Rubik's Cube

I decided recently to embrace my dilettantism. I don’t think there have been two consecutive days in my life where I wanted to pursue and learn the same ideas. Now mind you, the complete list of topics is finite and I cycle back eventually. But recently, when I was reminded of the existence of superfast Rubik’s cube solver people, blindfold solvers, one-handed solvers, and foot solvers, I thought it might finally be time to learn how to solve the cube, and to push down the stack the rest of my crazy research agenda.

On the importance of mentors

I grew up assuming that people make their own way in the world. I thought it was up to me to make every decision, plan every move, open every door, and find my own way in my life and career. Only much later did I learn that I was doing it all wrong. Not only is my way much harder, it’s also completely miserable to be so isolated. Here’s an example.

Alison on Jumping Monkeys!

Alison was interviewed on one of our favorite podcasts, Jumping Monkeys. Here’s the episode page. She discusses home archives and how to approach saving your family’s stuff for the future. Cool!

Competitiveness considered harmful?

Over Thanksgiving, I was complaining about people who crowd forward when boarding a plane, even if their row hasn’t been called, so that when it is called, they get on first. And if they can get away with boarding before their row is called, they’ll do that too. Someone close to me retorted, “competition made the human race what it is today.” I haven’t stopped thinking about that remark ever since.

Lord of the Rings soundtrack

I’m listening to The Return of the King: The Complete Recordings at work, and I’m at the point near the (first) end when Frodo and Sam have just destroyed the ring (with Gollum’s unwitting help) and they’re escaping the flowing lava by standing on a rock, feeling a relieved. With all the events of the story to back up the scene, I think it’s truly moving to see these two regular guys, who together destroyed a great and senseless evil power.

Masterpiece Theater?

Has Masterpiece Theater always just been some British TV show? Lately they’ve been showing The Amazing Mrs. Prithcard, which felt like an American TV show that happened to be British. Is it a masterpiece? Did they pick it because they felt it was a masterpiece? Maybe they should rename Masterpiece Theater to “Some British TV Show”.

Lord of the Rings, movie versus book

A while back I wanted to read The Lord of the Rings aloud with my wife. We’ve read lots of books together this way, and I’m a huge LOTR fan, so I really wanted to share it. The problem is it’s very long and many people consider lots of it boring. So, I took a clever (if I do say so myself) shortcut! I went through the books and dog-eared ranges of pages where the plot differed from the movies in a way I thought significant or noteworthy.

The Jasons

I recently heard of a book called The Jasons at the blog of a former colleague, Peter Woit. Since I spent the summer of 2004 doing classified math research for the government, I was very interested to hear of another such group. In a way, the Jasons are a sequel to the very successful Manhattan Project, and there is lots of overlap of personnel. The Jasons came into being in the aftermath of the Soviet launch of Sputnik, in 1960 to be exact.

The huamn mnid

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.” Here’s a link that discusses this phenomenon.

Intelligent Design: The Final Word, Part 3

The central question I have been trying to satisfy myself about with these notes is the following: is there a way to formulate Intelligent Design as a scientific theory? (See part 1 and part 2.) By definition, a scientific theory is a model of a part of the world that makes verifiable and falsifiable predictions about specific observations. To answer this question, I will reformulate the statement of ID. Behe’s formulation looks like this (this is not a quote, I’m summing up his argument):