Punishment, Neandertals, Blockchain, Hoodoo, Books

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

How To Be Reasonable

Steven Landsburg | 2nd February 2016

Juries should require lower standards of proof to convict for crimes carrying harsher punishments. I will guess that you don't agree, but it's an interesting argument: "A weak penalty has very little deterrent effect — so little that it’s not worth convicting an innocent person over. But a strong penalty can have such a large deterrent effect that it’s worth tolerating a lot of false convictions to get a few true ones" (750 words)

Culture, Mathematical Models, And Neanderthal Extinction

John Hawks | 2nd February 2016

Bogs down a bit early on, but stay tuned for a lucid discussion of a non-obvious question: If modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed on roughly equal terms 50,000 years ago, why did Neanderthals die out while humans flourished? The shorthand answer is 'culture', but why did the cultures diverge so fatally? "The idea that Neandertals were fixed for stupid, and modern humans fixed for smart, is biologically incredible" (2,000 words)

Miki Agrawal’s Panty Raid

Noreen Malone | New York | 3rd February 2016

"If Agrawal were a man, her type would be immediately recognizable: She meditates with Headspace, she does Crossfit, she quotes Steve Jobs and Tim Ferriss. She is self-mythologizing, utterly confident even in situations where she has no good reason to be, and it all serves her exceedingly well. She is a tech bro — except she’s a woman, trying to sell underwear. Or, as she sees it, innovating in the period space" (5,170 words)

Explainer: What Is Blockchain?

Steven Norton | WSJ CIO Journal | 2nd February 2016

"A blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions shared among a distributed network of computers. Once a block of data is recorded on the blockchain ledger, it’s extremely difficult to change or remove. When someone wants to add to it, participants in the network run algorithms to evaluate and verify the proposed transaction. If a majority of nodes agree that the transaction looks valid then the new transaction will be approved" (1,700 words)

The Best Little Hoodoo Pharmacy In Texas

John Nova Lomax | Texas Monthly | 7th January 2016

Stanley Drug sells charms and potions for American hoodoo folk magic — such as Oil of Bendover, Adam and Eve root, Chinese business powder, black-cat perfume, five finger grass, easy-life powder, controlling oil, anger powder, mad water, high-john-the-conqueror root and getaway powder. “The breadth of your inventory has to be spectacular, because if someone comes in today and needs something, they need it today” (3,800 words)

Book Post For January

Ozymandias | Thing Of Things | 3rd February 2016

Reading notes. First up: Primitive and Wilderness Survival Skills. "I got this on Kindle, which was a mistake, as I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I require information about how to make animal traps but also have access to a fully-charged laptop". And some sound advice from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: A Practical Guide: "Always agree there is wisdom in the client’s ultimate goals, if not in the particular means he or she is using" (1,250 words)

Video of the day: Homs, Syria 2016

What to expect: Drone footage from the city of Homs, destroyed in the Syrian civi war. Mind-boggling (1'37")

Thought for the day

I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information
Christopher Hitchens

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