Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A miscellany of links

1. "You really wouldn't want to see your kid become addicted to heroin and commit suicide or go crazy and cut his ear off. Learning that your son had also recorded a game-changing alternative rock album or painted a bunch of the world's most beloved paintings would not seriously alter the calculus. You'd rather have your son grow up to be an unremarkable accountant who has a couple of hobbies he enjoys." But you might like someone else's son to suffer ear-loss if you get to see the paintings. So letting people genetically engineer their children will result in too many accountants and not enough Van Goghs. Well, it's a theory. Maybe Van Gogh wanted an accountant for a son; maybe accountants want rock stars.

2. Here's an interesting story about a female Sikh bank robber. One minor detail caught my eye. "Inside, a greeter jumped out and said: "Hey, how can I help you?" This technique is called SafeCatch, and it's taught by the FBI to put potential robbers off their stride." Wouldn't having someone jump out at you put anyone off their stride? Or does it mean that all those people who hand around in HSBC branches just to point to the machines are there to put off bank robbers?

3. Inequality. Here's "an interesting thought for those people at Oxfam complaining so vociferously about inequality. Absolutely everyone who works for them at home base is in the global top 6 percent by income, all of their senior people are in the top 1percent. And given that some of them are middle aged, with houses and pensions, there’s almost certainly more people working for Oxfam in that top 1 percent of wealth in the world than there are actual billionaires on the planet." Even closer to home: "Median pay for employees in Britain last year was £22,044; only 10% of people earned more than £48,250. Mean annual pay, says the ONS, was £27,271, but more than 60% earned less than that, the overall average being skewed by the tiny minority who make considerably more." That's from here, a piece which also explains why George Osborne is more in touch with C2 voters than Ed Milliband.

4. Here are a couple of Buzzfeed-esque 'amazing places' links: "Are these the most magical settlements in the world?" (they're in the running) and (slightly less Buzzfeed-y) "The Sensational Architecture of the Strangest Village in Lebanon".

5. PJ O'Rourke says "you really do love your NHS. But what I don't understand is if it's so good why are you always trying to fix it?". Well, so the saying goes, the Americans hate their healthcare and do nothing about it; the French love theirs and are always fiddling with it. 

7. For those of us who don't understand relativity, quantum mechanics and all that jazz, here's Freeman Dyson, clear as always. "To summarize the present situation, there are three ways to understand philosophically our observations of the physical universe. The classical philosophy of Einstein has everything in a single layer obeying classical laws, with quantum processes unexplained. The quantum-only philosophy has included everything in a single layer obeying quantum laws, with the astonishing solidity and uniqueness of the classical illusion unexplained. The dualistic philosophy gives reality impartially to the classical vision of Einstein and to the quantum vision of Bohr, with the details of the connection between the two layers unexplained. All three philosophies are tenable, and all three are incomplete. I prefer the dualistic philosophy because I give equal weight to the insights of Einstein and Bohr. I do not believe that the celestial harmonies discovered by Einstein are an accidental illusion."

8. The thing about Minecraft is that it allows children to run riot, the way they used to.

9. Finally, if you have got this far, you might be interested in knowing that you do a course on wasting time on the internet at the University of Pennsylvania. It seems as if it's (almost entirely) a waste of time.

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