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Sunday, March 6, 2022

A Fairy Tale And a Bridge

Momma: Dr. Einstein, What should my lil boy read so that he becomes like you?

Einstein: Read him fairy tales

Momma : ! 😯!!😯!!!

In this post I shall channel 'the late Dr. Einstein' to make a case for Pugofer as a fairy tale.


Prof. Aamod Sane, a new enthusiastic adopter of Pugofer asked of me:

Every term there is one student, usually with some experience, or who is comparing with non-Flame friends, who asks "why Pugofer". I have the following explanation... I thought it would be good to have a "standard" one that includes all of our ideas. It will be useful in publicizing the Pugofer approach in the future as well. Any thoughts / additions to the material below?

So here's my version as to...

What/Why Pugofer

To begin let's hear the Einstein conversation in more detail

A young mother who was friendly with the late Dr. Einstein wanted her child to become a scientist. She asked Dr. Einstein for his suggestions for the kind of reading the child might do in his school years to prepare him for this career. To her surprise Dr. Einstein recommended: He should read fairy tales.

The mother protested this frivolity and asked for a serious answer. Dr. Einstein said: If you want him to be a scientist read him fairy tales, and if you want him to be a good scientist read him more fairy tales.

He then explained: Creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist, and fairy tales are the childhood stimulus of this quality!

Fairy tale about Einstein on fairy tales

Or a more Indian example:

Shivaji's mother, Jija-mata, told him stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata1 as a child. Clearly that had very good results for the Marathas!

I was talking to a doctor friend who was grumbling about doctors' common bugbear: patients who «verify the doctor» using google. She said to me: Google may have all the data; what about correlation? Can google correlate multiple symptoms toward a differential diagnosis?

Then the clincher: When you study medicine you don't study 30 different subjects – anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, clinical medicine… Those subjects are carefully constructed towards one goal: Creating a doctor.

The identical applies to music: If you study music for 20 years, you don't merely study 100 pieces/ragas, nor merely practice for 10000 hours. But in doing all that an unshaped brain is cultured a certain way.  My old boss n HoD-PUCSD, Dr. Jayant Kirtane would say...

Like dahi

To set home made yoghurt it needs to be allowed its space and time with its culture.

What is that culturing of a CS-ist that we currently do??

As best as I can see

  • Splash about from a vast palette of jargon, buzzwords, fads
  • Expose a dozen technologies
  • And end in a motley super-tiny-subsubset2 of specializations. 

Knuth tried to reduce CS to Algorithms + Data Structures: Here is a suitable retrospective of Knuth.

Dijkstra and school tried it by claiming

  1. programming = math (correct)
  2. programming = imperative programming : unfortunately also empirically correct!

Of course you could find many other cohesive conspective views also:

  • Alan Kay: CS = passing messages
  • UML: CS = drawing pictures

If these call you then fine!!

We have our own take:

Place of Pugofer/Pug in CS Education 

CS is a bridge between empirical engineering and mathematical platonism.
The broader system is a little fairy-tale for children who will later be building such bridges.Just as the child… Playing with Mecano and Lego goes on to become an engineer.
The executable is a bridge in that fairy-tale.
Together they constitute a walled nursery for children
Where the empirical act of playing around gives shape to platonic intuitions in the beginner-mind.3



goes through this

to reach

So also those who start Pugofer become better faster at C++/Java/Javascript… And 700 others.  Or to invoke what I call the Rob Hagan principle:

1992ish:  Rob Hagan at Monash showed 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.

[Replace 1992-Scheme by 2022-Pugofer]

So don't think of Pugofer as a language or a technology. Or even a finished ideology. Ok... you can think of pug as a little language, but to focus entirely on that is to miss the point.

It's a nursery for kids!

And if you think you've graduated beyond toys…

How come you're still a student?

The relation of Platonism-Empiricism with Math ⟷ CS ⟷ Engineering...
Will need (more than 😄) one more post.


1 Shivpuri Baba of Nepal who is reputed to have crossed 110 told John Bennett: The Ramayana is for developing ethical principles; the Mahabharata for a supple intellect. Like Prof. Sane asks, Programming teachers would do well to ask themselves We are teaching X for Y. What is Y??  

2 See the more comprehensive ACM list [You need to change from "interactive view" to "flat view" to see its magnitude] And compare with any extant CS curriculum 

3 Beginner mind is often but not necessarily a young mind

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