Entropy 102

Last time I began explaining my “CD collection” analogy for entropy; here I’ll pick up where I left off (and hopefully finish — I seem to be writing a lot of trilogies these days). There’s more to say about macro-states, and I want also to get into the idea of indexing.

I make no claims for creativity with this analogy. It’s just a concrete instance of the mathematical abstraction of a totally sorted list (with no duplicates). A box of numbered index cards would work just as well. There are myriad parallel examples.

One goal here is to link the abstraction with reality.

Continue reading

Entropy 101

Entropy is a big topic, both in science and in the popular gestalt. I wrote about it in one of my very first blog posts here, back in 2011. I’ve written about it a number of other times since. Yet, despite mentioning it in posts and comments, I’ve never laid out the CD collection analogy from that 2011 post in full detail.

Recent discussions suggest I should. When I mentioned entropy in a post most recently, I made the observation that its definition has itself suffered entropy. It has become more diffuse. There are many views of what entropy means, and some, I feel, get away from the fundamentals.

The CD collection analogy, though, focuses on only the fundamentals.

Continue reading

My Old Top Ten

Recently I read a blog post that discussed those “ten ways to do X” lists (which raises a question of how many things even have ten reasonable ways of doing them). It reminded me of a blogger I knew when I first started here who had a blog that only posted lists of ten things. And that reminded me of David Letterman’s Top Ten lists.

Which led to remembering my own Top Ten Things in Life list from many years back (30, at least). Since this blog is, in part, my scrawl in the internet wall, I realized it’s exactly the sort of thing I should document here.

I thought I’d also toss in a bunch of other favorites to fill out the post.

Continue reading

Back to Kilauea

It’s no secret; I’m hard to impress. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, been places, learned stuff, bought the tee-shirts. I’m not willfully hard to impress; I don’t resist being impressed. It’s just that after all these years it takes something genuinely impressive.

Like volcanoes. They’re impressive. Something about lava really grabs me. Rock running like molasses; I want to play in it. Yet somehow there is only one volcano in my heart: Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawai’i. I’m so impressed I did two Wednesday Wow posts about it.

And this baby makes three…

Continue reading

Friday Notes (Nov 19, 2021)

It’s time for another edition of Friday Notes, a dump of miscellaneous bits and ends. (Or do I mean odds and pieces? Odd bits and end pieces? Whatever. Stuff that doesn’t rate a blog post on its own, so it gets roped into a package deal along with other stray thoughts that wandered by.)

There’s no theme this time, the notes are pretty random. Past editions have picked the low-hanging fruit, and the pace has slowed. I’ve managed to whittle away a good bit of the pile.

Maybe some day no more notes and my blog will be totally in real time!

Continue reading

WP: Classic Editor vs Reader

The post’s title has more the sense of Ali vs Foreman than of Coke vs Pepsi. True, both are contests, but the the latter is a selection — the former is a fight. This post is about a major problem some posts created using the Classic Editor have when displayed in the WordPress Reader.

Specifically, breaks between paragraphs are lost. In some cases an entire post becomes one long paragraph. The only breaks come from the various HTML block elements that force paragraph breaks. (Things like horizontal rules, large images, or tables.)

Here I’ll explain what’s going on and how to get your paragraphs back.

Continue reading

The Blessing of Unicode

Back in 2014 I decided that a blog that almost no one reads wasn’t good enough, so I created a blog that no one reads, my computer programming blog, The Hard-Core Coder. (I was afraid the term “hard-core” would attract all sorts of the wrong attention, but apparently those fears were for naught. No one has ever even noticed, let alone commented. Yay?)

In the seven years since, I’ve only published 83 posts, so the lack of traffic or followers isn’t too surprising. (Lately I’ve been trying to devote more time to it.) There is also that the topic matter is usually fairly arcane.

But not always. For instance, today’s post about Unicode.

Continue reading

Sideband #75: Electronic Shortcuts

My notes don’t include what triggered the thought, but I think it was something in one of the Lee Smolin books I read recently. My recent post, Analog Computing, brought the idea to mind again, because analog computers often use op amps. I was reminded yet again while reading about SPADs.

I’m talking about the very useful rules of thumb (heuristics) I learned to help understand, even design, electronic circuitry. They’re shortcuts in the sense of being only approximately true, but their simplified view can make a circuit much easier to understand.

I thought I’d pass them on for those interested in electronic design.

Continue reading

Does Transporting Kill You?

It’s actually an old debate — in fact, it’s a variation on the Ship of Theseus — but modern day science fiction gives it a new spin. At root it’s a question about exactly where our identity as self-aware conscious beings actually resides. I don’t find it paradoxical so much as intriguing.

Recently Sabine Hossenfelder jumped into the discussion with a video asking whether Captain Kirk dies every time he uses the transporter. Not just him, of course, but everyone who uses it.

As with trees falling in forests, the answer depends on defining key terms. This case depends on exactly what we mean by “dies” and “Kirk” — the latter being the Ship of Theseus.

Continue reading

Ellis: The Truth of the Divine

Last year I read and very much enjoyed Axiom’s End (2020), a debut novel by film critic and YouTuber Lindsay Ellis. It’s the first book of her Noumena series, which is about powerful aliens showing up on an unsuspecting Earth. It made the New York Times Best Seller list and generated a fair amount of favorable attention.

Earlier this year I preordered the second book, The Truth of the Divine (2021), and it finally dropped last month. I had high hopes and much anticipation about where Ellis would take her story. Sadly, I found myself sorely disappointed by this second installment. This isn’t a positive review.

For balance I’ll mention two books I did enjoy, Neuromancer (1984), by William Gibson, and a new comedy by David Brin.

Continue reading