October 2014 archive
I sometimes inspect details in films and TV shows. I paused a DVD when I saw the lower of the two images (a mailing label on a magazine). The label looked contrived, which made me curious. I took a pic and decoded the barcode to get ZIP code 91352-5194. The final 1 is a check digit, followed by some spurious bars (I don't know why). A web search showed that the ZIP code refers to a printing business in the San Fernando Valley.
From further poking around on the web I learned that the printer in question, Earl Hays Press, supplies newspaper and magazine props to Hollywood.
The other screenshot (from a different DVD) is blurry but the fragment of the barcode that's visible matches the one in the lower image. I imagine Earl Hays Press slips in the postal barcode for their own premises as a way of signing their work: a kind of Easter egg.
Feel free to tell me I have too much time on my hands. From a Russian company's website:
Raketa Watch Factory is looking for the partners in United Kingdom to sale Raketa watches in local shops.Meanwhile, elsewhere on raketa.com, filed under the label zagnivayushchiy zapad (decadent West):
The Petrodvorets Watch Factory "Raketa" has taken the resolution to answer to American and European sanctions against Russia.Question is, did Raketa consider the West (which presumably includes the UK) decadent all along?
Quarrels can be instructive. You find out what irksome qualities you have that your friends have been quietly tolerating. The Go match I mentioned a couple weeks ago is over: Franz-Josef Dickhut beat the program Crazy Stone by three games to one.
In a Q&A session after a recent talk, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said
I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like yeah he's sure he can control the demon. Didn't work out."Should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level"—as if we have already figured out how to make that work.
As a Californian, I am ashamed of the fact that we seem to attract so many crackpots to our state.
If it makes you feel better, go ahead and do it. But be careful. It might be a little odd if it ever came out.
Joan Quigley, astrologer to the Reagans, died this week at 87. During Reagan's presidency, Nancy had Joan on retainer (paid discreetly via a third party). Quigley and both Reagans all lived in California but were born elsewhere. I've had allergies all my life. Overall I have less trouble with allergy here in the desert than I had elsewhere, but it's not Shangri‑la. There's desert and there's desert. The next valley over has even less rainfall and nothing much to induce allergies, but it has no paved roads and no services.
Services. I went to the drugstore today, whose owner I can count as a friend. He asked me how I've been doing, I said I've had allergies (fall is the worst season here, largely courtesy of Ericameria nauseosa), and he recommended a mast cell stabilizer medicine that had recently become available without a prescription. This was unsolicited advice but it was welcome.
The two things I've gotten the most unsolicited suggestions to try are God and Apple products. To state the obvious, I was already familiar with both (as opposed to the allergy medicine my pharmacist recommended; that was news to me).
I liked yesterday's Dinosaur Comics about Apple.
There is an old epigram which assigns the empire of the sea to the English, of the land to the French, and of the clouds to the Germans. Surely it was from the clouds that the Germans fetched + and −; the ideas which these symbols have generated are much too important for the welfare of humanity to have come from the sea or from the land.
It is a safe rule to apply that, when a mathematical or philosophical author writes with a misty profundity, he is talking nonsense.Intel (and AMD) CPUs include math processors that don't just do simple arithmetic but also transcendental functions, e.g. sin, cos, exponential, ... . As they calculate sine and cosine with polynomial approximations, it's nice to know how accurate the methods are. For, like, forever now, Intel has been claiming their trig functions are really accurate. From a 1996 manual: where ulps means units in the last place, i.e. the least significant bit of the mantissa.
You know what's coming next, but wanna guess how bad it is? Hint: an Intel processor's idea of sin(x) can be off by quite a bit.
This is reminiscent of the infamous FDIV bug. It hasn't gotten as much publicity but compiler developers are wise to it and know to calculate sin by other means. Intel doesn't deem this a processor bug, in the sense that they don't fix it. But it kinda sucks that their manuals have been making a wildly false claim of accuracy for two decades now.
How far off does Intel's sin(x) get? For values of x close to π, the error is about one quintillion times the claimed worst case.
But let it not be said that Intel doesn't care. Just this past week, Intel said they'll fix their documentation.
A few missed words in the earlier editions of the "Intel® 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual" that propagated to this day did not help.I love that phrasing: words that weren't there did not help. The US government restricts what communications providers can say about orders they've received for aid in surveillance. Twitter sued the US Department of Justice et al. today, saying that such restrictions are unconstitutional prior restraint of speech.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo!, and LinkedIn had previously filed court motions requesting permission to publish detailed reports. But they all struck a deal where they accepted only modest freedoms to publish (in ranges, e.g. "we received 0-999 orders"). Such rules implicitly forbid the publication of so-called warrant canaries: statements that exactly zero orders have been received, statements whose disappearance would be telling.
Good for Twitter that they didn't settle for that crumb the government threw out. Reading Twitter's complaint spurred me to put up my own warrant canary page, trivial and symbolic though it may be. A metaphorical explanation of a probability question:
The most probable suit distribution in bridge hands is 4-4-3-2, as compared to 4-3-3-3, which is the most evenly distributed. This is because the world likes to have unequal numbers: a thermodynamic effect saying things will not be in the state of lowest energy, but in the state of lowest disordered energy.1Where "suit distribution" is "hand pattern" as described in (where else?) Wikipedia.
The prevalence of 4-4-3-2 over 4-3-3-3 reflects that there are twelve permutations of 4-4-3-2 and only four permutations of 4-3-3-3. If the parallel to thermodynamics isn't evident, I don't know if I can explain. I think I get what the above quote was trying to say but I'm having a hard time putting it into words. I could say variety is the spice of life but I don't know if that helps much.
The most likely suit distribution in ten-card2 hands is 4-3-2-1, which probably would've thrilled the Pythagoreans to no end.
Computer Go programs have improved considerably in the past few years. They still don't beat the best human players but they're getting closer. The progress has come from algorithms quite unlike those used in computer chess.
Whereas chess programs consider how the game stands after a handful of carefully-chosen moves by each player, the best computer Go programs play out lots of hypothetical continuations to the bitter end but with most of the moves chosen at random. If you're surprised that this works, you're not alone. As one of the designers of Deep Blue (the chess program that beat Garri Kasparov in 1997) put it, "I still find it kind of magical that it [random play] works as well as it does."
A match between the top Go program and a strong human player started today. The program won the first game by a slim margin. The programmer and the human contender are interviewed here.
The best Hex program at the moment also relies on random play.