while Using the curl command from a Linux (not a Mac) system to access https://ssl-failure.thousandeyes.net results in an error. However, opening this site in a web browser such as Chrome appears not to generate an error. how is this?

From man:

  -k/--insecure
         (SSL)  This  option  explicitly allows curl to perform "insecure" SSL connections and transfers. All SSL connections are attempted to be made secure by using
         the CA certificate bundle installed by default. This makes all connections considered "insecure" fail unless -k/--insecure is used.

You are trying to access a secure(SSL) site use -k option to allows curl to perform "insecure" SSL connections and transfers.

curl -k 'https://ssl-failure.thousandeyes.net/'

<html>
<head>
<title>Welcome to ssl-failure.thousandeyes.net</title>
</head>
<body>
<p>Welcome to ssl-failure.thousandeyes.net.  Congratulations, you're reading the secure page</p>
</body>
</html>

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