Monthly Archives: March 2011

Saved by symmetry

When I solve a problem by appealing to symmetry, students’ jaws drop. They look at me as if I’d pulled a rabbit out of a hat. I used think of these tricks as common knowledge, but now I think they’re

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Arrogant ignorance

The following line continues the theme of appropriate scale from a few days ago. We identify arrogant ignorance by its willingness to work on too large a scale, and thus put too much at risk. This comes from the title

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Software development and the myth of progress

The word myth brings up images of classical mythology. From there it can be generalized a couple ways. One is any story that is not true. Another is a story, whether true or not, that embodies a system of belief.

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Suspicious definitions

I’ve long been suspicious of speeches that revolve around idiosyncratic definitions. I was pleased to find this evening that C. S. Lewis shared this suspicion. But when we leave the dictionaries we must view all definitions with grave distrust. …

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Weekend miscellany

Music The “Jimi Hendrix of South India” Science and engineering Solar panels and haute cuisine Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power Medicine What happens to doctors who think outside the box? New books LaTeX Beginner’s Guide

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Priorities

From Merlin Mann: If you’ve got more than two priorities, you might as well think you have more than two arms. Related posts: Task switching Four reasons we don’t apply the 80/20 rule

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Posted in Business, Creativity

Three Firefox 4 tips

The latest version of Firefox, version 4.0, makes a few changes that take a little getting used to. The navigation bar is below the tabs by default. The “home” icon has moved from the left end of the navigation bar

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Appropriate scale

“Scale” became a popular buzz word a couple decades ago. Suddenly everyone was talking about how things scale. At first the term was used to describe how software behaved as problems became larger or smaller. Then the term became more

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Posted in Creativity, Software development

Python for high performance computing

William Scullin’s talk from PyCon 2011: Python for high performance computing. At least in our shop [Argonne National Laboratory] we have three accepted languages for scientific computing. In this order they are C/C++, Fortran in all its dialects, and Python.

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Weekend miscellany

Philosophy referee hand signals Virtual tour of Lascaux Deaths per unit of energy produced by coal, nuclear, etc. Algebraic surface gallery Magnetic lines of buckyballs (gorgeous images) What to demand from a scientific computing language PyCon 2011 videos

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Understanding radiation units

Radiation units are confusing for three or four reasons. There are different units depending on whether you’re measuring how much radiation is being emitted or measuring how much is being received. There are different ways of quantifying the amount of

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Daily tip accounts broader than names imply

Some of my daily tip Twitter accounts are a little broader than their names imply. Account names need to be fairly short, so they can’t be too descriptive. Here are fuller descriptions of some of the accounts. TeXtip is primarily

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Seven interviews

Here are six people I have interviewed. Rick Richter, CIO of Food for the Hungry Robert Ghrist, applied topologist Carl Franklin, musician and software developer Frederick Brooks, computer pioneer and author Cliff Pickover, mathematician and author Dan Bricklin, software developer

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A support one-liner

This morning I had a fun support request related to our software. The exchange took place over email but it could have fit into a couple Twitter messages. Would that all requests could be answered so succinctly. Question: Do you

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Work-life balance

From Nigel Marsh: I stepped back from the workforce and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy

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