Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Information - by James Gleick

I'm currently reading The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (famed for being the author of Chaos). It's not bad at all; in fact, it's pretty good. For the moment, I'll be content to make the following observation:

My colleagues Ming Li and Bin Ma (Ming is the author of An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications) get a nice mention on page 320, as does Charlie Bennett's theory of logical depth.

Intelligent design advocates will gnash their teeth to see that their hated Richard Dawkins gets ten full pages, and his book The Selfish Gene is described as "brilliant and transformative" -- which, of course, it was.

They'll also be surprised to see that their own "Isaac Newton of information theory" doesn't get a single mention. Not a word.

This all goes to show that Gleick actually knows something about the subject and is not fooled by the bleatings of the religious.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Talk for the Wilf Conference

Laurier (the other university in Waterloo, Ontario) is hosting a conference this May 26-29 in honor of Herb Wilf's 80th birthday. Wilf (b. June 13 1931) is a very influential mathematician, known for his work on combinatorics and combinatorial algorithms. He also founded the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics.

Of course, it's better in person, but if you can't make my talk at 10:40 AM on May 27 2011 in Room N 1001, Faculty of Science Building, WLU, then you can see the slides here.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

I DIdn't Buy This in the Video Store

Because at the price of $9.97, it was about $20 more than it's worth.

I love the part about learning about the Grand Canyon from creationist geologists who are "the scientists who know it best".

What's next, a video where you can learn information theory from Bill Dembski? Or journalism from Denyse O'Leary?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Catenaries on "Car Talk"

Here's a puzzle from the radio show, Car Talk, with the misspelling corrected:

"There are two telephone poles. Each one is 100-feet tall. They are parallel and an unknown distance apart.

"We're going to attach a 150-foot rope from the very top of one of the poles to the top of the other. This rope will, of course, droop down somewhat. That drooping rope is called a catenary, from the Latin word for chain.

"The question is: What must be the distance between the two poles, so that the lowest point of the catenary is 25-feet above the ground?"

I confess, I worked out the equation for a catenary to try to answer this, but that's a waste of time if you think about the problem a little.

The answer, if you need it, is here.