Othello, Cahokia, Symptoms, Dogs, Scientific Discovery, Warriors

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

The Iago Problem

Tamsin Shaw | New York Review of Books | 14th December 2016

Sam Gold’s new production of Othello puts evil back in charge. “Daniel Craig’s Iago is not a psychopath, or a victim of trauma, or a man deluded about right and wrong. He makes a choice. He chooses moral insensibility and viciousness. Craig’s commanding performance, his combination of charm, sexual charisma, and menacing masculinity, makes his choice seem not like one that is psychologically inexplicable but rather one that does not need any deeper psychological explanation” (1,980 words)

North America’s Lost Medieval City

Annalee Newitz | Ars Technica | 13th December 2016

Painstaking excavations uncover more of the great pre-Columbian city of Cahokia, which rose a thousand years ago where East St Louis now stands. Cahokia’s population of 30,000 in 1100 made it bigger than Paris; but it was deserted by 1400, following civil unrest perhaps triggered by years of drought. “The elites of Monk’s Mound erected an enormous wooden palisade wall, effectively enclosing themselves in a walled neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, the Grand Plaza fell into disrepair” (7,700 words)

Mental Disorders As Networks

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 14th December 2016

If you have the symptoms of flu, you get treated for flu. But if you are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, you get treated for the symptoms, which can vary a lot. So why insist on an underlying “disorder”? What if it’s symptoms all the way down? “We diagnose depression when a patient has five out of nine symptoms. But all psychiatric disorders are hopelessly comorbid with each other. If someone meets criteria for one disorder, there’s a 50% chance they’ll have another one too” (2,700 words)

I Hate My Dogs, I Love My Dogs

Claire Messud | Literary Hub | 14th December 2016

“To recap: we have the obstreperous, incessantly barking, stinky old deaf and blind dog who can’t really stand up; and the completely blind pisser. When you tell people about our canine situation, many can’t believe it. They see it as our moral failing that the dogs are still alive. ‘Get rid of them’, they urge scornfully. We’ve been told that the dogs’ behaviour is a reflection upon our characters, that were we better alpha dogs ourselves, our pack wouldn’t misbehave as they do” (3,100 words)

If Not Darwin, Then Who?

Philip Ball | Nautilus | 14th December 2016

Would physics be very different now, if Newton had never existed? Probably not. Other great minds of the day, in several European countries, were thinking along similar lines. Likewise, we would probably have relativity even without Einstein, and DNA without Crick and Watson. But biology could have gone very differently without Charles Darwin. A rival theory of evolution could have prevailed which fitted all the evidence without hitting on Darwin’s principle of natural selection (3,700 words)

Stop Calling Us Warriors

PPT Sapper | Angry Officer | 14th December 2016

Putting the US military ethos in an historical perspective. American soldiers are not “warriors”, since warriors are a caste. “Probably the best comparison from the ancient world is with Roman legionnaires. The Legions were combined forces made up of recruits from all around the empire, and the end goal for the legionnaires was to retire from the Legions with a plot of land and full citizenship in the Empire. The Legions were excellent at engineering and really good at projecting power” (2,700 words)

Video of the day: Why Is The Rent So Damn High?

What to expect:

Tyler Cowen and Matt Yglesias debate whether big-city rents can and should be brought down (9’50”)

Thought for the day

What I cannot create, I do not understand
Richard Feynman

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