Archive for the 'math' Category

Friday, May 15th, 2009

A nugget from _A Canticle for Leibowitz_

This brilliant bit is almost a throwaway paragraph on page 304, near the end.

[Two men in a satirical dialog] managed only to demonstrate that the mathematical limit of an infinite sequence of “doubting the certainty with which something doubted is known to be unknowable  when the ‘something doubted’ is still a preceding statement ‘unknowability’ of something doubted,” that the limit of this process at infinity can only be equivalent to a statement of absolute certainty, even though phrased ans an infinite series of negations of certainty.

It’s not like the whole book is like this…far from it. But it is chock full of little gems.


Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

The remarkable (and prolific) Stephen Wolfram has an idea called Wolfram Alpha. People used to assume the “Star Trek” model of computers:

that one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer.

Which has proved to be quite distant from reality. Instead

But armed with Mathematica and NKS [A New Kind of Science] I realized there’s another way: explicitly implement methods and models, as algorithms, and explicitly curate all data so that it is immediately computable.

It’s not easy to do this. Every different kind of method and model—and data—has its own special features and character. But with a mixture of Mathematica and NKS automation, and a lot of human experts, I’m happy to say that we’ve gotten a very long way.

I’m still a SearchMonkey guy at heart, so I wonder how much Wofram’s team is familiar with existing Semantic Web research and practice–because at a high level this seems very much like RDF with suitable queries thereupon. If that’s a good characterization, that’s A Good Thing, since practical application has been one of SemWeb’s weak spots.


Sunday, September 21st, 2008

My economic plan

Levy a $24,000, one-time tax, payable in installments over 10 years, against anyone who took out an interest-only mortgage (or various other high-risk instruments) during the previous 10 years, using the full nasty power of the IRS to collect (garnishing wages, etc.)

Take the proceeds and give it to homeowners who did NOT engage in high-risk activities as a tax refund.

Since taxpayers will be bailing out wall street anyway, why not move the blame closer to where it belongs? -m

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Behold the awesome statistical power of CNN

I was on the right page at the right time and spotted this:

CNN screen grab

WIth zero votes for any candidate and zero precincts reporting, CNN calls it. Now, I’m no stats expert, but this one seems a bit extreme. Comments? -m