Archive for: November, 2009

Philosophizing about Programming; or "Why I'm learning to love functional programming"

Nov 10 2009 Published by under Haskell

Way back, about three years ago, I started writing a Haskell tutorial as a series of posts on this blog. After getting to monads, I moved on to other things. But based on some recent philosophizing, I think I'm going to come back to it. I'll start by explaining why, and then over the next few days, I'll re-run revised versions of old tutorial posts, and then start new material dealing with the more advanced topics that I didn't get to before.

To start with, why am I coming back to Haskell? What changed since the last time I wrote about it?

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Berlinski - still pompous, still wrong.

Nov 09 2009 Published by under Intelligent Design

An anonymous tipster sent me a note to let me know that on one of the Disco
Institute's sites, my old pal David Berlinski has been arguing that all sorts of
famous mathematicians were really anti-evolution.

I've written
about Berlinski before.
In my opinion, he's one of the most pointlessly
arrogant pompous jackasses I've ever been unfortunate enough to deal with. He
practically redefines the phrase "full of himself".

This latest spewing of him is quite typical. It is mostly content free -
it consists of a whole lot of name-dropping, giving Berlinski a chance to talk
about all of the wonderfully brilliant people he's close personal
with. And, quite naturally, his close personal friends have told
him all sorts of things about what other famous mathematicians
really thought about evolution.

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25 responses so far

Friday Random Ten, 11/06

Nov 06 2009 Published by under Music

  1. Porcupine Tree, "Kneel and Disconnect": New Porcupine Tree! It's
    always great to get new stuff from these guys. It's good, but it's not
    up to the quality of their last two albums. (But given that their last two
    were utterly amazing, that's not much of a criticism.)
  2. Mind Games, "Royalty in Jeopardy": Some prog that I recently found
    via eMusic. They've got a sound that I describe as being sort of like a
    mix between Yes and Marillion. They're very good - I wouldn't put them
    in the top ranks of neo-prog, but they're not at the bottom either.

  3. Riverside, "Cybernetic Pillow": Now, these guys, I would
    definitely put in the top ranks of neo-prog. Riverside is a
    Polish prog-rock band, formed by members of a couple of other
    heavy metal bands. They're absolutely brilliant. This track
    is off their album "Rapid Eye Movement", which I'd recommend as a first
    Riverside album.
  4. Marillion, "Hard as Love (acoustic)": This is the version of "Hard as
    Love"" from their recent acoustic album. HaL was one of their louder,
    poppier, catchier tunes - a Marillion rocker. To call this just an acoustic
    mix doesn't do it justice. They took the basic bones of the song,
    and completely rebuilt it. It's an amazing change. The acoustic
    version swaps the bridge and the chorus, completely changing the fell
    of the structure, and turning it into something that's almost a ballad.
    Amazing, and much better than the original version of the song.
  5. Thinking Plague, "This Weird Wind": Thinking Plague is a group
    that I have a hard time describing. To me, they sound like a very out-there
    post-rock group with classical influences, but I've been told that
    they call themselves a "Rock in Opposition" band. What they are is
    a distinctly peculiar ensemble. They've got vocals, but they use
    the singers voice like it's just another instrument in the mix - it's
    not leading the song in any way, it's just part of the music. The music
    itself is frequently atonal, with a very peculiar sound. The guitarist
    sounds very much like one of Robert Fripp's GuitarCraft students - but
    when I mentioned that in the past, he showed up in the comments saying
    "Who's Robert Fripp?" I love Thinking Plague, but I have a hard time
    recommending them - they're so strange that most people won't like
    them. If you're a big fan of both neo-progressive rock and 20th
    century classical, then definitely give them a listen.
  6. EQ, "Closer": IQ is back! IQ is a progressive band that
    got started around the same time as Marillion. Also like Marillion, they
    started off sounding like a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis rip-off, but
    they've evolved their own very distinct sound over the years. They're
    absolutely fantastic - I'd put them up in the top of neo-progressive
    bands with Marillion and the Flower Kings. And they just released a new
    album, which is absolutely fantastic.
  7. Sonic Youth, "Rain King (live)": Very typical Sonic Youth - strange
    tonality. Loud. Tons of hidden complexity. Brilliant. And performed
    live! No studio tricks here.
  8. Kayo Dot, "The Useless Ladder": Another very hard-to-describe
    band. Roughly, they're what you get when a progressive metal band
    decides to start writing 21st century classical chamber music. Very,
    very highly recommended.
  9. Red Sparrowes, "And By Our Own Hand Did Every Last Bird Lie Silent In
    Their Puddles, The Air Barren Of Songs As The Clouds Drifted Away. For Killing
    Their Greatest Enemy, The Locusts Noisily Thanked Us And Turned Their Jaws
    Toward Our Crops, Swallowing Our Greed Whole"
    : It took me longer to type
    the title of that than it did to listen to it. Red Sparrowes is a really
    excellent post-rock band. But frankly, this track just annoys be because
    of the damn title.
  10. Rachel's, "A French Gallease": A beautiful track by my favorite
    of the classically-leaning post-rock ensembles.

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Orbits, Periodic Orbits, and Dense Orbits - Oh My!

Nov 05 2009 Published by under Chaos

Another one of the fundamental properties of a chaotic system is
dense periodic orbits. It's a bit of an odd one: a chaotic
system doesn't have to have periodic orbits at all. But if it
does, then they have to be dense.

The dense periodic orbit rule is, in many ways, very similar to the
sensitivity to initial conditions. But personally, I find it rather more
interesting a way of describing key concept. The idea is, when you've got a
dense periodic orbit, it's an odd thing. It's a repeating system, which will
cycle through the same behavior, over and over again. But when you look at a
state of the system, you can't tell which fixed path it's on. In fact,
miniscule differences in the position, differences so small that you can't
measure them, can put you onto dramatically different paths. There's
the similarity with the initial conditions rule: you've got the same
basic idea of tiny changes producing dramatic results.

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11 responses so far

Free Energy From Air? Sorry, no.

Nov 02 2009 Published by under Bad Physics

After the
that was my flame against the downwind faster than the wind
vehicle, you might think that I'd be afraid of touching on more air-powered
perpetual motion. You'd be wrong :-). I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself
if I stand a chance of learning something in the process - and in this case,
it's so obviously bogus that even if I was afraid, the sheer stupidity here
would be more than enough to paper over my anxieties. Take a look at this -
the good part comes towards the end.

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