Friday, January 20, 2017

In his 1922 book, American Individualism, Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce in the Harding administration, wrote of his cabinet colleagues: That our system has avoided the establishment and domination of class has a significant proof in the present Administration in Washington, Of the twelve men comprising the President, Vice-President, and Cabinet, nine have earned their own way in life without economic inheritance, and eight of them started with manual labor. In my December 2016 review of Hoover's book, I compared the cabinet in which Hoover served with the Obama cabinet at the time as follows. Let's see how that...

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Twenty years ago I posted The Probability Pipe Organ as part of the “Introduction to Probability and Statistics” documenting the Retropsychokinesis Experiments Online (RPKP). The pipe organ illustrates how the results of a series of experiments involving random values approaches the binomal distribution as the number of experiments increases. This page was original implemented as a Java applet. When the Java language was launched, the accompanying hype claimed “Write once. Run everywhere.” After experience with several implementations of Java on different platforms, I added “Yeah, right.” to the slogan. Still, at the time, Java was the only practical way to...

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Wolfe, Tom. The Kingdom of Speech. New York: Little, Brown, 2016. ISBN 978-0-316-40462-4. In this short (192) page book, Tom Wolfe returns to his roots in the “new journalism”, of which he was a pioneer in the 1960s. Here the topic is the theory of evolution; the challenge posed to it by human speech (because no obvious precursor to speech occurs in other animals); attempts, from Darwin to Noam Chomsky to explain this apparent discrepancy and preserve the status of evolution as a “theory of everything”; and the evidence collected by linguist and anthropologist Daniel Everett among the Pirahã people...

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Brown, Brandon R. Planck. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-19-021947-5. Theoretical physics is usually a young person's game. Many of the greatest breakthroughs have been made by researchers in their twenties, just having mastered existing theories while remaining intellectually flexible and open to new ideas. Max Planck, born in 1858, was an exception to this rule. He spent most of his twenties living with his parents and despairing of finding a paid position in academia. He was thirty-six when he took on the project of understanding heat radiation, and forty-two when he explained it in terms which would launch...

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Monday, January 9, 2017

This year marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of several key events in the history of Autodesk: January 12, 1982: Working Paper proposing a new company January 30, 1982: Original organisation meeting at my house in Mill Valley, California April 26, 1982: Incorporation of Autodesk, Inc. in California September 20, 1982: First AutoCAD bug reported by a customer (in a pre-release copy) November 29, 1982: Introduction of AutoCAD at COMDEX, Las Vegas To celebrate Autodesk's thirty-fifth anniversary, I have prepared the the Fifth Edition (2017) of The Autodesk File. Except for correction of a few typographical errors, the content is identical to...

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Here are my picks for the best books of 2016, fiction and nonfiction. These aren't the best books published this year, but rather the best I've read in the last twelvemonth. The winner in both categories is barely distinguished from the pack, and the runners up are all worthy of reading. Runners up appear in alphabetical order by their author's surname. Each title is linked to my review of the book. Fiction: Winner: Speculator by Doug Casey and John Hunt Runners up: The Religion War by Scott Adams Leaving Lisa by Jackson Coppley The Circle by Dave Eggers Blue Gemini...

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Carroll, Michael. On the Shores of Titan's Farthest Sea. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2015. ISBN 978-3-319-17758-8. By the mid-23rd century, humans have become a spacefaring species. Human settlements extend from the Earth to the moons of Jupiter, Mars has been terraformed into a world with seas where people can live on the surface and breathe the air. The industries of Earth and Mars are supplied by resources mined in the asteroid belt. High-performance drive technologies, using fuels produced in space, allow this archipelago of human communities to participate in a system-wide economy, constrained only by the realities of orbital mechanics....

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Hoover, Herbert. American Individualism. Introduction by George H. Nash. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, [1922] 2016. ISBN 978-0-8179-2015-9. After the end of World War I, Herbert Hoover and the American Relief Administration he headed provided food aid to the devastated nations of Central Europe, saving millions from famine. Upon returning to the United States in the fall of 1919, he was dismayed by what he perceived to be an inoculation of the diseases of socialism, autocracy, and other forms of collectivism, whose pernicious consequences he had observed first-hand in Europe and in the peace conference after the end of the...

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kurlansky, Mark. Paper. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN 978-0-393-23961-4. One of the things that makes us human is our use of extrasomatic memory: we invent ways to store and retrieve things outside our own brains. It's as if when the evolutionary drive which caused the brains of our ancestors to grow over time reached its limit, due to the physical constraints of the birth canal, we applied the cleverness of our bulging brains to figure out not only how to record things for ourselves, but to pass them on to other individuals and transmit them through time to...

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Friday, December 2, 2016

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Swift to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Swift is now available for downloading. Swift is a general purpose programming language developed by Apple for application programming on all of their platforms (macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS). In addition, Swift has been ported to Linux, and is now developed as an open source project. Swift is intended as a successor to Objective-C as the main development language for Apple systems. Swift is intended to clean...

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Monday, November 28, 2016

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Wolfram's Mathematica (or, if you like, “Wolfram Language”) to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Mathematica is now available for downloading. The relative performance of the various language implementations (with C taken as 1) is as follows. All language implementations of the benchmark listed below produced identical results to the last (11th) decimal place. Language Relative Time Details C 1 GCC 3.2.3 -O3, Linux Visual Basic .NET 0.866 All optimisations, Windows XP FORTRAN 1.008 GNU...

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hertling, William. The Last Firewall. Portland, OR: Liquididea Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9847557-6-9. This is the third volume in the author's Singularity Series which began with Avogadro Corp. (March 2014) and continued with A.I. Apocalypse (April 2015). Each novel in the series is set ten years after the one before, so this novel takes place in 2035. The previous novel chronicled the AI war of 2025, whose aftermath the public calls the “Year of No Internet.” A rogue computer virus, created by Leon Tsarev, under threat of death, propagated onto most of the connected devices in the world, including embedded systems, and, with...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cashill, Jack. TWA 800. Washington: Regnery History, 2016. ISBN 978-1-62157-471-2. On the evening of July 17th, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 bound from New York to Paris, exploded 12 minutes after takeoff, its debris falling into the Atlantic Ocean. There were no survivors: all 230 passengers and crew died. The disaster happened in perfect weather, and there were hundreds of witnesses who observed from land, sea, and air. There was no distress call from the airliner before its transponder signal dropped out; whatever happened appeared to be near-instantaneous. Passenger airliners are not known for spontaneously exploding en route:...

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thor, Brad. Foreign Agent. New York: Atria Books, 2016. ISBN 978-1-4767-8935-4. This is the sixteenth in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). After the momentous events chronicled in Code of Conduct (July 2015) (which figure only very peripherally in this volume), Scot Harvath continues his work as a private operator for the Carlton Group, developing information and carrying out operations mostly against the moment's top-ranked existential threat to the imperium on the Potomac, ISIS. When a CIA base in Iraq is ambushed by a jihadi assault team, producing another coup for the ISIS social...

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Gilder, George. The Scandal of Money. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-1-62157-575-7. There is something seriously wrong with the global economy and the financial system upon which it is founded. The nature of the problem may not be apparent to the average person (and indeed, many so-called “experts” fail to grasp what is going on), but the symptoms are obvious. Real (after inflation) income for the majority of working people has stagnated for decades. The economy is built upon a pyramid of debt: sovereign (government), corporate, and personal, which nobody really believes is ever going to be repaid. The young,...

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