July 18, 2007

Intermezzo: Mental Vomit.

Phew, it's been a long few days, I have the last few posts in the Peano series coming up, and I've been planning out a new series of posts about a project I've been toying with- a Haskore-esque Music system. By the looks of it, Haskore is no longer being mantained, so maybe someday I'll this project will actually turn into something useful, but really- I'm just looking to do something nifty with Haskell.

Today, though, I'm just going to brain-vomit and talk about some random thoughts I had.

Programming the Universe, by Seth Lloyd.

Excellent book, I'm about halfway through it. It's really brilliantly written, very engaging, though its occasionally a little too conversational for my tastes. It's also relatively thin, which is good, because it makes me feel proud to say I'm halfway through in less than 3 days, even though halfway through is 100 pages. It's also kind of unfortunate, as I'll be done with it soon, though I suppose if you have to have some problem, not wanting the book to end because your enjoying it to much is probably a good one to have. The book, principly, is about how the universe can be described as a giant quantum computer, it goes into information theory and its relation to thermodynamics and entropy. It talks about Quantum Logical Operations, though (at least up till now) not in any real detail, althoug h I saw some Bra-ket notation in later chapters. I'm not very knowledgable about Quantum Computing in general, so I hope to pick up some basic understanding from this, or at least enough language so I know where to look for more info. I figure, in 10 years, this technology will be relatively grown up, and I'll need to know it to stay current. Might as well start now.

I am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter

I'm a Hofstadter fanboy, I'll admit it. GEB is the best book ever. Metamagical Themas is the second best book, and hopefully, this will be the third best. I didn't even read the back cover when I bought this, I saw "Hofstadter" and I actually squealed a little. Yes, I squealed, but honestly, DH is quite possibly my favorite non-fiction writer ever. I'm allowed to be a fanboy. It was a manly squeal. Shut up. :P

I haven't started reading it yet, but my first impression (from my random flipopen to one of the pages) is that it'll be a entertaining read, to say the least. I opened to a section headed with "Is W one letter or two?" I think it'll be good, and the cover art is really quite nice.

Reinventing the Wheel, and why It's a good thing.

Now a little more on topic. I've been hearing more and more, or maybe I'm just noticing that people say this more and more, that we -- as programmers, mathematicians, etc -- should not try to reinvent the wheel. For the most part, I agree. Some problems are solved, but should we discourage people from reinventing the wheel entirely? I think there is something to be said for reinventing the wheel every now and again, especially for new programmers. For instance, the recent posts about Peano's Axioms. This has probably been done to death by other Haskeller's out there, but why do I do it now? Partially because it shows the wonders of type classes, but also because the exercise of solving this already solved problem is an excellent way to learn about how the solution works, and furthermore how to apply those concepts to other problems. I mean, maybe I'm just ranting, but don't we reinvent the wheel over and over? Insertion sort is a perfectly good sorting algorithm, it does the job, heck, it even does it far quicker than we could. However, if it weren't for the fact that someone sat down and said, "Maybe this wheel isn't as great as it could be" and reinvented it, and came up with quicksort, or radix sort, or count sort, then where would our applications be? Even looking at the actual wheel, how many times has it been reinvented? It started out as some big stone, then it was probably wood, then wood with metal plating, then mostly metal, now its a complex part with alloys and rubber and all sorts of different materials. I m guess what I'm trying to say is maybe instead of "never reinventing the wheel" we should, "Never reinvent the wheel, except in cases where reinventing the wheel would give us a better solution." I suppose its the logical resolution to the problem presented from trying to combine this adage with the adage:

"Never say never, ever again."

Anyway, It's time to get back to procrastinating, or not, I guess I'll do it later.

PhD. Procrastinate.

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