Giraffe Edition 7

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

Lionel Messi Is Impossible

Benjamin Morris | Five Thirty Eight | 1st July 2014

Statistical analysis of Messi's play shows him to be the world's best soccer player by an almost incredible margin. Only Ronaldo comes close: "When it comes to scoring, these two aren’t just on top of the pile, they’re hang-gliding way above it". Messi is also "a crazy outlier" when it comes to assists: "No one else (aside from, yes, Ronaldo) even comes close to his combination of goals scored versus goals dished" (4,730 words)

Life At 60

A.A. Gill | Sunday Times | 29th June 2014

"I’ve always read the anniversary roll and over the years I’ve watched people my age go from rarely mentioned as sportsmen and pop stars to more commonly as leading actors and television presenters and now ubiquitously I find myself in the thick of captains of industry, ennobled politicians, retired sportsmen and character actors. You only notice the accumulating years in relation to other people" (2,650 words)

A British Identity

John Kay | 2nd July 2014

Support for Scottish independence has stabilised at around 40%. That may not be enough to win September's referendum; but it is more that enough to ensure that Scottish separatism will continue to destabilise British politics, whatever the outcome of this vote. Anti-independence campaigners have failed to explain persuasively to Scottish voters what it means to be British; perhaps because there is no good answer (720 words)

Cracking The Brain’s Codes

Christof Koch & Gary Marcus | MIT Technology Review | 17th June 2014

The main challenge in understanding how the brain works — and learning to manipulate it — lies now with cracking the code that neurons use to exchange information. We know that the basic unit of neuronal communication is the spike, an electrical impulse of about a tenth of a volt that lasts a bit less than a millisecond. The "rate of firing" encodes the information. Probably there are different codes for different functions (3,255 words)

Dictionary Of Untranslatables

Matthew Battles | Barnes & Noble Review | 26th June 2014

The Princeton Dictionary of Untranslatables seeks to "capture, chart, and explain shifts in the usage of philosophical terminology" from classical antiquity onward. Allowing that nothing is exactly the same in one language as in another, it anchors words such as abstraction, acedia, drive, disegno, Erscheinung, essence, melancholy, mimesis, praxis, pravda and others in their etymology and historical usage (1,260 words)


Scott Aaronson | Shtetl-Optimized | 18th June 2014

Might something like the Google PageRank algorithm be used to rank real-world qualities in human beings, such as moral fitness? For example: "A moral person is someone who cooperates with other moral people, and who refuses to cooperate with immoral people". It's a circular proposition, you need definitions, but, as with PageRank, you can find an equilibrium — and explore it using game theory. Here's what happens (6,400 words)

Video of the day: Scare Away The Dark

What to expect: Naive, hummable, uplifting indie-rock music

Thought for the day

"Your whole life passes in front of your eyes before you die. This is called living"
—  Terry Pratchett

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