Newsletter 982

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

History For Politicians Of Today

Rory Stewart | 16th April 2013

Why should anyone study history? "Even for the few periods for which records survive, what we know confuses us. Our forefathers believed in things, which we struggle to understand." But that is part of the point. The worst decisions in politics are made by people who believe they do understand things. History teaches us that everything is particular, nothing is predictable, life isn't fair, and everything changes

The Race And The Aftermath

Charles Pierce | Grantland | 16th April 2013

"The Marathon was the old, drunk uncle of Boston sports, the last of the true festival events. There was no way to lock down, or tighten up, or Fail-Safe into Security Theater a race that covers 26.2 miles, a race that travels from town to town, a race that travels past people's houses. There was no way to garrison the Boston Marathon. Now there will be. Someone will find a way to do it. And I do not know what the race will be now"

Jeremy Grantham On Population Growth, China And Climate Sceptics

Leo Hickman | Guardian | 15th April 2013

Interview. Verbatim extracts. "Every time we see a bubble, we see an army of people screaming, 'No, no, it's not a bubble, everything is fine.' We see the climate, and scores of people screaming the same, that everything is fine, or that it's a plot. It's par for the course. The general public don't want to hear it and will choose to listen to the optimistic interpretation. You don't stop the bubble until the damage is done"

A Short History Of Punctuation

Keith Houston | Shady Characters | 16th April 2013

"Writing in ancient Greece was broken by neither marks nor spaces. Lines of closely-packed letters ran left to right across the page and back again like a farmer ploughing a field. The sole aid to the reader was the paragraphos, a simple horizontal stroke in the margin that indicated something of interest on the corresponding line. It was up to the reader to work out what, exactly, had been highlighted in this fashion"

Stop Whining About Air Travel

Matthew Yglesias | Slate | 16th April 2013

"American commercial passenger aviation is pretty amazing. It’s time for the flying public to cut the airlines some slack and show a little appreciation." It's cheap: tickets are half the price they were in the 1970s. It's safe: only one fatal crash in the past five years. Paying separately for food, bags, exit rows is is fair and efficient. It's a problem that planes are sometimes late. But life's complicated. You're sometimes late, too

The Bitcoin Bubble And A Bad Hypothesis

John Quiggin | National Interest | 16th April 2013

Bitcoin is "perhaps the finest example of a pure bubble", beating out even the text book classic, 18C South Sea Bubble, because at least the promoters of the South Sea Company purported to have a plan. Bitcoin claims no intrinsic source of value. As such, it drives a coach and horses through the efficient markets hypothesis. "Bitcoins will attain their true value of zero sooner or later, but it is impossible to say when"

Video of the day: Man Of Steel

Thought for the day:

"Monotony collapses time. Novelty unfolds it" — Joshua Foer

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