Generally Interesting Links – Jan 2021

Science

While it’s true that humans and animals tend to spread the spores of the mushrooms they make off with, thus aiding mushrooms in propagating genetic offspring, I sometimes wonder who’s cultivating whom here.

Tools for thought

Thinking

Mediums

Programming

Generally interesting links – Dec 2020

Browsing “without an algorithm”

Science

  • Old teeth

    These human ancestors, who roamed different patches of Eurasia roughly 1.77 million and 800,000 years ago, respectively, share a claim to fame: Their fossilized teeth harbored the oldest surviving proteins from extinct human species — molecules more than twice as old as human DNA.

  • Geeking out over cameras and lenses
  • The Open Library Explorer

    How does one faithfully compress the entire experience of a reliable, unbiased, expansive public library and its helpful, friendly staff into a 14” computer screen?
    Some sites, like Netflix or YouTube, solve this problem with recommendation engines that populate information based on what people have previously seen or searched. Consequently, readers may unknowingly find themselves caught in a sort of “algorithmic bubble.”

Gamified life

  • On Robinhood

    … the more risk Robinhood’s customers take in their hyperactive trading accounts, the more the Silicon Valley startup profits from the whales it sells their orders to. And while Robinhood’s successful recruitment of inexperienced young traders may have inadvertently minted a few new millionaires riding the debt-fueled bull market, it is also deluding an entire generation into believing that trading options successfully is as easy as leveling up on a video game.
    … Robinhood gets paid—by the quants—58 cents per 100 shares for options contracts versus only 17 cents per 100 for equities. Options are less liquid than stocks and tend to trade at higher spreads. While the company says only 12% of its customers trade options, those trades accounted for 62% of Robinhood’s order-flow revenues in the first half of 2020.

  • Revisiting (and critiquing) Baldur’s Gate

Tools for Thought

People/World

  • On modern attitudes towards free speech (Ira Glasser reminisces)

    It wasn’t until my 30s that I began to understand free speech, that the real antagonist of speech is power

Just plain weird

  • A giant headless Buddha statue, uncovered in a residential area in China.

    The two residential buildings were constructed in 1990 after the demolition of a temple at the same site, and the sculpture was uncovered during a clearing of foliage in the area.

Programming

  • An overview of Fennel (keeping an eye on it as Lua becomes a first-class scripting language for Neovim)
  • Inside the machine

    One of the most interesting aspects of programming is the ability to inspect and modify programs while they are running. We all know debuggers, but there are lots of programs which let you interact with them directly while they are running. Some programs let you run scripts via embedded interpreters, which let you extend the program, but in some instances the programs themselves are the interpreters.

Generally interesting links – Nov 2020

An early form of typewriter art

Computing

Programming languages/tools

Movies/TV/Music

People/world

Science

Generally interesting links – Oct 2020

Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, 1978

Computing

Programming languages

The web

People

The world

Science

Misc

Generally interesting links – Sep 2020

Generally interesting links – Aug 2020

Crater formed after methane build-up in thawing permafrost (people shown for scale)

Generally Interesting Links – July 2020

New Planet, Konstantin Yuon (1921)

Generally Interesting Links- June 2020

Giant salmon, over a century ago…

A collection of notes on nature and order

I found these notes I’d copy-pasted from somewhere from about five years ago. I decided to track down their sources, as best I could.

From “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” By Richard P. Feynman

My physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does …. The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as she is—absurd. In short, there is no way to visualize what is going on. The theory of quantum mechanics explains it perfectly, to unbelievable mathematical accuracy. And that is all you need to know.

From “The Nature of Order” by Christopher Alexander

According to this view, the evolving system of the genetic material ITSELF causes evolution to follow certain pathways, not only because of selective pressure from outside, but also by virtue of its own internal dynamical ordering tendencies. The results of evolution are then to be understood [as being] mainly formed not by Darwinian selective pressure acting from outside, but by pressures created by the geometry and dynamics of the evolving genetic system itself

From “An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe” by Christopher Alexander

There are…two worlds in our minds. One is the scientific world which has been pictured through a highly complex system of mechanisms. The other is the world we actually experience. These two worlds, so far, have not been connected in a meaningful fashion. Alfred North Whitehead, writing about 1920, was one of the first philosophers to draw attention to this modern problem, which he called the bifurcation of nature. Whitehead believed that we will not have a proper grasp of the universe and our place in it, until the self, which we experience in ourselves, and the machinelike character of matter we see outside ourselves can be united in a single picture.

When I am part of the making of a building and examine my process, what is happening in me when I do it, myself, in my effort, is that I find that I am always reaching for the same thing. In some form, it is the personal nature of existence, revealed in the building, that I am searching for. It is “I,” the I-myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous.

What must I do to put this self-like quality into the house, the room, the roof, the path, the tile? Often I can feel the possibility of this in a thing before I start to think, or design, or plan, or build, or before I start to paint. It is the sublime interior, the right thing. I first feel existence shimmering in reality, and I then feel it deep enough in the thing I am looking at and trying to ake, to know that it is worth capturing in concrete and wood and tile and paint. I can feel it, nearly always, almost before I start. Or, rather, I do not let myself start until I can feel this thing.

This thing, this something, is not God, it is not nature, it is not feeling. It is some ultimate, beyond experience. When I reach for it, I try to find—I can partly feel—the illumination of existence, a glimpse of that ultimate. It is always the same thing at root. Yet, of course, it takes an infinite variety of different forms

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

I believe it is in the nature of matter, that it is soaked through with self or “I.” The essence of the argument … is that the thing we call “the self,” which lies at the core of our experience, is a real thing, existing in all matter, beyond ourselves, and that in the end we must understand it, in order to make living structure in buildings. But it is also my argument that this is the nature of matter. It is not only necessary to understand it when we wish to make living structure in buildings. It is also necessary if we wish to grasp our place in the universe, our relationship to nature.

From “Life and Mind in the Universe” by George Wald

It takes no great imagination to conceive of other possible universes, each stable and workable in itself, yet lifeless. How is it that, with so many other apparent options, we are in a universe that possesses just that peculiar nexus of properties that breeds life? It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

Why is unity the same as tears? … Unity ties everything together—including joy, happiness, and laughter, but also including loss, death, and betrayal. A thing which truly has unity partakes of everything. And through that everything, there must be sadness. The making of this sadness, then, must come through a process where land, details, rooms, form an individual whole. Always trying to tie it together, to unify it, to make it disappear.

Addendum: I was curious where I got this from, and then … found it! An amazing composition of words and pictures and more, by Dick Gabriel (for some of you, yes, of worse is better …)

Generally interesting links- May 2020

An old control room, somewhere.
  • A possible compact fusion reacxtor ?
  • I can’t get enough of good articles on Fungi
  • A game to play if you second-guess the Fed
  • On Neil Postman, America, Trump; looking back at Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Investigating the physical location of memories … in worms.
  • As the title puts it, on the vintage beauty of soviet control rooms (an example above)
  • Leviathan in lockdown

    To assume that the frontispiece to Leviathan presents a normal or idealised scene is not especially comforting. The total absence of citizens combined with the presence of protective officials gives the city an air of being under a permanent state of siege. It could almost be a depiction of David Hume’s remark, a century later, that military camps ‘are the true mothers of cities’. Attentive to the disruptive power of such shocks as war, revolution and plague, Hobbes undervalues the more insidious but still threatening proposition of a locked-down population forced to adopt a siege mentality. Fear and disillusionment do their work here, too. We may underestimate, perhaps half on purpose, the camp-like quality of our cities even in ‘normal’ times, and accept that it is sometimes necessary for cities temporarily to become camps. But bare life is not enough. We don’t just want to be preserved, we want also to live.

  • A virtual tour of Pharaoh Ramesses VI’s tomb
  • On burn out
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders about history being like a science
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders if we should go back to RSS for consuming web content
  • A look at the ”mediaevalfuture of management