Something different

https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2021/04/the-wolfram-physics-project-a-one-year-update/

I think you should click through on that, just to see the really really long amount of text. You’re back? …good.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I mean there are large sections of it—to be clear, I did not read all of it—that I understand what it’s saying, but I cannot follow the discussion. But he’s quite literally talking about how their research project (it’s computing software they’re running simulations within) is apparently making steady progress towards solving all of Physics. My undergrad degree is in Physics, I was a Physics grad student (but didn’t finish my Masters, to be fair about it.) This stuff from Wolfram—his writing, the software, physics research—is my wheel house. Or it used to be. I haven’t been in the wheelhouse for a while as I’ve been working on much other stuff for decades.

My reaction to this sort of research, (from Wolfram and other soruces,) is always to get sucked into it; Drawn in to try and understand how and where mankind was pushing back the curtains of the unknown. It’s exactly the sort of thing I always lived to deep-dive into. “Understands, and is into, Physics,” was a big part of my identity

Why is this post titled, “Something different?”

It was a big part of my identity, until—so it seems—one day it was no longer. My reaction is now different.

I’ve got all these other cool projects that light me up, but physics? meh.

And that made me think: That’s something different.

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Numbered days

Try this: Hop over to https://wolframalpha.com and type in the following using your birthday…

how many days between m/d/yyyy and today

Study that number while looking for some perspective. Don’t tip into the yawing chasm of self-doubt, but rather strut towards the fertile plain of , “I’m awesome.” Finally, read this:

For this reason philosophers exhort us not to be contented with mere learning, but to add practice also, and then training. For we have long been accustomed to do the opposite of what we should, and the opinions that we hold and apply are the opposite of the correct ones. If, therefore, we do not also adopt and apply the correct opinions, we shall be nothing more than interpreters of the judgements of others.

~ Epictetus, Discourses 2.9.13-14, circa 700,000 days ago.

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slip:4a658.

Slight surprise with a dash of interest

There are, I think, several reasons Hollywood movies often don’t get as much science input as they should. The first is that movie-makers usually just aren’t sensitive to the “science texture” of their movies. They can tell if things are out of whack at a human level, but they typically can’t tell if something is scientifically off. Sometimes they’ll get as far as calling a local university for help, but too often they’re sent to a hyper-specialized academic who’ll not-very-usefully tell them their whole story is wrong. Of course, to be fair, science content usually doesn’t make or break movies. But I think having good science content—like, say, good set design—can help elevate a good movie to greatness.

~ Stephen Wolfram from, https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2016/11/quick-how-might-the-alien-spacecraft-work/

But first, how exactly does one represent in written from, that sound one makes upon encountering something both slightly surprising and interesting? “Huh,” seems more like the sound one makes upon hearing something about which one is incredulous. For example: “Your Goldfish is escaping on foot!” “Huh?” Instead, I feel I need a word with a little touch of an ‘n’ in it to downplay the puzzlement by making the word less punchy; “That spaceship hangs in the air much in the way bricks don’t.” “Hunh.” That reads better, yes? Obviously, this is easily resolved via inflection when spoken, but there’s no clear written convention. So, okay, I’ll go with “hunh” to express slight surprise with a dash of interest.

hunh. I stumbled over the movie Arrival in Netflix back in 2018, and sort of enjoyed it.

Say what you will about Stephen Wolfram. I’m not referring to the fact that he was directly involved as being a point for, or against, the movie. Rather, I’m interested in his point—which I’m loosely reshaping here—that people who have a good feel for people make good movies about people. Given that the vast majority of people are bad at science, then most people who make movies would make bad movies about science.

Ironically, I’d argue that Arrival is a good science fiction movie, but not a good movie about people.

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WolframAlpha

I wonder how many Sundays are between June 17th 2012 and today?

WolframAlpha: 79.

Ho. Lee. Crap. That’s awesome.

You do know about WolframAlpha, right? …the “computational knowledge engine”? No? Go there. Ask it things.

Stephen Wolfram is a character. (But anyone whose thesis committee contains Richard Feynman gets a complete pass in my book.) “This math stuff is annoying…” Bam! Mathematica. And if you want to really go “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!”, try to wrap your brain around, A New Kind of Science.

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