Archive for computer

the calculating stars [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2021 by xi'an

This fist sounded like an interesting attempt at alternate history, when a massive meteor strike obliterating the Washington DC region in 1952 forced the World to change shift towards space exploration and the eventual evacuation of Earth. The story is told from a computer (or computress) viewpoint, who is a wunderkid, a mathematician, a physicist, a war (WASP) pilot, and more, with a strong will and an independent mind, hoping to become a female astronaut. If the setting reminds you of Hidden figures, a (great) movie about the true story of NASA black female mathematicians, it is no surprise and I wonder how much inspiration the author got from these historical facts, if not from the 2016 book itself. Despite receiving many awards, like the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards!, The Calculating Stars is somewhat of a disappointment to me, because of the highly single-minded perspective,  where everything (related to solving the forecast extinction) seems to happen with a small group of people, because of the confusion between a mathematician and someone who can do complex arithmetics by head, to the near-perfection of the central character, who can also hotwire a car, because of the anachronisms, incl. the prescience that the asteroid crash was going to cause a deadly rise of temperatures when the dinosaur extinction was not yet linked with a similar event, because of a rosy depiction of the World uniting towards racing against the Great Extinction, and, cherry on the pie, because French sentences found throughout the book mostly make no sense as literal translations of English sentences!

“Elle va le faire mais Dieu sait ce qu’elle va parler.” [She’s going to do it but God knows what she’s going to say.]

“Il est l’ordre naturel je pense (…) Il n’y a rien de naturel.” [It’s the natural order of things I think (…) Nothing is natural.]

“Ce ne fut pas une explosion ou nous aurions senti.” [It wasn’t a blast or else we would have felt.]

the end of travel?

Posted in Books, Linux, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by xi'an

First came the bad news that travelling [by plane] with any electronic device larger than a small cell phone would be prohibited unless the device was checked in. I first thought this was a sort of weird protectionism for American airlines, since only Middle-East carriers seem to be impacted at the moment, but there are serious hints this could soon be extended to all flights to the USA. And to the UK. And likely to about every flight in a near future. That is fairly annoying and more, not only because it hugely reduces the ability to work on a plane [unless carrying paper printouts of every paper one wanted to read or review during a long flight, until this is as well considered as a fire hazard!], but mostly because quite likely these electronic devices in checked-in bags will be damaged or stolen. So the only convenient [least inconvenient] solution may be to stop travelling with laptops and operate on remote or cheap disposable machines from whenever one is. Since I presume even the smallest PCs like Raspberry Pi’s will be banned at some point. The only good news are for computer companies. And book sellers maybe.On top of this, I learned that the UK has [again!] copied the US in requiring visitors and even its own citizens to open devices to Border or Customs officers. And to disclose social media identities and associated passwords. A British Human Rights activist was recently arrested at London Heathrow for refusing to do so. And I read today that divulging those media IDs are now optional on the visa waiver program and possibly soon to be compulsory. Which sounds insane as a way to fight terrorism as it is obvious to set parallel accounts. And yet another travel nuisance.

At some point in the past, I had mused that we would soon be forced to travel with no personal item, maybe not even our own clothes, but a uniform provided by the airline. With luggages on a drone plane following by a safe margin. The invasion of privacy now contemplated and soon implemented by states that do not any longer seem concerned with Human Right goes way beyond this fantasy scenario. If travelling between countries means a massive reduction of one’s rights and dignity [which is already quite reduced under the current conditions], travelling may soon become a rare occurrence…

new reproducibility initiative in TOMACS

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2016 by xi'an

[A quite significant announcement last October from TOMACS that I had missed:]

To improve the reproducibility of modeling and simulation research, TOMACS  is pursuing two strategies.

Number one: authors are encouraged to include sufficient information about the core steps of the scientific process leading to the presented research results and to make as many of these steps as transparent as possible, e.g., data, model, experiment settings, incl. methods and configurations, and/or software. Associate editors and reviewers will be asked to assess the paper also with respect to this information. Thus, although not required, submitted manuscripts which provide clear information on how to generate reproducible results, whenever possible, will be considered favorably in the decision process by reviewers and the editors.

Number two: we will form a new replicating computational results activity in modeling and simulation as part of the peer reviewing process (adopting the procedure RCR of ACM TOMS). Authors who are interested in taking part in the RCR activity should announce this in the cover letter. The associate editor and editor in chief will assign a RCR reviewer for this submission. This reviewer will contact the authors and will work together with the authors to replicate the research results presented. Accepted papers that successfully undergo this procedure will be advertised at the TOMACS web page and will be marked with an ACM reproducibility brand. The RCR activity will take place in parallel to the usual reviewing process. The reviewer will write a short report which will be published alongside the original publication. TOMACS also plans to publish short reports about lessons learned from non-successful RCR activities.

[And now the first paper reviewed according to this protocol has been accepted:]

The paper Automatic Moment-Closure Approximation of Spatially Distributed Collective Adaptive Systems is the first paper that took part in the new replicating computational results (RCR) activity of TOMACS. The paper completed successfully the additional reviewing as documented in its RCR report. This reviewing is aimed at ensuring that computational results presented in the paper are replicable. Digital artifacts like software, mechanized proofs, data sets, test suites, or models, are evaluated referring to ease of use, consistency, completeness, and being well documented.

fast-forward bug

Posted in pictures with tags , , , on February 11, 2014 by xi'an


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