Posts

Since I apparently banned myself from commenting...

on my own blog, let me respond to this:

"Since the idea for merge-sort first materialized in Von Neumann's brain in the 1940's and he wrote an algorithm for it on a piece of paper , the idea has passed from brain to brain via books lectures , bog posts etc, and from brain to various computer and other implementations. At no time has there been any non-material aspect involved in either the way the idea is transmitted , stored expressed or implemented."

With a post:

Because the statement is blatantly, obviously false: Von Neumann's brain had a certain material configuration, mostly carbon and water and other organic stuff. Then perhaps merge sort was written down on cellulose from trees using graphite. Then perhaps it was programmed into an ENIAC or something like that, which used glass vacuum tubes. Later, it ran in magnetic core memory. A while later, on silicon chips.

Each of these material configurations is radically different. They even involve largely diffe…

Algorithms Are Immmaterial!

I was talking to some who, to my great surprise, objected when I mentioned that algorithms are immaterial things. (And the person has an advanced degree in CS!) I had thought this was so obvious that no one could object to my statement. But maybe not... maybe it is worth demonstrating.

Consider: merge sort can be implemented on an Apple II, on a Cray, on an Android phone, on a vacuum-tube computer at the FAA, and in a human brain. (My students and I actually will run it in class using a deck of cards.) The "material composition" of the implementation is going to be wildly different in each case. And yet we can state with confidence (if we understand the algorithm) whether each is indeed an implementation of merge sort.

Furthermore, merge sort also can't be just a name for the collection of all of its implementations. First of all, if that were so, how could we tell what belongs in the collection and what doesn't? And we can actually use the concept of merge sort to …

My review of Practical C++ Design...

is nearing completion. Comments welcomed!

“Agnostic” apps?

<a href=“https://12factor.net/config”>Here</a> we find: “and unlike custom config files, or other config mechanisms such as Java System Properties, they are a language- and OS-agnostic standard.”
Programmers are prone to grab words from fields where their knowledge is shaky and apply them to software engineering. An!example I have mentioned before is “technical debt,” where what is really being discussed is not debt, but a failure to maintain one’s capital stock.
I have regularly seen the term “agnostic“ similarly misused. Strictly speaking, “agnostic“ about languages in operating systems what to mean that one believes what language or OS is in use is “unknown or unknowable” (Wikipedia entry on agnosticism). But that’s not what the person writing the above quote means. They mean that this part of the system should be indifferent to what language or OS the system is using, not that these facts are unknowable!
PS: My apologies for the lousy link display at the start of this pos…

Taxation: Not Theft

At least not according to scripture:

'Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?'

'“Collect no more than you are authorized,” [John] answered.'

-- Luke, 3:13

Nowhere in scripture, that I'm aware of, does a prophet advise listeners to commit just an authorized amount of adultery, or worship false gods just so far as the state asks them to.

Critics of Enlightenment Rationalism...

has been accepted for publication by Palgrave, and should be out within the year.

Here is the project website: comments welcomed!