In my last post, I told the story of reviving a moribund computer program from 15+ years ago.
In the process, I revisited my stash of moribund computer programs, including a little web page with links to some of them. It was dusty and pathetic and pretty much nothing worked. So I rolled up my sleeves and prettied it up, and if you want to look any of it, you can find it here.
TL;DR You can skip any time to the 20-second movie at the bottom of the post. Spoiler alert: the video will eventually reveal the solution to the puzzle.
Happy New Year! I just returned from a quick family trip to Seattle, and you would think that this post would be about my visit to the Living Computer Museum with my cousin Eric, and programming adventures now 50+ years ago in the RESISTORS. But it’s not, as worthy as those topics are.
The New York Times has come up with a new puzzle, called “Spelling Bee.” (Sorry, to use that link you apparently need a Times Crossword subscription, which comes bundled with many of their plans.) The idea is simple: they give you 7 letters, with one in the center. Here is today’s.
To say I have a love-hate relationship with exercise would be too strong. But I’ve never truly enjoyed it, and for the relatively small fraction of my life when I’ve done it regularly, it has been at best a chore.
One of those times was in medical school. For a quarter or two, I went to the pool regularly. After a vacation, I returned to the pool and ran into my friend Brad. When I asked how his vacation was, he said, “Great!” and proceeded to tell me about biking a century or maybe two, hiking, running. I realized that there two kinds of people in the world: the ones who exercise more when they’re on vacation, and the ones who exercise less. Both kinds were represented in that conversation, and you can see which I was.
The cubic and quartic formulas were perhaps the greatest accomplishments of Renaissance mathematics, and they were a key spur to Evariste Galois’ beautiful study of the symmetry inherent in polynomial equations. Yet I got a PhD in mathematics without knowing much more than the bare fact that such formulas exist. It should certainly be possible to understand these formulas in light of Galois theory, but such explanations are not easy to find.
I wrote this paper to pass on what I learned about the cubic equation, and how it can be derived in the context of Galois theory.
Errol Morris, the noted documentary filmmaker, has recently published a book entitled, The Ashtray (Or the Man Who Denied Reality). It’s about my father, Thomas Kuhn, and the views on the history and philosophy of science that he initially set forth in his 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” As you might gather from the title, it is not a sympathetic account; the philosopher Philip Kitcher says, in his excellent review in the Los Angeles Review of Books, that “Morris disarmingly confesses [that] this book is a vendetta.”
Since the book’s publication, Morris has been appearing here and there on the radio, and friends have been asking me about my take on the book. Rather than saying the same thing over and over, I have decided to put my thoughts together in one place. I haven’t read Morris’s book, for reasons that will become clearer to those who read further, but I was a careful reader of his five-part 2011 series on the New York Times Opinionator website, which the book is based on. I find Morris’s reading of my father’s work a vast oversimplification, to the point where the straw man is easy to knock down. Many people have taken that approach over the years, but Morris has a higher profile than most. There are many people more qualified to deal with his criticisms on whatever merits they may have, and I will mostly leave it to them. What impelled me to write this is my belief that the episode from which the book draws its title, in which my father supposedly threw an ashtray at Morris, never actually happened.
Is it important whether it happened or not? Everyone will have to come to their own conclusion on that. To be very clear up front: I would love to be wrong about this. I would love to hear from Morris’s classmates, family, or anyone else, that he told them that my father threw an ashtray at him at or close to the time that it allegedly happened. Because as misguided as I think his attacks on my father are intellectually, I believe that they come from a place of wanting to defend truthfulness. Defending truthfulness was important in 2011, and it is painfully obvious that it is more important than ever in 2018. I have great respect for Morris’s film work, and I think I share much of his political orientation. But just as the Buddha says hatred does not cease through hatred, falsehood does not cease through falsehood, and I believe that some of our current ills as a society stem from our delight in calling out falsehood among our opponents while ignoring it or even condoning it on “our team” and, more important, in ourselves. Continue reading “Errol Morris Resurfaces”
I’m not a big fan of superhero movies, and I generally find any efforts to appear “thought-provoking” are pretty tinny.
But I would say that Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is actually thought-provoking. Coogler and his cast and crew have accomplished so many things in this movie that it’s hard to know where to start. But one thing they’ve done is to evoke some basic moral/philosophical dilemmas and conversations in a way that doesn’t seem completely, uh, comic-book. Continue reading “Links to writing on “Black Panther””
A number of people have expressed interest recently in my experience making bread. I’m happy to talk about it, but I also refer them to my posts here. There are enough of those posts now that I wind up rewriting the same little email about how to get started. Rather than writing the same email over and over, here is a slightly more polished version. [Added 30 July 2018: I have often said that baking bread is what has helped me survive the current political scene; here is a fleshed-out version of that thought, suggesting that it can also help you survive the on-line world that we are consumed by.] Continue reading “Guide to My Bread Posts”
This article, “A User-Friendly Introduction to the Theory of Determinants” was inspired by a number of discussions of the best way to teach determinants on Facebook. It turns out to be a topic that inspires a lot of opinions from mathematicians. Continue reading “Determinants!”
We love this waffle recipe. A visitor from Germany said these waffles were the best she’d ever had, and I think of Europeans as knowing their waffles. Don’t tell people how healthy they are, just serve them and tell them later (or not). This is adapted (i.e. mostly copied) from this recipe, but it is doubled and it generally serves 4. When I make one-and-a-half of this recipe (triple the original), it makes exactly 10 waffles on my 8″ Belgian waffle maker. I haven’t tried making pancakes with it, but it’s supposed to work. Continue reading “Make awesome waffles (or pancakes) with that extra sourdough starter”