A small palace

Luxembourg’s grand-ducal palace originally was its city hall. Therefore, it’s actually a rather small building – particularly tangible during the guided tours that it’s open for during summer. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside. (Repo…

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Luxembourg’s grand-ducal palace originally was its city hall. Therefore, it’s actually a rather small building – particularly tangible during the guided tours that it’s open for during summer. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside.
 
(Reposting with fixed white balance.)

Cellular Automata, Physics, and Aquinas

Via BoingBoing comes a pointer to an article on Ed Fredkin in the April 1988 issue of The Atlantic. Fredkin’s argument, in a nutshell: If physics can be described as a cellular automaton (with a rule that turns into the first mover), then the univ…

Via BoingBoing comes a pointer to an article on Ed Fredkin in the April 1988 issue of The Atlantic.

Fredkin’s argument, in a nutshell: If physics can be described as a cellular automaton (with a rule that turns into the first mover), then the universe might very well just be that guy running a simulation somewhere, to answer a question about a cellular automaton that he can’t answer, except by running the machine.

But what does “might be” mean here? Is the universe a cellular automaton running on a computer or can it just be described as one? That’s where the article’s author, Robert Wright, gets uncomfortable.

Around sundown on Fredkin’s island all kinds of insects start chirping or buzzing or whirring. Meanwhile, the wind chimes hanging just outside the back door are tinkling with methodical randomness. All this music is eerie and vaguely mystical. And so, increasingly, is the conversation. It is one of those moments when the context you’ve constructed falls apart, and gives way to a new, considerably stranger one. The old context in this case was that Fredkin is an iconoclastic thinker who believes that space and time are discrete, that the laws of the universe are algorithmic, and that the universe works according to the same principles as a computer (he uses this very phrasing in his most circumspect moments). The new context is that Fredkin believes that the universe is very literally a computer and that it is being used by someone, or something, to solve a problem. It sounds like a good-news/bad-news joke: the good news is that our lives have purpose; the bad news is that their purpose is to help some remote hacker estimate pi to nine jillion decimal places.

Parting thought: Does it even matter, to someone who can be described as a pattern in that cellular automaton?

Another reason against popular URI shorteners

Centralized URI shorteners have every possible risk of being slashdotted (or overtweeted, you choose) — they effectively add another layer of centralized infrastructure that can then run out of resources. Put differently, URI shortener infrastruc…

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Centralized URI shorteners have every possible risk of being slashdotted (or overtweeted, you choose) — they effectively add another layer of centralized infrastructure that can then run out of resources. Put differently, URI shortener infrastructure seems to scale differently than twitter’s, and the result isn’t always funny.
 
(Today, David Weinberger’s pointer about Lego and the cluetrain was the victim.)

Take some flowers, and be so kind to pay

One of the amazing things in a small village nearby is this flower bed, with a large sign inviting passers-by to cut their own. There’s a price list and a little box for the coins. That’s it. I don’t know whether it all ends up making economic sen…

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One of the amazing things in a small village nearby is this flower bed, with a large sign inviting passers-by to cut their own. There’s a price list and a little box for the coins. That’s it. I don’t know whether it all ends up making economic sense for the owners. But it’s certainly a view to behold.