words)

The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

Steven Pinker | Edge | 2nd January 2017

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says, in effect, that energy is always required to prevent order from collapsing into disorder — and it applies to everything in the Universe. “An underappreciation of the Second Law lures people into seeing every unsolved social problem as a sign that their country is being driven off a cliff. It’s in the very nature of the universe that life has problems. But it’s better to figure out how to solve them than to start a conflagration and hope for the best” (970 words)

Video of the day: Among The Ancients

What to expect:

Time-lapse video of the Eastern Sierra Mountain Range, with skies clear enough to see the Milky Way (2’04”)

Thought for the day

Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know
Bertrand Russell

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