Frustrating parallel vs. sequential EDU moment…

25 February 2010

I shared the following tweet with CS1 students on 24 February 02010.

Think parallel instead of sequential. RT @MathIsMyLife:
Sun Microsystems Laboratories – WPI News

I spent a couple of minutes explaining the difference between sequential and parallel processing.

Here comes the frustrating moment…

The students at WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) were getting an opportunity to hear a lecture by computing guru Guy Steele titled “The Future Is Parallel: What’s a Programmer to Do? Breaking Sequential Habits of Thought.”

After covering the tweet I told the class… “We now return to our regularly scheduled sequential thinking.”

Pondering what to do on Pi Day 2010

21 February 2010

It’s Sunday, 21 February 2010, and 14 March 2010 (i.e. Pi Day) is three weeks away. I’ve been pondering what to do this Pi Day and there are so many things I can do.

Pi Day 2010 falls on a Sunday at the front-end of a week long spring break.

I thought about flying to Los Angeles, California, to eat pie at the House of Pies Bakery and Restaurant, but I opted to save this for a future Pi Day.

I considered flying to San Jose, California, to visit the Computer History Museum, but I decided that I didn’t want to do any flying.

I contemplated a two-day road trip to Deming, New Mexico, to visit the Rockhound State Park and Pancho Villa State Parks. In addition, this road trip would enable to get pictures of some road signs located along westbound I-10 between Willcox and Tucson. But… I decided to make this a summer activity.

I pondered a three-day road trip spending two nights in Needles, California. Day one, which will be on Pi Day, would include getting a piece of pie in Parker, Arizona, and eating it in Rice (CA). Day two will be a full day road trip into the Mojave National Preserve. I will visit to the Kelso Depot for the first time and a hike of the Kelso Dunes in order to get a better video clip of the roaring sand dunes.


It’s raining a lot here in Tempe and now I’m thinking I might spend Pi Day 2010 seeking wildflowers.

Take US Hwy-60 east to Florance Jct. (flowers). Continue US Hwy-60E to Gonzales Pass (flowers). Continue US Hwy-60E to Superior where I’ll stop and play for a while. Continue US Hwy-60E to Miami stopping at the tunnel to take pictures (boulders). I’ll play in Miami for a while before continuing US Hwy-60E to its junction with AZ Hwy-88. [75 miles] Head north on AZ Hwy-88 stopping at Roosevelt Lake/Bridge/Dam. Continue north on AZ Hwy-188 (Az Hwy-88 goes west as the Apache Trail). At AZ Hwy-87, go north to Payson. [155 miles total] While in Payson, I’ll have a piece of pie at the 260 Cafe and a second piece of pie at the Beeline Cafe. Return to Tempe via southbound AZ Hwy-87, where numerous flower explosions will potentially be encountered. [235 miles total]

Spending time thinking about the future

21 February 2010

I enjoyed Wired’s interview with Peter Thiel.

When asked by Wired how he spends his day, Thiel responded with: “I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future.

So do I!

Wired: You’re worried about economic stagnation, but you’re optimistic about artificial intelligence and space?

Thiel: I think we have to make those things happen. We should be looking at technologies that might lead to really big breakthroughs. As a starting point, let’s just go back to the science fiction novels of the 1950s and ’60s and try to run the past 40 years again.

So much of our future is the science fiction of the last 50 years ago morphing into everyday non-fiction.

Note: I used Wired’s interview of Peter Thiel to introduce AI to CS1 students. Pessimist Calls on Radical Tech to Save Economy

One millionth of one percent

8 February 2010

The following quote was on my iGoogle homepage on 02010.02.03.

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” — Thomas Edison (d.01931)

Edison’s quote prompted me to come up with the following arithmetic question: What is one millionth of one percent of 1.759 quadrillion?

I used 1.759 quadrillion because the world’s fastest supercomputer could do that many arithmetic calculations in one second (flops).
And, by the way, one millionth of one percent of 1.759 quadrillion is 17,590,000.

In the 21st century, Edison might have said that we don’t know a quadrillionth of one percent about anything.

Colbert, Benjamin and the Three Dog Night

1 February 2010

Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin is a math professor at Harvey Mudd University and on 27 January 2010 he was a guest on the Colbert Report.

Colbert asked Benjamin, “What’s the loneliest?”

Benjamin responded with “1” to which Colbert borrowed from the Three Dog Night just like I often do when the answer to a question is one.

Instructor: 0! evaluates to what?
Responses: Zero? Undefined? Error? Silence…
Instructor: Think loneliest number.
Response: One?
Instructor: Excellent! But… it was the Three Dog Night who claimed “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do” and that “Two can be as bad as one; It’s the loneliest number since the number one.” Benjamin

True or False: 1 is a prime number

1 February 2010

On a Thursday morning I asked the class… “True or False: 1 is a prime number.”

After a brief review of prime numbers, composite numbers, and the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, I lamented how my fear of true/false questions would keep me from being on the TV show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.” Knowing my luck, I’d pick a 1st grade question and it would be a true/false type. I’d probably morph into Ralph Kramden and respond with homina, homina, homina.

Later on that same Thursday, I was at home channel surfing on the TV and I stopped at “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.” The contestant picked 4th grade math and the question was (and I’m not making this up)… “True or False: 1 is a prime number.”