Giraffe Edition 36

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

Neutralizing Ukraine

Christopher Granville | Project Syndicate | 8th August 2014

A solution to the Ukraine crisis: Let Ukraine add a clause to its constitution requiring that accession to any military alliance — Nato, or a Russian-led counterpart — must be ratified by two-thirds of voters or regions. The effect would be to grant veto power to Ukraine’s two camps — pro-Russian and pro-Western. The practical effect, to keep Ukraine unaligned, would reflect the will of the Ukrainian population as a whole (775 words)

Slot-Machine Science

Bradley Plumer | Vox | 7th August 2014

How casinos get you to spend more money. Slot machines are the key. Once marginal attractions, now they contribute 85% of US gaming industry profits. Computerisation has made them more involving, more responsive, more addictive. Multi-line machines can deliver partial wins which will cheer you up while still costing you money (1,970 words)

Dead Can Dance

Hannah Black | New Inquiry | 7th August 2014

Interview with historian Thomas Laqueur about his research into rituals surrounding death and burial. "Caring for the dead is like the incest taboo: It’s this moment, in which we move from nature into culture. We care for the dead for all sorts of reasons, and each culture has made up many different reasons why it’s important. The ultimate fact is that we care for the dead, and then we make up a bunch of reasons to justify that" (3,115 words)

What Does Brain Science Mean For Free Will?

Carey Goldberg | Common Health | 7th August 2014

Interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett. "An important element of free will, not often publicly discussed, is that we keep our thinking to ourselves. If we wear our hearts on our sleeves all the time, then people will exploit that. They’ll charge us too much for everything we buy. If they know too much about what we’re thinking, if they can read our minds, then we are to some degree disabled as agents" (2,100 words)

Why We Can’t Rule Out Bigfoot

Carl Zimmer | Nautilus | 7th August 2014

How experimental science works. You start with the assumption that the effect you are observing is random (the "null hypothesis"), then try to collect data to show that the effect is almost certainly not random — usually meaning a less than 5% probability of occurring by chance. You reject the null hypothesis. This is a high standard of proof. We have not, for example, "disproved" the existence of Bigfoot (1,380 words)

Queen Mary’s Doll’s House

Anthony Gottlieb | Gilded Birds | 6th August 2014

Philosopher chooses and discusses an object of beauty: A doll's house built for a princess. "Much of the awe that it inspires derives from the industry and ingenuity of the 1,500 or so artists and craftsmen who made it. It is only five feet high, but has working plumbing, electricity and lifts, a garage of cars with engines that run, and a level of detail that stops just short of the microscopic." (1,760 words)

Video of the day: The Islamic State

What to expect: Documentary. Beware, some gruesome moments

Thought for the day

"Losers have goals. Winners have systems"
— Scott Adams

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