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Posts Tagged ‘Donald E. Knuth’

My recommendation is to aim for a good balance between breadth and depth.  The definition of a good, liberal education is to know something about everything and everything about something.
   —  Donald E. Knuth
From the book: “The Essential Knuth
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On This Day In:
2017 Getting It Done
2016 Getting To Know Me
2015 Why I Pay Taxes
2014 Inequality Of Sacrifice
2013 I Never Saw A Moor
2012 Fill In The Blank
Not For Naught
Cliff Notes To Life?
2011 Conference Games Sunday
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 There’s no universal way to think about things, so I can’t claim that someone else is thinking about something wrongly if they don’t think about it the way I do.
   —  Donald E. Knuth
From the book: “The Essential Knuth
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On This Day In:
2016 Supervise The Results
2015 Just Magic!
2014 It Lies Ahead…
2013 At Least One Difference
2012 Are We, Are We?
On Not Playing The Game
Scale
2011 Nutcracker And Nooks
Seeing Differences

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The Essential Knuth”  (2013©)  —  book review
This book is an interview of Professor Donald E. Knuth by Edgar G. Daylight (and edited by Kurt De Grave).  The book is part of the “Conversations” series and covers topics like Knuth’s childhood / family, college life, and then more typical topics – ALGOL, structured programming, other software pioneers and finally the history of computer science history.  Basically, it’s a chance to record the thoughts of a pioneer in his field (computer science) about his life and views about his accomplishments and opinions of other greats in this field.
Is it earth-shattering?  No.  Is it interesting?  Yes.  Knuth appears to be a man who rather humbly acknowledges his own “greatness” in his field, but puts it down to both ability and the good fortune of being born at a time when his field of interest was new.  If you are interested in the thoughts of a giant in his field (and I am in this field), you should like this.
The book is very short: less than 90 pages and has practically no technical information.  It is, therefore, entirely accessible to the general public.  If reading isn’t your “thing”, I have subsequently found most of the book is also available on YouTube in short interviews.  Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  The book is so short and contains so little technical info, you will lose almost nothing for investing the couple of hours it will take to read this book.  And, it is interesting (even if in only a limited way).
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On This Day In:
2016 Hoping For The Best Come January
2015 Adaptive Security
2014 Wants
2013 Side Effects
2012 Just Trying To Earn A Living
2011 Productive Worry

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The main difference between his life and my own was that he was always involved to the hilt with local things, doing things for the people that he knew.  I had more of a calling to global things; I’m mostly thinking about what I can do for people who live far away, people that I’ll never meet.  So I don’t have much time to be a volunteer like my father.  In a way I’ve been selfish, because the things that I do tend to be recognized widely, while he worked tirelessly in a small community.  He was the kind of a person who provides the “lubrication” that’s necessary to make the world work.  Furthermore, the things I do don’t scale up;  there isn’t a need for ten of me in the world.
   —  Donald Ervin Knuth
(Describing the difference between himself and his father)
From: “The Essential Knuth
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On This Day In:
2016 Itchin’
2015 In The Not So Distant Future
2014 Sources
2013 Three Essentials
2012 Just Looking
2011 Religious Lessons
2010 View From Under The Bus… (A mid-term report card on the Obama Administration. Long, but still worth reading for historical perspective.)

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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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