Jonah’s Whale

דג גדול Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John. — Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

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Petals of the Abyss

מנא מנא תקל ופרסין From Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer: Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dim-lit... Continue Reading →

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Myths of Reflection

Mirror, mirror, on the wall... From The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho: The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus. The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He... Continue Reading →

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Reduction’s Limit

For / the love of / all x. Can we continue to rely on the reductionist approach? No. From No Silver Bullet; Essence and Accident in Software Engineering. Frederick P. Brooks, Jr (1986). Mathematics and the physical sciences made great strides for three centuries by constructing simplified models of complex phenomena, deriving properties from the models,... Continue Reading →

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Logic’s Conclusion

Non-terminating. From Algorithms to Live By, by Christian and Griffiths: The intuitive standard for rational decision-making is carefully considering all available options and taking the best one. At first glance, computers look like the paragons of this approach, grinding their way through complex computations for as long as it takes to get perfect answers. But... Continue Reading →

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Foundations of Laziness

There is no need to know what lies beneath your feet. Until there is. How deep do we dig into foundations? If you're a fan of lazy evaluation, preferably never. Neglect isn't always a bad thing; it's often a necessity of making progress. In fact, sometimes neglect is actually the whole point, the reason for... Continue Reading →

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A Token of Entry

Why is mathematics so inaccessible? Seems kinda... unnecessary 🤔 We should probably clean up all the mess before we point folks in that direction. From Michael J. Barany's review of Infinite Powers (Strogatz): "WAIT! COME BACK! The word 'calculus' is enough to send many people running, and for good reason. Calculus is based on a... Continue Reading →

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Gluts of Good Guesses

Fifty years? We're already there. Our systems are still fairly limited, and yet they're already growing far beyond our ability to comprehend them. If no one truly knows how a pencil is made, let alone how a computer really works, it shouldn't surprise us that delegated problem-solving will soon be the norm across most complex... Continue Reading →

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A Moment of Rest

I would swallow the earth whole if needs be. And needs always be. I would billow and blow until I'm its equal in size, I would take it all in until we are equal in weight, and on that fateful day when we are finally on the same footing, I would look this world in... Continue Reading →

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Shadow of Knowledge

There is no way of knowing that does not produce ignorance in its wake. It's simply not possible to see everything at once, so the act of observing any one thing naturally requires the neglect of everything else. This is partly an implication of the uncertainty principle—which is really more of an unavoidable mathematical constraint,... Continue Reading →

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Quipu of the Apu

A cloth database. The "talking knots" of an ancient Andean empire, extended over centuries through the power of sorted, physical memory. By reading the ordering and placement of the notches on the strings, they were able to weave a finely threaded civilization through the perilous mountain paths. Impressive.

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The Art of Names

To know a thing is to name it. True names have power. Please use variables with meaningful names and have mercy on those who will maintain your code. Easier said than done. Something often overlooked: Even if well-crafted, which is rare, names will still reflect the intention, understanding and purpose of named objects at their... Continue Reading →

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The Meanings of Nekudot

"It's just ugly punctuation that gets in the way of comprehension." "No, it's still the same letter without the dot, but it would look kinda weird." "Actually those marks just help people who don't know how to interpret and pronounce it." "Well we need to put that there or the compiler won't know where the... Continue Reading →

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A Sufi’s Request

Excuse my wandering. How can one be orderly with this? It's like counting leaves in a garden, along with the song-notes of partridges, and crows. Sometimes organization and computation become absurd. — Jellaludin Rumi

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The Gardener’s Metaphor

Complex systems are grown, not built. This is why prescriptive methodology always fails when deployed at scale. Methodology can not be declared by fiat. It must be nurtured and cultivated from viable seedlings, then fostered into maturity. This is also why, in practice, no two teams can ever share the same methodology, even when both... Continue Reading →

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Instinct’s Design

Trust your instincts. There is no other choice. What is irrational for the individual can be rational for the group, and vice versa. And whether an entity constitutes a group or an individual is just as much a matter of perspective. Emotions help us navigate that bizarrely continuous boundary. They guide us through the narrow... Continue Reading →

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The Authoritarian’s Bind

For there is not a single righteous one on earth who only does good and refrains from sin. — Ecclesiastes Tight? Or loose? Sometimes it isn't the errors that matter, but how harshly they are enforced and penalized. Be mindful. Especially when the rules are discretionary, ambiguous, or unwritten — which is always the case... Continue Reading →

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The Origins of Error

How does any super-villain get their name? A foundational event, of course. Like any good mythos. At first, software developers started writing code. Their code ran on gigantic slow computers made of relays that were housed in buildings and required dedicated power plants to run them. They also had less processing power than the usual... Continue Reading →

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Nature’s Cleaners

Be mindful. Not all actors in our little bubble are the good kind. "Cleaner fish are fish that provide a service to other species by removing dead skin and ectoparasites. Although the animal being cleaned typically is another fish, it can also involve aquatic reptiles (sea turtles and marine iguana), mammals (manatees and whales) or... Continue Reading →

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A Nomad’s Problems

There's the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP). Then there's the Job Shop Scheduling Problem (JSP). Then there's the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP). Then there's the Vehicle Routing Problem with Pickup and Delivery (VRPPD). Then there's the Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows (VRPTW). Then there's the Capacitated Vehicle Routing Problem (CVRP). Then there's your real-world problem:... Continue Reading →

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Dials of Chaos

Dialectics remind us. The universe is filled with opposing sides and opposing forces. There is always more than one way to see a situation, and more than one way to solve a problem. Two things that seem like opposites can both be true. Everything and every person is connected in some way. The waves and... Continue Reading →

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Models of Mimicry

There is no limit on nature’s talent for facsimile. AI used to test evolution's oldest mathematical model The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, the University of Essex, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Natural History Museum London used their machine learning algorithm to test whether butterfly species can co-evolve similar wing patterns for mutual benefit.... Continue Reading →

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Strings of Exception

He was up against a deadline and didn't have the SMA credentials to check for himself, so he took the question to his senior, the lead architect. "Hey, which node should we run the new monitor agents on?" "On OrderMgmt? Let's go with the JMS node." "Got it." With that he went to the team... Continue Reading →

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Eadweard’s Projections

It's not always easy to see where an idea is going until it gets there. But don't be surprised when you find out that it all goes back to a simple concept—say, like a circle—and some random autodidact with a crazy idea for what you could do with it. This particular wheel became a foundational... Continue Reading →

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The Frailty of Equilibrium

Hard to build, easy to break. From an interview with Amie Wilkinson: Do you find that dynamical systems provide a language that you use to think about other non-math areas of your life? "Yeah, definitely. You become much more aware of how fragile equilibrium is. Things can look stable for a long time and then... Continue Reading →

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Encodings of Logic

(Source) From The One Programming Language to Rule Them All, by Eric Girouard: At the time of writing, “which programming language should I learn” yields 517 million search results. Each page will go on about the advantages one language has over the others, and 90% of them will end up recommending Python or JavaScript. If... Continue Reading →

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Games of Chaos

Clean lines? Or random patterns? In the grand chaos game it does not matter. You will always come to the same result, inevitably, in time. Even when god plays dice, god doesn't. God's also a big fan of auctions, apparently: "Three letters written by Albert Einstein in 1945 are up for auction and offer an intriguing... Continue Reading →

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The Tinctures of Formalism

All dividing lines will themselves be divided—all formalism, deformed. Existence cannot be contained. And the more we try to pin down the essence of things, the more we will see them squirm and squeeze out from under our footholds. Reality will always be more rigorous than any conceivable formalism. That's why there's always that one little droplet you... Continue Reading →

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Aesthetics of Realism

DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST Bonfire. Typical humans... Where to begin? I guess I'll take Sean in this one. Philosophically—we should be trying to dig deeper—but also out of loyalty. We go way back to his Cosmic Variance days 😉 It's not my style, but I can forgive a little marketing and promotion here and... Continue Reading →

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The Shape of Biscuits

From What Are the Values That Drive Decision Making by A.I.?, by Paula Boddington A five-year-old boy is helping his grandmother cook by cutting out biscuits from the dough she’s made, and he’s doing it rather badly. He instructs the family robot to take over and, even though the robot’s never done this before, it... Continue Reading →

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Time’s Meander

When you see mercurial behavior, that doesn't mean it's random. It could very well be ordered, harmonic movement. Often it's only the key signature of an orbit that circles a center not your own. "Apparent retrograde" From Decoding the Heavens, by Jo Marchant: Unlike the Sun and the Moon, the planets don’t follow smooth paths... Continue Reading →

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Starlight’s Abacus

A planispheric astrolabe from the workshop of Jean Fusoris in Paris circa 1400, on display at the Putnam Gallery in the Harvard Science Center There is a common notion that we are qualitatively more sophisticated than the intellectuals of history, but it isn't particularly well-founded. We only have the luxury of thinking that because of... Continue Reading →

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The Coder’s Method

Handle with care. Deal with the problems that matter right now, in whatever way you can, with whatever tools available. Then get ready. Because you still need to handle all those other cases, the ones you're going to have to deal with sooner or later. You're always up against the clock. Always.

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Antikythera’s Warning

Pay heed the echoes of antiquity. No matter how powerful your tools, progress is never guaranteed. 1.1.11 Everything is still at stake. Bruno Latour, IRREDUCTIONS

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The Speedskater’s Crash

(Alternate title: A Short-tracker's Short-circuit.) At high speeds, every pass is a risky maneuver. In a short-track speed-skating race, the pack is a competitive group where each individual must rely on others not to make catastrophic choices. That is, if they want to stay on their feet. To make matters more difficult, any pack of... Continue Reading →

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Signs of Preemption

A similar invention was presented by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his work presented to the French Academy of Sciences in 1742. Due to its straightforward correspondence to the standard notation, it is possible that many other claims of independent invention are also true. Grove's credits Emile J.M. Chevé. (Source) "In science, it is common practice for... Continue Reading →

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Forster’s Paradoxa

"The view behind this book is that one should think of the paradoxes as supernatural creatures, oracles, minor demons, etc. (or perhaps the Aleph in the eponymous story by Borges) - on whom one should keep a weather eye in case they make prophecies or by some other means inadvertently divulge information from another world... Continue Reading →

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The Shesh of Besh

An adversarial probabilistic board game originating from Mesopotamia, utilized continuously by several thriving human civilizations across a period of 5000 years, primarily as a tool for both children and adults looking to sharpen the skills of strategy and estimation while also building social bonds. One of history's more successful examples of a superficially nonfunctional, yet... Continue Reading →

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Empire’s End

WARNING: Event imminent. From The Computer Revolution Has Yet to Happen, by Schmuddë: "Playing an instrument or singing gives the performer just a little more insight into the underpinnings of music. Writing takes the author one step closer to understanding storytelling and communication. But using a tablet gets the user no closer to understanding the... Continue Reading →

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Sources of Canvas

Have somewhere to draw. A whiteboard is the gold standard here. A nice, big, clear space to draw all over. Words are great and all but nothing beats a bunch of wonky boxes and not so straight lines. — From “The Psychology of Pair Programming” by Chris Cooney LucidChart, I guess, would be the platinum... Continue Reading →

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Maxwell’s Demons

"I think they're just like that. I think they're just good guys." - Daniel H. Pemberton, or something Arberton? Armbiter? Ah... forget it. (Source) From The Information, by James Gleick: We all behave like Maxwell’s demon. Organisms organize. In everyday experience lies the reason sober physicists across two centuries kept this cartoon fantasy alive. We... Continue Reading →

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Hadamard’s Gate

Meanwhile I drift on uncertain seas; smooth-tongued chance flatters me; forward and backward I look, and still see no end. —Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Cross here. (Ignore the nonsense below.) Quantum Computing’s Internals Demystified: "The reason that none of these explanations seem to ring true is that we are trying model quantum phenomena in a... Continue Reading →

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A Sheikah’s Slate

A digital abacus, c. 2019. A lithium-powered monolith of immediated lithography, mediated by electromagnetic networks, which, roughly speaking, are just intermediary layers of invisible light that can span entire continents in mere seconds. All with a stylus, to boot. These things are... pretty fucking neat. But be mindful. "Nabu was worshipped by the Babylonians and... Continue Reading →

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Forms of Equivalence

A shape is only ever a surface, a relational limit, a constraint. It is the front line of a natural test - one that de-forms, trans-forms, out-forms, in-forms or per-forms it. Of course, once a form is stable, it no longer appears to need any testing. But be mindful: Not all formalisms are formed equal,... Continue Reading →

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A Double’s Denaries

A look at the kind of mechanical abacus I would try to build in order to effectively represent measurements with rational numbers — different from (but still somewhat analogous to) the uniquely weird way we already inscribe them into our digital systems. Basically, the disks would rest in a wooden frame with a notched axle,... Continue Reading →

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Humanity

Time to get on board or get left behind. Why is science second to Wikipedia, even though it's technically a foundational substrate for Wikipedia itself? They're both prime territory for hitchhiking, but science produces arcane encyclopedia and cumbersome textbooks, then humanity turns them into actually useful wikis, then normal humans can effectively explore those wikis.... Continue Reading →

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A Rule of Learning

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things. Don't wish to be thought to know anything; and even if you appear to be somebody important to others, distrust yourself. For, it is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to... Continue Reading →

Paradox of Propagation

so, I saw a thing on the internet one day, we don't need to say what it was or give it any extra airtime here, but to sum it up... it was anti-semitic. no doubt about it. straight-up, in your face, anti-semitism. and it was hilarious. it was an exhibit in peak irony, tongue-in-cheek and... Continue Reading →

Rules of Codes

The Mishnah and the Talmud. The constitution and the federalist papers. Code and documentation. Gotta keep 'em separate. (And also, nothing new.)

Fault of Research

Natural language processing as a field will continue to be a failure for as long as they neglect to produce software that can reliably predict when autocorrect mishaps are occurring. It's a solvable problem. If the word doesn't fit in the sentence, underline it in purple. If the word "duck" is in a sentence, underline... Continue Reading →

A Rule of History

Go back more than a few hundred years, and all history is just academics stumbling around in a dark forest with nothing but matches, holding up their feeble light to whatever leaf they can find, then telling you grand, intricate stories about the tree that must be attached. Like, yeah... you're probably right that it's... Continue Reading →

Paradox of Animosity

It was the Persians who first liberated Jerusalem and ended the Babylonian exile. It was the Persians who freed us to build the Second Temple. Why then, do we now beat the war drums in their name?

Paradox of Ancestry

Your heritage is a lie. A tidy story of a single shining light, emanating faithfully from the distant past—an origin myth conjured in its entirety from the smoke and fumes of a still-burning wildfire. A clean line of history presented where the only underlying truth is a jagged branching mess of crisscrossing fates with no... Continue Reading →

A Rule of Real Men

Any imperatives that start with "A real man should—" will get completely ignored. And not even because of any issues with masculinity, but just... I know when I'm being manipulated.

A Paradox of Invisible Disability

Ella: So basically, they're ableist. Yoav: Well, no I'm not saying that haha. I don't think anyone wants to hear someone who looks like me telling them what is or isn't ableist. Ella: ... because they're ableist.

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