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Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Law of Primacy

I consider the absolute worst programming construct to be subroutine or the function.          Cleo Saulnier 
Hello?!?! Why pay attention to some random crank on the Internet?
Because I think he is onto something important...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Celebration of Obsolescence

Today is 13 Jan 2016, 150 years from the birth of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (by some reckonings)

Prof. Ravi Ravindra[1]  will be holding lectures/workshops in Pune [17th Jan].
[Also Mumbai 23rd Jan, Bengaluru 30th Jan ]

Those who resonate may wish to attend some of these

For now I will just post something I had written for a 13th Jan some years ago as my understanding of the message of Gurdjieff's magnum opus: Beelzebub's tales [Mr. B!]

We celebrate patriotism yet from the plane we see no lines
We celebrate humanity but humans are killing all life — including themselves
We celebrate art — For the neurotics by the psychotics
We celebrate religion — as an institutionalized way of hating 'others'
We celebrate technology to cure each of our problems — but technology
is our biggest problem
We celebrate science — Oh the vast aggrandisement of ignorance
We celebrate spirituality — The hysteria of the hypnotized

On this 13th of Jan, we celebrate our OBSOLETE WORLD!

Help us Mr B…

To laugh without cynicism
To weep without sentimentality
To live love
And to die free

[1] Senior member of the Gurdjieff foundation, IITian, friend of J Krishnamurti And much else…

Friday, January 1, 2016

How Long?

It takes 100 years for an idea to go from inception to general acceptance.
Dijkstra[1]
When I first read this I thought it alarming.

Then I started collecting some historical tit-bits[2]…

Friday, July 31, 2015

Faith and Rats, Gödel and Computer Science

Computer scientists dismiss Gödel as mathematics
Mathematicians classify Gödel as logic
Logicians slot Gödel into meta-mathematics
Meta-mathematicians know the truth of the matter…
…and have been dead for a century

I would like to suggest that this misunderstanding (or rather non-understanding) does not make it non-true.¹ Many educated people do know that Gödel’s theorem(s) is important even portentous. But somehow – like war – Yeah its bad but not my problem.

Let’s use the services of
A fever is raging in the town.
People are dying.

And I happen to find…
In the closet…
A dead rat

“What do rats have to do with…”

The Plague?

Do we need to start having a fever and swelling in the armpits to change our minds?
To my mind the mathematicians and CSists who think of Gödel as irrelevant are like people with a dead rat in their closet who are now beginning to run a fever and who still keep insisting:
“Whats a dead rat to do with the plague? Why should I bother?”
Gödel’s theorem is a dead rat in plague infested town. In the 1930s, people understood this. Somehow now everyone has forgotten. This post is to remind of these well-known and more well-forgotten facts.

The Terrible Theorem

Starting with the cute paradoxical statement

This statement is false

which is true if its false and false if true,  Gödels theorem maps out the large gulf between what is provable and what is true.
Now on the face of it this seems like a ridiculous thing to make a song-n-dance about. Surely there are truths that we dont know (yet)? What of it? Then science studies better... Then some more truths are revealed... etc...

To understand why its a big deal we need to understand the difference between

Analytic and Synthetic Truths

Monday, June 15, 2015

Richard O'Keefe's responses to FP Timeline

Richard O'Keefe of Otago whose quote I started FP Timeline with, wrote me some rather detailed comments about history which have interesting titbits of info.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Functional Programming: A Moving Target

In my last post, I gave a functional programming time line in the last 50 years. Now I'll look at two things: The place of functional in ACM Curriculum 2013 and how C has messed up the notion of functional.

ACM Curriculum 2013


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Functional Programming: A Timeline

Rob Hagan at Monash had shown that you could teach students more Cobol with one semester of Scheme and one semester of Cobol than you could with three semesters of Cobol.
Richard O'Keefe on Erlang list
Well that was before Functional Programming became such a buzzword.
These days FP is quite a buzzword. Is this for good or bad?
If real worldgood well then Scala and Clojure and Erlang and Haskell becoming more and more 'real world' is a wonderful thing.
If what is good is understanding then I am not so sure. Many things about programming, pedagogy and programming-pedagogy that were widely understood in the 1970s and 80s have mysteriously become un-understood today.
However in this darkening of the age there are some glimmers… eg ACM's 2013 curriculum.
In this post I would like to delineate a timeline of the semantics and significance of Functional in the last 50 years. In subsequent posts I'll try to deconstruct how the semantics has shifted around in this time.

Timeline

1957
The first programming language – Fortran
1957
The first functional programming language – For(mula)Tran(slator)

Why? Whoa! How?

Read on…

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Between Poverty and Universality lies Structure

Lisp is worth learning for the profound enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it; that experience will make you a better programmer for the rest of your days, even if you never actually use Lisp itself           —  Eric Raymond

In ancient times people set each other puzzles such as:

       Can God make a stone so heavy that he can't lift it?

These puzzles-of-omnipotence can be rephrased in theory-of-computation lingo:

       Can God compute the uncomputable?
       If he can, how is it uncomputable?
       If he cant, how is he God?

So what are those limits of/by structure?  Unsurprisingly related to God-el's theorem:
God-el's Theorem says that for any record player, there are records which it cannot play because they will cause it to self-destruct
Gödel-Escher-Bach

And like record players what about programming languages whose abstractions can be arranged to break the language?

Structure is good because it reduces breakage; its bad because it imprisons us into precooked forms.

Following I explore the space between poverty and universality; a space which for want of a better word I will simply call structure, the most elusive being the structure of syntax.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

CS History 0

Are real numbers real?

Wait!! What does this have to do with programming? Or even computer science??

Sounds like angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin philosophy No??
NO!  CS came into existence because of this question!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Unicode: Universal or Whimsical?

Unicode Classification

In my last post, I wrote about two sides to unicode — a universal side and a babel side. Some readers while agreeing with this classification were jarred by a passing reference to ‘gibberish’ in unicode⁵.

Since I learnt some things from those comments, this post expands that classification into these¹.
  1. Babel
  2. Universal
  3. Legacy
  4. Unavoidable mess
  5. Political mess
  6. Whimsical

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Universal Unicode

What is the 'uni-' in unicode? According to the official records it comes from Unique Uniform and Universal.

Unicode starts out with the realization that ASCII is ridiculously restrictive, or the world is larger than the two sides of the Atlantic¹. This gives rise to all the blocks from Arabic to Zhuang.

However the greatest promise of unicode lies not in catering to this tower of babel but rather in those areas that are more universal. Yeah I know technically this distinction between universal and international will not stand up to scrutiny.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Unicode and the Universe

If you're trilingual you speak three languages, if you're bilingual you speak two languages, if you're monolingual you're American.

Mark Harris on the python list
Well if one reads that thread above, one would find that people were rather uptight with Mark Harris for that statement. And yet they have the same insular attitude towards ASCII-in-programming that Mark describes in Americans towards English (or more correctly Americanese); to wit they consider that programming with ASCII (alone) is natural, easy, convenient, obvious, universal, inevitable etc.

Is it mere coincidence that the 'A' of ASCII is short for American?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pugofer

In the early 90s  I used gofer to teach FP in the introductory programming class at the university of Pune.  At first I used Miranda/Scheme, then gofer. I was also impressed with Dijkstra's philosophy of making function application explicit with a dot ('.') and decided to incorporate this into gofer.  This changed gofer was called pugofer.

The philosophy of these changes is here. Summary of changes is:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Universities starting with functional programming

Here's a list of some universities that are using functional languages to teach programming. As I find more data, it will be added. So please let me know (with links!!) what Ive missed – lists are particularly welcome, but individual universities is also welcome.  Also other languages that have some claim to being functional.
Haskell
Haskell – official list (list)
At quora (also scheme and ML dialects) 
ML
Carnegie Mellon 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ACM FDP – Invited Talk

I was an invited speaker at the ACM faculty development program (FDP) organized jointly by ACM and VIT Pune on 9th July 2014.
The stuff of my talk — and good deal of other stuff that I did not manage to cover for lack of time :D — is put up at github.

To view, you will need