Thursday, June 14, 2018

The travelling salesman problem—finding the shortest itinerary to visit each of a number of cities—is a classic of combinatorial optimisation. Finding optimal solutions by brute force is effectively impossible: there are more than 1032 possible paths to visit thirty cities, and if you could test a billion paths a second, it would take 600,000 times the age of the universe to compare them all and choose the shortest. If you don't require an absolutely optimal solution, but rather one that's within a few percent of the best possible, there are a number of optimisation techniques which will get the...

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Suarez, Daniel. Influx. New York: Signet, [2014] 2015. ISBN 978-0-451-46944-1. Doesn't it sometimes seem that, sometime in the 1960s, the broad march of technology just stopped? Certainly, there has been breathtaking progress in some fields, particularly computation and data communication, but what about clean, abundant fusion power too cheap to meter, opening up the solar system to settlement, prevention and/or effective treatment of all kinds of cancer, anti-aging therapy, artificial general intelligence, anthropomorphic robotics, and the many other wonders we expected to be commonplace by the year 2000? Decades later, Jon Grady was toiling in his obscure laboratory to make...

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Mills, Kyle. Enemy of the State. New York: Atria Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4767-8351-2. This is the third novel in the Mitch Rapp saga written by Kyle Mills, who took over the franchise after the death of Vince Flynn, its creator. It is the sixteenth novel in the Mitch Rapp series (Flynn's first novel, Term Limits [November 2009], is set in the same world and shares characters with the Mitch Rapp series, but Rapp does not appear in it, so it isn't considered a Rapp novel), Mills continues to develop the Rapp story in new directions, while maintaining the action-packed and detail-rich...

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Oliver, Bernard M., John Billingham, et al. Project Cyclops. Stanford, CA: Stanford/NASA Ames Research Center, 1971. NASA-CR-114445 N73-18822. There are few questions in science as simple to state and profound in their implications as “are we alone?”—are humans the only species with a technological civilisation in the galaxy, or in the universe? This has been a matter of speculation by philosophers, theologians, authors of fiction, and innumerable people gazing at the stars since antiquity, but it was only in the years after World War II, which had seen the development of high-power microwave transmitters and low-noise receivers for radar,...

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

I have added the following document to the Software section of the Univac Document Archive. UNIVAC 1106/1108 Assembler Programmer's Reference This is a PDF of a scanned paper document in my collection. This document was published in 1969 (two earlier editions date from 1966 and 1967). This describes the “classic” assembler, which was derived from the SLEUTH II assembler for the Univac 1107. As of the publication of this manual, the assembler supported only FIELDATA character code and six bit characters; it would later be extended to support ASCII code and nine bit (quarter word) character representation. In the 1970s,...

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Schantz, Hans G. A Rambling Wreck. Huntsville, AL: ÆtherCzar, 2017. ISBN 978-1-5482-0142-5. This the second novel in the author's Hidden Truth series. In the first book (December 2017) we met high schoolers and best friends Pete Burdell and Amit Patel who found, in dusty library books, knowledge apparently discovered by the pioneers of classical electromagnetism (many of whom died young), but which does not figure in modern works, even purported republications of the original sources they had consulted. As they try to sort through the discrepancies, make sense of what they've found, and scour sources looking for other apparently suppressed information,...

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mercer, Ilana. Into the Cannibal's Pot. Mount Vernon, WA, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9849070-1-4. The author was born in South Africa, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Benzion Isaacson, a leader among the Jewish community in the struggle against apartheid. Due to her father's activism, the family, forced to leave the country, emigrated to Israel, where the author grew up. In the 1980s, she moved back to South Africa, where she married, had a daughter, and completed her university education. In 1995, following the first elections with universal adult suffrage which resulted in the African National Congress (ANC) taking power, she and her...

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Brown, Dan. Origin. New York: Doubleday, 2017. ISBN 978-0-385-51423-1. Ever since the breakthrough success of Angels & Demons, his first mystery/thriller novel featuring Harvard professor and master of symbology Robert Langdon, Dan Brown has found a formula which turns arcane and esoteric knowledge, exotic and picturesque settings, villains with grandiose ambitions, and plucky female characters into bestsellers, two of which, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, have been adapted into Hollywood movies. This is the fifth novel in the Robert Langdon series. After reading the fourth, Inferno (May 2013), it struck me that Brown's novels have become so formulaic...

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Second World Wars. New York: Basic Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0-465-06698-8. This may be the best single-volume history of World War II ever written. While it does not get into the low-level details of the war or its individual battles (don't expect to see maps with boxes, front lines, and arrows), it provides an encyclopedic view of the first truly global conflict with a novel and stunning insight every few pages. Nothing like World War II had ever happened before and, thankfully, has not happened since. While earlier wars may have seemed to those involved in them...

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thor, Brad. Use of Force. New York: Atria Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4767-8939-2. This is the seventeenth novel in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). As this book begins, Scot Harvath, operative for the Carlton Group, a private outfit that does “the jobs the CIA won't do” is under cover at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. He and his team are tracking a terrorist thought to be conducting advance surveillance for attacks within the U.S. Only as the operation unfolds does he realise he's walked into the middle...

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Skousen, W. Cleon. The Naked Communist. Salt Lake City: Izzard Ink, [1958, 1964, 1966, 1979, 1986, 2007, 2014] 2017. ISBN 978-1-5454-0215-3. In 1935 the author joined the FBI in a clerical position while attending law school at night. In 1940, after receiving his law degree, he was promoted to Special Agent and continued in that capacity for the rest of his 16 year career at the Bureau. During the postwar years, one of the FBI's top priorities was investigating and responding to communist infiltration and subversion of the United States, a high priority of the Soviet Union. During his time...

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Kroese, Robert. Schrödinger's Gat. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4903-1821-9. It was pure coincidence (or was it?) that caused me to pick up this book immediately after finishing Dean Radin's Real Magic (May 2018), but it is a perfect fictional companion to that work. Robert Kroese, whose Starship Grifters (February 2018) is the funniest science fiction novel I've read in the last several years, here delivers a tour de force grounded in quantum theory, multiple worlds, free will, the nature of consciousness, determinism versus uncertainty, the nature of genius, and the madness which can result from thinking too long and deeply about these...

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Radin, Dean. Real Magic. New York: Harmony Books, 2018. ISBN 978-1-5247-5882-0. From its beginnings in the 19th century as “psychical research”, there has always been something dodgy and disreputable about parapsychology: the scientific study of phenomena, frequently reported across all human cultures and history, such as clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, communication with the dead or non-material beings, and psychokinesis (mental influence on physical processes). All of these disparate phenomena have in common that there is no known physical theory which can explain how they might work. In the 19th century, science was much more willing to proceed from observations and evidence,...

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

With release 3.0 on April 17, 2018, Earth and Moon Viewer was extended to become Solar System Explorer, adding imagery of Mercury, Venus, Mars and its moons, Pluto and its moon Charon, and the asteroids Ceres and Vesta. I have now added a database of Named Features on Solar System Bodies, using official nomenclature adopted by the International Astronomical Union's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. Features are listed by category (craters, ridges, plains, valleys, etc.) with their latitude, longitude, and diameter (where applicable). Each is a clickable link which displays the feature at the centre of a view 1000...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

With the release of version 3.0, now in production, Earth and Moon Viewer, originally launched on the Web in 1994 as Earth Viewer, now becomes “Earth and Moon Viewer and Solar System Explorer”. In addition to viewing the Earth and its Moon using a variety of image databases, you can now also explore high-resolution imagery of Mercury, Venus, Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos, the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, and Pluto and its moon Charon. For some bodies multiple image databases are available including spacecraft imagery and topography based upon elevation measurements. You can choose any of the available...

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