machine independent

2

On this day in history in 1934, a federal prison opened on Alcatraz Island built to house the most dangerous prisoners and ones with a pension for escaping. The prison held notorious criminals such as gangsters Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. In 1963 the prison closed due to high expense of maintenance. Later in 1964, members of the Sioux tribe occupied Alcatraz Island, citing an 1868 treaty with the US government and Sioux allowing them to claim any unoccupied government land. The occupation grew in 1969 when hundreds of Native students, protesters, and activists from across the country gathered for the Alcatraz Occupation. It became a place where many found their voices in the shadow of the Civil Rights movement and in the face of continued injustices perpetrated on American Indians by the United States government. In 1971 federal marshals forced everyone to clear the island. Shortly after, the island became a public recreation area maintained by the National Park Service. In 2001, filmmaker James Fortier brought his documentary Alcatraz Is Not an Island to the Sundance Film Festival to shed light on this important historic event. The film features archival footage and photography as well as a series of interviews with participants of the Alcatraz Occupation. 

Film still and poster courtesy of Alcatraz Is Not an Island

Ask computer for a random number1 between 0 and 1 and you expect to get back any number2 between 0 and 1 with the same probability. This is depicted by the horizontal bar at left. Adding two such numbers3 results in a triangular distribution that covers sums from 0 to 2. A lot of sums will be around 1, and the sums close to 0 and 2 will be in minority. The distribution of the sums of three such numbers is stiched with three parabolas. The pattern (of stiching n polynomial pieces of order n-1) continues as the probability density of n random numbers gets ever closer to the distribution of normal, Gaussian variate. This is a result of the prominent central limit theorem.

1 uniform random real
2 any machine representible
3 mutually independent

2

World History: Grace Hopper

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages. Owing to her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as “Amazing Grace”. [x]

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so you were born in an electrical storm
                                             took a bite out the sun
                                                                    and saw your future in a machine built for two

                            ( independent / private / selective / mei hatsume ! )

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Rear Admiral Dr. Grace "Amazing Grace" Hopper, PhD.

Navy Officer, Computer Engineer, Scientist, Professor, World War II Veteran.

  • Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Physics (Vassar).  Masters in Mathematics (Yale).  PhD in Mathematics from Yale. Honorary Doctor of Science, Marquette University.
  • Associate Professor at Vassar College.
  • Served as a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.
  •  Graduated first in her class at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. 
  • Designed and invented supercomputer hardware and programming for the US military and private sector.
  • Invented the first compiler for computer programming language.
  • Popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages.
  • She is credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from a computer).
  • Military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Naval Reserve Medal.

USS Hopper, DDG-70

Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

The Code Book by Simon Singh is like the short history of nearly everything, cryptographically speaking. There is so much history packed into this book that it is nothing short of amazing. And that all of this can be related to cryptography is even more remarkable. My interest in cryptography and the interesting and secret existence of code breakers and the techniques got piqued after I watched the movie The Imitation Game. Despite having read about the genius of Alan Turing and the superiority of the Enigma machine independently, the movie led me to search for works that would give me a windows into the surreptitious world of cryptography. Thanks to the power of the internet, the search ended quickly at The Code Book.

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