Blog Profile / The Endeavour

Filed Under:Academics
Posts on Regator:1099
Posts / Week:5
Archived Since:April 26, 2011

Blog Post Archive

The name we give to bright ideas

From The Book of Strange New Things: … I said that if science could come up with something like the Jump it could surely solve a problem like that. Severin seized hold of that word, “science.” Science, he said, is not some mysterious larger-than-life force, it’s just the name we give to bright ideas that […]

Algorithmic wizardry

Last week I wrote a short commentary on James Hague’s blog post Organization skills beat algorithmic wizardry. This week that post got more traffic than my server could handle. I believe it struck a chord with experienced software developers who know that the challenges they face now are not like the challenges they prepared for in school. Although […]

The Nickel Tour

If you’re new to this blog, welcome! Let me show you around. Here are some of the most popular posts on this site and some other things I’ve written. If you’d like to subscribe to this site you can do so by RSS or email. I also have a monthly newsletter. You can find out more about me and my background here. […]

The most important skill in software development

Here’s an insightful paragraph from James Hague’s blog post Organization skills beat algorithmic wizardry: When it comes to writing code, the number one most important skill is how to keep a tangle of features from collapsing under the weight of its own complexity. I’ve worked on large telecommunications systems, console games, blogging software, a bunch […]

AI Spring

Artificial intelligence, or at least the perception of artificial intelligence, has gone from disappointing to frightening in the blink of an eye. As Marc Andreessen said on Twitter this morning: AI: From “It’s so horrible how little progress has been made” to “It’s so horrible how much progress has been made” in one step. When […]

Ursula K. Le Guin has it backward

Ursula K. Le Guin is asking people to not buy books from Amazon because they market bestsellers, the literary equivalent of junk food. She said last week I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. I agree with that. That’s why I shop […]

Reading equations forward and backward

There is no logical difference between writing A = B and writing B = A, but there is a psychological difference. Equations are typically applied left to right. When you write A = B you imply that it may be useful to replace A with B. This is helpful to keep in mind when learning something […]

Launching missiles with Haskell

Haskell advocates are fond of saying that a Haskell function cannot launch missiles without you knowing it. Pure functions have no side effects, so they can only do what they purport to do. In a language that does not enforce functional purity, calling a function could have arbitrary side effects, including launching missiles. But this […]

Mystery curve

This afternoon I got a review copy of the book Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns. Here’s a striking curves from near the beginning of the book, one that the author calls the “mystery curve.” The curve is the plot of exp(it) – exp(6it)/2 + i exp(-14it)/3 with t running from 0 to 2?. Here’s Python […]

RSS feeds for categories

You can subscribe to this blog using this RSS feed. If you would like to only subscribe to posts in certain categories, you can do so using the category-specific feeds below. Business Clinical trials Computing Creativity Graphics Machine learning Math Music Python Science Software development Statistics Typography Misc You can also subscribe to my Twitter […]

Unix-like shells on Windows

This post gives some notes on ways to create a Unix-like command line experience on Windows, without using a virtual machine like VMWare or a quasi-virtual machine like Cygwin. Finding Windows ports of Unix utilities is easy. The harder part is finding a shell that behaves as expected. (Of course “as expected” depends on your expectations!) There […]

Data, code, and regulation

Data is code and code is data. The distinction between software (“code”) and input (“data”) is blurry at best, arbitrary at worst. And this distinction, or lack thereof, has interesting implications for regulation. In some contexts software is regulated but data is not, or at least software comes under different regulations than data. For example, […]

Subway map of the solar system

This is a thumbnail version of a large, high-resolution image by Ulysse Carion. Thanks to Aleksey Shipilëv (@shipilev) for pointing it out. It’s hard to see in the thumbnail, but the map gives the change in velocity needed at each branch point. You can find the full 2239 x 2725 pixel image here or click on the […]

Fibonacci number system

Every positive integer can be written as the sum of distinct Fibonacci numbers. For example, 10 = 8 + 2, the sum of the fifth Fibonacci number and the first. This decomposition is unique if you impose the extra requirement that consecutive Fibonacci numbers are not allowed. [1] It’s easy to see that the rule against consecutive […]

New monthly newsletter

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

Thank you for reading my blog. I’m starting a new email newsletter to address two things that readers have mentioned. Some say they enjoy the blog, but I post more often than they care to keep up with, particularly if they’re only interested in the non-technical posts. Others have said they’d like to know more about […]

Information hiding

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

One of the basic principles of software development is information hiding. People agree that it’s desirable, but not realize they have different ideas of what it means. And when done poorly, well-meaning attempts to make software more maintainable backfire. Leo Brodie cautions … we should clarify. From what, or whom are we hiding information? [T]raditional […]

Rotating PDF pages with Python

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

Yesterday I got a review copy of Automate the Boring Stuff with Python. It explains, among other things, how to manipulate PDFs from Python. This morning I needed to rotate some pages in a PDF, so I decided to try out the method in the book. The sample code uses PyPDF2. I’m using Conda for […]

RSS feeds for Twitter accounts

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

Twitter once provided RSS feeds for all Twitter accounts. They no longer provide this service. However, third parties can create RSS feeds from the content of Twitter accounts. BazQux has done this for my daily tip accounts, so you can subscribe to any of my accounts via RSS. AlgebraFact AnalysisFact CompSciFact Diff_eq MedVocab NetworkFact PerlRegex ProbFact […]

Scientifically valid, practically invalid

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

In a recent episode of EconTalk, Phil Rosenzweig discusses how the artificial conditions necessary to make experiments scientifically valid can also make the results practically invalid. Rosenzweig discusses experiments designed to study decision making. Show More Summary

The Mozart Myth

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about how Mozart would compose entire musical scores in his head and only write them down once they were finished. Even authors who say creativity is more hard work than genius have admitted that Mozart was an exception. But it maybe he wasn’t. In his new book […]

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