Monthly Archives: August 2011

Usability versus composability

Conal Elliott gave a talk at Google a while back in which he points out the tension between usability and composability, between software that is user-friendly and software that is programmer-friendly. Consumers like software that’s easy to use. But programmers

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Prime telephone numbers

Michael Lugo pointed out that the telephone number 867-5309 is prime and may be the largest prime number to appear in the title of a popular song. (The song 867-5309/Jenny peaked at #4 on Billboard in 1982.) David Radcliffe added

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Posted in Math

System administration in remote areas

Last February I interviewed Rick Richter, CIO of Food for the Hungry, a Christian relief and development organization. This morning I spoke with Rick and was reminded of some of the challenges involved in supporting computers in poor parts of

Posted in Computing

Weekend miscellany

Photography Glass Beach Computing Your Apple ID has been disabled Updated Mac vs PC Old Dijkstra essays considered Statistics Through the eyes of a statistician Business How firing Steve Jobs saved Apple Politics How Congress devastated Congo Getting paid for

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Designed from the inside out

The most recent episode of the Plus Maths podcast describes how the London Velodrome was designed. Being a math podcast, it focuses on the optimization problems involved in the design and the finite element modeling of the structure. The beautiful

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Posted in Math

Small, local, old, and particular

Here’s an interesting thought from Rod Dreher: Small, local, old, and particular are almost always better than big, global, new, and abstract. Almost always better? I wouldn’t go that far. But I would say that small, local, old, and particular

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Markov chains don’t converge

I often hear people often say they’re using a burn-in period in MCMC to run a Markov chain until it converges. But Markov chains don’t converge, at least not the Markov chains that are useful in MCMC. These Markov chains

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Posted in Statistics

The single big jump principle

Suppose you’re playing a game where you take 10 steps of a random size. Here are two variations on the game. Which will give you a better chance of ending up far from where you started? You take your steps

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Posted in Math, Statistics

Perverse hipster desire for retro-computing

Here’s my favorite line from an article Life on the Command Line by Stephen Ramsay: I also don’t do this [work from the command line] out of some perverse hipster desire for retro-computing. I have work to do. If my

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Posted in Computing

Like putting a coke machine in a monastery

When someone suggested to Derek Sivers that he cover the CD Baby web site with advertising, he replied No way. Out of the question. That would be like putting a coke machine in a monastery. I love that simile for

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Friday miscellany

Design Golden ratios Math What’s on my blackboard Blind geometers Convex is complex Science Astronomy discovery could help treat cancer patients 150 ft worm 80% of epidemiology results false Earth may have had two moons Texas drought worst since 1950′s,

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On being wrong

TED Talk by “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz: It could be depressing to be reminded that you’re probably wrong about many things you believe. But I thought about a number of things I’d like to find out I’m wrong about, and maybe

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Posted in Creativity

Few coefficients, few roots

Here’s an elegant little theorem I just learned about. Informally, A polynomial with few non-zero coefficients has few real roots. More precisely, If a polynomial has k non-zero coefficients, it can have at most 2k – 1 distinct real roots.

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Posted in Math

RLangTip changing hands

I’ve decided to hand my Twitter account RLangTip over to the folks at Revolution Analytics starting next week. I thought it would be better to give the account to someone who is more enthusiastic about R than I am, and

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