February 28, 2013
“On the practical side, it’s unsurprising to recognize that science might move less quickly than it should simply due to the massive size of what we know: A single individual can comb through only so much of the literature. For example, imagine there are two papers somewhere in the literature, one of which says that A implies B, and another that says B implies C. With the incredible growth of the scientific literature, it’s impossible for anyone to be familiar with all of the papers published in all scientific disciplines, let alone the new research in one’s own subfield. So these two papers remain uncombined, until a computer program finds some way to stitch these two ideas together, recognizing that A implies C, a discovery that was practically impossible due to the vast size of the literature….
Does such a hint of non-understandable pieces of reasoning and thought mean that eventually there will be answers to the riddle of the universe that are going to be too complicated for us to understand, answers that machines can spit out but we cannot grasp? Quite possibly. We’ve already come close. A computer program known as Eureqa that was designed to find patterns and meaning in large datasets not only has recapitulated fundamental laws of physics but has also found explanatory equations that no one really understands. And certain mathematical theorems have been proven by computers, and no one person actually understands the complete proofs, though we know that they are correct. As the mathematician Steven Strogatz has argued, these could be harbingers of an “end of insight.” We had a wonderful several-hundred-year run of explanatory insight, beginning with the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, but maybe that period is drawing to a close.”
February 25, 2013
Anki flashcards look like a pretty neat idea for learning new things.
Every man who rises above the common level has received two educations: the first from his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself.
February 24, 2013
February 22, 2013
Some great pictures from All University Sing 2013.
I built 40 flintlock muskets and an 8lb Revolutionary War cannon for one of the acts. Here’s a look:
February 21, 2013
I like this one:
“Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.
And they wait and wait and wait.
Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… The work itself results in inspiration.”
Just keep plugging away.
A look at the proliferation of laws in America and the idea that we each commit 3 felonies per day.
February 20, 2013
UPDATE: Matt counters with Fibonacci Flim-Flam! Well played, Matt!
A somewhat cynical footnote.
The internet is cluttered with “educational” sites that have documents on “Fibonacci numbers in nature” and similar topics. A corresponedent suggested a reason for this, which resonated with my own experience in the “ed-biz”. Perhaps this is the result of the current climate in education in which teachers are under great pressure to pander to student feelings and interests. Students continually ask for reasons for studying academic subjects—reasons that will convince students of the relevance of that subject to their own narrow interests and egocentric perspective. The idea of being interested in something for its own sake is a foreign concept to them. So some teachers go out of their way to “invent” relevance, even if it is a fragile and tenuous relevance. To show that some part of mathematics is relevant to nature, art, or the location of navels, serves that purpose. In doing this, some textbook writers and teachers often display their own shallowness of thought.
Those who would rule over us find the Second Amendment inconvenient, and therefore are happy to dispense with it, if they can muster the votes. It is noteworthy that the Second Amendment does not create a right to keep and bear arms, it refers to a right that it assumes to be pre-existent. The right to keep and bear arms is really the right of self-defense, which John Locke called “the fundamental law of nature.” So the current debate over gun control is about much more than guns. It goes to the nature of the relationship between the people and the state: are we free and independent citizens, or are we the grateful subjects of exalted rulers?
“I’m Not a Genius, Just a Tremendous Bundle of Experience”
—R. Buckminster Fuller
Perhaps people are born with the capacity to become a genius and others start at a lesser point, but whether or not you become one is a result of your effort and experience. At least that’s what author, design, inventor, and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller believes.
We like to give up and quit because it’s easier. Telling ourselves we weren’t born with the ability to become geniuses or do extraordinary things makes that possible. However, most designated geniuses didn’t get there because of some genetic predisposition, but rather a combination of hard work and relevant experiences. While luck will always play some role in our success, you don’t find luck by sitting on your ass. Rather, you find it by getting up and experiencing life as much as you can until it can’t help but find you.
February 18, 2013
February 17, 2013
Ten years ago a friend and former Pit band member asked if his young daughter could sit on the piano bench in the pit with me during a show. Since it was Pigskin (and, if I recall correctly, a club night) I didn’t think it would hurt anything. I recall her sitting next to me with wide eyes as she saw my perspective of the action going on onstage. She was overwhelmed by the lights, the music, and the dance (to quote a certain song). College students singing and dancing! How wonderful!
Fast forward a decade and that little girl, Emily, sat next to me on the very same bench last night. Emily is now a student at Baylor and is one of those performers in the show. Maybe this week a little girl will sit on the bench next to me and dream about being up there someday.
February 16, 2013
February 15, 2013
February 14, 2013
I want to make a sword.