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Archive for October, 2011

A friend gave me this problem a couple of weeks ago:

What is the longest word you can type on the QWERTY keyboard with just your left hand using the proper position?

I love problems like this.

Especially because I get to toy around with Mathematica and use features that day to day I may not interact with for biz problems.

Finding the solution required only a tiny bit of code.

alpha = “”;
ourdictionary = “”;
alphabase = {“q” | “w” | “e” | “r” | “t” | “a” | “s” | “d” | “f” | “g” | “z” | “x” | “c” | “v” | “b”};
alpha = StringExpression[alpha, alphabase];

Code

n = 0;
dictionarycount = 0;
ourdictionary = DictionaryLookup[alpha];
While[n < 20 && Length@ourdictionary > 0,
ourdictionary = DictionaryLookup[alpha];
alpha = StringExpression[alpha, alphabase];
n++;
If[Length@ourdictionary == 0, Print[{Length@ourdictionary, n – 1}];
Print[DictionaryLookup[alpha[[;; n – 1]]]]]]

The Answer(s):

{“aftereffects”, “desegregated”, “desegregates”, “reverberated”, “reverberates”,”stewardesses”}

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NYTimes Oped this morning on GDP as a pursuit or measurement of how we’re doing as a country and society is nicely reflective.

We want to be No. 1 — but why, and at what?

Yes.  That is a good question.  And “being number 1″ is such a useless statement when talking about anything beyond an amateur sporting event.   When we’re considering what we value and how we teach each other and feed each other chasing these numbers is such as wasteful activity.

I know, we’ve all been taught, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.   I get it.  The measurement thing is fine as long as you question the measurements too and understand that measurements and any model is just a model.

The articles points out how GDP and other measures aren’t great and how other cultures have stopped focusing on being number 1, etc.  But I think the bigger point is here:

But in the midst of the Great Depression, Congress, showing a great deal more intellectual curiosity than it does today

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY, as a social value.   We don’t have enough of that.  Our education system, politicians, marketing, media all reflect this.   Perhaps we even have more than we had 200 years ago, but it’s not enough.  Things are more complicated, more connected so we need more than ever.

And be careful before quoting back to me stats on education and literacy and college enrollment and knowledge worker jobs… what we current measure as Intellectual Curiosity is a very limited view.  I won’t propose a measurement myself and I will say the annoying point that you know it when you know it, and most of my interactions out in the world aren’t full of intellectual curiosity.  The movies, shows, news reports, sound bytes, songs, conversations, etc… how many of these things are pushing you, all of us?  is your knowledge job really about uncovering and sharing knowledge?  is facebook, google, twitter really a utility to spread knowledge? engaging in questions?

I don’t have the answer.  I do have questions.

Sounds exactly opposite of our political system.  Might be the problem.

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