Newsletter 856

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

Best of the Moment

Killer Swarms

John Arquilla | Foreign Policy | 26 November 2012

It wasn't the Russian winter that stopped Napoleon in 1812. It was guerilla warfare. Russians sent bands of Cossacks to harry French columns and supply lines. Classic instance of "swarming": Simultaneous attack from all sides Comments (

Moral Machines

Gary Marcus | New Yorker | 27 November 2012

Google's driverless cars are legal in three states. Proof that we need machines which can make value judgements, not only technical ones. What if there's a choice between hitting an errant schoolbus, and plunging over a ravine? Comments (

Great Actor Who Hated Acting

Fintan O'Toole | NYRB | 26 November 2012

Review of Richard Burton's "Diaries", narrative of dissipated genius. "If Burton’s soul was sold, the price he got for it—a feast of sex with the world’s most beautiful women, torrents of money—makes Faust look like a sucker" Comments (

Derrida: A Biography

Terry Eagleton | Guardian | 14 November 2012

Review of Benoit Peeters's book, noteworthy for explaining deconstruction in half a paragraph. "It seizes on the out-of-place element in a system, and uses it to show how the system is never quite as stable as it imagines" Comments (

Saving Diplomacy From Itself

Christina Odone | Foreign Policy | 26 November 2012

Profile of Carne Ross, former British diplomat who has reinvented himself as an "independent diplomat" for hire at the United Nations, advising politicians and unrecognised states. Clients include Kosovo, South Sudan, Polisario Comments (

Great Oil Fallacy

John Quiggin | National Interest | 19 November 2012

Oil does matter to the US economy, but much less than it used to. At 4% of GDP, spending on oil roughly matches spending at hotels and restaurants. Oil politics shaped American global strategy in 1970s. Shouldn't do so now Comments (

FiveBooks Interview


Steven Gubser on String Theory

What is string theory, and why should we bother finding out? The Princeton physics professor explains Read on (



From filthy plonk to first growth Bordeaux, there's something for every palate in our cultural and historical survey of wine Read on (

Reader Recommendations

@tornmap ( : Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? #longform ( #lonreads ( #browsings ( ( More like this (

Book of the Day

Book of the Day (

A First Course in String Theory  by Barton Zwiebach

Steven Gubser says ( : "This is a book by my MIT colleague Barton Zwiebach, and it grew out of a year-long course that he taught at MIT for undergraduates who wanted to learn string theory. So he goes through a lot of the material. He does it without any claims of completeness, but you really do get the idea. Of all the books I’ve mentioned, this one is the most direct route into the heart of the subject." FiveBooks Archive (

Video of the Day

Charles, Your Hangover


The Jeeves of your nightmares More videos (

Quote of the Day

Arthur Schopenhauer, on genius (

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see”

More quotes (

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