We now have a Windows app (https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/store/p/gentlereader/9n424mljpr4p?ocid=badge&rtc=1) for Gentle Reader, our recommended reading app for The Browser, developed jointly with Cronycle. This complements our apps for iPad or iPhone and Mac, available here — Gentle Reader for iPad and iPhone (https://geo.itunes.apple.com/app/gentle-reader/id1240825904?mt=8) and Gentle Reader for Mac (https://geo.itunes.apple.com/app/gentle-reader/id1266427036?mt=12) . Browser subscribers can save and read all of The Browser’s recommended articles effortlessly in Gentle Reader. (When you create your account on Gentle Reader, use the same email address that you use for your Browser account, so that Gentle Reader recognises you as a Browser subscriber.) Android will follow, but please bear with us.
Felipe De Brigard | Duke Today | 6th March 2018
Short but thought-provoking discussion of how false memories may be formed. “Unbeknownst to you, the process operates probabilistically. Given your past experiences and knowledge, your memory system gives you the most likely thing that could have happened to help you fill any gaps at the time of retrieval. Most of the time the final product coincides with what actually happened, so it is true. But sometimes it does not, in which case we talk about false memories” (980 words)
Anthony Madrid | Paris Review | 14th March 2018
In praise of Apuleius’s “Golden Ass”, a “strange and gigantically influential Latin text” written around 160 AD, which became a popular source-book for Renaissance writers. “Boccaccio personally copied the entire thing out, and that copy still exists. It’s like if we had The Canterbury Tales written out in Shakespeare’s handwriting. Petrarch had a copy. The stuff in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Bottom turns into an ass — straight out of Apuleius. Pinocchio — same thing” (2,380 words)
Justin Stover | American Affairs | 1st November 2017
Despite the title, a defence of the humanities. They furnish a cultured class within academia and within society. Without the humanities, there is no university. “Writing a commentary on Virgil is just as useless now as it was in the 450. The reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices which marks one as a member of a particular class. As teachers, what humanists want most of all is to initiate their students into that class” (5,646 words)
Galen Strawson | New York Review Of Books | 13th March 2018
We may not understand consciousness; yet it exists. “What people often mean when they say consciousness is a mystery is that it’s mysterious how consciousness can be simply a matter of physical goings-on in the brain. Here, they make a Very Large Mistake, in Winnie-the-Pooh’s terminology — the mistake of thinking that we know enough about the physical components of the brain to have good reason to think that these components can’t account for the existence of consciousness. We don’t” (3,650 words)
Roger Penrose | Guardian | 14th March 2018
Hawking’s situation and fame are the easy material for an obituarist. This account of his life, by a long-time collaborator, excels in its willingness to get to grips with the science, to try to explain Hawking’s big ideas in fairly accessible terms. “in 1973 he established remarkable analogies between the behaviour of black holes and the basic laws of thermodynamics. It would be fair to say that Hawking’s research in classical general relativity was the best anywhere in the world at that time” (3,500 words)
What to expect:
For Vox, Carlos Maza explains how outlandish ideas can come to seem reasonable, and vice-versa (7’24”)
Thought for the day
A rationalist is someone for whom it is more important to learn than to be proved right
Would long-range US missiles with small nuclear warheads deter Russia from using tactical nukes in Europe?