Programming/Math/Science roundup: April 2018

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Programming/Math/Science roundup: March 2018

 

Jupiter’s north pole: eight cyclones around a central cyclone.

 

Interesting stuff from last month (not a lot?):

  • Entanglement isn’t just across space, but across time too(!)
  • There is a new type of ice, occurring in the inclusions of diamonds formed hundreds of miles inside the earth’s mantle, with a cubic instead of hexagonal structure.
  • Some viruses are big, a thousand times bigger than the smallest ones, and can even synthesize proteins (very much like cellular organisms)
  • As the title says, five git concepts explained the hard way (worth reading even if you know git!)
  • The deepness of Jupiter is only now coming into study, with its octagonally arranged polar cyclones (the pic above) and its varied layers of clouds stretching up for thousands of kilometers (!)
  • It’s easy to forget even the very recent past; a look at how far Yahoo fell from the top of the world, twenty years ago.
  • I hate all the “free” games that make you pay for everything with in-game purchases; I knew some people paid hundreds of dollars for these, but here’s someone who’s happy to have spent over $70K on in-game characters!

On personal technology

I’ve slowly standardized on a few apps I use all the time; I was talking to someone about this and realized it might be generally useful to someone else (if nothing else, to save a few years of looking around).

I still check out new apps from time to time, but I almost never feel like anything else offers something that I’m missing.

Going back five to ten years, there were always things I wanted to do and tried various tools over time to fill that need, but couldn’t find anything that really stuck, so I’m quite happy that I found tools that have become invaluable over the last two years.

Journaling: Day One

I journal all the time, every day, and can’t imagine ever going back. The way I use this is a bit like “a Facebook account for myself” (yes, I’m not active on Facebook). It’s on my laptop, and on my phone, so there’s never an excuse for not doing it.

It’s a simple concept, but a really good idea. I often find myself wondering, when I write my “end of day entry” what exactly I did that day, so just forcing myself to recollect gives me a better sense of how I spent my time.

What really made a bigger difference was adding a weekly, monthly and even quarterly journalling period, but that can wait for later; just writing something down at all makes a huge difference!

Dumping ground: DevonThink (Pro)

This is something that you need but just don’t know you need 🙂

Finding stuff is hard. In the beginning I tried saving stuff in email, sending myself an attachment. Then I tried putting everything in Drive, or Dropbox. Then I tried making a nice file “hierarchy” to organize stuff.

This isn’t special stuff I’m talking about, just average everyday stuff. Letters, records, passwords, screenshots, scans, notes, that sort of stuff.

You can survive without a tool for this, but being able to instantly look up what you need, and instantly capture new stuff for later, is a whole another experience.

(In case you’re curious, I did use Evernote for this in the past, but I’ll have to talk separately about why it wasn’t good enough for me. Yes, I even tried the paid subscription.)

Task manager: OmniFocus

I have trouble remembering stuff. I know I’m not alone in this, but I have a worse time of it than most.

I started with plain old Reminders, ended up at Wunderlist (which was almost good enough). In the middle I even tried Trello (and Asana) but that was just not my use case at all.

Again, nothing special, just normal stuff: working on taxes, getting a picture framed, getting a car wash. Some things you need to do are routine things and things, others are “mini-projects”, some things can be done this week, some have to be postponed, some can be done at home, some need a shopping trip … and you don’t want to see one big bag of everything either, you want to see little bits of the whole picture at at time — Omnifocus helps me do all of this.

Finally, yes, I know Things exists, it’s cool, but I’ve seen screenshots of the OmniFocus version coming out later this year and it looks quite promising. Still, if you use nothing right now, just pick any one of the two.

Other stuff

I wanted to stick to a “top three list” here, but there are other apps I use too. There are also past alternatives that, for one reason or another, didn’t quite work out, and it might be worth mentioning them all later.

But just as a “basic starter kit”, these three are invaluable. I spent years figuring out the right mix for me, and my life would be miserable without these tools to rely on.

Programming/Math/Science roundup: February 2018

Interesting stuff I came across last month:

p85-Oliver-1240x827
Oliver No. 1, 1896 
  • The giant shipworm (three foot long, lives on hydrogen sulfide, within a calcium carbonate tube that it secretes) has finally been located (by scientists, that is … local people in certain parts of Thailand have been eating it as a delicacy)
  • Say what you want about Stephen Wolfram, I’m beginning to love the long-form posts I read at his blog, such as this one on civilizational artifacts (enjoyable apart from the plug for Wolfram Language)
  • Apparently, plants are quite active at long time scales, and can be sedated, just like animals! (there’s a good GIF on that page, of pea tendrils, that I wasn’t able to embed here)

    When the dope wore off, the plants returned to life, as if something had hit pause — almost like they were regaining consciousness, something we typically don’t think they possess. It’s all so animal-like.

  • If you like typewriters …
  • An example of a new species (the mutant crawfish) emerging in just a couple of decades
  • Blast from the past: in 1995, an article about disruption in the supercomputer industry (never happened)
  • Continuing on the sea creatures theme for a bit: starfish have eyes. Below their arms. Scallops have eyes too, on their tentacles (with two retinas each) … I suppose the real puzzle being why?
  • Excellent summary of the importance of the role of “the log” in distributed systems and real-time data processing
  • Part-entertaining and part-insightful, an opinionated guide to Haskell for 2018
  • Oracle has finally made dtrace available for Linux. Personally this seems too little too late given that we have BPF now, but it’s still a good thing
  • Yes, there is a turing-complete Powerpoint
  • Couple of viewpoints on “unthinkable thoughts” using programming languages.
  • A certain unicode character became an iOS-crashing bug.
  • Finally, something for the very young with lots of time on their hands: learning Physics using Haskell!

Sci/Math/Prog Summary: January 2018

Interesting stuff I came across last month:

An old control room
An old soviet control room
  • It’s now possible to create a stable plasma ring without all the magnets

“We were told by some colleagues this wasn’t even possible. But we can create a stable ring and maintain it for as long as we want, no vacuum or magnetic field or anything,” says co-author Francisco Pereira of the Marine Technology Research Institute in Italy, a visiting scholar at Caltech.

The stream of water is an 85-micron-diameter jet blasting from a specially designed nozzle at 9,000 pounds per square inch that strikes the crystal plate with an impact velocity of around 1,000 feet per second. For reference, that’s a stream narrower than a human hair moving about as fast as a bullet fired from a handgun.

Sci/Math/Prog Summary: December 2017

 

Galaxy Sizes
Large galaxies (exluding IC 1101)

Interesting stuff from the last month:

Sci/Math/Prog Summary: November 2017

A 1994 University of Minnesota alumni magazine spread featuring the Gopher protocol architects.

Interesting stuff from the past month: