Category Archives: modern life

AIpocalypse

Murder by Robot in R.U.R. (Image from Wikipedia.)The robot that runs amok and turns on its maker has been a staple of fiction and film for at least a century. The plotline goes back to Karel Kapek’s 1921 play R.U.R., … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life | 7 Comments

Traffic Jams in Javascript

Building bigger roads can make traffic worse. The usual explanation for this counter­intuitive and counterproductive outcome is that bigger roads attract bigger shopping malls, which in turn attract more cars. But that’s not the whole story. In the 1960s Dietrich … Continue reading

Posted in computing, featured, mathematics, modern life | 12 Comments

A taxing algorithm

My first encounter with the term algorithm did not come from Don Knuth. I learned it from the Internal Revenue Service. Sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s the IRS introduced a redesigned Form 1040 based on a principle … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life | 12 Comments

A Glitch in the Maptrix

We must always be on the lookout for glitches in the Matrix—anomalies that give us a fleeting glimpse into the algorithms and data structures of the computer simulation that we call Reality. But there’s also the Maptrix, the alternative reality … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life, photography | 9 Comments

The rhodometer

Years ago I lived in a house with a rhododendron outside the kitchen window, which served as our family thermometer on winter mornings. If the leaves were tightly rolled, you bundled up in gloves and scarf and ski cap; if … Continue reading

Posted in modern life, science | 2 Comments