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


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


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.

February 12, 2009

But the great age of boredom, I believe, came in with television, precisely because television was designed to palliate that feeling. Boredom is not a necessary consequence of having nothing to do, it is only the negative experience of that state. Television, by obviating the need to learn how to make use of one’s lack of occupation, precludes one from ever discovering how to enjoy it. In fact, it renders that condition fearsome, its prospect intolerable. You are terrified of being bored — so you turn on the television.

I speak from experience. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, the age of television. I was trained to be bored; boredom was cultivated within me like a precious crop. (It has been said that consumer society wants to condition us to feel bored, since boredom creates a market for stimulation.) It took me years to discover — and my nervous system will never fully adjust to this idea; I still have to fight against boredom, am permanently damaged in this respect — that having nothing to do doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The alternative to boredom is what Whitman called idleness: a passive receptivity to the world.

– from The End of Solitude by William Deresiewicz

Well, it’s not called Deezer. But it seems no less baffling that this should be legal. All the music you could possibly think of. In one place. Streamable. And FREE.

Well, it’s probably NOT legal. But it’s a beautiful thing while it lasts.

Without further adieu, check out It has all the songs I’ve looked for thus far. I’m impressed.

Yeah, I should probably post something more worthwhile. Maybe a little later.

Social Software and You

January 16, 2009

This is the post I would write about Facebook / Twitter / etc. if I were half of the journalist this Clive Thompson is.

Read it. It’s some really thought provoking stuff. You’ll never think about Facebook the same way again

December 20, 2008

This is a good song.

December 19, 2008

Good song. The Lion King video is kind of superfluous. But it’s the easiest way to put the song on the blog.

December 17, 2008

It is important to remember that differential equations have been studied by a great many people over the last 300 years, and during most of that time there were no TVs, no cell phones, and no Internet. Given 300 years with nothing else to do, you might get quite adept at changing variables.

– from Differential Equations by Paul Blanchard, Robert Devaney, and Glen Hall

Google Gone Wild

December 17, 2008

I’ve had the interesting experience this week of Google coming up with search results completely unrelated to what I was looking for. Funny stuff.