5-Digit Year Problem

31 December 2009

I am a member of the Long Now Foundation and the Long Now Foundation uses 5-digit years (e.g. 2010 is 02010). 2010, unlike 2009, is a valid octal (base-8) number.

Many of the C-family programming languages have a 5-digit year problem.

Numbers that start with a zero are treated as octal numbers by the compiler. 02009 is not a valid octal number because nine is not a valid octal digit. 02010 is comprised of four valid octal digits.


/* int lastyear = 02009; // doesn't compile */
int thisyear = 02010; // compiles
cout << thisyear; // prints 1032


Does the future need us?

28 December 2009

Singularity Hub’s A Review Of The Best Robots of 2009 reaffirms my belief that all high school students should be required to read, ponder and discuss Bill Joy’s essay Why the future doesn’t need us.

It might be a serious error to ignore Bill Joy’s opinion.

Our most powerful 21st-century technologies – robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech – are threatening to make humans an endangered species.

As 02009 nears an end, I continue to claim that we have not yet entered the Age of Robotics, but Singuarlity Hub’s robot review provides evidence that the Robotics Age is rapidly approaching.


Who is Howard Schmidt?

24 December 2009

Howard A. Schmidt has been named Cyber-Security Coordinator of the Obama Administration (i.e. Cybersecurity Czar). Schmidt was a cyber-adviser in President George W. Bush’s White House.

The only thing I know about Howard Schmidt is that he is not the father of Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt.

When it comes to computer security I try to listen to Bruce Schneier, Gene Spafford, Phil Zimmermann and Edward Felten; therefore, I am interested in what these computer security gurus have to say about Howard Schmidt. To date (as of 02009.12.24), I haven’t been able to find much, but I did find the following.

From Schneier.com…

Reporters are calling me for reactions and opinions, but I just don’t know. Schmidt is good, but I don’t know if anyone can do well in a job with lots of responsibility but no actual authority. But maybe Obama will imbue the position with authority — I don’t know.

From Spafford via TheCommandLine.net…

Well, to be correct about it, neither Bruce nor I was ever contacted about taking the position or about suggesting anyone to fill it.

I find it beyond amazing that President Obama did not seek out advice from Schneier and Spafford.

Spafford continued via TheCommandLine.net…

This may or may not say something about the search itself. I do not know of anyone with a primarily cyber technology background who was contacted — only people with business and/or military backgrounds. This is another factor that made me believe that the view of this position is skewed in a direction that will limit its effectiveness.

Keyphrases… Schneier: “a job with lots of responsibility but no actual authority.” Spafford: “this position is skewed in a direction that will limit its effectiveness.

Barack Obama himself has been quoted saying that a computer can be morphed into a “weapon of mass disruption.” Catchy words, but I’m not convinced President Obama knows what he’s doing when it comes to cybersecurity.


A bit about zero

20 December 2009

I got up this morning with the intention of writing a bit about zero, but first I checked Twitter and came across the following tweet.

@RepublicOfMath I thought I had 3 apples, but I counted them; 0,1,2 and only had 2. RT @toddlee @t_uda retweet if we think 0 is a natural number?

I do something similar during class, but I use my fingers instead of apples.

I woke up this morning and decided to make sure I had all my fingers… 0, 1, 2, 3, 4… Doh! I’m missing a finger!

I (@MathBabbler) replied to the @RepublicOfMath tweet with the following tweet.

In the computing world, 0 is a natural number. It’s been the cause of many off-by-one errors.

Now… back to the bit I wanted to write about zero.

Add 0 to a quantity and the quantity remains unchanged; subtract 0 from a quantity and the quantity remains unchanged. But, multiply a quantity by zero and it becomes zero. Divide a quantity by zero and run the risk of crashing a computer. It’s okay to take nothing and divide-by something, but don’t even think about dividing something by nothing.

This almost as destructive as multiplying by zero: Raise a non-zero quantity to the power of zero and get one.

Zero factorial (written 0!) is one. What a great power of zero example: Take nothing (i.e. zero) and turn it into something (i.e. one). I wish I could factorialize all the zero pennies I have.

Zero is cool because it’s both a digit and a number. Plus, it is a digit in every number system from base-2 (binary) on up.

Zero is neither positive nor negative, yet +0 typically implies you have a positive quantity that is so small that it might was well be zero and -0 implies you have a negative quantity that is so close to zero that for all practical purposes its zero.

Is zero even or odd? Many consider it even, yet it’s odd to do arithmetic with it.


A learning about math catch-22

15 December 2009

Catch-22: Schools kill imagination and creativity, yet learning about mathematics depends on imagination and creativity.

Imagination: “process of having in your consciousness conceptions of things that aren’t present.”

Creativity: “applied imagination.”

“The moving power of mathematics is not reasoning but imagination.”–Augustus De Morgan

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”–Albert Einstein

“There’s very little emphasis on the right brain thinking
— the intuitive, the creative, the imaginative — and in
particular, the thinking out of the box.”–Peter Neumann

From the “Coping With Math Anxiety” essay from MathAcademy.com: “Myth #3: Math Requires Logic, Not Creativity.”

Sir Ken Robinson has a popular TED video in which he states that “schools kill creativity.” Plus, Robinson claims “creativity is nourished by keeping your imagination alive (stimulated).”

If Robinson, De Morgan, Einstein, Neumann are correct, then we have a catch-22 when it comes to learning about math.

MathAcademy.com::Coping With Math Anxiety

TED.com::Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity (filmed Feb 02006)


From 140 to 1,759,000,000,000,000

2 December 2009

This semester I have been hammering away at two themes: Twitter and High-Performance Computing.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that limits postings (i.e. tweets) to a maximum of 140 characters.

During November 02009, TOP500 issued its list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers and Jaguar was number at 1.759 petaflops (i.e. 1759 trillion floating-point operations per second).

The lecture notes for weeks 13 (02009.11.16) and 15 (02009.12.01) contained the following tweets.

The Global Language Monitor names “Twitter” the top word of 2009.

I’ve been telling students that I am in the process of learning about Twitter. For me, as of 02009.12.01, the power of Twitter is in who I follow.

President Obama visited China and he had Twitter on his mind.

“First of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter.”~Obama to Chinese

I don’t know why Obama had to let the Chinese in on the fact that had never tweeted.

“I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter.”~Obama to Chinese

Obama referred to Twitter as a form of “information technology” and these days I call this 21st century Informatics. In a nutshell, 21st century Informatics is supercomputer-based data processing.

Al Gore was the keynote speaker at the 21st annual SC conference. SC is an “international conference on High Performance Computing (HPC), networking, storage and analysis.”

At SC09, Al Gore says supercomputing can be killer app in climate change.

Gore believes high-performance computing systems, which include high-performance visualization systems, will help convince the world that climate change is a real problem. Gore might be wise to expect the unexpected.

“Supercomputing has given us the most powerful tool in the history of civilization.”~Al Gore at SC09

A bold statement by Gore and only time will tell if he is correct.

By the way, Steve Wozniak once said, “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.”