ezyang’s blog

the arc of software bends towards understanding


Transcript of “Inventing on Principle”

Here is a full transcript to Github of Bret Victor's "Inventing on Principle". It was transcribed by me, An Yu and Tal Benisty. Below is a copy of the transcript which I will endeavor to keep up to date with the Github copy. The original content was licensed under CC-BY. [[0:07]] So, unlike the previous […]

  • February 20, 2012

Mystery Hunt and the Scientific Endeavour

It can be hard to understand the appeal of spending three days, without sleep, solving what some have called “the hardest recreational puzzles in the world,”; but over this weekend, hundreds of people converged on the MIT campus to do just that, as part of MIT Mystery Hunt. To celebrate the finding of the coin, […]

  • January 16, 2012

What Philosophy of Science Can Say for Software Engineers

I spent part of my year in Cambridge reading the History and Philosophy of Science course. It has been a thrilling and enlightening course, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone lucky enough to take the HPS strand at Cambridge. Of course, I was a bit of an odd one out, since the […]

  • June 6, 2011

How Aristotle got it Wrong
On the importance of conceptual frameworks

One of the persistent myths about Aristotelean physics—the physics that was proposed by the Ancient Greeks and held up until Newton and Galileo came along—is that Aristotle thought that “heavier objects fall more quickly than light objects”, the canonical example being that of a cannon ball and feather. Although some fraction of contemporary human society […]

  • May 6, 2011

The return of Hellenistic reasoning

I recently attended a talk which discussed extending proof assistants with diagrammatic reasoning support , helping to break the hegemony of symbolic systems that is predominant in this field. While the work is certainly novel in some respects, I can't also but help think that we've come back full circle to the Ancient Greeks, who […]

  • March 21, 2011

Ad hoc approximations

In his book Against Method, Paul Feyerabend writes the following provocative passage about ‘ad hoc approximations’, familiar to anyone whose taken a physics course and thought, “Now where did they get that approximation from...” The perihelion of Mercury moves along at a rate of about 5600" per century. Of this value, 5026" are geometric, having […]

  • February 23, 2011