‘commentaries’ Category

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Informed opinion about something relevant to math, computing, or the MCS dept.


Analyzing Electronic Poll Books

I used my 2010-2011 sabbatical to delve into the application of computer technology to election administration, specifically what are known as “electronic poll book” systems. I’ve continued working on this since, with the latest outcome being a guest post on Bluestem Prairie showing that the “Center of the American Experiment’s claims for photo ID cost […]

How Not to Document Your Sources

One of the fundamental skills of the scholar is documenting sources. I have a duty to emphasize that in the First Term Seminar course I’m teaching this fall. Conveniently, one of the texts we’ll be reading provides a perfect example of how not to do it, as I just discovered. John Fund’s Stealing Elections: How Voter […]

Explorations in generative design

Nervous System is a fantastic experimental design studio unlike most others. They use new technologies to reinterpret natural phenomena, prototyping and mass-producing 3d objects such as light fixtures, jewelry and sculpture from mathematical processes. Most of their designs look as if they were copied from a biology book because, in a way, they were. Various […]

Musings on John McCarthy’s Death

Although John McCarthy died only two days ago, enough words have already been written to render any more superfluous. Yet I can’t resist some personal musings. The very name of this blog, MCS, is a good starting point: the blog of a department of “Mathematics and Computer Science.” Often I’ve been asked why computer science […]

Mathematical communication and the law

Students who study math or computer science learn to communicate precisely, which can serve them well even in other areas. For example, some of our alumni have become successful lawyers. A remarkable story about a court case is a good illustration of why precision matters. I’m reminded of one of the peculiarities of mathematical communication, […]

Computational Artists

I had the pleasure of attending the FlashBelt conference on interaction design, architecture and computer generative art.   What is computer-generative art?  Using computers to write tools to create art.  Within these tools are algorithms and interactivity designated to translate images in new ways, to recursively add geometry, and even to translate soundwaves into visuals. […]

Mandelbrot sets. Up close and 3D

Recursive algorithms are pretty to look at alone based on their simplicity and power.  Fractals drive this home on a visual level, though historically they’ve focused more on how to fit every color of the rainbow and less on the intricate forms within. All this has changed thanks to this stunning site which reveals incredibly […]

British PM’s Apology Regarding Alan Turing

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has released a statement apologizing for the “appalling” treatment of Alan Turing.  Turing made many important contributions as a mathematician, including laying some of the major foundations of the field of computer science.  Brown’s statement shortchanges these accomplishments by focusing only on Turing’s role in breaking German cyphers during […]

Which one of these majors is not like the others?

The Star Tribune interviewed a bunch of Gustie seniors. Who was the only one with a job lined up? Computer Science major Tom Wick. Of course, you have to take anecdotal evidence with a grain of salt. But broader evidence suggests some points consonant with Tom’s experience. Computer science majors are subject to booms and […]

Jefferson and the Internet

I just finished reading a delightful, trim, recently published book, In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace, by David G. Post.  This book uses Thomas Jefferson as a guide for thinking about the Internet: both what it is like and how it ought to be governed.  The resulting mix of Jeffersoniana […]