Newsletter 1048

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

Best of the Moment

Four Levels Of Science

Noah Smith | Noahpinion | 2nd July 2013

Short and highly readable note on the virtues of lab experiments versus natural experiments. Lab experiments are — in principle — easy to repeat, and you can control the variables so as to get a better idea of cause and effect, as opposed to mere correlation. But it's always open to question how well lab experiments map to the real world. That's where natural experiments score higher. The best course is to use both

Are Humans Just Animals?

John Wilkins | Evolving Thoughts | 2nd July 2013

Yes, and to argue otherwise is to underestimate other species. "Humans are special indeed in their capacities. But so are all other animals — a cat, a mole, a mouse. If the target of your explanation was a mouse, then you would explain it having its abilities and social behaviours in terms of evolved dispositions inherited from ancestors. You may as well say a mouse is special in ways other animals (including humans) are not"

Rethinking Surveillance

Kenneth Roth | New York Review Of Books | 2nd July 2013

"When I was a prosecutor, the human capacities of investigators meant that even upon accessing metadata, there was still considerable protection for privacy. Today, those limits have largely disappeared. With the advantages of mass surveillance so low, the law should give meaning to our legitimate expectations of privacy in a wired world. It is time to treat this metadata no differently from the content of our communications"

The Risk Of European Centralisation

Otmar Issing | Project Syndicate | 2nd July 2013

Founding board member of the European Central Bank skewers European Monetary Union straight through the heart. Its failures have undermined the European project. "They have involved huge financial risks for eurozone members. They have fueled tensions among member states. They have undermined the basis on which political union rests – namely, persuading European Union citizens to identify with the European idea"

World’s Weirdest Languages

Tyler Schnoebelen | Idibon | 26th June 2013

If you rank the world's languages by the structural features they share with other languages, the one most different from the majority of all other languages is Chalcatongo Mixtec, spoken by 6,000 people in Oaxaca, Mexico — in which, for example, there is no difference between statements and questions. English ranks 33rd. The English way of marking a question, by changing word order, is used in only 1.4% of languages

Video of the day: 1+1-1+1-1+1

Thought for the day:

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?" — Dick Cavett

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