Book Report: Group Theory in the Bedroom

It's a collection of essays by Brian Hayes--the guy whose magazine article got me into Markov Chain-generated English drivel. I was able to follow most of these essays, which was darned nice since I'm not a math guru.

  • Clock of Ages Thinking about the Long Now Foundation and related topics. He points out that it would make sense for the Clock of the Long Now to be associated with a nuclear waste site--if you're going to go to the trouble to set up an institution to last 10000 years, maybe that's what you need to warn other folks away from something that's going to stay toxic for 10000 years. I thought that was my idea. But then I saw it in Anathem, and a few days later I saw it again here. I guess the Long Now Foundation was in the news at the same time as Yucca Flats and Carlsbad. Maybe plenty of geeks were thinking the same way.
  • Inventing the Genetic Code Some mistteps along the way, explained. I couldn't follow much of this.
  • Statistics of Deadly Quarrels What happens when a statistician tries to count up casualties in brawls, border conflicts, battles, and world-ranging total wars. Lewis Fry Richardson tried to do this. It's not easy. Everyone lies about casualty counts. It's sometimes difficult to figure out where one war ends and the next squabble begins.
  • Dividing the Continent How would you algorithmically determine the contiental divide of a 2-D surface in 3-D?
  • On the Teeth of Wheels An introduction to clockwork computing. If you have a clock and you want it to do something once every N ticks, you might set up a gear wheel with N teeth to do something once per rotation. But what if N is large, so that you can't fit that many teeth on a wheel? Then you might set up a few wheels in different numbers of teeth, some attached at the axle, some with interlocking teeth. And you'd learn a lot about factoring.
  • Naming Names Namespaces, hashing
  • Group Theory in the Bedroom Considering mattress-flipping as a series of mathematical procedures and as a documentation problem.

There were more essays than just those, too.

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Book Report: Too Cool To Be Forgotten

In this comic book, our hero goes under hypnosis and dreams he's back in high school. He gets a chance to get things right. It's nice enough.

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Book Report: Disgrace

This past weekend I spent plenty of time in the company of BATH folks doing secret things. Normally I'd be bouncing up and down and eager to tell you about what happened, but... Actually, even if I wasn't sworn to secrecy, I wouldn't be bouncing up and down right now. By Sunday, I was running a sleep deficit. Let's hope that made me a better puzzle playtester, simulating "the stupid hours". Now it's Monday and I'm still behind on sleep. Nothing makes sense, I stumble around, I stare slack-jawed at the world, I mumble incoherently, I make no sense, I can not write.

Good thing I have an old pre-written book report about the novel Disgrace:

This novel by J.M. Coetzee is set in South Africa. It has symbolisms aplenty. If you read this book and you knew someone else who read this book, then you could have a conversation about the thin veneer of Western Civilization. You could talk about the use of various things as metaphors for a state of grace. You could... oh good grief, I certainly hope that you could find better things to talk about.

Whatever. I'm going to bed.

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