A Light-Nanosecond

Thursday, November 18, 2010

John Cook takes an entertaining look at three rules of thumb. Call them "nanocentury," "light-nanosecond," and "the one seventy-secondth rule of investing."

My favorite of these was the light-nanosecond, because it came with the above video of one of my favorite figures from computer science, Grace Hopper, explaining it to David Letterman.

-- CAV


: Minor edit.


Vigilis said...

Now, it is mine, too, Gus -- excellent!

Gus Van Horn said...

BTW, Grace Hopper either invented or popularized the term "bug" as it pertains to computers.

Lynne said...

I love her! I've never seen this - thanks for posting it.

Gus Van Horn said...

Me, too. I first heard of her when I took a quiz called something like, "Which mathematician are you?" I was her, and learned about her that way.

narayan said...

I'm a fan of Grace Hopper, too. I'm not exactly fond of "women only" conferences in computing but the largest women in computing conference was created in her memory. Not a bad role model to emulate

Gus Van Horn said...


You prompted me to google "Grace Hopper feminism." Among the first results was the source of the following quote:

"My male colleagues laughed a good laugh with me. Then one gentleman, let's just call him Mr. Jones, said rather matter-of-factly, 'I have never thought of you as a woman!' I laughed and replied, 'That is one of the best compliments I have ever received in my professional life!'


"What played out in that room that day demonstrates, in my opinion, an ultimate requirement one must have in order to be part of a group: camaraderie! If we women can appreciate how important camaraderie is when working with men -- and our part in fostering it -- the good old boys' network becomes a lot less exclusive and less of a barrier."

The first couple of comments answered my next question, which was, "How would that play among feminists?" It was somewhat as I guessed: One assumed the worst on the part of both the male colleague and Grace Hopper. The other pointed to an interesting blog post on "honorary guys", which I am guessing is a modern phenomenon quite unlike how Hopper gained acceptance.

My take was that Hopper showed a good sense of how to work with men, not to mention a high enough degree of self-esteem not to be offended by what I think was clearly meant as a compliment in the context and in the times.

In any event, between her comment and how it was received, I do wonder whether Hopper would be a fan of women-only conferences, either.


John Cook said...

The Grace Hopper interview is a hoot.

Gus Van Horn said...


It certainly is!

Let me add that a linguist friend of mine from my Rice University days introduced me to your blog. It's a good change of pace from my usual blogging beat, and since I am in biotech (and was a math major way back), I enjoy the subject matter.

Thanks for your blogging, and for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

She became friends with journalist Henry Hazlitt and his wife, and Hazlitt introduced her to the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises. Despite her philosophical differences with them, Rand strongly endorsed the writings of both men throughout her career, and both of them expressed admiration for her. Once von Mises referred to Rand as "the most courageous man in America", a compliment that particularly pleased her because he said 'man' instead of 'woman'


I don't know the entire context of this but do you think that similar mindsets are at play here?

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

Good question. I think you're right, and my sense here is that there is a masculine metaphor for camaraderie being used here.