Martha Nussbaum, Pakistan & Afghanistan, The Beatles, Video Games, Birdsong, Michael Lewis, Torture,

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

The Political Emotions Of Martha Nussbaum

Michael Edwards | Open Democracy | 15th December 2014

Conversation about the need for love in public life and civil society. With love comes stability. "In a family or a community, we'd never accept the excuse that people are too busy making money to care for one another, and I don't see why we should accept this excuse in a nation. Only an emotion as strong as love can overcome the disgust and shame that often inhibit our dealings with one another" (1,600 words)

Afghan End-Game

Bruce Riedel | Brookings | 15th December 2014

Game to Pakistan. "Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, participates directly in planning Taliban operations and target selection against Nato and Afghan targets. Mullah Omar, the shadowy leader of the Taliban who calls himself commander of the faithful, divides his time between Quetta and Karachi, where the ISI provides his security. The army’s goal in Afghanistan is victory and the creation of a puppet state in Kabul" (820 words)

Magical Mystery Chord

Kevin Houston | 6th December 2014

An extremely deep dive into the three-second chord that opens A Hard Day's Night. You can hear it in your mind; here is the best guess yet as to how it was constructed. "For the honour of all mathematicians, I would like to put the record straight — or at least straighter. The tale of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Chord is a tale of 18th century mathematicians, the study of heat, Karaoke tricks and a measure of luck" (11,400 words)

Achievement Points, You Can’t Take Them With You

Simon Parkin | Matter | 15th December 2014

A disjointed but sporadically very interesting essay on the convergence of video games and artificial intelligence. Video games will keep us occupied in the future while machines do the work — including designing the video games. "Given the right kind of incentive, a computer can get me to do pretty much anything. The right kind of incentive seems to be, desolately, nothing more than a clutch of virtual points" (1,720 words)

Marissa Fessenden | Scientific American | 15th December 2014

Huge genetic study shows most modern birds arose in a "big bang of avian diversification" immediately following the extinction of dinosaurs. The study also finds "surprising similarities" between the networks of genes enabling birds to sing and those enabling humans to speak. A challenge for Chomskians. "This is the first time a learned behavior has been shown to have so much similar molecular underpinnings". (785 words)

Eight Things I Wish For Wall Street

Michael Lewis | Bloomberg View | 15th December 2014

Every one a gem. Wish number two: "No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street. Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do — fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary". Wish number three: "Women will henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions" (1,350 words)

Torture And The Truth

Jane Mayer | New Yorker | 15th December 2014 | Metered paywall

Publication of the Senate report on CIA torture shows the American legislature can still serve as a check on the executive. But it has been too long in coming. Attitudes are entrenched. Torture has become a partisan issue, like the death penalty. Democrats are against it, but President Obama's reluctance to prosecute the guilty is a serious mistake: “Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity” (1,100 words)

America Should Be More Like Disneyland

David Cay Johnston | Al-Jazeera | 12th December 2014

Disneyland is turning 60 but still looks brand new. That's because the management fixes the wear and tear every night — which is what the paying public demands. Why doesn't that model generalise to America at large? "Imagine how much more pleasant our lives would be if we just kept up the public furniture enough that rust, cracks, leaky roofs and toilets that stop up became rare rather than commonplace" (950 words)

Video of the day: Submarine Sandwich

What to expect: Surreal short. Sandwich made up of things that look edible, but aren't (1'49")

Thought for the day

Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night
Philip K. Dick (

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