20 June, 2007

That's like, totally random

Starting small

An old classicWell, not totally random, but several gazillion combinations makes for a lot of choice. I’m referring of course to the Rubik’s Cube... that ‘toy’ that has befuddled us from 1980 when Ernö Rubik put it on the market. Apparently when he first came up with the cube, he had to play with it for a whole month before he was able to actually complete it for himself. Since then, of course records have tumbled with the lowest record for the 3x3x3 seemingly sitting at around 9.8 seconds or so (May 2007). That’s about the lowest quote I can find, at least for the moment. But wait, there’s more.

You broke me!

Oops—the nephew dropped it. Honest!Some people get a little too frustrated with their cube, and attempt to solve it by less conventional means (i.e. cheating). Other reasons for disassembly include regreasing—a favourite of cubers everywhere is a product called Vaseline, otherwise known as petroleum jelly. For some speed cubers, another product is Silicone Grease. Adding a good grease makes the cube more fluid in operation (so you can turn the faces with greater ease) and is often the first item in setting up for speed-cubing (doing the cube really really fast). Cubes can’t be done disassembled of course, so put it back together—carefully now. The Rubik’s cube site has reassembly diagrams for the three most common cube formats, though not for the Professor’s Cube. Anyhow, when you’ve finished, it’s supposed to look like this. All done A good cube will have a good smooth motion, not too tight or too loose. It shouldn’t be too easy to disassemble either, as the cube deteriorates the more often you have to disassemble it. These elements become more important the larger the cube, and the more you look after it, the longer it should last you before needing inevitable replacement. So far, I’ve found a marked difference between the real McCoy and other imitation products, so don’t go to the two dollar shop if you expect the cube to last longer than two minutes.

But wait, there’s more!

I first found out about the Rubik’s big brother “Rubik’s Revenge” in the late ’eighties, and have wanted a version since then. That’s a long time to want something without getting it. But hey, it happens. A few days ago, I found such a beast again, and decided to buy it, as the price was reasonable for New Zealand (only $30.00), and zoombuggy was okay with it.
  56 cubes of colourThis big brother has 7.4x10^45 combinations. Too large a number for me to even guess at pronouncing. I paid for it, brought it home, and found that the Rubik company had included a “Hints & Solutions” book with the cube in two parts. One part had the different instructions, each of them with a number that you used to look up the diagram in the other booklet that had all the pictures in it. Needless to say, I found it strange. I decided to go to the related website and grab their downloadable booklets to take a look at them; went there, spent about an hour actually finding the downloads, and snaffled copies of the other booklets too. This is where it gets interesting, because when I opened the downloaded booklet in my browser, it included the diagrams inline with the text as you’d normally expect. Only one ... quibble. The arrows pointing up, down, left, right, and around in 180 degrees, had been replaced with white numbers in black circles. Yay, not. Thankfully when I opened up the booklet for the original 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube, it had arrows, and the diagrams were all in the right place. Strange, that.

It’s got how many cubes?

Anyhow, I aim to buy (when I can afford them) both the Mini—Cube (2x2x2) (which I’ve since purchased) and the Revenges’ even bigger brother, the “Professor’s Cube” (shown at the back in the last picture below).The whole official family That cube has 2.8x10^74 combinations. I've even seen it advertised at Amazon.com for only about US$26.00 or so, so it is at least able to be bought. That way, I’ll have the majority of the cube family, at least as put out by the Rubik company. I think I can safely skip the “cube on a keychain”, as it’s too flimsy to operate for long periods. Other varieties that I have already, include the Sudoku cube (a standard 3x3x3 cube that uses a different sudoku puzzle on each face), and “Square 1” (both pointed to by wikipedia). Grateful thanks go to the editors of the related wikipedia articles for their excellent pictures.

06 June, 2007

Knuth, that's kuh-nooth.

\begin {article} And if you don't know who Donald Knuth is, just google for him and you'll see how important people think he is. His main passion of life is mathematics, but he also happens to be one of the more important names of computer science. His seminal (if I can use that term loosely) works include the five-part work The Art of Computer Programming, the TeXbook, Concrete Mathematics, and Selected Papers of Discrete Mathematics. There are of course a lot of other books that he has either produced, or at least had a rather large hand in producing. The Art of Computer Programming hasn't been completed yet, as only three volumes have been released so far, with two more volumes to be produced before he re-revises and releases his fourth edition of same. When viewing him in his video presentations (these are available from Stanford, and are linked to from his home page), I feel that he appears diffident, and rather unsure of himself. He quite often seems to be discovering the subject along with his students, though this turns out not to be the case, that he actually is viewing the subject from what commonly appears to be a completely different perspective—one not reached by most of his students. But the moments when his students and himself "get it" can seem almost like an epiphany. And for a mathematician, that's pretty heady stuff. I've also noticed that he also seems to jump around whatever subject he is covering, and seems to want to say a hundred things all at once. However, in contrast his writing appears confident, concise, and of course, accurate. You can hardly be otherwise when you're as famous a mathematician as he seems to be. Or is it Computer Scientist? I'm never quite sure. Any good scientist has hobbies, and he is no different—he owns his own small organ. Yes, it's a real organ. That's also covered in his home page, with its own special section describing it. I'm sure that's not his only hobby, as I've seen web pages devoted to diamond signs (imagine a square turned through 45 degrees, and something in the sign, and you have it), travel, and many other items I can't remember. So, go take a look. \end.

Linux for Suits - Beyond Blogging's Black Holes | Linux Journal (July 2007)

I'm rather sorry I have to point to just the abstract for this article from the well-established Linux Journal, but I can't point to the article directly: you can't view it unless you're already a Linux Journal subscriber. And even if you're a subscriber, it can take a bit of gymnastics to get to the actual article. I've already emailed them about that. Anyhow, do become a subscriber, it's a pretty good idea, in my opinion. Anyhow, Linux for Suits - Beyond Blogging's Black Holes | Linux Journal (July 2007) describes what happened to Doc Searls recently, due to what appears to be some narrow-minded or just plain stupid antics, and reactions to same. As a result, he states:
The old 'sphere ain't the same. And, the problem isn't just incivility and flamage. As old hands know, that's been around for the duration and will never go away. The problem is blogging itself. Somehow it's becoming more like TV and less like what made it great to begin with.
That's all I'm going to excerpt, so I can hopefully stay within "Fair Use". Thank goodness I'm only a small one-man blogging station with not a lot to say... hopefully nobody will abuse me in the comments merely for mentioning LJ or Doc Searls.