Friday Four

Friday, January 25, 2013

1. In case you were wondering how to cite a tweet, the MLA has you covered.

2. One researcher has concluded that the way trees transport sugar limits their height to about 100 meters.

[Kaare] Jensen's equations describing the relationship show that as trees get taller, unusually large or small leaves both cease to be viable (Physical Review Letters, The range of leaf sizes narrows and at around 100 m tall, the upper limit matches the lower limit. Above that, it seems, trees can't build a viable leaf. Which could explain why California's tallest redwoods max out at 115.6 m.
3. Courtesy of John Cook, I now have a new mental nickname for my cell phone: "bridge-playing imbecile". He quotes the following from Data and Reality:
The thing that makes computers so hard to deal with is not their complexity, but their utter simplicity. … The real mystique behind computers is how anybody can manage to get such elaborate behavior out of such a limited set of basic capabilities. The art of computer programming is somewhat like the art of getting an imbecile to play bridge or to fill out his tax return by himself. It can be done, provided you know how to exploit the imbecile's limited talents, and are willing to have enormous patience with his inability to make the the most trivial common sense deductions on his own. [Cook's emphasis]
I am no hacker, but I like to keep in mind how troublesome computers are and how useless they used to be as a means of appreciating how better-than-magical such technological marvels are.

4. John Steinbeck recounts the book publishing gauntlet and describes the process as the book being "kicked and slashed and gouged", with "its bloodied father stand[ing] attorney." He then constructs a composite reader from his editors' suggestions. This part of the description sounded to me like a leftist caricature of George W. Bush: "part moron, part genius, part ogre".

-- CAV

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