Monthly Archives: April 2007

Friday Random 10, 4/20

The shuffle generated interesting results this week.

  1. Apothecary Hymns, “The Marigold”. Apothecary Hymns sounding extremely Tull-like. Good stuff.
  2. Mogwai, “Katrien”. Mogwai is simply brilliant: one of the greatest post-rock groups out there. I keep getting more of their stuff, and I haven’t heard a single bit that I didn’t absolutely love. This one starts off nice and mellow, and builds into some more intense fuzz, and then settles back again. Overall, it’s got a mostly relaxed mood to it. Typical Mogwai – aka fantastic.
  3. Marillion, “Thankyou Whoever you Are”. A very uninspired track from the latest album from Marilion.
  4. Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings, “Chain of Fools”. Darol and friends doing a cool fiddle-heavy take on the classic song.
  5. David Shifrin, “Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet” by Ellen Zwilich. 20th century classical chamber music focusing on the brilliant playing of my favorite clarinetist, David Shifrin. Shifrin is an absolutely wonderful clarinetist, and he seems most enthusiastic when playing modern music.
  6. Bach, “Erkenne Mich, Mein Hueter” from “St. Matthew’s Passion”. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll wind up saying it again. I think Back was the greatest composer who ever lived, and the St. Matthews Passion is my favorite of his works. This is just a little slice of perfection.
  7. Jonathan Coulton, “Todd the T1000”. Jonathon Coulton is a geek songwriter
    who I think is fantastic. Coulton writes catchy pop tunes with very geeky lyrics based on science, math, and SF: “Todd the T1000 Scares me, and I don’t think he knows I have a right to exist; and he’s sits in my favorite chair, and dares me, and when I look over he’s making a fist one finger at a time.”
  8. Hugh Blumenfeld, “Hands and Feet”. Hugh is a singer/songwriter/college professor who I’ve met several times at folk music festivals. He writes amazing songs, with incredible lyrics. This song is typical of his songwriting – dark, beautiful, amazing lyrics.
  9. Moxy Fruvous, “Bed and Breakfast”. A song from Moxy Fruvous’s second full-length album. Personally, I think this album is vastly under-rated by fans. Musically, it’s the best thing they ever did. Lyrically, it’s not as funny as some of their others stuff, but it’s definitely got its moments of humor.
  10. Trout Fishing in America, “I Get Ideas”. Talking about funny music… Trout is a folk/bluegrass duo that does albums of music for adults, and albums of music for kids. A lot of the kids stuff is hysterically funny, like this one: “I see a jar of peanut butter, and it’s time to wash my hair… Something weird comes over me, I get ideas.” And musically, all of their songs are great.

"Flip" Out with a Pathological Programming Language

As promised, this week, I’ve got a new friday pathological programming language. This one is another 2-dimensional language, but it’s pretty different from any of the 2d languages I’m written about before. It’s called “Flip“, and the warped minds behind describe it as being sort of like “Programmers Billiards”. It’s a seriously neat language, but it is pretty large and complicated. So I’m not going to describe everything about it in detail: you’ll have to read the language manual for that. But I’ll describe enough to give you the flavor of it, and show you a couple of examples to whet your appetite.

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My Take on Framing: Don't Frame Framing as Spin

Ok, I give up. I’ve stayed out of the framing debate until now, but I just can’t take it anymore.

As much as I respect people like PZ and Larry Moran, the simple fact is: they’ve got it wrong. And not just them: there is a consistent problem with the political left in America when it comes to things like framing, and it’s a big part of why we’ve lost so many political battles over the last decade.

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Numbers Using Processes and Messages: Part 1, Addition

Given a calculus, one of the things that I always want to see is how it can do
some kind of meaningful computation. The easiest way to do that is to start building numbers and basic arithmetic.

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A Cool Movie of the Kaye Effect

I came across this while looking through the referrals to GM/BM. This is an incredibly cool video of a strange phenomenon called the Kaye effect. It includes high speed video of the effect, and a demonstration of their mathematical analysis of the effect, and their prediction and verification of the effect.

The Kaye effect is an incredibly bizarre phenomenon. Basically, if you take a substance like liquid shampoo, and allow a thin stream of it to pour down from a height onto a smooth surface, the stream will periodically “bounce”, producing a stream leaping up from the point of contact. Watch it – it’s seriously cool.

The π-Calculus Storage Cell

As I did with my first attempt at explaining π-calculus, I think that before getting into any of the deep semantics, it’s good to look at a few examples of things you can build with π-calculus. But before getting to the meat of the post, I’ll give you the answer the puzzle I left in the last post. What’s wrong with the example I gave for “Hello world” yesterday?

As a reminder, the question was: Assume “out” is the name for a channel that is read by a process that prints whatever it receives to the standard output. What’s wrong with the following process as an implementation of “Hello World”?

new(in).{ *(?in(x).!out(x).∅)
| !in(hello).!in(world).∅ }

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Basics: Innumeracy

I’ve used the term innumeracy fairly often on this blog, and I’ve had a few people write to ask me what it means. It’s also, I think, a very important idea.

Innumeracy is math what illiteracy is to reading. It’s the fundamental lack of ability to understand or use numbers or math. And like illiteracy, true innumeracy is relatively rare, but there are huge numbers of people who, while having some minimal understanding of number and arithmetic, are functionally innumerate: they are not capable of anything but the most trivial arithmetic; and how anything more complicated than simple basic arithmetic actually works is a total mystery to them.

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Back to π-Calculus: a better introduction

Now that things are settling down a little bit, I wanted to get back to the stuff I was writing about π-calculus. But looking back at what I’ve already written, I think I did a terrible job of introducing it. So I’m going to start over, and try to be more clear.

I’ll start with a basic refresher of what π-calculus is for, and a bit of history for where it came from.

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Strange Loops: Ken Thompson and the Self-referencing C Compiler

I’m currently reading “I am a Strange Loop” by Douglas Hofstadter. I’ll be posting a review of it after I finish it. A “strange loop” is Hofstadter’s term for a Gödel-esque self-referential cycle. A strange loop doesn’t have to involve Gödel style problems – any self-referential cycle is a strange loop.

Reading this book reminded me of my favorite strange-loop story. It’s actually
a story about software security, and the kinds of stunts you can play with
software if you’re clever and subtle. It’s the story of the Unix C compiler, and the virtually invisible back-door security hole inserted into it by Ken Thompson – a story he told in his Turing award lecture..

(Idiot that I am, I originally said it was Dennis Ritchie who did this… Leave it to me to link to the original lecture, and not notice that I got the author wrong!)

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Dr. Egnor reaches a new low

Michael Egnor is at it again. The guy is pretty much the energizer bunny of anti-evolution bullshit. This time, he’s purportedly refuting an article by Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale professor of neurology.

So, why am I butting my nose in to a discussion between two doctors? For two reasons:

  1. First, because once again, Egnor pulls out his gibberish about information theory – and that’s definitely my turf.
  2. Second, because ultimately, the argument that Dr. Egnor makes comes back to the silly way that he reduces to evolution to a tautology. As I’ve discussed several times before, Dr. Egnor formulates a trite, foolish tautology out of a description of natural selection, and then pretends that the entire theory of evolution is nothing more than his foolish tautology. Apparently, he’s convinced himself, and as a result, he creates arguments from it without
    ever bothering to consider whether or not they make the slightest bit of sense. This latest
    screed of his is the worst example of this that I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying a lot!

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