“A Very Brief History of Mathematics” is a recorded lecture recently posted to Stephen Wolfram’s podcast. A Boing Boing post describes it as “a fascinating lecture” but also “a spoken-word illustration of the problems with his incredible (and incredibly difficult) book A New Kind of Science which was…both brilliant and rambling and unstructured.” Want to listen for yourself? Here’s a link to Wolfram’s podcast episode.
In case you missed it, Wolfram made A New Kind of Science freely available online (with the option of downloading it) two years ago in celebration of the book’s 15th anniversary. He announced its free release while reflecting on that momentous occasion in a post to his blog.
In the last few years, Wolfram has written about diverse topics on his blog. Here are some of his recent posts.
In this post, Wolfram wrote about receiving a copy of Dirac’s Die Prinzipien der Quantenmechanik that once belonged to Alan Turing. George Rutter, one of Wolfram’s former high school teachers, gifted him the book after Norman Routledge, Wolfram’s former high school math teacher and friend of Turing, gave it to Rutter.
Wolfram describes Routledge as someone who “was charmingly over the top in many ways, and told endless stories about math and other things. He’d also been responsible for the school getting a computer (programmed with paper tape, and the size of a desk)—that was the very first computer I ever used.”
The rest of the post discusses a four-page note from Routledge to Rutter that was tucked into the book and Wolfram’s last interaction with Routledge before he died. It also covers more about the book itself and mysteries surrounding who else may have owned it.
Wolfram has been mentoring others in some form for “a shockingly long time: my first memories of it date from before I was 10 years old, 50 years ago,” he wrote. “Somehow I always ended up being the one giving lots of advice—first to kids my own age, then also to ones somewhat younger, or older, and later to all sorts of people,” he added.
He describes mentoring as different from teaching in that it’s “about answering the specific ‘What should I do about X?’ questions, and the general ‘What should I do given who I am?’ questions.” In the remainder of the piece, he discusses the commonalities between mentoring two populations which seem quite different but are actually “at some level, surprisingly similar”: kids and CEOs.
Wolfram was invited to testify at a hearing of the US Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. In this post, he explains the issues behind the hearing (determining whether Congress should consider pursuing options for algorithmic transparency or algorithmic explanation policies) and why peering inside the AI to see what’s happening isn’t a solution.
“If we want to seriously use the power of computation—and AI—then inevitably there won’t be a ‘human-explainable’ story about what’s happening inside,” he wrote.
The piece includes the full-text version of his testimony.
In addition to his blog, Wolfram also writes for the Wolfram Blog (which has multiple authors). Some recent posts to that blog include “Authorship Forensics from Twitter Data” by Daniel Lichtblau, “Embracing Uncertainty: Better Model Selection with Bayesian Linear Regression” by Sjoerd Smit and “Spherical Aberration Optics Problem Finally Solved Using the Wolfram Language” by Swede White.
Have ideas for topics or blogs you would like us to consider covering in upcoming posts? Reach out in the comments or on Twitter (@writesRCrowell).