Newsletter 915

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

Why Apple Is Losing Its Aura

Bruce Nussbaum | Fast Company | 28 January 2013

Excellent essay on the huge part played by charisma and mystique in Apple's economic value. "Jobs had a business strategy that deliberately limited scale in favor of Aura — great engagement, beautiful things, access to tools and content that let you create your own identity." Tim Cook's Apple is all about scale. The thrill is gone

Quantum Biology: Do Weird Physics Effects Abound In Nature?

Jason Palmer and Alex Mansfield | BBC | 28 January 2013

Biologists find that quantum effects help to explain phenomena in the plant and animal world. Among them: photosynthesis, the navigation systems of birds — and sense of smell. "Electrons in the receptors in our noses disappear on one side of a smell molecule and reappear on the other, leaving a little bit of energy behind in the process"

Putin And The Monk

Charles Clover | Financial Times | 25 January 2013

Profile of Father Tikhon Shevkunov, Orthodox Christian monk and spiritual adviser to President Vladimir Putin. Reputedly Putin's confessor, possibly even his godfather. Emblematic of the intimate relationship between church and state in Russia. The church gives Putin the moral high ground. Putin protects and rewards the church

Reclaiming The French Art Of Statecraft

Olivier Schmitt | Kings Of War | 28 January 2013

Lesons from French intervention in Mali. French army works well: "A degree of initial improvisation, the right amount of aggressiveness, successful integration with African forces". French diplomacy too: Hollande kept UK and US onside. But aren't EU countries supposed to act together in defence and security? Has that idea died?

Broken Tooth And New Macau

Benjamin Carlson | Foreign Policy | 28 January 2013

When China took back the southern enclave of Macau from Portugal in 1999, Macau was a corrupt, sleepy gambling town in the grip of triad gang violence. Under Chinese rule the triads have been suppressed, foreign firms have come to run casinos, and Macau does five times the gambling business of Las Vegas. It's still sleazy, but it works

Phreaking Out Ma Bell

Phil Lapsley | IEEE Spectrum | 28 January 2013

How an 18-year old engineering student at Washington State read the Bell technical journal in 1960 and saw a way to hack the US long-distance telephone system, exploiting the principle that calls to directory inquires were free. Place such a call, then, with a few beeps, you could re-route it to a regular number, still free. The blue box was born

Video of the day: A Day In The Near Future

Thought for the day:

"Intellectual progress comes from people who focus on a question to which they do not currently know the answer" — Robin Hanson

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