Hard-to-describe numbers

who thought that one number could be so powerful?

consider a number so rare that most of math’s difficult enigmas can be solved simply by reciting the number. this number might be represented somewhere in the universe, but even if a person stumbled upon it, they would not be able to identify it. have i successfully made this number sound like an incantation from some numerology text?

well, charley bennett wrote a proof of this number’s existence in his 1979 paper “on random and hard-to-describe numbers” (requires acrobat). the paper is a dense read, even for those versed in computability theory, but if you get stuck, you can skip to the end, where you’ll find gems like this one:

“to know it in detail, one would have to accept its uncomputable digit sequence on faith like words of a sacred text. it embodies an enormous amount of wisdom in a very small space, inasmuch as its first few thousand digits, which could be written on a small piece of paper, contain the answers to more mathematical questions than could be written down in the entire universe…”

Gondry is God

michel gondry has been getting quite a bit of attention for his recent lego-riffic white stripes video (after similar attention for videos such as daft punk’s ‘around the world’, just about every bjork video ever, and one of my personal favorites, ‘sugar water’ by cibo matto).

he has an upcoming feature-length movie, human nature which features a pretty surprising cast including tim robbins and patricia arquette. the previews place it somewhere between the animal and clockwork orange. given his infallible mtv history, it’s guaranteed to be at least visually gratifying.

Style classification in text

researchers in italy have created a system which can automatically classify texts by their style, with hopes of clearing up debates over attribution for old texts (e.g. francis bacon as william shakespeare).

it’s also a pretty daunting proposition for people in the plagiarism business, such as stephen ambrose. his fans recently rallied around him, blurting support along the line of “so what if he plagiarized? everyone plagiarizes to some extent!” my gut instinct says that some people plagiarize more than others, and with any luck we’ll be able to prove this statement in the near future.

Weblogs and multimedia

working on my top ten list yesterday, i came to the conclusion that while the semantics of online documents are well formed and pretty unambiguous, offline media is a big mess.

weblogs provide the ability for people to discuss content on their own terms, and services such as allmusic, amazon, cdnow, imdb allow them to contextualize their discussion. by linking to cdnow, i allow people who read about music on my site the ability hear samples of that music. by linking to amazon, a reader is connected to a set of expert knowledge, and connections to topically similar media.

each of these services provides a different set of features, each with their unique branding. my biggest wish at the moment is for a standard, but there doesn’t appear to be any convergence happening in the near future. while i’m in a list making frenzy, i thought i would outline the qualities that would make the ultimate media resource:

  1. online samples: cdnow pioneered this technique for bringing offline content online without infringing on copyrights. now amazon also offers sample pages from books.
  2. expert commentary: where would we be without critics? imdb aggregates expert commentary by linking to external resources, while allmusic, amazon, and cdnow all maintain their own “experts.”
  3. user commentary: bringing people together around content (and purchasing it) has been a major cause for the success of amazon. with other competitors offering similar prices, the only service that e-tailers like amazon have is the community and meta-information they have collected around their products.
  4. multi-media: the ultimate media resource should exist regardless of the media type: movies, books, music, magazines, etc.
  5. relational information: every time i go to allmusic, i spend at least 10 minutes off on some tangent as a result of their fine system of interconnections. the collaborative filtering at amazon has a similar effect (“those who purchased this book also purchased..”), but often misses some of the obscurata that allmusic is famous for connecting. even the simple social network provided by imdb is enough to navigate through the world of movies.

however, until someone invents this resource, i’ll have to continue my schizophrenic linking behavior. allmusic for music, cdnow for music samples, amazon for commentary, imdb for movies, …

current resources:
all music,
internet movie database,
library of congress

Joining the ranks (finally)

so i’ve finally given in. after being an outsider for so long, i’ve finally decided to become part of the intellectual melting pot. after watching countless memes wax and wane, i’m discontent not being part of the system. plus, now that my domain of study is, well, weblogs, i can write this off as research.

i’ve been carrying my top ten lists around in my head for nearly a month now, so i’ll use this first post as an excuse to get them into a more stabile medium:

top ten music selections of 2001

  1. all (wolfgang voigt)- alltag 1-4 (kompakt)
  2. rhythm & soundrhythm & sound (Rhythm & Sound)
  3. freescha – kids hit the floor (attack nine)
  4. the strokesis this it (Rough Trade)
  5. the neptunes/N*E*R*D – in search of (Virgin)
  6. american analog setknow by heart (tiger style)
  7. preston school of industryall this sounds gas (matador)
  8. the pernice brothersworld won’t end (ashmont)
  9. pub – do you ever regret pantomime (ampoule)
  10. richie hawtin – de9 closer to the edit (minus)

top ten movie selections of 2001

  1. amelie
  2. in the mood for love
  3. royal tenenbaums
  4. snatch
  5. waking life
  6. ghost world
  7. monster’s inc.
  8. memento
  9. traffic
  10. zoolander (i’m not kidding)