Monday, October 05, 2009

Nineteen Eighty-Four in 60 Words

I was just searching my email inbox and stumbled across an email I had sent to myself on Feb. 4., 2008. I don't know exactly why I sent it to myself, but it contained this interesting tidbit.

You may or may not be familiar with Microsoft Word's AutoSummarize feature, which tries to intelligently summarize long blocks of text. Well, since George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has entered the public domain in certain countries, it's pretty freely available online, even though it's still under copyright in the U.S. I pasted the full text into Word and asked it to generate a 60-word summary. This is the result.

by George Orwell and Microsoft Word

Winston turned round abruptly. Winston belched again. Winston sighed inaudibly. Winston paused involuntarily. Winston stopped short. Winston followed. It’s Winston—Winston Smith.’

Winston woke first. Winston thought. Winston began reading:

Winston met his eyes. Winston’s entrails contracted. Winston uncovered his face. Winston’s heart sank. Sometimes, Winston. Winston thought. Winston lay silent. Winston thought. Winston worked it out. Winston’s heart stirred.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

OS X 10.6, Windows 7, and the "Good Enough" Revolution

From Christopher Saunders @
Apple's Snow Leopard puts the industry to shame

It's not just Apple; both Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are relatively minor upgrades largely focused on performance, polish, etc., and neither really pushes the limits of your hardware. But it's not just Apple and Microsoft, either. It fits neatly into an idea of a "good enough" revolution, which Wired wrote about in its September issue.

"In the age of Windows Vista, this seems incredible," writes Saunders. Maybe it would have then -- but we're no longer in the age of Windows Vista. Nowhere close.

The fact that a new OS doesn't require new hardware isn't reason to celebrate in and of itself. It's only reason to celebrate because the changes we've been seeing in operating systems don't seem cutting-edge enough to warrant new hardware. So, as we relish only having to pay $30 to load Apple's latest and greatest onto our computers, perhaps we should shed a lone tear for the age when a new OS simply couldn't run on old hardware -- when it was actually progressing by leaps and bounds.

We've moved on. Oh well.

Or maybe we haven't.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Parallel Universes

Thanks to both Lost and math class moving past four variables/dimensions, I’ve been thinking some more about parallel universes and multiple dimensions of time. I have NO clue what I’m talking about, but it’s at least interesting to think about.

“Universes”—defined, I suppose, as 4D objects of 3 spatial dimensions and 1 temporal dimension—could be parallel in time, or in space… that is, separated in some 5th dimension which is either spatial or temporal. Right?

For instance, if reality “branches” in time continually… well, maybe that would mean that every possible decision was made, but at different coordinates along the 5th axis. (That’s kind of assuming we have free will, I guess.)

If reality “branched” in space continually… well, I guess that would be more along the lines of the “many worlds” envisioned in, say, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass).  These other worlds may be described as being very very very close to our own, but slightly separated in that 5th dimension. And they may be described as, potentially, entirely different, despite being so close—like a book of various photos taken all over the world.

That doesn’t really make sense. It would be more like a scatter plot than a continuous function, and I don’t see any reason why that should be the case. It makes more sense that the parallel worlds closest to our own would look very similar to our own, except some objects would be bigger, some would be smaller, and some would stay the same. The rates of change could be very different, of course, depending on slope with respect to this 5th axis.

So, sadly, the possibility of moving 1 mm along this 5th axis and discovering magical new worlds is slim. The book is more like a flipbook, with each page very similar to the last. But maybe if we travelled far enough… it could be a whole new kind of frontier! Of course, if the rest of the universe is 5-dimensional, then we probably are too… so that’d be a little weird. Well. It’d take some getting used to. Not as weird as you might expect, probably.

Along some axis we can’t see, perhaps the various cosmological constants that shape our universe change. Maybe the amount of dark energy (if it even exists) changes. If the expansion of our galaxy is dependent upon the amount of dark energy, and if the amount of dark energy is variable… well, maybe, to avoid a situation where the universe tears itself apart, or where it collapses, we could escape along this 5th axis to a dark energy “sweet spot” (red).


Maybe an extra dimension could be used for other things, like combating entropy by siphoning energy away from other parts of the universe (multiverse? megaverse? whatever…).

Or maybe we’re just stuck in our lonely four dimensions. I don’t see why there would be dimensions we can’t perceive. Then again, I also don’t see why there should only be 4 dimensions. What an arbitrary number! Maybe there are INFINITE dimensions! Why not? :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I voted.

Gosh, I wish I had more time to soak it all in. But I have a paper due which I reallllly ought to be working on.

In 50 years, which will I remember better--the paper or the election? Which will I judge to be more important? The election, almost certainly.

But right now, which do I prioritize, regardless of having a pretty good sense of how I'll feel in 50 years? The paper, of course.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


AT&T was hit with an antitrust suit (ultimately resulting in its break-up) at age 89.

Microsoft was hit with an antitrust suit (almost resulting in its break-up) at age 23.

Google could be hit with an antitrust suit at (or shortly after) age 10.

Who's next? And how young will the company be?

Off the top of my head, Facebook could potentially one day be a serious contender... it's 4...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Last Post as a Beaver Student

This is my last post as a student of Beaver Country Day School, my school for the past 7 years. We graduate tomorrow. Since I've never before posted here except as a BCDS student, I thought it an appropriate time to quickly attempt to answer the question: why?

This blog has been utterly pointless since the beginning. Every so often I may post something interesting, but the vast majority of the time it's pointless. I've cut down on the pointlessness since the early days, but the question remains: why bother?

1. It's largely a resource for me to keep track of my line of thought. It's interesting for me to look back at what I was thinking in 2003, regardless of whether anyone else cares. A blog is a pretty convenient format for that.

2. I don't have a #2.

So there you have it. Farewell. :)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Email, pt. 2

I have received 3395 emails to my Hotmail account since July 2004, and sent 349 since June 2006, when Hotmail stopped automatically deleting sent messages. By contrast, I have sent and received 4218 emails at my school account in the past 365 days alone.