Siam Qian, Animal Thought, Renaissance Technologies, Identity

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

History Is Written By The Losers

T. Greer | Scholar's Stage | 21st November 2016

In praise of Siam Qian, court astronomer and calendar keeper in the reign of the Chinese emperor Han Wudi, around 100 BC. “Herodotus is one of two men who can claim to have invented history. Sima Qian is the other. That a great thinker could profitably spend his time distinguishing truth from legend, then presenting what is found in a written narrative — only in Greece and in China did this notion catch hold. The work of every historian finds its genesis with one of these two people” (2,300 words)


Laurie Santos | Edge | 21st November 2016

Laurie Santos, a cognitive psychologist who studies animals, talks about the difference between animal and human thought. “When you probe what nonhumans are doing, they seem to be thinking in terms of the facts that they know about the world, and they can attribute to others individual facts that they themselves have. But they can’t make predictions about an individual who lacks the facts that they have. They can’t think about another individual being ignorant” (8,300 words)

Inside A Moneymaking Machine

Katherine Burton | Bloomberg Businessweek | 21st November 2016

A computer-driven hedge fund limited to 300 investors has produced has produced $55 billion in profits over the last 28 years. The Renaissance Technologies Medallion Fund is “perhaps the world’s greatest moneymaking machine”, with annualized returns of almost 80 percent. “In addition to language specialists, astrophysicists have historically had an outsize impact on the system’s success, according to people familiar with the firm. String theorists have also had a major role” (4,300 words)

The Last Unknown Man

Matt Wolfe | New Republic | 21st November 2016

A man is found lying naked by a dumpster in Georgia, claiming total amnesia. He is given the name Benjamin Kyle. But who is he really? “The government could find no record of Kyle’s previous life. His picture, appearing repeatedly on television and the internet, was viewed by millions, yet not a single person stepped forward to say they knew him. A decade after he was discovered in front of the dumpsters at Burger King, he was still called Benjaman Kyle” (12,300 words)

The 50,000-Watt Quartet

David Henry | Oxford American | 1st November 2013

Remembering WLAC, the great Nashville radio station of the 1950s. “On a summer’s night, WLAC’s 50,000 watts might bounce from Alberta to Argentina, from Iceland to Navy destroyers off Africa. Far-flung listeners included Johnny Winter in Beaumont, Texas; Duane and Gregg Allman in Daytona Beach; Johnny Cash in West Memphis; Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins in Tennessee. The sounds that poured from 12-year-old Bobby Zimmerman’s radio, he would later say, seemed like something from outer space” (2,100 words)

Video of the day: Daniel Barenboim: Chopin — Ballade No 1

What to expect:

Barenboim, at the piano, explains and demostrates the structure of Chopin’s best-loved Ballade (5’01”)

Thought for the day

An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered
G.K. Chesterton

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