Monthly Archives: April 2008

Overflow and loss of precision

Suppose you need to evaluate the function f(x) = log(1 + ex). The most obvious code to write something like this in C:   double f(double x) { return log(1 + exp(x)); } This is so simple you don’t even test

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Posted in Math, Software development

Galen and clinical trials

Here’s a quote from the Greek physician Galen (c. 130-210 A.D.) All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. Therefore, it is obvious that it fails only

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Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

If you're going to do XHTML, you'd better do it right

XHTML is essentially a stricter form of HTML, but not quite. For the most part, you can satisfy the requirements of both standards at the same time. However, when it comes to closing tags, the two standards are incompatible. For

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Posted in Computing

Houston Deco

This weekend I stumbled across the book Houston Deco at the library. The book is filled with photos of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture in Houston and the surrounding area. I had no idea how much Art Deco architecture

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Posted in Uncategorized

Random number generator controversy

I submitted an article to Code Project yesterday, Simple Random Number Generation, describing a small C# class called SimpleRNG that uses George Marsaglia’s WMC algorithm. The article was posted around 5 PM (central US time) and comments started pouring in right

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Posted in Math, Software development, Statistics

Text reviews for software

When users find spelling and grammar errors in your software, your credibility takes a hit. But apparently very few software projects review the text their software displays. I imagine the ones that do review their text use a combination of

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Posted in PowerShell, Software development

A little simplicity goes a long way

Sometimes making a task just a little simpler can make a huge difference. Making something 5% easier might make you 20% more productive. Or 100% more productive. To see how valuable a little simplification can be, turn it around and

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Posted in Creativity, Software development

Three quotes on simplicity

It’s easy to decide what you’re going to do.  The hard thing is deciding what you’re not going to do. Michael Dell Clutter kills WOW. Tom Peters Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It

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Posted in Creativity

People have been in America longer than we thought

According to a Science Magazine story, it looks like humans have been in North America one thousand years longer than previously believed. New DNA evidence suggests people were in North America by 12,000 B.C. The study also suggests that the first Native

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Posted in Science

Are Covey's quadrants correlated?

I was reading a statistical article the other day that used the word “important” when I thought the author should have said “urgent.” Since I was in a statistical frame of mind, I wondered whether importance and urgency are positively

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Posted in Business, Statistics

Tricky code

I found the following comment inside the source code for TeX in the preface to a function creating Roman numeral representations: Readers who like puzzles might enjoy trying to figure out how this tricky code works; therefore no explanation will be

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Posted in Software development

Why Unicode is subtle

On it’s surface, Unicode is simple. It’s a replacement for ASCII to make room for more characters. Joel Spolsky assures us that it’s not that hard. But then how did Jukka Korpela have enough to say to fill his 678-page book Unicode Explained?

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Posted in Computing

Learning is not the same as gaining information

Learning is not the same as just gaining information. Sometimes learning means letting go of previously held beliefs. While this is true in life in general, my point here is to show how this holds true when using the mathematical definition

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Posted in Math, Statistics

Water and epistemology

According to the latest Scientific American podcast, there is no scientific evidence to back up the common belief that everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day. Nor is there scientific evidence to back up many of the claimed

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Posted in Clinical trials, Science

Contrasting Microsoft Word and LaTeX

Here’s an interesting graph from Marko Pinteric comparing Microsoft Word and Donald Knuth’s LaTeX. According to the graph, LaTeX becomes easier to use relative to Microsoft Word as the task becomes more complex. That matches my experience, though I’d add a

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Posted in Computing