Millions of “Urban legends” are sent every day. How do you recognize
one when it arrives? For example, you get a list of terrible
injustices, each one where a criminal sues the victim (and wins!) for
an injury acquired in the process of committing the crime. We
obviously need tort reform . Or do we? Are we being had? The gold
standard resource for getting at the truth is the snopes web site.
Here is a selection of old open source software links, borrowed from various home pages. For a
unique and entertaining set of views on the open source “movement,”
you can start with a collection of Eric Raymond’s writings on his home page. This includes his The
Cathedral and the Bazaar and follow-on essays, as well as his new
book, perhaps finally finished, The Art of Unix Programming. Raymond authored
The New Hacker’s Dictionary and is a true character. His
writings are required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the
roots, influence and significance of the hacker culture.
The Particle Data Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab provides a
great set of links
on particle physics. You can find excellent introductory articles,
interactive websites with educational games, and the most recent
experimental data. There is also a fine site maintained by Fermilab
that gives plain english
explanations of recent particle theories and experiments performed at
Fermilab. Jatila van der Veen at UCSB has an unusual site with
educational materials she developed for
teaching physics and astronomy.
History of science
Those of you with an interest in the history of scientific and
literary thought and accomplishment will be well rewarded by visiting
the Nobel e-Museum. In addition to
introductory educational resources such as an educational primer on
the structure of matter, this site has biographies, presentation
speeches, and nobel lectures of every honoree since the inception in
What is pseudoscience? How can you recognize it? What scams are out
there? Here is a nice page on pseudoscience that gives a number of
good links. Robert Park has written an interesting book,
Voodoo science: the road from foolishness to fraud,
Oxford Press, 2000, and he recently wrote an article
giving a list of the The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus
Science (original version).
Assembled by philosopher Robert Carroll, the Skeptic’s Dictionary is an informative, well-hyperlinked and
well-researched web document on many topics of contemporary interest.
Anyone with a femtogram of curiosity will find it easy to get
absorbed in the articles.
If you’re in the market for a Linux computer and are willing to pay a
small premium for a good set of components and outstanding service
whenever a problem arises, check out Los Alamos Computers, run by mathematician and computer wizard
Nancy Blachman has made an excellent web tutorial, licensed under Creative Commons, for search and other features
offered by Google. It’s worth spending a couple of hours going
through, and if you want more background and tricks, she has
co-authored How to Do Everything with Google with Fritz
Schneider and Eric Fredricksen.
Great essays and other fun stuff
Paul Graham’s essays. Paul Graham is an
original thinker, and his essays are written with clarity,
simplicity and depth. Always provocative and original, Graham goes
way beyond programming to some of the central issues of social
organization and creativity. And you can buy the dead tree
rendition of some of the best, Hackers and Painters,
O’Reilly Media, 2004.
Joel Spolsky’s blog/essays.
Joel Spolsky has written hundreds of essays since 2000 on software
and many aspects of programming, design and related business. The
essays are always well-written, thought-provoking and fun to
read. To get a feel for his writing style and approach to
programming, see this essay on Making Wrong Code Look Wrong. An
outstanding set is collected in two books, Joel on
Software (2004) and More Joel on Software (2008).
Tales from the Mac development team.
These are anecdotes about some interesting days at Apple, neatly
organized by categories, and recited by Andy Hertzfeld and other
key developers. Some of it reads like Dilbert.
Larry Lessig’s Free Culture. Lessig is one lawyer
you don’t want on the proverbial bus at the bottom of the lake. The
creator of Creative Commons, (a
copyright mechanism for everything), his current ambition is to
change the implementation of copyright law for the digital age. We
wish him success.
History of Burma Shave. A
journey down nostalgia lane for old timers — some of the best
doggerel ever written.
A (true) fable for our time
Ron Avitzur and Greg Robbins tell the story of how the graphing calculator
came to be included with the Mac in 1994. Two engineers, in the face
of gross managerial incompetence, and working in an Apple culture
where defying authority was acceptable, refused to give up their
dreams and did something amazing.