Newsletter 974

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

A History Of Like

Robert Gehl | New Inquiry | 27th March 2013

Facebook has turned "liking" into a driving force of social media and commerce. But why "like"? All is explained here. "The marketing subfield of Liking Studies, which began before Internet use became mainstream, is key to understanding how this somewhat bland, reductive signal of affect became central to the larger consumer economy we live in. It also explains why Facebook will never install a Dislike button"

Great Scientists Aren’t Always Good At Maths

E.O. Wilson | Wall Street Journal | 5th April 2013

A great scientist writes: "I have a professional secret to share: Many of the most successful scientists in the world today are mathematically no more than semiliterate." According to Wilson, it is far more important to have good ideas than to have good maths. When you need math skills, you can import them: "It is far easier for scientists to acquire needed collaboration from mathematicians and statisticians than it is for mathematicians and statisticians to find scientists able to make use of their equations."

Secret Deal On Drones, Sealed In Blood

Mark Mazetti | New York Times | 6th April 2013

How the CIA invented drone warfare. They got addicted to it after killing a Pakistani insurgent with a Predator in 2004, as a favour to Pakistan. Politically, it was a good time for them to switch out of the black prisons business, which was blowing up in their faces. Targeted killing was far more popular. "Before long the CIA would go from being the long-term jailer of America’s enemies to a military organisation that erased them" (Metered paywall)

Digging Deep: The Reopened Rijksmuseum

Hugh Pearman | Gabion | 6th April 2013

Appreciation of the Dutch national gallery, open again after a decade-long rebuilding programme. "The overall impression is of a brute of a place being made to work as a modern art museum despite all the obstacles that the original architect threw up ... There’s something crazily admirable about a civic cultural building that you can walk or cycle right through and otherwise ignore completely if you wish. Welcome back with all your faults, the uniquely eccentric Rijksmuseum"

In Conversation With Robert Silvers

Mark Danner | New York | 7th April 2013

Editor of the New York Review Of Books talks about the first 50 years. Starting with how the copy for the launch issue was commissioned: "Jason called his friend Wystan Auden. Lizzie called Mary McCarthy, and so did I. Barbara called Gore Vidal. I called Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, and Norman Mailer. In the next two days I talked with Jonathan Miller, who wrote on Updike, and then with Philip Rahv, and Dwight MacDonald, who wrote on Arthur Schlesinger"

What Happened To The Environmental Movement?

Nicholas Lemann | New Yorker | 8th April 2013

Forty years ago green activism was new and exciting. Earth Day was celebrated and televised across the America. Government responded with a string of big bills: Clean Air Act of 1970, Clean Water Act of 1972, Endangered Species Act of 1973. Where did all the energy go? Nowadays environmental issues play out in think tanks, pressure groups, government regulation. With no visible pressure from the public, Democrats have given up on green issues, Republicans have turned hostile


Video of the day:  Philip Roth ()

Thought for the day:

"If any past civilization had succeeded in protecting its values, we’d be stuck with values that we would find horrible" — Michael Sandel

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