Monthly Archives: September 2012

Russian novel programming

One of the things that makes Russian novels hard to read, at least for Americans, is that characters have multiple names. For example, in The Brothers Karamazov, Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov is also called Alyosha, Alyoshka, Alyoshenka, Alyoshechka, Alexeichik, Lyosha, and

Tagged with:
Posted in Software development

The black T-shirt crowd

My previous post quotes Greg Jorgensen’s imaginary interview with Linus Torvalds. In the interview, Torvalds says “the black T-shirt crowd” has gotten bored with Linux because it has become too easy. Now Git gives them a new arcane product to

Posted in Uncategorized

No technology can ever be too arcane

In this fake interview, Linux creator Linus Torvalds says Linux has gotten too easy to use and that’s why people use Git: Git has taken over where Linux left off separating the geeks into know-nothings and know-it-alls. I didn’t really

Tagged with:
Posted in Computing, Software development

Ramanujan's factorial approximation

Ramanujan came up with an approximation for factorial that resembles Stirling’s famous approximation but is much more accurate. As with Stirling’s approximation, the relative error in Ramanujan’s approximation decreases as n gets larger. Typically these approximations are not useful for

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Math, Python

Bad UI of the day

A friend of mine sent me the photo below of a Sears Craftsman reciprocating saw. What do you suppose the yellow switch does? Since the positions are labeled ’0′ and ’1′, my first thought was that they were off and

Posted in Uncategorized

How many bullets does it take to cut down a tree?

According to Guesstimation 2.0, it would take about 10,000 bullets to cut down a tree with a 20 cm radius. The book doesn’t just announce the result but shows how you might come to this conclusion by computing how much

Posted in Uncategorized

It's not the text editor, it's text

Vivek Haldar had a nice rant about editors a couple days ago. In response to complaints that some editors are ugly, he writes: The primary factor in looking good should be the choice of a good font at a comfortable

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Computing

Math tools for the next 20 years

Igor Carron commented on his blog that … the mathematical tools that we will use in the next 20 years are for the most part probably in our hands already. He compares this to progress in treating leukemia: survival rates

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Math

Cancer moon shots

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center announced a $3 billion research program today aimed at six specific forms of cancer. Acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome (AML and MDS) Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) Lung cancer Melanoma Prostate cancer Triple negative breast

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Science

How long will there be computer science departments?

The first computer scientists resided in math departments. When universities began to form computer science departments, there was some discussion over how long computer science departments would exist. Some thought that after a few years, computer science departments would have

Tagged with:
Posted in Clinical trials

How do you justify that distribution?

Someone asked me yesterday how people justify probability distribution assumptions. Sometimes the most mystifying assumption is the first one: “Assume X is normally distributed …” Here are a few answers. Sometimes distribution assumptions are not justified. Sometimes distributions can be

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

Accuracy versus perceived accuracy

Commercial weather forecasters need to be accurate, but they also need to be perceived as being accurate, and sometimes the latter trumps the former. For instance, the for-profit weather forecasters rarely predict exactly a 50% chance of rain, which might

Tagged with:
Posted in Statistics

Robustness of simple rules

In his speech The dog and the frisbee, Andrew Haldane argues that simple models often outperform complex models in complex situations. He cites as examples sports prediction, diagnosing heart attacks, locating serial criminals, picking stocks, and  understanding spending patterns. The

Tagged with:
Posted in Statistics

Working to change the world

I recently read that Google co-founder Sergey Brin asked an audience whether they are working to change the world. He said that for 99.9999% of humanity, the answer is no. I really dislike that question. It invites arrogance. Say yes

Posted in Uncategorized

The paper is too big

In response to the question “Why are default LaTeX margins so big?” Paul Stanley answers It’s not that the margins are too wide. It’s that the paper is too big! This sounds flippant, but he gives a compelling argument that

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Typography