March 18, 2009

Roger Bacon, the great English scholar and teacher of the thirteenth century, wrote that a person would need thirty to forty years of study to master mathematics as then understood. Today the math he was talking about—calculus hadn’t been invented—is taught routinely to millions of high school students. No one thinks anything of it, but consider what this means. The intellectual content of the material is the same, and people’s brains aren’t any different; seven hundred and some years isn’t nearly enough time for a broad upgrade in human brainpower. Instead, just as in sports, the standard of what we do with what we’ve got has simply risen tremendously.

– from Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

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March 16, 2009

Steam shovels lift more weight than humans can heft, skyscrapers are taller than their human builders, humans play better chess than natural selection, and computer programs play better chess than humans. The creation can exceed the creator. It’s just a fact.

– from Building Something Smarter by Eliezer Yudkowsky

The Lorenz Attractor

March 1, 2009

butterfly

I don’t have to inclination to explain this right now. (The short version: the Lorenz equations are a system of differential equations that have something to with modeling weather [I’m sure Kenny could explain this way better than I can]. This is the numerical solution to those differential equations, using the Runge-Kutta 4th order method). But I’m kind of proud of the fact that I was able to write the code to solve and plot it. Even though the code isn’t all that impressive. But for some reason, I’m really impressed by this. It’s kind of one of those things that I always imagined I’d never ‘get’ when I was younger (like, say, 4 years ago). And here I am in college, finally learning about it and almost understanding it. It’s gives me hope that someday I might actually contribute something to science. Someday.

Anyway, yeah, I think I might start talking about some of the things I’ve been learning in classes lately. Because I finally feel like I’m learning stuff cool enough to mention. Go figure.