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Papers!: Recently I read some academic papers that were comprehensible and interesting, and since I'm not a professional academic, that's really all I need out of such things. Check 'em out.

First, "It was twenty years ago today", Paul Ginsparg's history of arXiv.org, which includes some history of the Web from the perspective of the community for which it was invented:

In early 1994, I happened to serve on a committee advising the APS about putting Physical Review Letters online. I suggested that a Web interface along the lines of the xxx.lanl.gov prototype might be a good way for the APS to disseminate its documents. A response came back from another committee member: “Installing and learning to use a WorldWideWeb browser is a complicated and difficult task — we can’t possibly expect this of the average physicist.” So the APS went with a different (and short-lived) platform. Meanwhile, the CERN website had partitioned its linked list of ‘all the web servers in the world’ into geographic regions, as if keeping such lists could still be a sensible methodology for navigating information.

Second, Scott Aaronson's tour-de-force, "Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity". Sample punch to the jaw:

Suppose we want to claim, for example, that a computation that plays chess is “equivalent” to some other computation that simulates a waterfall. Then our claim is only non-vacuous if it’s possible to exhibit the equivalence (i.e., give the reductions) within a model of computation that isn’t itself powerful enough to solve the chess or waterfall problems.

In other highbrow news, right now I'm reading a draft of Mike Amundsen's Building Hypermedia APIs with HTML5 and Node, and it's pretty awesome.


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