[Beowulf] Teaching Scientific Computation (looking for the perfect text)

Peter St. John peter.st.john at gmail.com
Tue Nov 20 15:15:58 PST 2007

> > I don't draw any conclusions about the futures of any languages:
> > really I think it won't matter much as compilers get smarter and we'll
> > express ourselves any way we like. Also, sorry for the fudgy fortran,
> > I'm very rusty.
> Resisting... temptation... to... continue... rant...

Never!! :-)

> Compilers?  Smart?
> It would take compilers that read your mind to replace a single human
> capable of expressing PRECISELY what the computer is supposed to do,
> telling the computer to do precisely the right thing.
> Remember, "smartness" is a process of Bayesian reasoning, which in turn
> is based on a map of joint, multivariate probabilities.  PLC used to do
> its damnedest to compile any old thing you threw at it by guessing what
> you meant.  People used to have (expensive) fun throwing decks of cards
> picked up at random off of the floor and feeding them to it.  They'd
> compile.  God knows to what, but they'd compile.
> I want a stupid language that lets me be the smart one in the
> computer-programmer relationship.  I want the computer to do exactly the
> one thing that my language statements unambiguously tell it to do.  If
> those are the wrong thing, well, I want it do to the wrong thing
> perfectly and bomb with the greatest possible grace.  Then I can fix my
> code and have it be the right thing perfectly.
> How do you tell your boss "The compiler misunderstood me..."?
>    rgb

Eventually the progression from an assembler programmer writing "Load
Register 1 with 2" to an engineer writing "X = 2" will evolve to a
business person asking "what are the projections for third quarter
08??!!".  It keeps getting easier for people expressing themselves
more and more in the language of their subject, and less and less in
the language of the computer, because the computer can learn to
translate and interpret us. But I'm a wild-eyed optimist about AI.

Also, I think it will be as easy to tell your boss "the compiler
misunderstood me" as it is now to say "there's a bug" (if you aren't
the programmer) or "it needed a pass thru QA" (if you are).


Incidentally, I'm a bit saddened that the GPL version of MACSYMA is
"Maxima". Small thing.

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