Drone Ethics, Gibberish, Nate Silver, Brexit, Toasters, Umberto Eco

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

Really Good At Killing

Thomas Nagel | London Review Of Books | 24th February 2016

On the ethics and emotions of drone warfare. "It is easier to be resigned to the slaughter of faceless multitudes by conventional missiles, bombs and artillery. When the president puts someone on a kill list to be taken out by a precise drone strike, it creates the illusory sense of a more direct responsibility for that death. It feels like an execution, though it is just retail warfare, and the responsibility is equally great in both cases" (3,200 words)

Academic Drivel Report

Peter Dreier | American Prospect | 24th February 2016

Sociologist responds to a call for conference papers by sending 400 words of gibberish. "I tried, as best I could to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever. To my astonishment, the two panel organizers — both American sociologists — accepted my proposal and invited me to join them at the annual international conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science to be held that year in Tokyo" (3,400 words)

Conversation With Nate Silver

Tyler Cowen | Conversations with Tyler | 23rd February 2016

Topics include history, politics, baseball, soccer, Singapore, New York, food. "The various sports algorithms that we have at Five Thirty Eight have tended to beat Vegas — not by a lot, but we’ll win 52 percent of the time. If you ask, 'How good are markets?', the answer is 'Pretty good', but when they’re off, they can be off by a lot. Are you the person who knows when they’re off? That’s harder to do" (13,000 words)

Pity The Poor Brexiters

Rafael Behr | Guardian | 24th February 2016

If Britain votes to leave the EU, Brexiters' joy will be short-lived. "The leavers may get what they vote for and still never get what they want". Britain sees the EU in transactional terms; other member-states see it as brute fact. If and when Britain negotiates to maintain access to the EU Single Market, spurned neighbours will seek to ensure "through punitive exit terms, that the first state ever to leave the EU will also be the last" (1,200 words)

How To Make A Toaster

Simon Usborne | Independent | 4th August 2009

Man makes toaster from first principles, reverse-engineering a toaster bought from Argos for £3.94. It takes nine months and costs £1,200. "By loading his iron ore and a reducing agent into a microwave whacked up to full power, Thwaites created a piece of iron the size of a 10p coin. Countless repetitions and three knackered microwaves later, he had enough steel to make the frame of the grill and the lever for popping up the toast" (1,400 words)

A Rose By Any Other Name

Alexander Lee | History Today | 24th February 2016

Umberto Eco was primarily an historian and a philosopher of history; his novels turn his theories of history into stories. "Just as fictional detectives struggle to construct a plausible account of how imaginary crimes might have been committed on the basis of ambiguous clues, so the historian co-operates with incomplete texts to produce viable – but potentially flawed and futile – narratives about a shadowy and elusive past" (2,400 words)

Video of the day: The Beatles — Rock Band Intro

What to expect: Classic from Passion Pictures. Animated Beatles scrapbook (2'34")

Thought for the day

A belief is only worthwhile if you could, in principle, be persuaded to believe otherwise
Eliezer Yudkowsky

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