Joel Sutherland

Top Reads: October 6, 2010

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An incomplete, unordered list of the best things online, pulled from my instapaper history:

Roald Dahl's darkest hour

This is an amazing story from Roald Dahl's life. He was the other of many famous children's books: The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc. It turns out that he led a super fascinating life. He was a WWII fighter pilot, British Spy, married an Oscar winning actress, invented a medical valve and was an art dealer. This story was taken from one of the worst periods his life and convinced me to buy the book it is from.

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

What is the biggest specific number you can name? It turns out this is a very complicated question whose answer lies at the heart of computer science. This article does a great job explaining this complex subject in a very simple way. I enjoyed how it connected many of the ideas I learned in school.

The DirectDraw Hack

This is a writeup of a development project that allows an older computer game to run on modern versions of Windows. It gives a high level history of some of the changes that games have undergone and also explains how some cool hacks work.

Humans are not automatically strategic

Why will a randomly chosen eight-year-old fail a calculus test? Because most possible answers are wrong, and there is no force to guide him to the correct answers. (There is no need to postulate a “fear of success”; most ways writing or not writing on a calculus test constitute failure, and so people, and rocks, fail calculus tests by default.)

Why do most of us, most of the time, choose to "pursue our goals" through routes that are far less effective than the routes we could find if we tried?[1] My guess is that here, as with the calculus test, the main problem is that most courses of action are extremely ineffective, and that there has been no strong evolutionary or cultural force sufficient to focus us on the very narrow behavior patterns that would actually be effective.