Giraffe Edition 50

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

Seeds Of Doubt

Michael Specter | New Yorker | 25th August 2014

The structure of this piece is quite demanding. It begins as an admiring profile of Vandana Shiva, absolutist campaigner against genetically-modified seeds and foods. But it goes on to show that her claims are unfounded, alarmist and potentially ruinous to world food supplies, especially in her native India. Finally, it dismantles Shiva herself, who exits the story looking a good deal less saintly than when she entered it (8,600 words)

The Aftershocks

David Wolman | Matter | 25th August 2014

Gripping tale of the Italian scientists who in 2009 reassured the town of L'Aquila that a major earthquake was "improbable". A quake followed a week later killing 297. The scientists were tried and convicted of manslaughter (they are now appealing). As Wolman explains, the prosecution was wrong but not absurd. Scientists know that "improbable" things do happen; the inhabitants of L'Aquila thought it meant they were safe (5,360 words)

The Invisible Nation: Utilitarianism And Contractualism

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 24th August 2014

Entertaining philosophical essay which follows Plato in proposing rules for an ideal republic, called here the Economists' Paradise. "In the Economists’ Paradise all transactions are voluntary and honest. All game-theoretic problems are solved. All Pareto improvements get made. Everyone agrees to share the commons according to some reasonable plan. Multipolar traps turn to gardens, Moloch is defeated for all time" (6,000 words)

Tesla And GM Race For The Mass Market

Steve Levine | Quartz | 24th August 2014

Tesla and General Motors compete head-on to launch a $35,000 all-electric mass-market car that can travel 200 miles on a single charge; implying a halving of current production costs and a big leap forward in battery technology. Both companies talk as though they can have their cars ready for 2017-2018. Investors seem to believe in Tesla's story; they aren't so sure that GM has the nimbleness needed to innovate on this scale (2,000 words)

Who Is Elena Ferrante?

Gideon Lewis-Kraus et al | New York Times | 22nd August 2014

Three writers rally to praise Ferrante, the pseudonymous but presumed Italian author whose semi-autobiographical Neapolitan trilogy is compared here favourably with the work of Knausgaard. As the headline suggests, Ferrante's concealment of his or her identity becomes, perversely, the most conspicuous feature of the books. You read them to enjoy the story, but also to speculate on who might have written them (Metered paywall) (2,330 words)

Video of the day: Hopkins & Delaney LLP

What to expect: Imagine Glengarry Glen Ross remade as an cartoon set in a law firm

Thought for the day

"I don't care what anybody says about me, as long as it isn't true"
— Truman Capote

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