From Beautiful to Twisted in One Syntactic Step: False

Today’s friday programming language insanity is a tad different. I’m going to look at another twisted stack-based language. I’ve got a peculiar fondness for these buggers, because back in the day, I was a serious Forth addict. One of the ideas that’s actually come up in serious programming languages in the last few years is creating a sort of cross between functional languages and stack-based languages, producing what are known as concatenative languages. An excellent example of an extremely powerful and useful member of this family is called Factor, by Slava Pestov.

But serious useful languages aren’t the realm of my regular friday pathology. So I’m going to tell you about a not-really-serious version of a concatenative language, called False. Semantically, False is actually not a horrible language. In fact, if it weren’t for the bogglingly awful syntax, it’s something I could imagine using for tiny file-filtering utilities. But the syntax is designed to be truly horrible, and when you blend the natural potential for confusion that you get from doing everything backwards on a stack with a syntax that looks like line-noise, you get something that can really sprain your brain.

Continue reading From Beautiful to Twisted in One Syntactic Step: False

Legal Threats (Updated)

(This issue came to a happy conclusion. After the uproar generated by this being publicized by so many blogs and websites, the publisher got in touch with Shelley, gave her permission to use the figures, apologized, and promised to do some internal legal education so that this won’t happen again.)

This doesn’t affect me personally, but my friend and fellow ScienceBlogger Shelly Batts of
Retrospectacle has been threatened by
lawyers from the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, one of the Wiley group’s journals, for reproducing a part of one figure from an article that she was writing about.

In a sane world, this would be a clear case of “fair use”: Shelley was not stealing or taking credit for anyone’s work. She did not reprint the article. She did not write about the work without giving credit to the original authors: she provided a full and appropriate citation of the article. All she was doing is what many bloggers do regularly: she was writing about an interesting piece of research that had been published in her area. But her article doesn’t fit the spin that the authors/publishers wanted to put on it. So they resorted to legal threats to try to shut her down.

There’s really nothing bloggers like us can do to stop publishers from pulling obnoxious stunts like this, except to publicize it, so that they realize there is some cost to them associated with this kind of behavior. That’s why I’m writing this. Wiley needs to recognize that as a publisher of scientific journals, it’s absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable to threaten lawsuits against other scientists who reference their work.

Selective Quoting of Statistics: More Dishonest Quote Mining from DI

When I’m bored, I’ll periodically take a look at the blogs published by
the bozos at the Discovery Institute. I can generally find something good for a laugh. So I was doing that tonight, and came across yet another example of how they try to distort
reality and use slimily dishonest math to try to criticize the evidence for evolution. This time, it’s an article by “Logan Gage” called What exactly does genetic similarity demonstrate?.

Continue reading Selective Quoting of Statistics: More Dishonest Quote Mining from DI

Sign Expansions of Infinity

Finally, as I promised a while ago, it’s time to look at the sign-expanded forms of infinites in the surreal numbers. Once you’ve gotten past the normal forms of surreal numbers, it’s pretty easy to translate them to sign-expanded form.

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Process Equivalence in π-calculus

Before moving on, there’s one question that I thought was important enough to promote up to the front page, instead of just answering it in the comments. A commenter asked about process replication, !P, wanting to know if it terminates.

The answer comes in two parts.

  • !P does process creation on demand. It’s not an infinite parallel group of processes; it’s just a way of writing that there are as many of P as you need. So you can think of it like tape cells in a Turing machine: we never say that a Turing machine tape is infinitely long; but there’s always enough cells. !P isn’t an infinite replication of P; it’s a notation for “enough copies of P”. So when you’re done using replicas of P, you can think of !P disappearing.
  • Often in π-calculus, we actually don’t worry about termination of every process. You can think of it in terms of garbage collection: we’re running some group of processes to perform a computation. When they’re done, they terminate. Any process which has no ports that are reachable by any other active process can simply be collected.

The next place to go in our exploration of π-calculus is considering just what it really means for two processes to be equivalent. The fundamental equivalence relation in
π-calculus is called bisimulation. The idea of bisimulation is roughly a kind of observational equivalence: two processes are equivalent under bisimulation if they exhibit the same visible behavior under all tests by an external observer.

Continue reading Process Equivalence in π-calculus

Book Review: "The First Scientific Proof of God:"

As I mentioned a while back, I was loaned the Library of Congress discard of George
Shollenberger’s book. Since he’s made such a big deal about how unfair I’ve been by
not reading and considering his argument, I’ve actually forced myself to read it.
(See what I’m willing to do for you, my faithful readers?)

Continue reading Book Review: "The First Scientific Proof of God:"

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.

The beauty of math; the humor of stupidity.

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