Schelling, Bird Detective, Countries, Kidnapping, Marathon Running, Illuminati


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RIP Thomas Schelling

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 10th October 2005

Notes on why Schelling handsomely deserved his Nobel Prize. His work on the game theory of nuclear deterrence incorporated the idea for which he is best known — the use of precommitment to strengthen a negotiator’s position by credibly reducing the concessions a negotiators can make. “Tom developed the idea that deterrence is never fully credible (why retaliate once you are wiped out?). The best deterrent might involve precommitment, some element of randomness, or a partly crazy leader” (800 words)

The World’s Top Feather Detective

Chris Sweeney | Audubon | 13th December 2016

The name is Trail. Pepper Trail. “Give him a single feather or a small fragment of a claw or a cooked hunk of breast meat, and he’ll tell you the species of bird from which it came. As the world’s leading criminal forensic ornithologist, Trail is asked day in and day out to perform these exact tasks. Over the past 18 years he has assisted with hundreds of investigations, testified in federal court 15 times, and handled more bird carcasses than anyone should” (2,600 words)

Should Some Countries Cease To Exist?

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 13th December 2016

Open borders and unconstrained migration would make the world a richer and happier place overall — but some countries might disappear through depopulation, and their cultures with them. “Should people in Mali be forced to live in Mali because somebody in London thinks that some variety of human existence would be lost if they all came to England? The world has lost Marcomanni, Quadi, Sarmatians, Visigoths, Alans, Vandals, Avars and thousands others. Do we really miss them today?” (990 words)

Kidnapping For Ransom

Anja Shortland | Washington Post | 13th December 2016

On the economics of kidnapping as a business. So long as kidnappers rely on insurance payments, the insurers get to set the rules. “The first principle for insurers is that safe retrieval of hostages is paramount. The second principle is that kidnapping cannot become too wildly profitable, for fear of further destabilization. Insurers have created institutions to make sure that ransom offers meet kidnapper expectations and produce safe releases but that do not upset local criminal markets” (1,100 words)

How To Run Nike’s Sub-Two-Hour Marathon

Ross Tucker | Science of Sport | 13th December 2016

A South African doctor writes: The easiest way to cut five minutes off the world marathon record, as Nike wants to do, would be to run the race on a downhill course. Or use sprung running shoes — which, for Nike, would be a natural. “Springs in shoes, which reduce the physiological cost of running by around 4%, could be enough to help a runner go from a 2:04 to a sub-two-hour marathon. A 1% downhill gradient could achieve basically the same outcome, in theory, as a shoe with springs” (3,000 words)

Why I’m Leaving My Job At The Illuminati

Jason Gilbert | McSweeney's | 5th December 2016

Satire. Satire!! “I love orchestrating global financial events in a way that is favorable to a cabal of ultra-wealthy power players. But I recently received an offer I couldn’t pass up. So I’m saying goodbye to the Illuminati and starting a new job as an advisor to President-Elect Donald Trump. But my experience at the Illuminati will always stay with me. Once you’ve been initiated via blood oath in the Satanic church behind Lloyd Blankfein’s Buenos Aires sex mansion, there’s really no turning back” (775 words)

Video of the day: Cycle

What to expect:

Surreal interplay of bodies, shapes and textures. By Kouhei Nakama, music by Kai Engel (2’35”)

Thought for the day

The wink was not our best invention
Ralph Hodgson

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