Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment definitions dynamics NOT considered harmful (Score 1) 301

Too stupid for words.

For example, it would mean that Earth was not a planet for its first 500 million years of history, because it orbited among a swarm of debris until that time, and also that if you took Earth today and moved it somewhere else, say out to the asteroid belt, it would cease being a planet.

At that point in time, one's view of the solar system would have been that it was still a hot mess, and that certain distinguished bodies were well on the their way toward becoming planets in due time, after the gravitational wet wipe had done it's thing.

There's nothing wrong, in principle, in using dynamical evolution as a definitional concept, even if, at certain points in time, it's somewhat forward looking.

Maybe it's wrong here, maybe it isn't.

Comment Re:puppy melt (Score 1) 170

YouTube links break, without leaving behind even a title archive (bastards), so "just for the record":

  1. 1) Island of Dr Moreau movie trailer, keyed to the line "on the eighth day" shortly followed by "something impossible ... unmistakably human ... undeniably animal ..."
  2. 2) Ludovico Einaudi Greats Hits 2018 (first impression: Keith Jarrett jams with Enya; almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Beethoven by just the right amount to give Alex an additional fit)
  3. 3) The SimpsonsA Clockwork Orange Parody (Santa's Little Helper)


#2 is a nested joke on "conflating".

#3—in which many doggies come to dodgy ends, Simpsons' style—plays on All Your Usenet are Belong to Wesley Crusher (alt.ensign.wesley.die.die.die), which loops back to my opening TV Tropes Star Trek moment.

But all you geek bloodhounds out there got those obvious propeller-head cultural references, buried like a stinky bone in minor misdirection—despite the minor down draft—right?

(Well, I guess there's the reason why working geek bloodhounds don't actually wear powered propeller beanies. As ever, one tends not to think these things all the way through, off the disgruntled bat.)

Comment puppy melt (Score 1) 170

"I Can't Look!" Gesture

During the infamous transporter room scene of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Chief Rand mutters a horrified "Oh, no, they're forming!" and turns away when the two doomed crew members start to materialize on Enterprise's transporter pad. Everyone else in the room is frozen in stunned horror at what they just witnessed.

Starfleet Transporter Tech: Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long ... Fortunately.

Voice of God internal monologue

(Just for the record, Don LaFontaine always left me writhing in my seat.)

If I were into this kind of thing, I might upload a certain iconic scene from Clockwork Orange with Beethoven's symphony replaced by a gravely Don LaFontaine voice-over narration: in a world ruled by mediocrity, one man dares ...

No, wait, I'm conflating Amadeus with Dr Ludovico Faustus.

Comment the glorious inverse function (Score 1) 72

I'd actually pay good money to have everything in an e-mail easily predicted by this tool re-displayed in a very small font of a very dull grey.

The stuff remaining in black would at least have a hope of a glimmer of reflecting an IQ point bent to task by the document's author.

Conveniently for the counter-pendulum yet to come, the automatic is also the irrelevant.

Bonus: the amount of correctly predicted text can be instrumented behind the scenes by corporate head office to rationalize AI-driven workforce slimdowns.

Comment discursive ode to Feynman filter decapitation (Score 1) 391

For notetaking my preferred spacing after a sentence is CR LF LF.

I can skim familiar material where every non-trivial sentence has its own paragraph to reorient and refresh at about twice the speed of block text.

I tend to write this way, too, with short paragraphs. But then during preview, there's no shape to the text, so I stitch a few sentences together here and there to make some block paragraphs as visual landmarks.


First, a short digression ... I can't stand the Unicode ellipsis character. Space dot space dot space dot space is the worst of all. Space dot dot dot space is tolerable. Then yesterday I came across the perfect solution (visually): space dot thinspace dot thinspace dot thinspace dot space. Perfect! I can die happy now. (But not on Slashdot, ... any...time . . . soon.)

I read the TeX manuals when they first came out, and the rules have nothing to do with integers. Thin space exists for a good reason. If two spaces help the rendering software identify the end of a sentence, that's great. Regardless of how you get there, the space at the end of the sentence should be visually larger than the interword space, though almost certainly not double.


The other factor with Courier 14 is that the line lengths were almost certainly short and reasonable for efficient reading. So many websites make the line lengths too long. The usual quick unit is 2.5 times the width of the lower case alphabet (at most). Many design-centric websites push this up to 3.5 lower case alphabets, which makes tracking from the end of one line to the beginning of the next far more difficult than it needs to be.

Then, just to show off, they figure out some way to write the CSS so that when I use my browser's text zoom feature to enlarge the font relative to the line width, the margins automatically rescale relative to the font size to the same ridiculous text length. It's as if the site designer regards text as a form of ruler putty whose only function is to establish geometric layout ratios. (Rumours that designers are slow on the uptake are greatly exaggerated; that said, all their best times at track and field events are posted in the total absence of nearby reflective surfaces—and a rain delay is any rain that leaves behind a shiny puddle.)


TeX has letters and glue (stretchy white space, of various cardinalities).

TeX revised by a design professional would just have glue: large white glue, and small black glue. In Jordan Peterson's schema, the white glue would be the yang of order, and the black glue would be the yin of chaos (damn those proportional fonts, irregular word lengths, and fussy hyphenation points!).

As line length goes to infinity, interline glue variance goes to zero. This is the only theorem most web designers know. The problem is even worse if you can't trust an automatic hyphenator to handle all the ridiculous content Joe Random Blogger might compose. Why, in extremis, you might even be forced to adopt the dishevelled, libertine ethos of ragged right.

Better to simply set all text to a line length 3.5 times the width of the lower case alphabet and be done with it (surely if we do this enough it will ultimately impel VESA and the Koreans to set the 16k video standard to an aspect ratio of 9:4, as never-married, closet-God conspicuously prefers).


In my notes, I also break apart long sentences with list structure into bullet format, and I almost always break sentences joined by semicolons into separate sentences, too.

"Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)" becomes "MIT", etc.

"Boston, Massachusetts, USA" becomes "Boston".

The "Cindy Elizabeth Erin Olivia Mary-Ellen and James Benjamin Jason Zebulon John-Boy Walton Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Behaviour FRS FRAS OBE with a joint appointment to the Peter, Paul, and Mary School of Management Studies and Economics at the Urban campus of the University of California, Los Angeles" becomes "a professor of psychology and economics".

I call it my Feynman filter, and rarely a capital letter survives.

If I retain any puff language at all, it goes in the ==Puff== section after the main bio. I glance approvingly at the puff section the same way that a web designer reads: noted in passing mainly for size, rather than quality.

If all language were puff, every web designer would have the right instincts, every time.


Nathan Collins — 25 April 2014

This method, called rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), has been controversial since the 1980s, when tests showed it impaired comprehension, though researchers weren't quite sure why. With a new crop of speed-reading products on the market, psychologists decided to dig a bit more and uncovered a simple explanation for RSVP's flaw: Every so often, we need to scan backward and reread for a better grasp of the material.

When you are reading cognitively, resolution of ambiguity does not occur at an orderly pace: ambiguities at the sentence level gradually percolate up to resolution at a conceptual level, by which point (if the text has any claim to logical structure) you've figured out that one seemingly inconspicuous word two sentences back carried more than the normal freight.

Half the population can't solve mathematical "word problems" because they don't slow up to jettison narrative factoids later determined to be irrelevant to the calculation at hand (they think there's some silly rule that you have to husk each walnut with a single hammer blow, or you'll run out of time, but the uncalibrated, total-intake wallop is actually their bazillion shell-shard root problem).

One heavy-lifting main verb per paragraph in your notes is a good policy. You don't generally want to peel the textual narrative all the way back to Euclid's Elements or Spinoza's Ethics or Wittgenstein's Tractatus.

It's the best quick compromise.

Comment Re:Wrong approach (Score 1) 323

Google should not be the entity deciding and enforcing what is correct speech!

Bail: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) — June 2015

When the product category is more trouble than it's worth, time to dump it.

What tends to happen in outlaw industries like this one is that the sensible parties form a trade association to enforce some kind of standard of conduct internally, and then they're allowed to play with the nice kids again.

If somehow Google = speech, then the conversation we need to be having is splitting Google into parts (along with Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft just for old times sake).

No corporation should be so large as to become a de facto speech utility. And I really don't think Google is that large, in the first place.

Comment de novo synthesis mega ark (Score 1) 433

Just about every protein unique (or largely confined) to the human species is presently at its highest level in the last 800,000 years; and probably another 10 million industrial compounds, of which maybe 100,000 were intentional, and the other 99% being random and undesired by products around the margins of the defined process (even the smallest amounts discarded instead of destroyed would lead to record-setting environmental levels over a billion-year historical time scale).

What makes CO2 special is that we worked a little harder to crack this nut.

Current cumulative industrial emissions of CO2 is presently on the order of 33,000 million metric tonnes (Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 1850–2030). That's 33 petagrams in base metric units, once you collect all the distributed zeros together.

How many chemicals exist on planet earth in excess of 30 Pg?

The entire earth's biosphere clocks in at 1–4 Eg. We can start by eliminating any biological chemical that accounts for less than 1% of the entire biosphere.

Goodbye, glucose, at 3–8 g per human body. ATP? Nope. Glycogen? Closer, but still no cigar. Cellulose stands a chance, if we're generous about counting molecular D-glucose units, rather than actual molecules. Perhaps one lipid, the most common chain length of all fats?

And what if earth had blessed us with ten (or one hundred) Middle East oil fields, where gasoline practically gushes out in finished form? The newly acidic oceans would be halfway sterile of yummy megafauna, but fertilizer for use in terrestrial agriculture would have been practically free.

Not better, not worse; just different.

But cross your fingers God keeps his promise about not sending a second flood, because Noah 2.0's ocean pantry would be exceedingly slim pickings. Yes, a merciful God wipes the slate clean before you waltz off the boat, procreate vigorously, and then discover mass geological reserves of buried hydrocarbons to rival the entirety of God's respiring endowment.

How much is too much? 3 Pg? 30 Pg? 300 Pg? 3 Eg? 30 Eg? Do stop me when your anthropogenic spidey sense reaches its in-built marble ark threat-detection threshold.

Comment today's silver bullet: more caveat emptor PhD (Score 2) 471

Governments are terribly inefficient and work through coercion and fear.

90% of everything is crap, including the private sector.

Why is the web slathered with helpful little articles on how to put up with your asshole boss—especially in the private sector? People don't simply leave these asshole jobs, especially in America, because of systemic mobility friction, like a health plan tied to an employer who wields it as a club to get away with hiring cheap (and bad, and often abusive) bottom-tier management staff.

When you form the Cantor map of government suckitude to private sector suckitude to determine which has the larger cardinality, a single Enron cancels out 10,000 small anecdotes. But we wrap up colossal stinkers like Enron in a tidy garbage bag with a red bow tie: the foolish shareholders deserved to lose their money, and then we neglect to gape over the majestic size of the Enron crater.

Who were the biggest losers? Hard-working California linemen, whose pensions funds were taken for a ride at the Arthur Andersen cleaners. Oh, they screwed up, too, bigly? Quick, hand me another garbage bag, and let's not gape at that majestic hole, either.

Bottom line: there ain't no monopoly on inefficiency in any walk of life. The Cantor map between private sector and public sector fuckitude takes a lot of brain power, because the sectors have very different shapes and ultimate loss functions.

So what people do instead is a stupid pet trick: declaring that every fuck-up of the private sector can be construed as "some foolish stakeholder deserved the shit outcome; they'll wise up next time, and the world will turn better soon." The whole point of Authur Anderson (and their ilk) was that society had come to a joint realization that having everyone in the entire country devoting 25% of their day to caveat emptoring basic business criminality was a colossal waste of human potential.

Caveat emptor—done right—is a substantially specialized skillset in the complex modern economy. This is why grandma missed Spectre and Meltdown and bought herself a fucked up Intel box, nevertheless; one that an active, private-sector vigilance (on the back of a caveat emptor PhD obtained in her well-spent youth) would have adequately warned her against. And now some Russian mobster has spent your inheritance. You go, private sector, FTW.

Comment Re:right (Score 1) 98

While I agree in principle, given the myriad of ways in which a government can already circumvent this (e.g. not sending an email, private server, private email address) I find it hard to get worked up about ${SPECIFIC_CASE}

Your sentiment is so ridiculous on its face, I don't know whether to slam you down with a poem or a proof technique.

Let's start with the poem:

First they came ...

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I'll let the proof technique speak for itself: Mathematical induction, which does indeed get "worked up" over a specific case.

Corollary to proof by mathematical induction (scaled down for Business 101 students):

    #1) Don't sweat the small stuff
    #2) It's all small stuff

The vast majority of modern mathematics unfolds from a grain of sand, and that aphorism is the closest most business students will ever come to understanding this profound truth about reality.

Well, It's not a total loss. At least you earned yourself a "C. P. Snow" Boy Scout badge, for your Two Cultures equal beatdown.

Comment the right to bare ARMs (Score 1) 326

Robbing Peter to pay Paul isn't sustainable. :-/

Yes, but robbing Peter to pay Peter comes a lot closer, both to the truth, and to sustainability.

I'm going to read that / as a jaunty cigar.

Have you ever hard that possession is nine-tenths of the law?

There's a huge government apparatus to (generously) define the boundaries of intellectual property, so that Peter can litigate in public courts (well below the net cost of the institution) to Peter's great advantage.

Without the fiat power of government, there would be no patent and copyright systems. There would just be trade secrets. Reverse engineering would be the new Right to Bare ARMs. Defamation? Open season, subject only to your powers of economic retaliation. (Just a heads up on that one: the cost of defending turf in the drug trade is very high, and few in the business find themselves on the black side of the ledger for very long—long enough to bling trance some lusty chicks as a young adult male, before they send you off for a couple of years of daily practice in keeping a wet bar of soap on the up and up; this institution is also a great public expense, benefiting the most those who already have the most).

Peter doesn't really like to talk about how 70% of the defense of property is socialism. Not his favourite talking point, by far.

So a lot of what Peter sees as excess taxation to Paul's benefit is the chunk the government takes from Peter to fund the giant public industry of keeping Paul from aggressively spilling out of the Paul bucket.


Here's another thing. Behind every Peter, there's usually a couple of grand pappy Pauls, who managed to scrounge their way out of the Paul bucket, and not by means that the prevailing Peter ruling class wasn't trying to extirpate by stuffing their fat fingers into every feasible escape option.

Of course, Paul can invent a better mouse trap. There are at least 200 million Pauls (and Paulettes) in American right now.

It would only take circa forty million SUCCESSFUL mouse trap innovations per year, to reliably expand the Peter class to universal suffrage.

The metaphor of the invisible hand is remarkable in having no metabolism. With no metabolism, it never suffers from overwork or fatigue. It never goes "don't fucking bring me one more member of your huddled masses—and I mean it!—I'm totally fucking bagged." So we pretend that a narrow path that works for the special few (driven individuals with broad skills who can maintain a 125+ IQ on an average of five of six hours sleep, long term), that this narrow path can accommodate the entire population, side by side, arm in arm, if only they'd rise up off their lazy asses.


While I have few socialist sympathies, I certainly think the wealthy and advantaged complain too damn much about an already good thing. Peter/Paul rhetoric makes me want to puke, because every institution in society has differential Peter/Paul dynamics, and not just the tax system.

So what really anchors this Peter/Paul meme in the public discourse, despite its superficial stupidity?

Because there's a severe scarcity of noddables. The tax system is one of the few transfer payments where you get an actual receipt. All of our greedy, self-interested anger over all the ways that our value is transferred to others is focused on that tangible document of distress on tax day. We are, of course, really poor at adding up all the ways that values invisibly comes home to roost in exchange for the taxation exacted. We're neurological wired to always believe that the net transaction is hopelessly rigged.

So the tax thing is one of the few memes where every agrees to nod together: taxation sucks.

That's why the slippery Peter/Paul narrative is anchored, first and foremost, to the mechanism of tax transfer (even when this isn't explicit, it's still implicit).

And then you get a giant cluster nod of not thinking straight, which is precisely the point of the Peter/Paul rhetoric.


And the worst of it?

This narrative is not even straight-forward at the actual tax level.

Gabriel Zucman on Inequality, Growth, and Distributional National Accounts — September 2017

Gabriel Zucman: Now, we know, taxes for the bottom 50%, people don't know that but they've increased quite a lot because of payroll taxes. They've increased a lot. The overall tax system in the United States, if you compute average tax rates by income group, taking into account all taxes at all levels of government, you find that the top 1% average tax rate is a bit higher than the average macroeconomic tax rate in the United States, which is 30%. You find that the bottom 50% average tax rate is a bit below 30%. But the difference is very small. That is, you know, all together, the tax system in the United States is barely progressive. It's close to a flat tax where everybody almost pays 30% of their income. And that's a big change compared to the 1960s and 1970s where the top 1% average tax rate was significantly higher and bigger than the average tax rate; and the tax rate for the bottom 50% was significantly lower, below the average tax rate. And so, you know, it's very important to be consistent. You can't just look at transfers but forget about taxes, and vice versa.

Quick trivia question: what percentage of U.S. total tax revenue
is more or less directly returned to the economy in payouts (as opposed to burned internally on civil service overheads)?

Under current law, USDA's total outlays for 2019 are estimated at $140 billion.

Some of this goes back to consumers through food subsidies. But also a giant share of this goes back to big agri-business (just for one, they loooove their ethanol-enriched gasoline program).


Skill testing question: if a politician murmurs in public about perhaps cancelling one of these outrageous programs, the gaggle of angry lobbyists that gather outside his or her office door on day two consists mainly of: (A) concerned citizens Paul and Paula; (B) K-street apparatchuks; (C) fraternal-minded libertarians bearing myrrh and frankincense?

So, yes, there's inefficiency, but this doesn't selectively rob Peter, unless Peter wanders around thinking his just share is that portion of the pie that would exist if the obvious inefficiencies were eliminated. Deep down, Peter believes that the obvious and grotesque inefficiencies only exist to benefit Paul, so he accrues all this loss to Paul's account.

But on the other hand, without the fiat power of government behind the intellectual property system, Monsanto and that eternal sunshine mouse monopoly simply couldn't exist as we presently know them.

Who fucking invented retrospective copyright term extension laws? Retro-fucking-spective. As in: sure, our forefathers operated under the social contract of government-fiat copyright term protection, balancing the interests of both sides under clear, up-front terms, but now we wants more, again (and again).

Sure as hell wasn't Paul with his fat thumb tipping this particular social injustice scale, that's for darn certain.

In the transfer payment circle jerk, both Peter Fagin and Paul Fagin have their industrious fingers noodling deep into opposite pocketbook. Perhaps unwise, but definitely sustainable, long term. Perhaps we could clean this up with some good libertarian cleavage. Or perhaps—just perhaps—the law of unintended consequence would expedite a giant cleavage debacle.

And just who would benefit the most from cleavage upheaval? Agile scalawags with the big brains.

Comment rubberneck bounce (Score 1) 51

This is why so many videos being suggested are extreme: they get lots of views ...

The problem is that many of these views amount to "OMG, what is this shit, anyway?

People need to be way more aggressive on the thumbs down button after sizing up the moral car wreck.

I also find the "not interested" button works wonders after some initial persistence.

Google would fix something in the larger scheme if the viewing population normalized their rating habits to a 66% baseline rejection rate. Everyone should just post "thumbs down for tasteless recommendation" in the comments thread, until these comments drown out everything else. Google would learn fast were the adverse signal even mildly organized.

Comment Re:Who cares about "amateur" status (Score 1) 161

I'd say that the difference here is that a professional mathematician will exist in a certain environment. A math professor will read certain journals, associate with other math professors, teach certain things to students, etc. An amateur will be outside this environment.

Absolutely the crucial connotation.

Amateur, especially in egghead ventures, almost always implies a lone wolf, or at most the Chudnovsky brothers' hillbilly pen pals (five precocious amateurs, each one that much weirder than the last).

Comment Re:Too Bad (Score 2) 135

Hey Kubrick! Are you ever gonna get around to writing the second half of Full Metal Jacket?

People tend to rate sex highly, until they try heroine.

Sapolsky's book from last year, Behave, has a lot of material on how our dopaminic system rescales itself to available stimulus. The book is 800 pages long, and every page so far is dense with neuroanatomy. Unbelievably good, but I'm guessing it's not sexconker's preferred Flaming Doctor Pepper bomb shot.

For the record, the first time I read Lord of the Rings (all three volumes, one weekend, age 13) I experienced intense annoyance whenever Tolkien abandoned one narrative line to rejoin some other fellowship splinter group.

By the time I got to Full Metal Jacket I had mostly outgrown this, though it still annoyed me for ten full minutes. Basically, "not now Helga, can't you see I'm still banging your sister?"

Bad, Kubrick, bad.


Kubrick rarely hesitates to bend time in the other direction, either.

The litmus test for true Kubrick lovers is Barry Lyndon.

John Hofsess: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love 'Barry Lyndon' — 1976

Like many other critics and filmgoers, I have grown so accustomed to films based on literary conventions and familiar structures, that to see a film which stretches one's awareness of what can be achieved in the medium seems prickly and puzzling.

Kubrick's films have a way—at least with some people—of working on in the mind, of passing through all the stages from irritation to exhilaration.

And curiously enough—for critics are supposed to be the most progressive an perceptive of filmgoers—it is the general public in this case, unencumbered by literary prejudices, that has done most of the leading in making 2001 and A Clockwork Orange not just films of immense popularity but of steadily growing stature.

An interview with Michel Ciment — 1982

In the scene that you're referring to, the voice-over works as an ironic counterpoint to what you see portrayed by the actors on the screen. This is only a minor sequence in the story and has to be presented with economy. Barry is tender and romantic with the girl but all he really wants is to get her into bed. The girl is lonely and Barry is attractive and attentive.

If you think about it, it isn't likely that he is the only soldier she has brought home while her husband has been away to the wars. You could have had Barry give signals to the audience, through his performance, indicating that he is really insincere and opportunistic, but this would be unreal. When we try to deceive we are as convincing as we can be, aren't we?

No wink. Blink and you miss it.


At this point, I also want to give a shout out to another very long film, La Belle Noiseuse (1991), with the 237-minute run time.

The film holds an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

How does such a stupidly long movie earn a 100% approval rating? Not a single Michael Bay fan attended this movie by accident. French title, and not a single showing with a start time after 18:30.

Roger Ebert

She understands, puts it on, disrobes in front of him, and will be entirely nude for at least at hour in this film. Yes, at first we observe Emmanuelle Beart as a woman. Then we see her as a model. Slowly we come to see her as Frenhofer wants to: The woman inside, the essence, the being. There is no small talk. He positions her in poses. He yanks her arms and legs like a puppet's. "In the old days," he says almost to himself, "they tied the arms and legs of the models into place, to keep to them from moving." She complains of pain and cramps, wants to have a cigarette. He takes cigarettes out of her fingers, and pushes her into position.

What to do, what to do with today's Bayfly film audience?


2001 bonus trivia: the technical consultant was I. J. Good, who studied under G. H. Hardy.

I already knew this, but it came back to my attention again when I grabbed The Man Who Knew Infinity sight-unseen off the unreshelved trolley at my local library (they leave this out for patrons to pick over the bones all day long, then reshelve the remainder after closing time—extra bonus mausoleum trivia).

The Man Who Knew Infinity (film) — 2015

The film gets a 63% audience approval rating on Tomatoes, but select viewers beg to differ:

Mathematicians Ken Ono and Manjul Bhargava collaborated on the film, which has been praised by mathematicians and scientists for its accurate mathematics and authentic portrayal of mathematicians.

George E. Andrews, former President of the American Mathematical Society praised the film for its moving portrayal of the deep relationship between Ramanujan and Hardy. The London Mathematical Society proclaimed that the film "outshines Good Will Hunting in almost every way".

Reviewing the film for Nature, Andrew Robinson wrote that "the film took more than ten years to create. It is worth the wait."

Will find out this weekend whether I side with the AMS or the macho stresskitten's corridor enumeration of homeomorphically irreducible trees of order ten.

Not That Good, Will Hunting — May 2013

Comment victory: MBA (Score 1) 123

Yes, price. Backblaze buys the cheapest HDDs they can find.


Efficient frontier

Shannon's theorem: as you approach the Shannon coding limit, the cost of failure becomes linear.

The primary term in the linear model is cost_of_drive / (mean_working_life * drive_capacity). In metric, the unit comes out to Big Macs/B-s, but we'll use USD/TB-year.

There is also a power consumption term, and a performance term. The first of these is significant to Backblaze, whereas the second does little to differentiate the qualified brands in the present Backblaze business model (though it could quickly push you into a different product mix between HDDs and SSDs if the model changed; the proximal economic margin is vertical, not horizontal).

The main effect of the power term is that technological evolution in W/TB-year makes it reasonable to hard-cap drive service life somewhere around seven years (it used to be much less, but times they aren't a-changing very much these days).

If one brand hits the seven year wall with 95% of the drives functional, and another brand hits the wall with 98% of the drives functional, this justifies about a 3% difference in drive sticker price for the same capacity (and mean power draw under the specified workload).

Now, if you were working with a business model where coincident failures could feasibly add up to a risk of total loss, this calculation starts to involve an exponential term, and the factor of two in failure rate over seven years begins to matter again. Even if your total loss is just a spindle loss, and you have a 24-hour from tape, the magnitude of your 24-hour out-of-normal-service event starts to lift the exponential term into economic view.

I've given enough information here to construct a pretty good first-order linear approximation to Backblaze's efficient frontier.

Hint: to usefully diagram this, you need to 86 your third-year engineering school log-linear graph paper, and haul out some third-year elementary school linear-linear graph paper.

Over in MBA school—which you like to pretend is populated by linear-linear spreadsheet-toting cluetards—they will teach you that one of the arts of business is to devise a business model which runs against the grain of prevailing economic assumptions.

Shannon's theorem, properly understood, allows one to do this.

And, yes, the exponential cost model requires engineering school to properly understand, while the linear cost model requires only Econ 101 to fully understand, so of course, as hugely overtrained engineers we deride this model, with a sniff, as merely buying the cheapest shit they can find.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: it's the engineers here who have failed to make the cognitive leap on Shannon's model, properly understood.

Shannon's corollary: once my theorem is properly understood, you don't even need to be smart anymore.

Shannon's theorem, properly understood, is a universal wormhole from log-linear to linear-linear. This pretty much makes it the most Fucking A theorem of the 20th century.

These an underlying reason why our digital technology grew like the Beanstalk of Babel, yet never ultimately toppled over under its own weight.

Victory: MBA.

Slashdot Top Deals

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer