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Posts Tagged ‘Donald E. Knuth’

My experiences suggest that the optimum way to run a research think tank would be to take people’s nice offices away from them and to make them live in garrets, and even to insist that they do non-research things.  That’s a strange way to run a research center, but it might well be true that the imposition of such constraints would bring out maximum creativity.
 

—  Donald E. Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About

 [I think this suggestion would stimulate what I call “Background Processing”.  That is, force you to do the thinking you’re supposed to be doing in the back of your mind while the current moment forces you to think about other things.  In other words, it’s not the pressure (as suggested by Knuth), its the distractions which make this work.  —  KMAB]

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There’s a word “bibliolatry,” which means “worship of the Bible.”  Sometimes the Bible can be your God, if you consider it to be too sacred, not realizing the human context in which it came from.
…  At a personal level, I consider that my main goal in life is to do what God wants me to do, so I try to understand what God wants me to do.  And I believe that by understanding the Bible I get very good clues about this; in other words, that’s what the connection with God is for me.  But I don’t treat the Bible as a magical thing, as something for which I might just close my eyes, fall down on my knees, and say “I’m going to repeat these blessed words over an over.”
   —  Donald E. Knuth
From his book:  “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
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Like any writer, a translator has to have a target audience clearly in mind.
 

—  Donald E. Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
 

[I would argue the same is true for teachers – as well as writers and translators – because these are all similar functions – communicating ideas to a target audience .  In fact, I would make the case that teaching is translating.  —  KMAB]

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I didn’t choose to be a computer scientist because my main mission in life was to advance computation. I chose computer science simply because I was good at it. For some reason, my peculiar way of thinking correlated well with computers.
…Experience shows that about one person in 50 has a computer scientist’s way of looking at things.
 —  Donald E. Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
[I’m not sure I’m all that good at it, but I’ve managed to make a living out of working with computers. And in any case, as we used to say in the Army: “It is better to be lucky than good.” — KMAB]
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Thus I have a strong recommendation to anyone who wants to get into the Bible: Don’t simply read what other people have said about the meaning of a verse; put the verse into your own words, by using the resources that are available.  You can do this even though you have just an ordinary, nontheological education.
 

—  Donald E. Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
 

[And the same holds true for learning about any non-trivial subject.  —  KMAB]

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We found out that we learned a lot when we tried to put a small part of the Bible into our own words; we agreed that this exercise was an ideal way to get into the real meaning of the original.  After this experience we were, in fact, glad that the Bible was not written in English; we even felt a bit sorry for Greek-speaking people, who don’t have the opportunity to translate the Bible into their own language.  We were able to do this sort of thing with the Bible in spite of the fact that we were untrained in Greek, because the experts have made their scholarship available in convenient reference works.
 

—  Donald E. Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About
 

[For me, the important point is the value of alternative sources in learning.  Knuth is reading the Bible in his native tongue, then looking at and translating the original language, then looking at what other Bible scholars have said are their interpretations.  The rich tapestry of interwoven viewpoints is what is creating the learning and personal growth experience.  This is consistent with my own method of learning.  I purchase books by different authors to get a more varied presentation of the material.  —  KMAB]

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The decision that I made to do my own translations, even though I knew neither Hebrew nor Greek, was one of the best decisions in my life.  For I learned that the absolute best way to find out what you don’t understand is to try to express something in your own words.  If I had been operating only in input mode, look at other translations but not actually trying to output the thoughts they expressed, I would never have come to grips with the many shades of meaning that lurk just below the surface.  In fact, I would never have realized that such shades of meaning even exist, if I had just been inputting.  The exercise of producing output, trying to make a good translation by yourself, is a tremendous help to your education.
 

—  Donald E.  Knuth
Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About

[Italics, bolding and underlining are mine.  —  KMAB]
 

[The absolute proof of knowledge about something is being able to explain it in your own words.  —  KMAB]

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