Technorati Tags: scale, computation, information
Since people know I work for Google, I get lots of mail from folks with odd questions, or with complaints about some Google policy, or questions about the way that Google does some particular thing. Obviously, I can’t answer questions about Google. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. This isn’t a Google blog; this is my blog, which I write as a hobby in my free time.
But there are intersections between my work life and my hobby. And one of the ideas that underlies many of the questions that I receive, and which also
hits on my work, and my hobby. And that’s the idea of scale. Scale is computer-science talk for how things change as they get bigger. In particular, I’m talking about the scale of information; the amount of information that we use on a daily basis has increased dramatically, and the amount of dramatic, fundamental change that has resulted is both amazing, and amazingly unnoticed by most people.
I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks to put together a couple of interesting posts on the cryptographic modes of operation for confidentiality and integrity, and I just can’t do it. I’m finding it boring to write about, and if it bores me to write it, I know there’s no way that it’s going to be engaging to readers!
So, I’m going to move on. I’ve explained the basic idea of the message authentication code as an integrity check, and I’ve described one simple way of integrating it into a common mode of operation. If you’re really interested in learning more, I recommend Bruce Schnier’s book on cryptography, which has ton of material on modes of operation and protocols, how they work, and how they can fail.
Meanwhile, I’m going to move on to something that doesn’t bore me to write about, and therefore hopefully won’t bore you to read about: asymmetric cryptography, also commonly referred to (although not entirely accurately) as public key cryptography.
As long time readers of this blog know, one of the things that drive me crazy – in fact, one of the things that led me to start this blog – is the rampant innumeracy of our society. The vast majority of
Americans have no real knowledge or comprehension of numbers or mathematics, and what makes that even worse is that most really, truly, fundamentally don’t care.
A vivid example of that is demonstrated in a recent Supreme Court ruling in a case dealing with the use of sonar in submarine training
by the US navy in waters inhabited by whales.
It’s always amusing to wander over to the Discovery Institute’s blogs, and see what kind of nonsense they’re spouting today. So, today, as I’m feeling like steamed crap, I took a wander over. And what did I find? High grade, low-content rubbish from my old buddy, Casey Luskin. Luskin is, supposedly, a lawyer. He’s not a scientist or a mathematician by any stretch of the imagination. There’s nothing wrong with that in the abstract; the amount of time we have to learn during our lives is finite, and no one can possible know everything. For example, I don’t know diddly-crap about law, American or otherwise; my knowledge of western history is mediocre at best; I don’t really speak any language other than english. I know some physics, but my understanding of anything beyond the basics is very limited. Even when it comes to the topic of this blog, math, I’m at best an enthusiastic amateur.
The problem with Casey, and people like him, is that they’re ignorant of a topic where they believe that they’re experts. Growing up, I was taught to call that kind of behavior not just
ignorant, but pig-ignorant. It’s a foolish kind of arrogance, where you believe that you know as much as people who’ve spent years studying something, even though you’ve never even read an elementary textbook. It’s like the dozens of people who’ve emailed my “disproofs” of Cantor’s theorem, when they don’t actually know what “cardinality” actually means.
In this instance, Casey is annoyed because a group of people at NASA used evolutionary algorithms to create a better antenna.
(Note: I’ve changed the transliteration of the name of the dish since the original version of the post. I think it’s now the correct pinyin transliteration. Please correct me in the comments if you know, and it’s still wrong.)
Today you get the recipe for one of my very favorite dishes. Since I
married a Chinese woman 14 years ago, I’ve learned a lot of chinese
cooking, and of all of the things I’ve learned to make, this is probably
my favorite. It’s called Shanghai Xu Chao Mien. It’s a variant of
what’s called Lo Mein in the US, except that it’s actually authentic.
And as is typical of authentic dishes, it’s much better that
the crap you get at a typical chinese takeout in the US. (Chow mien is a
traditional chinese dish, but it’s got nothing to do with what we call
Chow Mien in the US; “Chao” means “stir fried”, and “mien” is noodles –
chow mien is stir-fried noodles.)
This is the shanghai variant of the dish. It uses a different kind
of noodle, and a very different sauce. You’ll have to go to a chinese grocery store for the two key ingredients. Finding them can
be a bit of a problem, because they’re typically not well-labelled in english, but they’re well worth the trouble.
First, you need a kind of shrimp paste which is the base of the sauce. It’s called sha-cha, and it’s made from a mixture of chilis,
garlic, fermented brill-shrimp, and oil. It’s usually sold in small glass jars, labelled “barbeque sauce” in english. It’s a dark paste, which has red chili oil floating on top of it. Thanks to a commentor, a picture of a jar of the brand I use appears to the right.
The other is the noodles. The typical lo-mein noodle is a sort-of square-profile yellow egg noodle. Shanghai Shu Chow Mien uses a plain flour noodle, which is thicker and wider – the noodles are between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch wide, and they’re a sort of pale-tan white. They’re sold fresh in the refrigerator case, not dried. They’re usually labelled “shanghai noodles”. Thanks to Google, you can see a picture of the kind of noodles I use to the right.
Sorry about the abrupt end to the liveblogging last night; Firefox crashed, and CoverItLive wouldn’t let me log back in as the moderator.
Anyway, it’s a good day to be a liberal. As you all know by now, it was Obama in an absolute landslide. He won by a huge margin in the electoral vote, and by a good margin in the popular vote.
The Democrats also kicked Elizabeth Dole and John Sununu out of the senate, which is wonderful. But they didn’t take enough seats to get
past a filibuster in the Senate. This means that we can expect to see a really dramatic level of obstructionism from the remaining Republicans in the senate. And based on various comments that he made, I think we can count on Holy Joe Lieberman to join in with the right-wingers in blocking the Senate from getting anything done.
There are a few interesting things that I wanted to comment on.
I’m going to be liveblogging the elections here starting at 7pm. I’ll be doing my best to track the results as they come in, and what they mean. Feel free to come join in.