Monthly Archives: November 2010

Place, privacy, and dignity

Richard Weaver argues in Visions of Order that our privacy and dignity depend on our being rooted in space. He predicted that as people become less attached to a geographical place, privacy and dignity erode. There is something protective about

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Why AT&T licensed UNIX to universities

Here are  a couple details of UNIX history I ran across this week. Why AT&T first licensed UNIX to universities: At this time [1974], AT&T held a government-sanctioned monopoly on the US telephone system. The terms of AT&T’s agreement with

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Posted in Computing

Perpendicular and relatively prime

Donald Knuth recommends using the symbol ⊥ between two numbers to indicate that they are relatively prime. For example: The symbol is denoted perp in TeX because it is used in geometry to denote perpendicular lines. It corresponds to Unicode

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The middle size of the universe

From Kevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants: Our body size is, weirdly, almost exactly in the middle of the size of the universe. The smallest things we know about are approximately 30 orders of magnitude smaller than we are, and

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Why the horse in Magician’s Nephew is named Fledge

In C. S. Lewis’ book The Magician’s Nephew, the horse Strawberry becomes Fledge, the father of winged horses. It didn’t occur to me until today why Lewis chose that name. I just thought it was an odd, arbitrary choice. This

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Weekend miscellany: programming edition

I ran into a lot good links this week related to programming, so this is a specialized weekend miscellany. Python How to become a Python guru Unicode in Python, and how to prevent it Perl Modern Perl (free PDF book)

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The trouble with wizards

It’s usually a compliment to call someone a “wizard.” For example, the stereotypical Unix wizard is a man with a long gray beard who can solve any problem in minutes by typing furiously at a command prompt. Here’s a different

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The grand unified theory of 19th century math

The heart of 19th century math was the study of special functions arising from mathematical physics. It is well known that the central problem of the whole of modern mathematics is the study of the transcendental functions defined by differential

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Accelerated learning

Derek Sivers tells how a mentor was able to teach him a semester’s worth of music theory in three hours. His mentor also prepared him to place out of four more classes in four sessions. He gives the details in

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Economics in one sentence

From Economics in One Lesson: … the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but

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Deleting the Windows recycle bin desktop icon

I’ve never kept many icons on my desktop, and tonight I decided to reduce the number to zero. Deleting the recycle bin icon took a little research. Windows Vista will let you simply delete the recycle bin but other versions

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Posted in Computing

Odd perfect numbers

Yesterday I wrote about even perfect numbers. What about odd perfect numbers? Well, there may not be any. I couldn’t care less about perfect numbers, even or odd. But I find the history and the mathematics surrounding the study of

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Even perfect numbers

I just got a review copy of Maths 1001 by Richard Elwes. As the title may suggest, the book is a collection 1001 little math articles. (Or “maths articles” as the author would say since he’s English.) Most of the

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Weekend miscellany

Photography Tree bark (much better than it sounds!) Space station cupola views Computing Programming Windows Phone 7 (free book) Ymacs: An Emacs-like editor in the browser How do search engines handle special characters? Math Carnival of mathematics #71 Funny identities

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Blasted through a riverbed

In 1916, Marshall Mabey was working on a subway tunnel under New York’s East River. Compressed air was pumped into the tunnel to keep the soft earth between the river and the tunnel from caving in. A crack formed in

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