Since when did being a geek mean being moron?

A simulation of how filiaments might form as the universe evolves

A simulation of large-scale structure
formation, from University of Chicago Center for Cosmological Physics.

This Wired article is a wonderful example about how unpractical our country’s basic math education is.

The reporter wastes the first page on his idiot attempt to find a truly random playlist. A little knowledge is a highly dangerous thing. After learning that computer generated random numbers are not truly random, he assumes that this is why he sometimes gets his Rolling Stones songs clumped together.

The limitations of pseudorandomness is a serious issue in statistical physics (Monte Carlo simulations) and theoretical physics (modeling). In some cases, poor psuedorandom number generators have allowed people break encryption algorithms.

But even the most primitive random number generator causing a problem with your iPod playlist? C’mon!

One difficult issue when looking at maps of the large scale structure of the universe is that our eyes detect spurious filaments (chains of galactic structures) that aren’t there, even though such things have been found to exist.

Our brains find structure and patterns even when one isn’t there.

Kudos to him finally realizing at the end that the problem is he doesn’t want randomness, but why waste 3/4 of his column exhibiting his stupidity?

The idea he proposes is for a stratified playlist: to bias the randomness against an artist or album if the song has been played recently. It would sound novel until he ends his statement with: “On this score, Apple’s iTunes takes the lead with a feature called Smart Playlists…Apple still has work ahead of it if this feature is to be truly useful. Right now, the available criteria are too limited. For instance, I’ve been unable to find a way to tell iTunes to discard a choice if the artist or album has been played in the past X number of songs.”

No offense, but one ballyhoed feature of iTunes 7 is the “Smart Shuffle” which, according to the help files, allows you to “adjust the likelihood that iTunes plays multiple songs in a row by the same artist or from the same album.”

And this guy is their music geek?


In the meantime I can’t wait for the day when Wired’s music column is written by someone from Singapore.

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