January 2013 Archives

Science advances when scientists are proven wrong

When scientists are baffled by facts that contradict their strongest theories, science is likely on the cusp of new insights.

That’s why I was saddened when scientists discovered the Higgs boson — or “god particle.” It meant CERN’s $20 quadrillion (or whatever) Large Hadron Collider did not uncover new facts that would force physicists to re-think their theories and provide clues how they might bend those theories closer to reality. It merely provided greater support for what physicists already believed.

This process of gaining knowledge from proof of our ignorance is also why it’s fabulous that “The newly discovered LQC is so enormous… that theory predicts it shouldn’t exist.” The largest structure known to man consists of “73 quasars and spans about 1.6 billion light-years in most directions, though it is 4 billion light-years across at its widest point.” Even better than how mind-blowingly amazing that is, we have absolutely no clue how it got so massive because our best theories say it can’t exist! So we’ve just opened up very exciting new theoretical possibilities.

Science fans like me are incredibly lucky to live in the 21st Century, when science literally advances daily. My favorite site for following scientists' latest discoveries: ScienceDaily.com.

Posted by James on Jan 12, 2013

What happened to this blog?

I’ve scarcely posted for over a year because I was busy working much of 2012. I worked 3 ½ months as a contractor programming in Ruby, Rails, Javascript, JQuery, Coffeescript, Backbone.js, Mongo, and HTML/CSS. Then I took a permanent position at a somewhat larger startup using those same tools, plus Postgresql and R.

I love programming. I began programming in COBOL in junior high school, but I got scared away from computers for the next 25 years after reading a book on the absurdly difficult Assembly language that made me feel programmers must all be mad geniuses.

I started dabbling with programming again in 2000 when I progressed from re-designing my company’s data schema to writing triggers and stored procedures (i.e., small programs that run inside a database). I dabbled with several languages — Java, PHP, C — before falling in love with Ruby in early 2006. I love that when a program fails it’s almost certainly because you — the programmer — blew it. The corollary is that when a program runs successfully, it’s because you wrote it correctly. It’s deterministic. It’s also powerful. I founded OptimalHome.com in 2001 and helped build a pretty amazing, fully functional prototype (covering just Silicon Valley) of an online real estate service that had some features still unavailable a decade later. But I lost my co-founder to an offer he couldn’t refuse (giving him an immediate fat paycheck and an 8-figure payday a few years later), and I couldn’t keep OptimalHome alive because I didn’t know Java. Ever since, I’ve wanted to understand the “full tech stack.” I’m not an expert programmer… not yet, anyhow. And I’ll certainly never be a genius. But I do enjoy programming and trying to become a better programmer every day.

I used to read the news more broadly and deeply. These days, my life is mainly spent on work and parenting, plus studying a little Chinese in my spare moments.

Posted by James on Jan 12, 2013