Hippophagy, Russian Roulette, Psychology, Danah Boyd, Depression, Science Writing


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

It’s Hip To Eat Mare

Chloé Roubert | New Inquiry | 1st February 2016

France legalised the eating of horse in 1866, overturning a thousand-year taboo, in the expectation that horses would be valued more highly and thus treated better. Soon Paris had hundreds of horse-butchers. Now only ten survive. "The local school went on a horseback riding trip. They met a guy who filled their heads with nonsense, and I lost I don’t how many clients because their kids don’t want to eat horse any more" (2,000 words)

Russian Roulette (With Additional Rounds)

Nick Berry | Data Genetics | 2nd February 2016

Monty Hall redux. “Let’s play a game of Russian Roulette. You are tied to a chair. Here’s a gun, six chambers, all empty. Now watch me as I put two bullets into adjacent chambers in the gun. I close the cylinder and spin it. I put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. Click. You’re still alive. Now I’m going to pull the trigger one more time. Which would you prefer, that I spin the cylinder first or that I just pull the trigger?” (1,200 words)

The Psychologists Take Power

Tamsin Shaw | New York Review of Books | 6th February 2016

Do psychologists have any claim to moral expertise — a higher knowledge of how we should live our lives - and is that claim strengthened or weakened by recent advances in neuroscience? The extension of hard science into their field may give the psychologists more authority; but if the result is to establish chemical origins for desires and behaviours, that would seem to undermine any moral arguments at all (5,000 words)

It’s Not Cyberspace Any More

Danah Boyd | Points | 5th February 2016

A loss-of-innocence piece. Tech companies used to imagine themselves in opposition to the global establishment at Davos. Now they rule the roost there, and bamboozle the politicians and financiers who still don't understand how computers work. Everything that used to be called 'big data' is now called 'artificial intelligence', because AI caricatures sell better to simpletons. "I kept bumping into a 1970s science fiction narrative" (1,400 words)

The Noonday Demon

Andrew Solomon | Penguin | 5th February 2016

Book extract. Notes on depression. "I find it difficult to buy a heavy coat in August, and similarly, when I am feeling well – as I am at this writing – it seems implausible that I could ever again feel as bad as I know I’ve felt. But depression is a season, and I cycle through it as through winter, over and over. Nowadays, I force myself to stock up on scarves and thermal underwear even on days when everyone else is poolside" (1,500 words)

Tim Radford On Science Writing

Jo Marchant | Five Books | 5th February 2016

Guardian science editor Tim Radford discusses his five favourite science books. "Almost everything in science is counterintuitive or unexpected or unimaginable. Who can imagine a cell? Who can imagine a trillion cells, which is what we are? Everything about science is hard except the words. The words have to be the same as those you would use if you were talking to someone. And that sets up a challenge" (3,800 words)

Video of the day: Between Times

What to expect: An animated fairy-tale about relativity, narrated by a cuckoo-clock (14'22")

Thought for the day

Never insult anyone by accident
Robert Heinlein

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