: New: Book Report: Knuth: Selected Papers on Fun and Games

Don Knuth is, of course, one of our greatest scholars of Computer Science. If someone asks you, "What's an efficient way to to sort ______ for quick retrieval?" you are always safe bluffing the answer, "Oh, I think I saw that in Knuth. You can look it up." Thus, you can score geek cred by reading this book where people can see you. Just don't tell them the title. "Oh, you know, it's just some minor papers by Knuth. Did I mention I was reading stuff by Knuth?"

But of course, if you're talking with someone who really is a geek, go ahead and tell them: these are the silly papers. You may have heard that Knuth's first publication was in Mad Magazine. This book has that article. It's not so interesting to read now: A fictional system of weights and measures; but instead of giving things boring names like "meter" and "liter", they have names... of words that Mad editors thought were funny back in the 50s. I mean, sure, yeah, it's cute to name a measurement after Wally Wood, a very talented cartoonist, and Mad regular. And yet... and yet. Maybe it was funny back then? OK, some of these papers are of interest only to the historian.

But there's some good stuff. I read the source code to a literate-programming version of Adventure—the only literate-programming program I've made it all the way through. I liked some of the geeky art; it gets into some good kinds of recreational math. The parts of this collections that I did like were sufficiently unusual that I think they made my brain grow. Check it out if you're a computer scientist or a mathematician.

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