Friday, October 28, 2011

Of Particular Significance

Matt Strassler, a theoretical physicist and professor at Rutgers University, recently launched his excellent science- and particle physics-related website Of Particular Significance.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top 5 reminiscences of Steve Jobs

Following the death of Steve Jobs earlier this month, the Internet has been flooded with reminiscences of the man, very many of them with vanishingly small signal-to-noise ratios. There are a few exceptions though, and in this post I present the best five that I have come across. It's worth noting that not all of the following accounts were written in response to Steve Jobs's death (specifically, Vic Gundotra's wasn't), but in a certain sense none of them were. They were all written in response to Steve Jobs's remarkable life:

  1. Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011 by Steven Levy
  2. Steven Levy first met Steve Jobs in November 1983, when he conducted the first of his many interviews of Jobs over the years. I get the disctinct impression that the two men were friends, or least friendly, so this is probably not the most objective obituary. Still, it is the best one I've read.

  3. Icon Ambulance by Vic Gundotra
  4. This anecdote by Vic Gundotra, Google's Senior Vice President, Social, illustrates Steve Jobs's legendary attention to detail as well as his sense of aesthetics and design.

  5. Steve Jobs: A Few Memories by Stephen Wolfram
  6. Stephen Wolfram, like Steve Jobs, was something of a wunderkind. Here he shares some memories of his personal and business interactions with Jobs. WolframAlpha, Wolfram's "computational knowledge engine" is integrated into Siri on Apple's latest iPhone 4S.

  7. What I Learned From Steve Jobs by Guy Kawasaki
  8. Guy Kawasaki had two stints at Apple, in the 1980s as a software evangelist and in the 1990s as an Apple Fellow. Here he distils the 12 most important lessons he learnt from working directly with Steve Jobs.

  9. Memories of Steve by Ben Rosen
  10. Ben Rosen first met Steve Jobs in late 1977. Rosen was 44 at the time, Steve Jobs, at 22, was exactly half Rosen's age. Rosen's piece is by far the best of these five reminiscences of Steve Jobs. It presents a delicate and tender portrait of the extremely complicated and contradictory man that was Steve Jobs. Rosen writes beautifully. Although he's now 78, judging by his very accomplished and varied career and the virtuosity of this piece, Rosen can readily achieve new success as a writer.
One more thing:
Overall, all of the above reminiscences are extremely positive about Steve Jobs, and with some justification. However, much of the posthumous commentary on Steve Jobs has been little more than unthinking, regurgitated, platitudinous idol worship. (I heard one star-struck fan refer to Steve Jobs as are our present-day Thomas Jefferson. I think he meant Thomas Edison.) This, I am quite certain, is something Steve Jobs himself would deeply disapprove of. After all, if he was anything, Steve Jobs was an iconolast. And it would be entirely inappropriate for the world, after his death, to turn him into an icon (or iCon). So in that spirit, I offer this slightly less flattering appraisal of Steve Jobs's contribution to one of his most celebrated products, the Macintosh:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Acceleration due to Energy

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae." Nobody yet understands what causes this (the acceleration, not the expansion), but the cause, whatever it is, has been given the name dark energy. The UC Berkeley page on Saul Perlmutter (awarded half the prize, with the other half jointly awarded to Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess) has some interesting discussions on the subject. Among other things, Prof. Perlmutter's passion for physics shines through.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Greatly Insane: Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

The version of this famous ad that went on air is the one with the voice-over by Richard Dreyfuss. Here's the same ad with a voice-over by Steve Jobs:

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Insanely Great: Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steven Paul Jobs
(24 February 1955 - 5 October 2011)