Monthly Archives: October 2011

Promising cancer research

The approach to cancer research presented here sounds really exciting. Watch on TED.com

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Posted in Science

Software engineering and alarm clocks

This morning at church a woman said she was running late because of a software issue. Her alarm clock was manufactured before the US changed the end date of daylight saving time. Her clock “fell back” an hour because daylight

Posted in Software development

Friday miscellany

Design The cup holder principle Simplicity made easy Typography Ubuntu font family Computing (McCarthyism) Accuracy rates of novices in three languages Math Three Fermat trails to elliptic curves Highlights in the history of spectral theory Infographics Scientific evidence for dietary

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Useful education

“Of course, education has always aimed to be useful. The question has been, and continues to be, useful to what end?” — Richard Gamble

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Python is a voluntary language

People who write Python choose to write Python. I don’t hear people say “I use Python at work because I have to, but I’d rather be writing Java.” But often I do hear people say they’d like to use Python

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Posted in Python, Software development

Fourier’s personal heat problem

Joseph Fourier is perhaps best known for his work studying heat conduction. He developed what we now call Fourier series as part of this work. I recently learned that Fourier had a personal problem with heat. Even though Fourier conducted

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Posted in Science

An elegant proof from Erdős

Here’s an elegant proof from Paul Erdős that there are infinitely many primes. It also does more, giving a lower bound on π(N), the number of primes less than N.

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Posted in Math

John McCarthy and the origin of Lisp

As I write this, word has it that John McCarthy passed away yesterday. Tech Crunch is reporting this as fact, citing Hacker News, which in turn cites a single tweet as the ultimate source. So the only authority we have,

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Posted in Software development

Why does software have to be maintained?

The idea of software maintenance sounds absurd. Why do you have to maintain software? Do the bits try to sneak off the disk so that someone has to put them back? Software doesn’t change, but the world changes out from

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Brain surgery over lunch

Some photos from the table next to me at lunch today. Alas, poor Yorick did enjoy a good burrito. Related post: Not exactly rocket science

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Leading digits of factorials

Suppose you take factorials of a lot of numbers and look at the leading digit of each result. You could argue that there’s no apparent reason that any digit would be more common than any other, so you’d expect each

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Posted in Python

Benford’s law and SciPy

Imagine you picked up a dictionary and found that the pages with A’s were dirty and the Z’s were clean. In between there was a gradual transition with the pages becoming cleaner as you progressed through the alphabet. You might

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Posted in Python

Software knowledge shelf life

In my experience, software knowledge has a longer useful shelf life in the Unix world than in the Microsoft world. (In this post Unix is a shorthand for Unix and Linux.) A pro-Microsoft explanation would say that Microsoft is more

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Posted in Computing, Software development

Typesetting “C#” in LaTeX

How do you refer to the C# programming language in LaTeX? Simply typing C# doesn’t work because # is a special character in LaTeX. You could type C#. That works, but it looks a little odd. The number sign is

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Posted in Typography

Physical constants and factorials

The previous post mentioned that Avogadro’s constant is approximately 24!. Are there other physical constants that are nearly factorials?

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Posted in Python