prog math sci summary july 2016

Jul 27, 2016   #monthly 
  • Once again, I start with something for old-timers: here is the original marketing pre-development pitch1 for the first Diablo game (an old time sink).

  • This trip2 goes on my bucket list: visiting the places Gauss, Hilbert, Planck etc. lived in.

  • The Decentralized Web Summit was held late last month, and I recommend watching atleast the initial few talks0 … and particularly relevant if you believed in the promises of the 90s.

  • Some people are hard to classify. Is Terry Davis deranged or brilliant or both? Read this article3 and decide for yourself.

Davis emails me regularly and late into the night, in Courier font, from a two or three year-old Dell desktop running Ubuntu. Unable to work, he collects Social Security disability and spends most of his time coding, web surfing, or using the output from the National Institute of Standards and Technology randomness beacon to talk to God — he posts the results on his webpage as “Terry Davis’ Rants.”

He drinks a lot of caffeine and lives mostly on a 48-hour schedule: “I stay awake 16 * 2 and sleep 8 * 2.” He shares a house with his parents and a pair of cockatiels. Of his parents he says, “We don’t interact that much.”

  • If you’re not familiar with Forth or Chuck Moore (or even if you are), you might like this4 iconoclastic essay.

  • My long-form recommendation5 of the month: it covers the breadth and depth of “programming”, the old and the new, all with nostalgic images from the recent past and the not-so-recent past.

  • A short take on Scheme vs Python6

  • The “archaeological” snippet of the month: the source code for the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer, available0 on Github.

Choice extract (lines 251-255 of THE_LUNAR_LANDING.agc):

P63SPOT4	TC	BANKCALL	# ENTER		INITIALIZE LANDING RADAR
            CADR	SETPOS1

            TC		POSTJUMP	# OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD ...
            CADR	BURNBABY

(I’ll leave you to consider the “advantages” we enjoy in our “high-level” languages today)

  • This person points7 out the obvious but painful truth: software is broken because we’re ok with it being broken.

  • Ok, another archaeological post (sorry!): this one8 is from the archives of the Symbolics Lisp Users Group (SLUG), 25 years ago. I won’t summarize it, read it if you care about that sort of thing …

  • Quanta magazine is turning out to be my go-to source of cool science-y stuff. This one is about certain patterns9 common to bird’s eyes, shaken marbles, and certain emulsions, a pattern called hyperuniformity.

  • I’m still not sure whether Wolfram’s New Kind of Science was excellent or just meh (or, lookup TODO’s one-word review), but here10 is a collection of a bunch of reviews and commentary on it.

  • Today, Java is this verbose, enterprise-y language, but there were many twists and turns along the way11, some of them quite unexpected.

I first met James Gosling in the spring of 1988. He was wearing an ill-fitting white T-shirt with an obscure reference to Jean Paul Sartre’s cat. He wasn’t wearing shoes, and his socks didn’t quite match. His large corner office in building 14 of Sun’s Mountain View campus was crowded with piles of books and papers strewn about. His Sun 360 had a “Macintosh Test Drive” bumper sticker on the side of the monitor. He had nice art on his walls. Not the typical hacker dinosaurs and free posters from Usenix conferences, but real Japanese pen and ink prints. His bookshelf was full of the classics of computer science. Horowitz, Knuth, Foley and Van Dam, Xerox bluebooks, SIGGRAPH and OOPSLA proceedings, the collected works of Breathed and Larson. Clearly, James was not your garden variety programmer.

  • We’re used to a certain genre of examples in programming textbooks, which is why when someone goes out of their way[^political] to create politically charged test cases, it … uh … stands out, especially if you do it in a popular Oreilly book.

  • This is either funny, or deep, or banal, I can’t decide … apparently there are clues12 in a Borges story that refer to the Object-Oriented vs Functional Programming debate of today (in my opinion though, this is just because the links between natural languages and programming languages aren’t well understood enough).

(once again, cross-posted to Medium and the regular blog)