Thursday 23 April 2020

The Computer Scientist Who Can’t Stop Telling Stories (2020)

The computer scientist Donald Knuth is still going strong. He is working hard on his magnum opus ( ... the greatest achievement of an artist or writer...), the seemingly endless  The Art of Computer Programming, as well as having fun with music and theology. 

HERE is a really good interview with Knuth in Quanta Magazine. 
The Art of Computer Programming is a manifesto. It describes the way I love to do math and the way I wish I had been taught. Beginning on Page 1, I tell the story of algorithms. Most textbooks at the time didn’t explore the human side of discoveries. They just said, “This is how chemistry works,” or “This is how physics works.”

I also tell a technical story. I say, “Here’s something that doesn’t work, and here’s a way to solve that problem.” Instead of presenting only facts, I add drama. Science is much easier to learn if you know the sequence of discoveries. Also, I’m unable to resist a good story. I viewed myself not as a pioneer, but as a journalist.


Wednesday 22 April 2020

The Permanent Task (1981)

The final chapter of Tradition by Edwards Shils (1981) is 'The Permanent Task', it begins as follows:
There is no permanent solution to any important problem in human life. Only transient and minor problems have solutions; they too often do not have them, but they pass and are replaced by other problems, or the solutions which are given to them generate new problems. The important problems are important because they touch on the lives of many persons in serious ways, they weigh on important institutions and on highly valued things.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Peopleware (1987)

Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams
By Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

This is a very useful book for people who are managing technically creative teams of people. It originated in the experience of the authors in software project management, but many of its insights can also be applied for scientists, engineers, technologists, technical designers etc. It is now in a third edition. 

On page 63 they define “flow”:

A condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement.  In this state there is a gentle sense of euphoria, and one is largely unaware of the passage of time: ‘I began to work, I looked up and three hours had passed.’  There is no consciousness of effort;  the work seems to well, flow.

Not all work roles require that you attain a state of flow in order to be productive, but for anyone involved with engineering, design, development, writing, or like tasks, flow is a must.  These are high momentum tasks.  It’s only when you’re in flow that the work goes well.

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2020

Monday 20 April 2020

West Kirby Shore (2020)

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2020

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Spring Day (2020)

The view from West Kirby this morning.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Hill path (2020)

Friday 3 April 2020

From Bats to Human Lungs (2020)

A very good piece in the New Yorker on the origins of the coronavirus that causes Covid 19 (HERE). 

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Over a century of cancer research: Inconvenient truths and promising leads (2020)

Over a century of cancer research: Inconvenient truths and promising leads (2020). The latest from Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana Soto.