The Tenth Dimension

I found this really cool website called “Imagining The Tenth Dimension”. It takes a different approach than I expected: instead of trying to visualize additional spatial dimensions, it considers additional dimensions as ways to transcend spacetime. The fifth dimension, for example, would let you “jump” to any spot in your past or future, but it would seem, without the ability to change anything. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s an excellent website that gets you thinking.


The Answer Really Is 42

Via one of my favorite blogs, Minding the Planet – For you Hitchhiker’s Guide fans (I myself am not really much of one), this article will blow your minds:

There is an important sequence of numbers called “the moments of the Riemann zeta function.” Although we know abstractly how to define it, mathematicians have had great difficulty explicitly calculating the numbers in the sequence. We have known since the 1920s that the first two numbers are 1 and 2, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that mathematicians conjectured that the third number in the sequence may be 42—a figure greatly significant to those well-versed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… Using the connection, Keating and Snaith not only explained why the answer to life, the universe and the third moment of the Riemann zeta function should be 42, but also provided a formula to predict all the numbers in the sequence.

As Spivack says: ‘You’ve heard of “Life Imitates Art,” well this is “Life Imitates Humor” at it’s best.’


p.s. I’m still not clear on what question 42 is answering…

Super-Serious Games

Via Wired: Two Serious Games that simulate the sensitive situation in Israel are coming out soon: “Global Conflicts: Palestine” (can’t say I like the name), and PeaceMaker.

The article gets points for mentioning a game I used to love to play in high school: Balance of Power: “In 1985, Balance of Power tackled Cold War brinkmanship under a thermonuclear threat.” In that game, if you tried moving against, or even talking to, a nation friendly to the enemy (say Cuba or Poland, if you’re playing as the U.S.), you would get a very angry call with a leader with his finger on the button. You had to keep the keep the Cold War cold while making geopolitical advances (i.e. spreading your influence worldwide). Nuclear war was, of course, game over. It was definitely a fun way to get a feel for the tangled nature of Cold War politics.

I’m hoping these new games will show, in an objective manner, the complex nature of what’s going on in Israel.


Funny TAN Post

Very cute screenshot a la The Assimilated Negro.


p.s. Why do I feel guilty when I write out “The Assimilated Negro”? It’s not my fault…

High Profile WTF Guests

The Daily WTF had some interesting guest bloggers a few weeks ago: famous (by software developer standards) coders Raymond Chen, Tom Kyte, Eric Sink, and Blake Ross all weighed in. Blake Ross, cofounder of Firefox, had the best one, IMHO, since it shows an inside look at Netscape, post-AOHell…

Some funny Ross lines:

It’s hard for me to write a WTF, not because I can’t remember one, but because I remember too many. Netscape was one giant WTF, or as they called it back then, AOL. The company had grown so inept that “WTF” became just another thing we said each day, like “Hey” or “What time is it?” or “We just lost another 5%” or “Marketing wants to replace the Back button with an ad for Bowflex”.

I hate to be down on anyone on the WTF guest writer list, but one guest WTF was just lame. First of all, it was a self-WTF (the author’s own code), which is already suspect, given the lack of objectivity. Second of all, it was for an algorithm for a fairly complex geometrical calculation (whether a line segment is completely contained by a polygon). The calculation already involves a tradeoff between accuracy and speed, and the WTF, such as it is, simply leans too far, in the author’s opinion, towards speed: “Eventually I would end up with an implementation of SegmentInside which is robust for any practical situation even though it would require essentially infinite time for any case which returns true.” So the improvement would be a much bigger WTF! He should have posted that!

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m being so hard on the author – he took time out of his day to contribute (I assume for free) to one of my favorite websites. And he did post about a topic that is of interest to me. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess it struck me as being more about self-promotion (“hey – this is my worst code, and it’s not even that bad!”) than WTF. Just a hunch.


p.s. In case you haven’t noticed, I dropped the author’s name from my blog – I’m not about to be badmouthing coders by name on my blog.

The DaVinci Code and Antisemitism

No, I’m not going to suggest that the book/movie The DaVinci Code is anti-semitic. Sorry. However, it has generated a whole slew of bestselling copycats with topics like Masonic influence in 19th Century America, Carpathians, and other conspiracies (from The New York Times):

2) THE BOOK OF FATE, by Brad Meltzer. (Warner, $25.99.) The apparent murder of a presidential aide reveals Masonic secrets in Washington and a 200-year-old code invented by Thomas Jefferson.

3) THE MEPHISTO CLUB, by Tess Gerritsen. (Ballantine, $25.95.) A Boston medical examiner and a detective must solve a series of murders involving apocalyptic messages and a sinister cabal.

6) DARK CELEBRATION, by Christine Feehan. (Berkley, $23.95.) Carpathians from around the world join together to oppose their enemies’ plot to kill all Carpathian women.

And #4 Paperback:
CAMEL CLUB, by David Baldacci. (Warner Vision, $7.99.) A group of conspiracy theorists stumbles on a plot reaching to the highest levels of government.

Hmmm… what tiny religious group is perennially accused of all sorts of shadowy dealings? I can’t wait to find out! Oh wait, I can.


Good Lawyers on Slashdot

Slashdot recently interviewed several lawyers defending individuals against the RIAA. This statement jumped out at me in particular:

The people who come out the strongest against ‘trial lawyers’ are the big corporations’ PR departments. They want the ‘common folk’ to think ill of lawyers, because the law — as imperfect as it is — is the only equalizer left. And it’s being eroded rapidly. And people dissing lawyers all the time helps that process.

Very true – rule of law is really all any society has, if you think about it. Without that, it’s just dog-eat-dog, where the strong (say, the recording industry) devour the weak and defenseless. So this really extends well beyond the music business. Think about that next time you make a lawyer joke ;-)


Smells of the Subway

I’m not sure I’m with Gawker on this one. Ewwww…


p.s. They really put in the effort on this thing… wow.

Banned Books on Google

Google has a page dedicated to classic works that have been banned at one point or another. There are some surprises on the list, including “The Lord of the Flies”, by William Golding, “1984”, by George Orwell, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, by Ken Kesey. In any case, any book from the last century with something to say seems to be on the list. Not particularly surprising, of course… Now go read!


Here’s To Success!

A new study shows that drinkers make more than non-drinkers. While somewhat counterintuitive, it actually makes sense: people who go to the bar are generally more social than people who don’t, so their personalities are such that they are able to go out and make more contacts, etc. Time for a new hobby!