Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August. New York: Presidio Press, [1962, 1988, 1994] 2004. ISBN 978-0-345-47609-8. One hundred years ago the world was on the brink of a cataclysmic confrontation which would cause casualties numbered in the tens of millions, destroy the pre-existing international order, depose royalty and dissolve empires, and plant the seeds for tyrannical regimes and future conflicts with an even more horrific toll in human suffering. It is not exaggeration to speak of World War I as the pivotal event of the 20th century, since so much that followed can be viewed as sequelæ which can...

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Lua to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Lua is now available for downloading. Lua was developed with the intention of being a small-footprint scripting language which could be easily embedded in applications. Despite this design goal, which it has achieved superbly, being widely adopted as the means of extensibility for numerous games and applications, it is a remarkably sophisticated language, with support for floating point, complex data structures, object oriented programming, and functional programming....

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I have just posted the first update to Atlast since 2007. Atlast is a FORTH-like language toolkit intended to make it easy to open the internal facilities of applications to users, especially on embedded platforms with limited computing and memory resources. Like FORTH, Atlast provides low-level access to the memory architecture of the machine on which it runs, and is sensitive to the length of data objects. The 1.x releases of Atlast assume integers and pointers are 32 bit quantities and floating point numbers are 64 bit, occupying two stack items. This assumption is no longer the case when building...

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mankins, John C. The Case for Space Solar Power. Houston: Virginia Edition, 2014. ISBN 978-0-9913370-0-2. As world population continues to grow and people in the developing world improve their standard of living toward the level of residents of industrialised nations, demand for energy will increase enormously. Even taking into account anticipated progress in energy conservation and forecasts that world population will reach a mid-century peak and then stabilise, the demand for electricity alone is forecasted to quadruple in the century from 2000 to 2100. If electric vehicles shift a substantial part of the energy consumed for transportation from hydrocarbon fuels...

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rickards, James. The Death of Money. New York: Portfolio / Penguin, 2014. ISBN 978-1-591-84670-3. In his 2011 book Currency Wars (November 2011), the author discusses what he sees as an inevitable conflict among fiat currencies for dominance in international trade as the dollar, debased as a result of profligate spending and assumption of debt by the government that issues it, is displaced as the world's preeminent trading and reserve currency. With all currencies backed by nothing more than promises made by those who issue them, the stage is set for a race to the bottom: one government weakens its currency to obtain short-term...

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

All 25 of the public domain Tom Swift novels have been posted in the Tom Swift and His Pocket Library collection. I am now returning to the earlier novels, upgrading them to use the more modern typography of those I've done in the last few years. The third novel in the series, Tom Swift and His Airship, has now been updated. Several typographical errors in the original edition have been corrected, and Unicode text entities are used for special characters such as single and double quotes and dashes. An EPUB edition of this novel is now available which may be...

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Monday, June 16, 2014

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Erlang to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Erlang is now available for downloading. The Erlang programming language was originally developed by the Swedish telecommunication equipment manufacturer Ericsson. Its name is simultaneously a reference to the unit of circuit load used in circuit-switched communication systems, the Danish engineer after whom the unit is named, and an abbreviation for “Ericsson Language”. While originally a proprietary Ericsson product for in-house use, in 1998 the language and software...

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Friday, June 13, 2014

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Simula to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Simula is now available for downloading. Simula may be the most significant computer language of which you've never heard. In the 1960s, it introduced almost all of the essential concepts of object oriented programming: classes, inheritance, virtual procedures, and included facilities for discrete event simulation. Memory management includes dynamic storage allocation and garbage collection. When programming in Simula, one has the sense of using a computer language...

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Geraghty, Jim. The Weed Agency. New York: Crown Forum, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7704-3652-0. During the Carter administration, the peanut farmer become president, a man very well acquainted with weeds, created the Agency of Invasive Species (AIS) within the Department of Agriculture to cope with the menace. Well, not really—the agency which occupies centre stage in this farce is fictional but, as the author notes in the preface, the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, the Federal Interagency Committee on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens, and the National Invasive Species Council...

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Coppley, Jackson. Tales From Our Near Future. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4961-2851-5. I am increasingly convinced that the 2020s will be a very interesting decade. As computing power continues its inexorable exponential growth (and there is no reason to believe this growth will abate, except in the aftermath of economic and/or societal collapse), more and more things which seemed absurd just a few years before will become commonplace—consider self-driving cars. This slim book (142 pages in the print edition) collects three unrelated stories set in this era. In each, the author envisions a “soft take-off” scenario rather than the sudden...

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Johnson, George. Miss Leavitt's Stars. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. ISBN 978-0-393-32856-1. Henrietta Swan Leavitt was a computer. No, this is not a tale of artificial intelligence, but rather of the key discovery which allowed astronomers to grasp the enormity of the universe. In the late 19th century it became increasingly common for daughters of modestly prosperous families to attend college. Henrietta Leavitt's father was a Congregational church minister in Ohio whose income allowed him to send his daughter to Oberlin College in 1885. In 1888 she transferred to the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women (later Radcliffe...

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sheldrake, Rupert. Science Set Free. New York: Random House, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7704-3672-8. In this book, the author argues that science, as it is practiced today, has become prisoner to a collection of dogmas which constrain what should be free inquiry into the phenomena it investigates. These dogmas are not the principal theories of modern science such as the standard models of particle physics and cosmology, quantum mechanics, general relativity, or evolution (scientists work on a broad front to falsify these theories, knowing that any evidence to the contrary will win a ticket to Stockholm), but rather higher-level beliefs, often with...

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Murray, Charles. The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead. New York: Crown Business, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8041-4144-4. Who, after reaching middle age and having learned, through the tedious but persuasive process of trial and error, what works and what doesn't, how to decide who is worthy of trust, and to distinguish passing fads from enduring values, hasn't dreamed of having a conversation with their twenty year old self, downloading this painfully acquired wisdom to give their younger self a leg up on the slippery, knife-edged-rungs of the ladder of life? This slim book (144 pages) is a concentrated dose of wisdom applicable...

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Howe, Steven D. Honor Bound Honor Born. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2011. ASIN B005JPZ4LQ. During the author's twenty year career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, he worked on a variety of technologies including nuclear propulsion and applications of nuclear power to space exploration and development. Since the 1980s he has been an advocate of a “power rich” approach to space missions, in particular lunar and Mars bases. Most NASA design studies for bases have assumed that almost all of the mass required to establish the base and supply its crew must be brought from the Earth, and that electricity...

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Friday, May 9, 2014

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds ALGOL 60 to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including ALGOL 60 is now available for downloading. ALGOL 60 was one of the first languages designed to be machine-independent, a standard produced by an committee unaffiliated with any computer manufacturer. ALGOL 60 was also intended to be a means of formally specifying and publishing algorithms in academic journals. Due to this goal, and because at the time input/output (I/O) was considered highly machine-specific, the language specification...

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