June 15, 2004
So You Think You're a Hacker
If you expected it to be a semi-organized outline in .txt okay, you're a hacker.
Everyone else please see, http://info.astrian.net/jargon/.
Any just so there's no doubt.
My blog: http://www.metametadata.net/mt/
My aggregator: http://www.bloglines.com/ The blogroll on my weblogs menu is courtesy bloglines in case you wondered whose weblogs I subscribe to.
And, the piece de resistance, my todo.txt, although I call it tasklist.doc (its in a proprietary rich text format because I like using visual design cues to aid my scanning of the lists)
June 12, 2004
For The Kenj,
From the birthday present she bought me in April,
It was green, the silence; the light was moist;
the month of June trembled like a butterfly;
and you, Matilde, passed through noon,
through the regions of the South, the sea and the stones.
You went carrying your cargo of iron flowers,
seaweed battered and abandoned by the South wind
but your hands, still white, cracked by corrosive salt,
gathered the blooming stalks that grew in the sand.
I love your pure gifts, your skin like whole stones,
your nails, offerings, in the suns of your fingers,
your mouth brimming with all joys.
Oh, in my house beside the abyss, give me
the tormenting structure of that silence,
pavillion of the sea, forgotten in the sand.
Era verde el silencio, mojada era la luz,
temblaba el mes de junio como una mariposa
y en el austral dominio, desde el mar y las piedras,
Matilde, atravesaste el mediodia.
Ibas cargada de flores ferruginosas,
algas que el viento sur atormenta y olvida,
aun blancas, agrietadas por la sal devorante,
tus manos levantaban las espigas de arena.
Amo tus dones puros, tu piel de piedra intacta,
tus unas ofrecidas en el sol de tus dedos,
tu boca derramada por toda la alegria,
pero, para mi casa vecina del abismo,
dame el atormentado sistema del silencio,
el pabellon del mar olvidado en la arena.
June 10, 2004
It hurts me to be this Pimptacular
Y'all gotta get your pimp on.
Your Most Excellent Keeper in Pimpitude:
Macktastic Robb Slick A.K.A. Sticky Fingers Dog Beautiful A.K.A. The Keeper A.K.A. Rob E. Dogg A.K.A. Mr. Wolfe
(Don't y'all just see Mssr. Violette as a "Pookie"?)
And don't forget to drop your Mack Handle on her pimpness, the freakalicious Chhavizzle Sizzle Sachdizzle.
June 04, 2004
Or, MIT Courses I want to take towards becoming a Professor of Information Theory & Theoretical Physics.
I was cataloging MIT Class 6.050J, Information and Entropy, when I found this FAQ for prospective students. I had to stop and create a new entry in my moleskine (more on the moleskine to come) for courses at MIT that I've cataloged and want to attend.
I've been starting to talk to folks about Information Theory, a subject I think I'd like to be an expert on at some point. I know that I'm going back to get a Phd when I'm done with Information Architecture and Digital Libraries. Discovering Information Theory gave me a natural course back to academic study. I'd basically be doing the more experimental and out there cool stuff in Information Science that I don't have the time or money to do today. And as 6.050J shows, I'd be very close to my one true scholarly passion, metaphysics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the most glorious and painful of all of nature's wonders. It is the enemy of all librarians, the rule that says no matter how much we fight against disorder with our catalogs and rules and taxonomies, the universe inexorably trends towards disorder. We're fighting a battle we can never win. We know it and fight anyway, remember that next time you have a chance to interact with a librarian. It gives me great pleasure just to think about entropy.
Anyway, Information Theory is an attempt to define Information using formal mathematical language (calculus). In essence it defines information as a measure of the unpredictiability of any communication. At my website, I've a page where I've collected some wisdoms I hold as true. There you'll find this mathematical expression of Information. What I Know
Anyway, on to the FAQ. My favorite part is its clear expression of what the information age is and why were in it. Namely, that the transmission of information is in the happy zone between which it does not concern itself with physical limitations and so is for the most part free of entropic concerns. Without these conditions, there is no proliferation of hypertextual exchange of information on the ridiculous scale we've seen the last ten years.
1. Are these questions really frequently asked?
Of course not. Most have never been asked in exactly this form. However, questions and answers are a good way to explain things.
2. What is this course all about?
Information and entropy. Information is a measure of the amount of knowledge; it is not that knowledge itself. Thus information is like energy, in the sense that knowing the amount of energy does not tell you anything about its nature, location, form, etc. The same is true with information. Entropy is a one kind of information. It is the information you do not have about a situation.
3. The information I don't have? Is this different from the information you don't have?
Certainly. Information is subjective. You know things that I don't. This is, after all, why communication is useful.
4. But is entropy also a subjective quantity?
Strictly speaking, yes. However, in physical situations the difference of entropy as perceived by two observers may be negligibly small.
5. If information is the measure of a quantity, what are its units?
Information is measured in bits. More bits means more information.
6. Is entropy also measured in bits?
Yes. However, in physical situations there is lots of information that is not known. (Think about how many bits of information are needed to specify the position of all atoms in an object.) It is impractical to work with such large numbers, so another set of units is used: Joules per degree Kelvin.
7. Wait a minute. Entropy is physical and information is mathematical. How can they be conceptually the same?
Historically, information storage and transmission required a physical artifact of some kind. Think of newspapers, books, and medieval manuscripts. So traditionally information has also been physical most of the cost of information processing was due to the physical carrier of the information. It is only recently that the cost of storing, moving, or processing information is so low that we think of information apart from its physical form, not even subject to physical laws. But this is only a temporary situation. Eventually information technology will have to face the limits imposed by quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, and it will again be necessary to understand the fundamental physics of information. This time it will be entropy that is the relevant physical concept.
8. Why is information so important?
This is the beginning of the information age. Just as the industrial age was opened up by our ability to manage energy, so the information age is upon us because we are learning how to manage information effectively.
9. Why is entropy so important?
Entropy is one of the most mysterious of all the concepts dealt with by scientists. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of a given situation cannot decrease unless there is a greater increase elsewhere. Thus entropy has the unusual property that it is not conserved, as energy is, but monotonically increases over time. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is often regarded as one of science's most glorious laws. And also one of them the most difficult to understand.
10. If entropy is so difficult, can a freshman really understand it?
Certainly. It's all in how the topics are approached. It is true that the concepts involved here are not normally taught to freshmen. This is a shame, because they have the background necessary to appreciate them if approached from the point of view of information. Traditionally the Second Law of Thermodynamics is taught as part of a course on thermodynamics, and a background in physics or chemistry is needed. Also, the examples used come from thermodynamics. In this course, the Second Law is treated as an example of information processing in natural and man-made systems; the examples come from many domains.
11. I am thinking about taking this course. What do I need to know to start?
You need to understand energy, and how it can exist in one place or another, how it can be transported from here to there, and can be stored for later use. You need to know how to deal with a conserved quantity like energy mathematically, and to appreciate that if energy increases in one region, it must decrease elsewhere. More specifically, the prerequisite for this course is the first semester freshman physics subject 8.01 (or 8.012, 8.01L, or 8.01X).
12. Is entropy useful outside of thermodynamics?
All physical systems obey the laws of thermodynamics. The challenge is to express these laws in simple but general forms so that their significance in, for example, a biological system gives insight. Besides, laws similar to the Second Law of Thermodynamics are found in abstract systems governed more by mathematics than physics two examples discussed in the course are computers and communications systems. In these contexts the "information" part of "Information and Entropy" is important.
13. Why aren't information and entropy normally thought of together?
Most scientists recognize that information can be exchanged for entropy and vice versa. but they don't consider that fact important. The reason is that in typical physical situations the number of bits of entropy is far larger than the number of bits of information that even the largest information processing systems can deal with. In other words, the scales involved are vastly different. This is because there are a large number of atoms in physical systems.
14. But then why treat them together now?
For two reasons. First, the underlying principles are the same so you only have to learn them once. And second, modern technology is continuously increasing the amount of information that computers and communication systems can deal with. Another way of saying this is to observe that modern microelectronic systems control more bits with fewer atoms. As the number of atoms per bit comes down, the difference in scale between information in computers and communications systems and entropy in the corresponding physical systems shrinks. Eventually it will be possible to make devices that cannot be understood without considering the interplay between the information stored in the device and the entropy of its physical configuration.
15. If I take this course, can I get a summer job?
Certainly, but probably not because of anything you learn here.
June 01, 2004
I miss typography
This is what I'm talking about:
I miss Rare Book Bibliography, and literary circles and handpresses. The Fu Crew needs to put together a compendium and give a reading. I know every single one of you either writes or draws.
And, yes I am extremly jealous of McSweeney's. Have you seen their latest comic book volume?