Five short links

fivemeerkats

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

Where’s my fusion reactor? – An engrossing overview of the state of smaller fusion research projects. For the past half-century, fusion has permanently been twenty years away, so I’d love one of these to come out of the shadows and surprise us all.

Smathermather’s weblog – I don’t often link to entire blogs, but Stephen Mather’s is so full of impressive geo-hacking posts it would be an injustice to link to just one of them. I am particularly fond of his use of POV-Ray for analyzing the available views from particular points in the landscape though. I spent the summer of 1990 furiously rendering 160×120 images using POV trying to create the ultimate mirror-ball on a chess-board. It left me amazed that there were programmers were generous enough to give the software away for free, and itching to write something myself.

Finding important words in a document using TF/IDF – A straightforward explanation of a powerful approach that’s often cloaked in jargon.

Unusually effective debugging – Early in my career I noticed that I spent most of my time debugging, and that the biggest difference between the most productive programmers and the least was how effective they were at it. You end up debugging when there’s a mismatch between the mental model of what you think your code should be doing, and how it’s actually being executed. This article has some excellent advice on ways to find the flaw in your mental model as quickly as possible: “It’s about killing your darlings, looking for evidence to prove your theories false. It’s about ignoring the how and why and describing, as precisely as possible, what the problem is. It’s about imagining a huge multidimensional search space of possibilities and looking for ways to eliminate half or whole dimensions, recursively, until you’ve isolated the fault.”

Akkie, and the 101 things you can do with a CD-ROM drive’s eject function – There’s a zen-like beauty about focusing on the possibilities of misusing a single basic component in creative ways. Feeding hamsters, twitter notifications, ringing bells, all pure hacks in the best way possible.

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