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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Probability Pipe Organ Updated to HTML5

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 include complex interaction and simulation in Web pages, so I used it for the pipe organ and online RPKP experiments.

In subsequent years, Java suffered severe bloat of the language and standard libraries, which created a security perimeter so large that when Java was embedded within a Web browser, it presented substantial security risks, to such an extent that many modern browsers disable Java by default, and, if they support it, require the user to manually install it and keep it up to date. This poses a barrier to what were intended to be easily-accessible Web resources.

While there is much to dislike about HTML5, its canvas element and multimedia support, along with JavaScript, allow interaction and animation within standards-compliant documents without third-party browser add-ons. I am in the process of replacing all Java applets on the Fourmilab site with HTML5; the probability pipe organ is the pathfinder for this project.

The HTML5 version is now the default. Users with older browsers, or those with Java installed who wish to compare, can still access the original Java implementation.

Posted at January 19, 2017 12:37