Newsletter 998


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Best of the Moment

The Chaos Of The Dice

Raffi Khatchadourian | New Yorker | 5th May 2013

Portrait of the world's highest-ranked backgammon player, "Falafel". Real name, Matvey Natanzon. Cut his teeth playing blitz chess in Washington Square Park. Makes $10,000 in half an hour, loses plenty too. Lives out of a suitcase. "Backgammon’s cruelty resides in the dramatic volatility of the dice. Even a player who builds flawless structures on the board can lose to a novice. The dice offer twenty-one random possibilities at each turn"

I Still Love Kierkegaard

Julian Baggini | Aeon | 6th May 2013

"Kierkegaard was the master of irony and paradox before both became debased by careless overuse. He was an existentialist a century before Jean-Paul Sarte, more rigorously post-modern than postmodernism, and a theist whose attacks on religion bit far deeper than many of those of today’s new atheists. Kierkegaard is not so much a thinker for our time but a timeless thinker, pertinent for all ages yet fully attuned to none"

North Korea: The Boy Who Cries Wolf

Robert Kelly | Duck Of Minerva | 5th May 2013

Political scientist's overview of North Korean bellicosity and the prospect of war. "If Kim Jong Un is the reformer of rumor, or if he simply wants North Korea to be less dependent on China, a reduction in the military predation would be wise. It is not hard to imagine the generals struggling behind the scenes to gin up reasons why the Korean People's Army continues to require an enormous presence in the government and economy"

Self-Driving Vehicles – How Soon And Who Will Bear The Liability Costs?

Kenneth Anderson | Volokh Conspiracy | 5th May 2013

Cruise control, speed sensors, assisted parking — the autonomous car is arriving incrementally. "It is introduced in the marketing not as self-driving, which would be both untrue at this stage and also a huge flag for litigation, but instead as giving the driver greater safety and convenience." The final step will be the integration of these systems with control software enabling the car to decide between conflicting imperatives

The Cosmopolitan Ape

Steve Paulson | Nautilus | 1st May 2013

Interview with primatologist Frans de Waal. There is no fundamental difference between humans and other animals. "The social sciences and the humanities are still very influenced by religion. They have this whole mindset that humans are absolutely special. But the average biologist believes that everything is continuous. We know that plants have DNA and humans have DNA, so we see that all of us are totally connected"

Life In The City Is One Giant Math Problem

Jerry Adler | Smithsonian | 27th April 2013

The emerging study of quantitative urbanism contends that many aspects of modern cities can be modelled using mathematical formulas. For example: If the population of a city doubles, each inhabitant becomes on average 15% more productive. “Give me the size of a city in the US and I can tell you how many police it has, how many patents, how many AIDS cases, just as you can calculate the life span of a mammal from its body mass”

Video of the day: How The Mail Works

Thought for the day:

"To act virtuously is not to act against inclination; it is to act from inclination formed by the cultivation of the virtues"— Alasdair MacIntyre

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