December 10, 2013 at 5:31 PMMichele Mottini

Selected HTML5 technologies:

  • Canvas (2D drawing) – like Windows GDI
  • WebGL (3D drawing) – like Windows OpenGL
  • WebSocket – like Windows Winsock
  • Indexed Database – like Windows MSDE
  • Offline Web applications – like Windows normal applications
  • File API – line Windows NTFS
  • Font support – like Windows GDI font handling
  • Video/audio support – like Windows Media Player and associated APIs
  • Web Workers – like Windows threads

So we are re-developing all this stuff (and more) in various browsers running on different platforms – and then develop (or re-develop) applications on top of it.

Tell me again, why are we doing all this? Wouldn’t have been simpler just to stick with Windows?

Posted in: Programming | Opinion


Phrase of the week

December 8, 2013 at 11:27 AMMichele Mottini

And we are supposed to be upset because the technology that makes [blogging] possible has cut down on the number of bowling leagues? That’s like condemning butterfly metamorphosis for decreasing the number of caterpillars.

“Scott Alexander” in ‘The anti-reactionary FAQ’

Posted in: Opinion


Learning quantum physics

December 7, 2013 at 2:51 PMMichele Mottini

I just finished Coursera’s Exploring Quantum Physics. It was pretty good: the Coursera Web sites works well, both lectures and homework exercises were good and the discussion forums were helpful.

The course starts from the basics, but it is not an introductory course: it requires a decent mathematical background (linear algebra and calculus, Fourier transforms) and some previous knowledge of quantum physics is useful, although not strictly necessary.

The course is taught by two teachers with very different styles covering quite different material, this makes it a bit disjointed. I would have preferred a single teacher thorough the whole course.

The program covers various advanced subjects like the Feynman path integral, quantum localization, superconductivity, the Dirac equation, the time-dependent Schrodinger equation and so on. The problem is that having to start more or less from the basics it is impossible to cover any of these advanced subjects in any detail: they are just introduced but not explained enough to get a real understanding. I think it would be better to limit the course to the more ‘standard’ introductory stuff, with maybe just one or two advanced topics covered in more details.

Through a post in one of the Coursera’s forum I discovered the ‘Theoretical minimum’ Stanford lectures. It is not a course but just a collection of live lectures by the same professor. I watched a couple of them on quantum field theory, the first particle physics series and now I am watching the quantum entanglement ones.

The lectures are for a general audience, so they usually start from the very basics and then build the whole theory step by step. The teacher – professor Susskind – manages to introduce very complex stuff in an approachable way.

Being live lectures, there tend to be quite a lot of question from the audience, backtracking and interruptions – these makes them much longer that the recorded Coursera lectures, but I found that this makes the material more easily absorbed (by me at least).

They are very good introduction to modern physics for anyone with some scientific background and enough time to watch an entire series: watching individual lectures would probably not work.

Posted in: Opinion | Physics

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Phrase of the week

December 1, 2013 at 1:53 PMMichele Mottini

3D printing is about to redefine paradigms, rewrite/defenestrate/burn textbooks and give the unwashed masses the power to print iPhone covers at will

The Register in ‘3D printing: 'Third industrial revolution' or a load of old cobblers?’

Posted in: Opinion


Phrase of the week

December 1, 2013 at 9:41 AMMichele Mottini

In Warsaw, the negotiators were tasked under the Durban Platform track (the so-called “ADP” track) to develop a work plan of substantive topics and a related calendar that will lead to the development of the text of an agreement of a new comprehensive policy architecture that can be discussed at COP-20 in Lima one year from now and then subject to final consideration and adoption a year after that at COP-21 in Paris

Robert Stavins in ‘The Warsaw Climate Negotiations, and Reason for Cautious Optimism’

Posted in: Opinion


Phrase of the week

November 24, 2013 at 9:54 AMMichele Mottini

A bank of screens contains … and AIS, an automatic identification system that transmits the ship's name, speed and heading, and other details to other ships, port authorities, and well-equipped pirates

From ‘Ninety Percent of Everything’ by Rose George

Posted in: Opinion


Phrase of the week

November 17, 2013 at 3:39 PMMichele Mottini

Gone are the grandiose diatribes and the repetitive talking points of the Ahmadinejad years. In their place is what the … Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sounding more like a member of a yoga collective, calls “heroic flexibility.”

Laura Secor of The New Yorker in ‘Talking or walking’

Posted in: Opinion


Phrase of the week

November 10, 2013 at 1:57 PMMichele Mottini

Mr Cameron has not [gave a speech in French] yet (though he has attempted to sound Australian)

The Economist in ‘Channel deep and wide’

Posted in: Opinion


US healthcare

November 9, 2013 at 3:03 PMMichele Mottini


Posted in: Opinion


Project Rosalind

November 6, 2013 at 3:38 PMMichele Mottini

I was never particularly attracted by biology – my bent is definitely more towards physics/math. Genetics always picked my curiosity though, as a biology subject that looks a lot like math or computer science. Having said that, I know next to nothing about genetics, and the little I know is pretty confused.

Looking on-line for some enlightenment I came across Rosalind, that is a set of bioinformatics problems that can be solved directly on-line.

Each problem include an explanation of the biological background – with links to further reading and resources, a description of the problem itself and a test data set. A button on the page downloads a new input data-set and requires to post the corresponding answer, that is then automatically checked. The problems (100+) are organized in a tree, solving the easier ones ‘unlocks’ the more complex.

It is very nice resource: you learn some biology/genetics, and you solve related problems at the same time – learning specific programming techniques along the way.

The language of choice is Python (the site includes a Python tutorial), but the problems can solved in any language because the site checks just the results. (Users can optionally upload the program code as well as the results, but it is not required).

I started working on the Rosalind problems back in the summer and so far I solved 26 of them. I am using F# – its interactive mode is perfect for quickly writing and testing code, and most problems lend themselves quite well to a functional solution.

Recently I posted the code I wrote so far on GitHub. The solution of the problems requires writing not only bioinformatics specific functions but also functions doing graph manipulation, combinatorics/probability and general string handling. I tried to write these function as generic as possible, and I placed then in different modules, hopefully they could be of help not only for the specific Rosalind problems.

Posted in: Programming

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