Monthly Archives: May 2010

Infrastructure and networks

The latest INFORMS podcast has an interview with David Alderson speaking about network science and protecting national infrastructure. He criticizes a couple network studies by saying the results are mathematically correct but the conclusions they draw are wrong because the

Posted in Uncategorized

Sudden wealth

From Paul Buchheit’s blog post What to do with your millions: Many people with jobs have a fantasy about all the amazing things they would do if they didn’t need to work. In reality, if they had the drive and

Posted in Business

Weekend miscellany

Science and medicine Manhattanhenge Shortest science article 10 medical myths Business Percentage of wages coming from private sector at record low 16 things Walmart only sells in China Computing Comic Sans creator on use and abuse of his font Upcoming

Posted in Uncategorized

Losing patience with wastes of time

Peter Bergman wrote an HBR blog post last week How (any Why) to Stop Multitasking. Bergman tried to stop multitasking for a week as an experiment. His post lists six benefits from his experiment including this observation: I lost all

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Posted in Creativity

A few questions with Frederick Brooks

The shelf life of software development books is typically two or three years, maybe five or ten years for a “classic.” Frederick Brooks, however, wrote a book on software development in 1975 that remains a best-seller: The Mythical Man-Month. His

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Posted in Computing, Software development

Computing before Fortran

In the beginning was Fortran. Or maybe not. It’s easy to imagine that no one wrote any large programs before there were compilers, but that’s not true. The SAGE system, for example, involved 500,000 lines of assembly code and is

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Posted in Software development

Being a dreamer is hard work

From Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse: I confess that I am a dreamer. Someone once called me just a dreamer. That offended me, the just part; being a real dreamer is hard work. It really gets hard when

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Posted in Creativity

Weekend miscellany

Calligraphy and typography Chinese water calligraphy Writing systems and calligraphy of the world Google Font Directory Book typography checklist Teach yourself … in … Master the Fourier transform in a day Teach yourself programming in ten years Sports One-eyed Teletubbie

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Army surplus flamethrowers

It’s hard to imagine the amount of equipment the US Army decommissioned after World War II: parachutes, diesel engines, Jeeps, etc. Apparently even flamethrowers were up for grabs. An enterprising merchant in Quakertown, Pennsylvania ran a newspaper ad for military

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In defense of reinventing wheels

Sometimes reinventing the wheel can be a good thing. Jeff Atwood wrote an article that ends with this conclusion: So, no, you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. Unless you plan on learning more about wheels, that is. You have to be

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Posted in Software development

Pure functions have side-effects

Functional programming emphasizes “pure” functions, functions that have no side effects. When you call a pure function, all you need to know is the return value of the function. You can be confident that calling a function doesn’t leave any

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Posted in Python, Software development

Normal approximation to logistic distribution

The logistic distribution looks very much like a normal distribution. Here’s a plot of the density for a logistic distribution. This suggests we could approximate a logistic distribution by a normal distribution. (Or the other way around: sometimes it would

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Posted in Math, Statistics

The dark matter of programmers

Kate Gregory said in an interview that she likes to call C++ programmers the dark matter of the software development world. They’re not visible — they don’t attend conferences and they don’t buy a lot of books — and yet

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Posted in Software development

Weekend miscellany

Science and engineering Interview with the Mars Rover drivers Visualizing relative sizes in biology Activism Ribbons, magnets, and colored bras Math Pixar animation and harmonic functions Digital library of mathematical functions launched this week Alzheimer’s disease Vanishing Words Asperger’s syndrome

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Statistical autopsy

From R. A. Fisher, 1938: To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.

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Posted in Statistics