Saturday 30 December 2017

On the Art of Non-Fiction (2009)

From a piece by David Shenk in The Atlantic (HERE):
What is the quest of a nonfiction writer? In preparation for this talk, I re-read an interview that I did with Tom Wolfe in 1987, a few weeks before he came to speak at Brown (in a slightly larger room than this one). Wolfe said, "To me the great task is to discover things that people haven't noticed, and to bring them to life. To make people see them and understand them for the first time. The great goal is discovery." 

Image from

Friday 29 December 2017

The Forge (1969)

Thursday 21 December 2017

Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur (1774)

From HERE.

Mazes and labyrinths - a general account of their history and developments (1922)

Mazes and labyrinths - a general account of their history and developments - by William Henry Matthews. Above an illustration of a labyrinth from the floor of the Abbey of St Bertin, St Omer, France. More HERE.

Thursday 7 December 2017

The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes (2017)

A great piece (HERE) by Ursula Le Guin in The Paris Review on the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal. 

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm (2017)

The latest from the DeepMind team (HERE).


The game of chess is the most widely-studied domain in the history of artificial intelligence. The strongest programs are based on a combination of sophisticated search techniques, domain-specific adaptations, and handcrafted evaluation functions that have been refined by human experts over several decades. In contrast, the AlphaGo Zero program recently achieved superhuman performance in the game of Go, by tabula rasa reinforcement learning from games of self-play. In this paper, we generalise this approach into a single AlphaZero algorithm that can achieve, tabula rasa, superhuman performance in many challenging domains. Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case.

How Humanists use a Library (1965)

From the doctoral dissertation of Christine Madsen (HERE) the following on the 1965 work of J.E. Burchard:

Starting with a conference paper given in 1965 by John E. Burchard, an historian tasked with explaining the working style of humanists to the computer scientists at MIT, there have been periodic attempts to uncover the information seeking needs and behaviours of humanists ... Most of these works support Burchard’s original characterization of humanists as particularly dependent upon primary resources; favouring monographs over journal articles for secondary resources; working alone and preferring not to delegate their literature searching (as is often the case in the sciences); finding historical materials as relevant as contemporary ones; and using browsing and serendipitous discovery as a vital part of the research process.

Burchard, J.E., (1965). How humanists use a library. In: C.F.J. Overhage and J.R. Harman, eds. Intrex: report
on a planning conference and information transfer experiments. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 41-87.

Image from Here.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

The Detectorists (2016)

HERE is a great piece in The Guardian on the record number of finds across the UK in 2016 by amateur metal detectorists. What is perhaps remarkable is that the rules around what to do when you find a piece of treasure have become simplified, and that there is a voluntary code of conduct. The director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, was quoted as saying: “You let people follow their passion with a couple of rules you should abide by. Everyone does best.”