Statistical analyzer that takes a sample of your (or anyone’s) writing and claims to match it based on similarity to a known author: I Write Like.
I pasted an excerpt from an email I had written a while back, and I got the result “I write like Cory Doctorow”. Really? My emails read like Doctorow? This sounded too good to be true, so I dug up my recipe for mushroom-peanut lasagna and pasted that in, and I got the result “I write like Mario Puzo”!
I swear this thing was written by a wise guy.
Fourth of July 2010, at Lafayette / West Lafayette, Indiana. Fireworks seen from the Myers footbridge. Fireworks launched from the Brown Street overlook.
(Mouse over images to enlarge).
As its name indicates, snarXiv is a parody of arXiv. You can test your bogus-title detection skills at snarXiv vs arXiv. I didn’t get over 60-65% myself (after some 15-20 trials); I could detect the really blatant fakes (“Towards some general examples”), but really my performance is only modestly better than a coin-flip. In my own defense, I’m not a physicist, leave alone a high-energy theoretical physicist. How did you do?
The Tippecanoe County Courthouse lit up at dusk:
The Tippecanoe County Courthouse at dusk
While running a simulated annealing program, lowering the simulated temperature too slowly will make the CPU temperature rise too much. That’s thermodynamics.
The other lesson in here, particularly for systems engineers, is: “The system always kicks back”. (Paraphrased from John Gall’s satirical takedown of systems-thinking in his three Systemantics books, which are a little over the top but nevertheless recommended).
I’m currently reading through Sustainable Energy – without the hot air by David J.C. MacKay, FRS, which I recommend to anyone interested in energy or energy policy. I’m particularly impressed by the graphs and diagrams in the book, both for the laboriously-collected data they represent and for their power to convey important points quickly and clearly. (Example).
The visual imagery evoked by the prose is powerful too: in a section discussing the merits (and lack thereof) of having a large number of people make a small saving each, here is what MacKay has to say:
The “if-everyone” multiplying machine is a bad thing because it deflects people’s attention towards 25 million minnows instead of 25 million sharks. The mantra “Little changes can make a big difference” is bunkum, when applied to climate change and power. [link]
Citation: David J.C. MacKay. Sustainable Energy – without the hot air. UIT Cambridge, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9544529-3-3. Available free online from www.withouthotair.com.
This post is a collection of links about the existence and consequences of the Dunbar number.
Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150.
The Wall Street Journal:
there is reason to believe that the social-networking sites will enable their users to burst past Dunbar’s number for friends, just as humans have developed and harnessed technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information.
What mainly goes up [in the number of Facebook contacts], therefore, is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively. This corroborates Dr Marsden’s ideas about core networks, since even those Facebook users with the most friends communicate only with a relatively small number of them.
So how many monkeys would you have to own before you couldn’t remember their names? At what point, in your mind, do your beloved pets become just a faceless sea of monkey? Even though each one is every bit the monkey Slappy was, there’s a certain point where you will no longer really care if one of them dies.
Zhou, Sornette, Hill & Dunbar:
Using fractal analysis, we identify with high statistical confidence a discrete hierarchy of group sizes with a preferred scaling ratio close to 3: rather than a single or a continuous spectrum of group sizes, humans spontaneously form groups of preferred sizes organized in a geometrical series approximating 3, 9, 27,…
The smallest, three to five, is a “clique”: the number of people from whom you would seek help in times of severe emotional distress. The twelve to 20 group is the “sympathy group”: people with which you have special ties. After that, 30 to 50 is the typical size of hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from the same pool of 150 people. No matter what size company you work for, there are only about 150 people you consider to be “co-workers.” The 500-person group is the “megaband,” and the 1,500-person group is the “tribe.” Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can put names to, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.
US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave an interesting Compton Lecture at MIT on May 12, 2009, on how researchers can fit in with providing energy for a crowded world.
From this heartfelt writeup from GreatBong on the Kolkata Knight Riders:
Then on days where we were playing among ourselves on the streets and there were not enough players to make teams, we would play by what was known as “lottery”. In this form of “gully cricket” every player essentially forms a “team of one” and all that was left to be determined was in which order we would bat (this would be the reverse order in which we would bowl). Everyone would field and he who made the most runs won.
So how was this order decided? Someone (let us call him A) would stand and the second person (let us call him person B) would hold his hand behind the first person in a way that A would not be able to see. B would then show a random number of fingers and A would call out a name from among those assembled. And the number represented by those fingers would then become the called out person’s batting position.
Thanks to the Knight Riders, I am once again in touch with my past in a way I never thought would be possible.
Leaving aside the zinger about KKR deciding their batting order using a random permutation algorithm, not only is the algorithm to obtain a secure permutation of the team’s batting order remarkable in its simplicity, the childlike political compromises that made such a permutation algorithm necessary in the first place are truly endearing. Those kids would bring a tear to Bruce Schneier’s eye.
Executive summary: Any sufficiently advanced GUI is indistinguishable from a CLI.
People older than a certain age will recall the time when the only way to tell a computer what you wanted it to do was to type in stuff through a command line interface (CLI). So if you wanted a word count on a file, you typed
wc filename and got the answers with no fluff. Then these kids came along with their graphical user interfaces (GUI) and persisted in believing that (among other things) opening the same file in a large and slow word processor and clicking on Tools | Word count was somehow more user-friendly than remembering commands like
And where are we headed now? Watch this video about Enso (which is Japanese for circle) from Humanized, and you might almost believe that the future of a GUI is a CLI, perhaps a semantically aware CLI, but definitely some creature where you type commands (or start typing them anyway) instead of one where you point and click.
What’s Japanese for “full circle”?
That said, I downloaded and have used Enso for a few hours now, and it’s certainly got its uses. My first impressions are by and large positive.
On the plus side:
- the caps lock-based interface is usable and not intrusive — I had feared that using the caps lock key would interfere with normal operation, but it’s not bad.
- The calculator function is rather helpful, though currently limited to the four basic arithmetic operations with constant operands. It is reminiscent in functionality of the sagetex plugin for TeX and LaTeX, whose best use I have found is to write HOWTO documents for mathematics without typing the formula once and copy-pasting the results again. It’s probably helpful to think of Enso’s math abilities as a stripped down fast-response sagetex.
- The spellchecker and the case-toggler are nice, but your use for them will be much less if you type a lot in Firefox (blog posts, comments, etc) and already have a spellchecker add-on and the LeetKey add-on installed. Enso will probably be more useful if you do a lot of typing outside a word processor or a browser.
On the minus side (for me at least):
- I had a rude shock when (out of force of habit) I tried to exit Enso by holding caps lock and typing “quit”. Instead of quitting, Enso closed the application that was in the foreground! BE CAUTIOUS! Save all your work when you’re trying this thing out! This is not expected behavior for a habitual CLI-user, where if you type “quit” or “exit” you will only leave the command shell and be returned to the GUI. Perhaps “close” might be a better word than “quit” for closing other applications?
- The commands available for the calculator cannot currently read arbitrary scientific expressions, even ones that can be done with the plain old Windows calculator in scientific mode, or those that be done by asking Google Calculator. Hopefully this will change in future.
- It would be helpful if the user could switch between “replace the selected text with the result” and “append the result to the selected text” modes, particularly when writing math formulas in a document followed by their evaluations: the reader needs to see both the expression and the evaluated result.
Overall, the product looks promising, and I expect to find it more useful with a few more features and a little more extensibility.