March 23, 2007

Oh it's so late. So so late. Whilst rebuilding my RSS feeds on the new computer, I stumbled on the XKCD website again. And on this cartoon:

Then I stumbled on the XKCD blog that I hadn't noticed before. And I started reading the comments people had written about the large numbers joke in the above comic. Eventually I came to this article on big numbers. It's pretty long, heavy in places, and wonderfully written.

It essentially asks the following question: How big a number can you write in 15 seconds using standard maths? If you have any vague interest at all about the vastness of the universe compared with the vastness of the human imagination, I thoroughly recommend you set aside an hour or so and read the article. It's almost all the interesting bits of a computer science degree wrapped up into a comical story. Yes, it's long, but nothing like as long as the computer science degree you'd have to suffer through to understand any of this stuff otherwise.

If you can get to the end of the article having understood the essence (not necessarily all the detail) of what is written, your perception of the world will have been changed.


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  1. Ciz says:
    March 24, 2007 @ 03:29 — Reply

    There's a really interesting chapter in Douglas "He's a Strange Loop" Hofstadter's book Metamagical Themas called Number Numbness that explores this, definitely worth a read - so is the rest of the book.

  2. Tenacious P says:
    March 26, 2007 @ 16:02 — Reply

    Freakin' mental, but tell me again how the Ackermann sequence can be used to circumvent traffic lights and get me to work quicker?

  3. Ciz says:
    March 26, 2007 @ 17:47 — Reply

    The traffic lights realise they're Godel Incomplete then explode into a cloud of broken logic. Or you can get on of those fob things they advertise on cable TV that transmit the ambulance code. Either or.

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