Monthly Archives: June 2011

Manga guides to physics and the universe

I recently received review copies of the Manga Guides to physics and the universe. These made a better impression than the relativity guide that I reviewed earlier. The guide to physics has been out for a while. The guide to

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Posted in Science

Interview on Strongly Connected Components

Samuel Hansen interviews me in the latest episode of his podcast Strongly Connected Components. I’ve enjoyed listening to Samuel’s podcast since it started a couple years ago. Here’s a list of other mathematical podcasts.

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Why do C++ folks make things so complicated?

This morning Miroslav BajtoŇ° asked “Why do C++ folks make things so complicated?” in response to my article on regular expressions in C++. Other people asked similar questions yesterday. My response has two parts: Why I believe C++ libraries are

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Posted in Software development

Have you saved a milliwatt today?

Research In Motion (RIM) is best known for making the BlackBerry. In the early days of the company, RIM focused on reducing the BlackBerry’s power consumption. The engineers put up a sign: Have you saved a milliwatt today? This was

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Posted in Creativity

Bundled versus unbundled version history

The other day I said to a colleague that an advantage to LaTeX over Microsoft Word is that it’s easy to version LaTeX files because they’re just plain text. My colleague had the opposite view. He said that LaTeX was

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Posted in Software development

Weekend miscellany

Photography Photos from the International Space Station Culture Is there a new geek anti-intellectualism? Statistics Bad statistics is now a crime Programming Interview with Clojure author Rich Hickey How I Failed, Failed, and Finally Succeeded at Learning How to Code

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Simpler version of Stirling's approximation

Here’s an approximation for n! similar to Stirling’s famous approximation. I ran into this reading A View from the Top by Alex Iosevich. It is less accurate than Stirling’s formula, but has three advantages. It contains the highest order terms

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Posted in Math

Mental context switches are evil

This week I’ve run across two examples of technical strategies to reduce mental context switches. The first example is Pete Kruckenberg’s story of why his team chose to develop a web application using node.js even though he had extensive experience

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Posted in Software development

Stand-alone scientific code

Sometimes you need one or two scientific functions not included in your programming environment. For a number of possible reasons, you do not want to depend on an external library. For example, maybe you don’t want to take the time

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Posted in Python

Destructive capacity of individuals and states

From Modern Times: The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless.

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Friday miscellany

Eclectic Vintage advertising The evolution of email Solving the wrong problem Alternative medicines and placebos Truth stranger than fiction Larry Ellison suing neighbors over his view Towing icebergs Math Elementary Applied Topology draft textbook Introduction to category theory Mathematical model

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What it means to understand an equation

From Nobel physicist Paul Dirac: I understand what an equation means if I have a way of figuring out the characteristics of its solution without actually solving it.

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Posted in Math, Science

Collatz 3n + 1 conjecture possibly solved

Gerhard Opfer has posted a paper that claims to resolve the famous Collatz conjecture. Start with a positive number n and repeatedly apply these simple rules: If n = 1, stop. If n is even, divide n by 2. If

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Posted in Math

Clutter-discoverability trade-off

There’s a tension between presenting a user an uncluttered interface and helping the user discover new features. This post will begin by discussing two extreme examples. On the cluttered but discoverable end of the spectrum is Microsoft Word 2007. On

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Posted in Computing