It has been a while since I last blogged, so here is something funny that I learned today while listening to Relatively Prime:
Matt Parker took it upon himself to debunk junk science related to precise geometry choices by Ancient People. The particular junk piece that triggered his analysis was the assertion of a prehistoric navigation system. However, you may not be familiar with it, but you may have heard terms like “holy geometry” and the like to prove that some Ancient tribe either held some technology now long gone or was in contact with some alien race. But do they really stand?
So Matt, took it upon himself to analyse the locations of the Woolworths in order to figure out whether they had some “outer” help in choosing their store locations:
The results revealed an exact and precise geometric placement of the Woolworths locations. Three stores around Birmingham formed an exact equilateral triangle (Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Birmingham stores) and if the base of the triangle is extended, it forms a 173.8 mile line linking the Conwy and Luton stores. Despite the 173.8 mile distance involved, the Conway Woolworths store is only 40 feet off the exact line and the Luton site is within 30 feet. All four stores align with an accuracy of 0.05%
So there, proof! Aliens helped them :) Plus, sometimes you need to remind people that 3 points always make a triangle, no coincidence there.
You can read the whole analysis here thanks to the Internet Archive. Given enough data, if you’re looking for a pattern, you’re going to find it I guess.
As long as P versus NP remains a mystery we do not know what we cannot do, and that’s liberating.
I follow Lance Fortnow’s blog from time to time. So when the book was out, I fired up the kindle and bought it. And then it stayed there for some time. Most likely because two out of seven days of the week I am not sure I can explain P vs NP. The rest I might be able, but the difficulty of the problem makes one double think about it, even when it is a book that makes it accessible to the general public. After all, it is The Problem.
And then came a plane trip. And with nowhere to go for the next 2,5 hours I started reading it. Fast. The history of the problem is there. Examples that are very easily understood are there. The hop from the example to the equivalent real problem is there, so you get to understand vertex cover before ever knowing the name. Plus you get to learn a bit about complexity during the Cold War and about quantum computing too.
We know for example that if P=NP, then cryptography as we know it will be defeated. But how will other aspects of our World change? Fortnow offers a glimpse. Is it worth it? Maybe. You will be the judge. Is it likely that P=NP? The author does not believe so (I do not want it to be, and want versus believe denotes the vast skill difference between him and me).
Chapter 2 was a bit boring for me and I almost gave up on the book. Fortunately I did not. If you are a computational complexity theorist then the book is not for you, but if you are not and you want to ask clear questions to one, then it will definitely help.
I’ve posted this in 2014, but a friend’s comment on facebook makes me want to repost this:
“I think we’ve had a reduction from, say, if you think about 1995, which was when I went to college, you could typically rely on an undergraduate having done a substantial amount of real programming, often quite a deep level of technical work on one or more platforms. Many of us could program in one or more assembly languages. And yeah, within 10 years of that point, we were getting to a point where your average applicant was maybe somebody who’d done, as you say, a little bit of Web design, maybe a little bit of Web programming—you know, we saw quite a bit of people who‘d maybe done some PHP but not that kind of deep technical understanding of how machines work.”
This was from an Eben Upton interview. So much progress has happened that people entering the profession do so with a distance from the hardware.
With twitter experimenting with 280 characters per tweet, I was reminded of something that I had read years ago (and as a result cannot locate and attribute now). It went something like this:
The main advantage with twitter is that it battles attention starvation. We’re bombarded with information all the time. But our time to focus on things is limited. By enforcing a small limit, twitter makes it possible to focus on what to transmit and what to receive in the small chunks of time available to consume what runs through the webs.
Besides the term attention starvation the reconstruction of the thesis is all mine.
Update: Dimitris argues that this works in favor of the alt-right.
I am a casual trekkie. I do not know how to calculate the stardates and I am not always certain about continuity or canon, but whenever I see an episode, I have a good time. Sometimes with Enterprise too.
I just finished seeing Discovery S1E1. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I really do not care that the technology is better than TOS (even though Discovery is a prequel).
I seem to remember that in the TOS the Starfleet did not even have women as Commanders (I misremembered from Trunabout Intruder). I think only Uhura was once in charge in the Animated series.
That being said, and with the first episode ending in an uneven standoff, I am getting ready to press play for S1E2
I am pretty sure this is not the complete list, but I am giving it a shot anyway:
I am almost certain I’ve missed some. I may return to the list in the future.
I finally got to read Release It!. It would have served me better had I read it 10 years or so ago when I actually bought it. But never too late. There is a second edition that came out this month. While this first edition clearly shows its age and relics of another time, I guess the second edition is more hip, fresh, readable and with more experience to share.
Not a timeless book, but one that needs a refresh every decade or so. I tag it under “system administration” too, because a system is what you build, works and bring money in, not just what Ops runs and grumbles about.