Sunday, February 26, 2006

In which the Meridian links to a few articles on a subject he dimly understands . . .

. . . even as he utilizes, at this very moment, the very device that these articles (sort of) concern. So what else is new? I have much to learn about living, but I persist--insist, even--on "doing" it.

If you aren't regularly visiting 3 Quarks Daily, you are missing one of the great thought-provoking sites on the 'net. It's a group blog consisting mostly of links to articles from other places and occasional original pieces by its members--but what a range of articles. In a quick survey this morning, I've looked at articles there on contemporary art (several of these), "rereading" the Renaissance, Herman Melville, new and not-so-new thinking about the origins of life on this planet, Sarte and de Beauvior, the rate of medical mis-diagnosis (which hasn't appreciably improved since the 1930s(!)), Paul Bremer, various assessments of "the Arab world," vestiges of structures in various animals that offer clues in determining what they (and we) looked like in their/our pre-evolutionary states, why human beings make such a big deal about being happy . . . in other words, God's plenty of intellectual caffeine and nourishment. Bookmark this place and/or add it to your Links list . . . but be warned: it's best to wait to visit until you have, oh, say, at least an hour of more-or-less unencumbered time. The intellectually-curious among you will find it very hard to leave.

It just so happens this morning that 3 Quarks Daily's first page links to three intriguing articles on computers that, taken together, survey how far this thing has come and how far it may yet go.

Valentine's Day marked the 60th anniversary of ENIAC, the first large-scale electronic computer. Your typical cellphone, of course, is a whole lot "smarter."

As for what computers--yes, what they can do independent of their programmers--are up to these days, two articles on quantum computers and their capacities. This one notes that such computers can actually make inferences about problems to be solved BEFORE they are turned on. And this one explores that same subject more "descriptively."

As a bonus: Math, of course, is at the heart of these machines. Despite my sharing office space for 3 years with my colleague Larry the movie guy, who teaches calculus and physics, I don't understand the specifics of all that at all, but I do very much get the idea that math is a language with different jargons and dialects. He and I have had several nice discussions on that subject. But this intriguing article pushes that idea further: mathematics isn't merely a language that describes natural phenomena--it actually helps us to envision phenomena that we haven't yet observed. It's a tool of/for the imagination, in other words, just like any other language.


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