EppsNet Archive: Numbers

Teaching Computer Science: Why Was I Not Consulted?

I’m volunteering in a high school computer science class a couple mornings a week . . . If you’re going to work with computers, you need to be able to move around between different number systems, most commonly base 10, base 2 and base 16. As a warm-up, I asked students how many ways they could represent the quantity 7. Answers included the word “seven,” roman numerals, seven dots, a septagon, a Chinese symbol, and so on. “Quantities exist naturally,” I said, “but number systems are man-made. They’re just a set of symbols along with an agreement about how to order them. Why do we use the number system that we do? Who decided that?” Because I phrased it in a provocative way, some students realized that they hadn’t been consulted. “Yeah, no one asked me,” one student said. “Raise your hand in math class,” I suggested, “and ask ‘Why… Read more →

Likes and Dislikes

Likes Dogs, books, spicy food Dislikes: Systems of thought that reduce the richness of human lives to impersonal laws, systems and numbers. Oxford commas. Read more →

The Aliens Have Landed in Irvine

It’s about one in the afternoon at the Irvine In-N-Out Burger. A guy who looks to be in his early 20s comes in wearing a backward baseball cap, dark sunglasses (which he never removes) and — despite a temperature in the high 80s — a pullover sweater. To simplify the storytelling, let’s call this guy Alf. Alf waits in line, places his order, then immediately walks over and stands in front of the pickup counter. The place is packed, and I can tell from looking at the number on my own ticket that there are about 10 more orders ahead of me, and since I ordered before him, there are about 15 more orders ahead of Alf, so there’s no reason for him to be standing at — in fact, leaning on — the pickup counter. After a few moments, the kid at the pickup counter asks Alf what his… Read more →

The Epps Ratio

There should be some way to measure a person’s need to be heard against the value of what they have to say. This measure should be calculated automatically and be available online, like a Klout score. If anyone figures out a way to do this, please call it the Epps Ratio, because it was my idea. Value should be the numerator, so an Epps Ratio greater than or equal to 1.0 would be considered good, and obviously the higher the better. There should be an API so a person’s Epps Ratio can be accessed and displayed along with any online content they create . . . Read more →