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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

Digging through old bookmarks by CJ Q. '23

time for some blasts from the past

While I’m working on a longer post, I wanted to write a quick post and share some of the old bookmarks I was digging through today. It’s a window into the kinds of things I was interested in three to five years ago, so read into it as you will.

Hopefully you’ll find something interesting to look at. I tried to pick things that are all relatively short. Let me know if you found something interesting.

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus. Supposedly one of the most reprinted newspaper editorials.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Believe It, Then Don’t: Toward a Pedagogy of Discomfort. This is one of the things I still think about when I teach about proof.

I don’t know which is stranger: the way mathematicians often embrace ideas that at first glance (and later glances!) seem nonsensical, or the way mathematicians often hold obvious truths at arm’s length, scrutinizing them with a skeptical eye and asking “How do we really know it’s true?”

How mathematics should be taught to non-mathematicians. And this is also one of the things I think about when I think about teaching mathematics.

What are the chances that at some point in the last five years somebody in the UK dreamt that a loved one had died, only for that loved one to die unexpectedly the very next day?

Message to 12,000 A.D. I see references to this come up again and again in wildly different places, and I sometimes wonder how people first heard about it. I don’t remember.

This place is not a place of honor.
No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here.
Nothing valued is here.
This place is a message and part of a system of messages.
Pay attention to it!
Sending this message was important to us.
We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

dear frosh: here are the things we want you to know. One of the first posts I’ve read on the blogs, and to now, still one of my favorites.

Say yes to things.

It’s okay to say no to things too.

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education. I think after reading this, I saw selection bias more frequently in other contexts.

As can be seen, there is a strong negative relationship between participation rate and average SAT score. Generally, the higher the percentage of students taking the test in a given state, the lower the average score. Why?

Flag Stories. One of the things that got me into vexillology.

Sure, there are a lot of books and websites covering the different aspects of flags like history, demography and culture, through heavy text, but we wanted to add new aspects to this field by only looking at the graphics and telling the story visually. So we started this Flag Stories project to discover the hidden stories behind the graphics.

Gnod. I first heard about Gnod from Gnoosic and the Music-Map, but they apply AI for things other than music. This is how I listened to new bands before Spotify.

Gnod is a self-adapting system that learns about the outer world by asking its visitors what they like and what they don’t like. In this instance of Gnod all is about music. Gnod is kind of a search engine for music you don’t know about. It will ask you what music you like and then think about what you might like too. When I set Gnod online its database was completely empty. Now it contains hundreds of thousands of bands and quite some knowledge about who likes what. And Gnod learns more every day. Enjoy!

I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

Player 2. Of all the uses of Twine I’ve seen, this one stands out as being one of the more memorable ones.

Second, this is a two-player game. However… the second player won’t be playing with you. They’ll be in your mind as you play.

Programming languages personified. An amusing comic comparing programming languages.

Reminder: Design is still about words. A short article about web design and words.
G103. A hilarious short film showing a “surreal day in the life of a mathematics undergraduate”, from the University of Warwick. I first read about it in the MathFiction list, and it’s so good I want more people to see it. It’s surprisingly similar to my experience here at MIT.