Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: Humble Pi

This book talks about math errors and the consequences that follow. There are errors of engineering, software errors (dear to my heart), and plain old computation errors. Some of these get pretty interesting. E.g., until I read this book, I thought the designers of the Millennium Bridge must be pretty darned incompetent. When pedestrians walked across the newly-constructed Millennium Bridge, it started to shake itself apart. Engineers have known about the "breakstep bridge" problem for a long time; there was no excuse for this to happen to a modern bridge. Except except, as I learned from this book, the Millennium Bridge was shaking itself apart in a new, exciting way. It wasn't bouncing up and down as people stomped on it. Rather, it waggled from side to side as walkers shifted.

I found out about medical calculators, used for lives-are-at-stake calculations like drug dosages. If I haul out my phone calculator and type in 2  3 · 4 , it ignores the second dot and shows 2.34. But it's strange that I hit the · key twice—one of those was probably an accident. Maybe I meant to enter 2.34, maybe I meant 23.4. These fancy-pants medical calculators are more careful: they show a warning about the too-many-dots problem. (The book also discusses a problem that can arise from using too many fancy-pants complex error checkers: if the system gets too complex, that's just more opportunities for errors as layers of a system interfere with each other.)

I found out that the Spurious Correlations website is pretty funny and reminds us that plenty of unrelated things correlate with crime rates, cancer rates, whatever rates; and you should take any pundit's discovery of the true cause of whatever with a big grain of salt. I found out about a project Tommy Flowers worked on after his WWII codebreaking work: ERNIE, a random number generator that generated entropy from neon tubes. I learned… uhm, there's a lot of cool stuff in this book. Recommended; check it out.

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2021-01-25T18:15:30.819359

Occasionally, my web alert for "Hosken" turns up a winner.

Genital shape key to male flies' sexual success

"Male genitals generally, and in Drosophila specifically, evolve very quickly, so we were really surprised to find this weak selection," said Professor David Hosken, of the University of Exeter.

Science Daily

Yes, I have the sense of humor you'd expect of a 12 year old.

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2021-01-18T01:03:48.484308

Book Report: Attack Surface

This novel is a sequel to Homeland and Little Brother. It's OK. It leans pretty hard on your suspension of disbelief; a major plot point involves some programmers being good both at hacking security and some gnarly AI. And there's an attempt at a complex character in a pretty-darned-plot-driven book. And… anyhow, this book is OK.

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2021-01-16T00:56:38.329664

My morning thoughts: Put Stacey Abrams in charge of the vaccine rollout. If anyone can organize that shit, she can.

My evening thoughts: Put Stacey Abrams in charge of the Department of Homeland Security. If anyone can put down this insurrection, she can.

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2021-01-06T23:52:18.578952

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even the eastern part of Golden Gate Park

On Nextdoor, someone (Zadie Oleksiw?) mailed out a "scavenger hunt" which was a set of riddles leading to locations in the eastern part of Golden Gate Park. As someone who's lived in the area for some decades, I had fun solving these riddles. Depending on your familiarity with the park, your mileage may vary.

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2021-01-04T01:40:27.018440

Book Report: Satyajeet Bhargav (A Truth Seeker)

This book of short stories was described as "Like Sherlock Holmes but in old-timey India." This was apt. There are mysterious crimes. There are unlikely observations. There are dramatic denouements. This was a quick fun read.

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2021-01-01T00:55:15.770082

Three Popular Blog Posts

Once again, I'm posting links to three popular blog posts from 2020. In theory I'm doing this for Facebook folks, who don't have an easy way to view my blog. (On Facebook, I'll post a link to this blog.) But maybe other people like to look back? Anyhow: behold three popular blog posts.

Some of y'all have been expecting a write-up of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. Did I mention that this pandemic has been pretty distracting? I should finish it eventually. Maybe 2021?

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2020-12-31T17:04:43.886696

Link: Open Infrastructure Map

Open Infrastructure Map: It's a map of power lines, communications towers, gas lines, and stranger infrastructure-y things. It's not complete. You may have heard of the Open StreetMap project—a map of the world that anyone can edit. It turns out that anyone can "tell" Open StreetMap about power lines, water canals, etc, but the usual streetmap view doesn't show those features. But but the Open Infrastructure Map copies that free open-source data and does display it. (I found out about it on Mastodon.) Apparently there's a big power line that runs the length of San Francisco Bay from Pittsburg to San Francisco. I didn't know that.

[screenshot: USA part of the map] [screenshot: San Francisco part of the map]

The maps are pretty. They're plainly missing some features. Open StreetMap is editable by the public, like a wiki. But it's kind of intimidating to find out the right way to add a feature. Maybe there's a way to tell this thing about a traffic light control box, but I honestly have no idea what it is.

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2021-01-01T15:03:59.479241

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