Richard Feynman, Putin Stays, Joe Jamail, String Theory, Gifts

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Richard Feynman And The Connection Machine

Danny Hillis | Long Now | 22nd December 2014

Memoir. Working with Richard Feynman. "He always started by asking basic questions like, 'What is the simplest example?' or 'How can you tell if the answer is right?' He asked questions until he reduced the problem to some essential puzzle that he thought he would be able to solve. In this way he worked on problems in database searches, geophysical modeling, protein folding, analyzing images, and reading insurance forms" (4,460 words)

Putin Stays

Christopher Weafer | Open Democracy | 22nd December 2014

Russian inflation will hit 15% early in 2015, thanks to the falling rouble; the economy is "very likely to fall off a cliff" in the first half-year as sanctions bite and investment hiccups. But so long as oil stays cheap, Russia has reason to let the rouble take the hit rather than burning through reserves to prop it up. "The weak rouble protects budget revenues and provides a soft stimulus for domestic manufacturers" (1,360 words)

The Greatest Lawyer Who Ever Lived

John Spong | Texas Monthly | 20th December 2014

Portrait of Houston plaintiffs' attorney Joe Jamail, "quite possibly the greatest trial lawyer in American history", still in demand at 89. His $10.5 billion victory for Pennzoil over Texaco in 1985 remains the largest jury award in history. Contingency fees have made him a billionaire twice over. His method: Always go to trial, always start by destroying the defendant. Says a rival: "He may kill you, but he won’t cheat you” (6,800 words)

Is String Theory About To Unravel?

Brian Greene | Smithsonian | 19th December 2014

According to string theory there is a "vibrating string-like filament" at the heart of each subatomic particle, and the vibrations of the filament give the particle its mass and charge. But 30 years after the theory was first advanced there is no experimental evidence to support it, and perhaps we should not expect any. The strings would be so tiny that one would need a particle-collider the size of a galaxy to detect them (2,800 words)

You Really, Really Shouldn’t Have

Tim Harford | Undercover Economist | 21st December 2014

On the psychology of giving and receiving gifts; also known as the deadweight cost of Christmas. "Givers thought that gifts they’d chosen themselves were more appreciated, but recipients preferred the gifts that they’d specifically asked for. The lesson: you might feel that it’s awkward and unnecessary to ask what gift would be welcome but the recipient of the gift would prefer that you asked rather than guessed" (820 words)

Video of the day: The Missing Scarf

What to expect: A squirrel goes looking for a lost scarf in a deep forest. Cartoon (6'30")

Thought for the day

To prevent conversation from being boring, say the wrong thing
Frank Sheed

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