Monthly Archives: November 2010

Not exactly rocket science

On the day Apollo 11 left for the moon, Wernher von Braun said “You give me 10 billion dollars and a 10 years and I’ll have a man on Mars.” Perhaps he could have solved the rocketry problem in time

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New Twitter account: CompSciFact

Next week I’m starting @CompSciFact. This Twitter account will post one fact from computer science per day, Monday through Friday. I’ll also have a few unscheduled posts from time to time. (I announced @StatFact earlier today. There are no more

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New Twitter account: StatFact

I’m starting a new daily tip account on Twitter. @StatFact will post one statement from statistics per day, drawing from Bayesian and frequentist statistics. Like my other daily tip accounts, StatFact will post Monday through Friday on a regular schedule

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Posted in Statistics

Where to wait for an elevator

Imagine a bank of three elevators along a wall. The elevators are in a straight line but they are not evenly spaced. Where do you stand in order to minimize the average distance you’ll need to walk to catch the

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Posted in Math, Statistics

Apollo 11 wasn’t perfect

The mission that first landed men on the moon could easily have been aborted. From Rocket Men: Though Apollo 11 is commonly believed to have been a perfect mission, so many things in fact went wrong Kennedy Space Center directory

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Ruby, Python, and Science

David Jacobs has written a long blog post Ruby is beautiful (but I’m moving to Python). Here’s my summary. Ruby is much better than Java, but the Ruby community is too focused on web development and the language has no

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Posted in Python

Weekend miscellany

Music Bach complete organ works for download Math Connecting prime numbers and quantum physics Online LaTeX editor Tower of Hanoi with four pegs Geography National Geographic photography contest World map re-arranged by population Software development Bad code is an unhedged

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Fairy dust on the diploma

When I was in college, a friend of mine gave me a math book that I found hard to get through. When I complained about it, he told me “You’re going to finish a PhD someday. When you do, do

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Posted in Creativity

Lisp and the anti-Lisp

Doug Hoyte’s book Let Over Lambda is refreshingly opinionated. I don’t share the author’s opinions, but I appreciate his conviction. Hoyte is a zealous advocate for Lisp, and yet he admires Perl as a sort of anti-Lisp. He even calls

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Posted in Software development

Prestige, value, and satisfaction

Seth Roberts and Daniel Lemire have both written blog posts on prestige. Roberts argues that high-prestige work almost necessarily has low practical value. Lemire takes this idea further and explains why high-prestige work can be unsatisfying. Related posts: Decentralized knowledge,

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Two kinds of generalization

From George PĆ³lya: There are two kinds of generalizations. One is cheap and the other is valuable. It is easy to generalize by diluting a little idea with a big terminology. It is much more difficult to prepare a refined

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Posted in Creativity, Math, Software development

Weekend miscellany

Life You can always choose “none of the above” Psychology The McGurk effect Grammar, logic, and rhetoric Grammar cheat sheet Taxonomy of logical fallacies Confessions of an academic ghostwriter Theoretical computer science What computer science papers should everyone read? Graduate

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Two videos on craftsmanship

Here are a couple inspiring videos about craftsmen, sign artist David A. Smith and machinist Neil Youngberg. David A Smith – Sign Artist from Danny Cooke on Vimeo. PROFESSIONal from VITA BREVIS FILMS on Vimeo.

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Posted in Creativity

Technologies never die

There are incentives to use the latest technology, just because it’s the latest, even if it’s no better than its predecessor. Being up-to-date makes it easier to Find a job Work on new projects Demonstrate enthusiasm for your profession. In

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Posted in Software development

Appropriate use of XML

Daniel Lemire has an insightful article on good uses and bad uses of XML: You probably misunderstand XML

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Posted in Software development