Monthly Archives: November 2011

Never a time so completely parochial

“There never was a time when those that read at all, read so many books by living authors rather than books by dead authors. Therefore there was never a time so completely parochial, so completely shut off from the past.”

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Better mousetraps

From Ike Pigott: Build a better mousetrap, and cats will beat a path to your door to picket. Related post: It takes more than a better mousetrap

Posted in Creativity

Solution to Renaissance problem

The previous post presented a problem first posed by Johannes Müller in 1471. Where you should stand so that a vertical bar appears longest? To be more precise, suppose a vertical bar is hanging so that the top of the

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Posted in Math

A Renaissance math puzzle

In 1471, Johannes Müller asked where you should stand so that a vertical bar appears longest. To be more precise, suppose a vertical bar is hanging so that the top of the bar is a distance a above your eye

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Posted in Math

Fundamental theorem of code readability

In The Art of Readable Code, the authors call the following the “Fundamental Theorem of Readability”: Code should be written to minimize the time it would take for someone else to understand it. They go on to explain And when

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Posted in Software development

Bad logic, but good statistics

Ad hominem arguments are bad logic, but good (Bayesian) statistics. A statement isn’t necessarily false because it comes from an unreliable source, though it is more likely to be false. Some people are much more likely to know what they’re

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Posted in Statistics

Readability

The Readability bookmarklet lets you reformat any web to make it easier to read. It strips out flashing ads and other distractions. It uses black text on a white background, wide margins, a moderate-sized font, etc. I use Readability fairly

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Posted in Software development, Typography

The Tangled Web

The Tangled Web is a security book that you may find interesting even if you’re not interested in security. The first half of the book is an excellent explanation of how Web technologies work in theory and especially in practice.

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Posted in Software development

Why experts exaggerate

Seth Roberts writes this morning: How can you tell when an expert is exaggerating? His lips move. Some people will misunderstand his point. Roberts is not saying experts exaggerate their conclusions per se. He’s saying experts exaggerate their confidence in

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Posted in Science

Why did we do this?

Here are a few thoughts on institutional memory from a talk by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. When important decisions are not documented, one becomes dependent on individual memory, which is quickly lost as people leave or move to other jobs.

Posted in Business

Where gargoyles come from

Gargoyles are decoration for drainage. Gothic churches channeled water away from their walls to prevent erosion. The spout often emptied through the mouth of a sculpture. These spouts are called gargoyles, from an old French word gargouille meaning “throat” (it

Posted in Uncategorized

Fermat’s unfinished business

Fermat’s last theorem is so named because it was the last of his asserted theorems to be proved or disproved. But there are variations on another conjectures of Fermat that remain unresolved. Fermat conjectured that numbers are always prime. We

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Posted in Math

Norris’ number

My friend Clift Norris has identified a fundamental constant that I call Norris’ number, the average amount of code an untrained programmer can write before he or she hits a wall. Clift estimates this as 1,500 lines. Beyond that the

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Posted in Software development

Cartoon guide to the uninteresting

If you’re not interested in a subject, do cartoons make it more palatable? My guess is that cartoons may help keep your attention if you’re moderately interested in a subject. If you’re fascinated by something, cartoons get in the way.

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Posted in Science, Uncategorized

Career advice regarding tools

A few weeks ago, J. D. Long gave some interesting advice in a Google+ discussion. He starts out Lunch today with an analyst 13 years my junior made me think about things I wish I had known about the technical

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Posted in Business, Software development, Statistics