Stuff written by other people (that I liked)

""" But ethical niceties don't apply when 200 million people are on the take.
Blake Fleetwood, on why frequent flyer programs aren't criminal under bribery laws. Sadly this logic applies to a lot of things in the post-2007 economy.

""" I actually did this kind of backwards. I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper.
– Satoshi Nakamoto

""" Bitcoin … tearfully reminds one of the old days of the pre-September Internet.
Mircea Popescu

Linus “doesn't do github pull requests” and thinks it doesn't add much to git aside from hosting. I agree.

“Quantum Cryptography is as awesome as it is pointless” – Bruce Schneier

I've been reading a bit about Elliptic Curve Cryptography lately. Stumbled across a  fantastic set of slides by Joseph H. Silverman. These slides are the only introductory material I've been able to find that touches on the question of why is it safe to use smaller keys with ECC than with the multiplicative groups of modular arithmetic or finite fields. My own interpretation of the answer is that they simply needed a group for which the index calculus algorithm doesn't work. I'm left wondering if ECC lacks efficient DLP algorithms simply because it hasn't been around as long as the other groups; apparently the crypto community has some sort of reason for thinking this isn't the case.

 The Ideal Mathematician

End of Cypherpunks – A List Goes Down in Flames

Scott Aaronson's witful  mockery of the academic publishing companies.

""" Wait, people are still using XML? How do they get any work done?
– David Crawshaw->!/davidcrawshaw

Why I use emacs

Die, scribd, die

I am resolutely opposed to that barbarous platinum-iridium relic. Let the fiat kilogram float!

Facebook and twitter are nifty, but please don't call them technology companies (unless you think that MTV, Warner Brothers, and EMI are tech companies too!)

Phil Wadler's excellent  Proofs are Programs: 19th Century Logic and 21st Century Computing and Mike Gordon's  From LCF to HOL should be required starting points for anybody interested in programming languages and type systems.

John Ousterhout's Fortnight Milestones

How to get Proof General to invoke coq with -fimpredicative-set; with newer versions of Proof General you need to put this at the end of your script:

*** Local Variables: ***
*** coq-prog-name: "coqtop" ***
*** coq-prog-args: ("-I" "." "-emacs" "-impredicative-set") ***
*** End: ***

William Wulf's  Are We Scientists or Engineers? (or informaticians?).

I, for one, believe that computing professionals need the earliest possible introduction of discrete mathematics and formal methods. … Indeed, beyond being inhospitable, we have expelled whole areas – numerical methods, libraries, and MIS, for example. If we continue this expulsion of the practical we will leave the field a barren husk. … In truth, we will not be more respected because of what we call ourselves.

 What happened to the Berkeley Co-op?

Phil Wadler's law of language design

Some objections to XML which resonate with me: C2 Wiki and IBM.

Dan Bernstein's has a great analysis of IPv6.

By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate on more advanced problems, and in effect increases the mental power of the race.
– A. Whitehead, An Invitation to Mathematics

The Two Cultures of Mathematics explains the subtle divide between “combinatorics” and logicians in some math cultures.

Yaron Minksy's thoughts on how to set up distributed version control and “build daemons”.

“Malcolm Gladwell is [merely] a walking Readers Digest 2.0”

Should I go to Grad School? is required reading for anybody submitting a grad school application.

Recursive make Considered Harmful


Andrej Bauer's excellent  description of the Kleene Tree

Random Type Theory Links

An example of a practical use for weakly positive (positive but not strictly-positive) types in System F.

Frank Pfenning's research on subtyping and intersection types is essential reading; although he has many papers on this subject, it seems that only  this recent one gives an in-depth explanation of the motivation for separating “sorts” from types.

Dave Menendez has a great example that nicely summarizes one of the key advantages of intersection types:

twice :: (a -> b ∧ b -> c) -> a -> b 
twice f = f . f

Hurkens Paradox

In the Calculus of Constructions, there is a very delicate relationship between proof-irrelevance, excluded middle, and various weak axioms of choice. This relationship is most succinctly revealed by the Hurkens Paradox.

There are numerous papers on this topic, but I've found only one that's approachable for a beginner: Barbanera and Berardi's Proof-irrelevance out of Excluded-middle and Choice in the Calculus of Constructions.

In particular, this paper explains how excluded middle and a strong choice axiom force proof-irrelevance. The extraction principles in Set can be viewed as a weak form of choice (definite description), and excluded middle lets one case-discriminate on whether or not a type is inhabited; this gives some intuition for the reason why -impredicative-set is incompatible with classical reasoning.


Terrence Parr explains a problem with how PEGs “handle” (ignore?) ambiguity. This concerns me as well. I wrote a bit about it here.

PEGs also have difficulties with what is called “language hiding”. Essentially, a prioritized choice

A = B / C

will never attempt to match C against a given region of text if B matches any region with the same starting point – but perhaps a different ending point.

There are two common examples of this:

A = "a" / "ab"
B = "a"* ("ab" / "c")

In both cases, the “ab” alternative will never be attempted. In the latter case this is due to the greedy nature of repetition.

Unfortunately, problems of this sort become much more difficult to debug in larger, more complex grammars. When grammars are built out of modules written by different authors, the problem becomes nearly intractable: imagine a production A = B / C where B and C are written by different authors. Changing B in a manner which strictly expands the set of strings it can match can cause A to go from matching a given string to no longer matching it.

Also, as far as I know, no packrat parser currently supports indirect left recursion via grammar transformation. Packrat parsers can be modified to handle left recursion without transformation, but only by sacrificing linear time parsability.