Archive for October, 2011

Too much of a good thing

Monday, October 10th, 2011

We all ride on the shoulders of giants. For example, I program, but cannot write a compiler. However, I do sense that there is a platonic ideal behind the ideas of programming, and that even though physical causality points at machine code as being more real than the overlaying language, this isn’t really true – numbers are more fundamental than any calculator.

I’ve had many dinner conversations about Apple products recently. I have to say that I’ve never been inspired by them. I readily buy them for friends and family, but not for myself.

I do this out of a sense that being in touch with how computation tools are used is crucial to my long-term happiness, and with respect to that the products which Apple makes are just too perfect. They dull the mind to the realities of computation, and promote a large separation between creator and consumer.

For a toolmaker, Apple products don’t leave you hungry or foolish enough to keep digging for truths. For most people this is not a problem, but then again, most people might see their jobs replaced by computer programs in the coming decades.

Physics – dropping a slinky

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Saw this video today on what happens when you first stretch out a slinky by letting one end hang free, and then let go for the other end. It’s pretty cool:

The explanation given in the video is that ‘the bottom of the slinky doesn’t know someone has let go of the top end’. This is no coincidence – longitudinal waves in a spring under tension will always have a lower speed of sound than a wavefront accelerating at that tension. Now to do the math…